Flypaper

LIVE AND DIE BY IMPLEMENTATION
So says Robert Pondiscio on the future of the Common Core in Vox’s implementation-over-politics article. "As a teacher, I never once took down the New York state standards to decide what to teach. You teach curriculum, you teach books, you teach subject matter, and then you teach it to the standards."

STICKLERS FOR COMMAS
If you’re going to invest $645,000 in a pre-K campaign, make sure to place commas in the correct places. Otherwise, we might have to make the Chicago Manual of Style required reading for three- and four-year-olds.

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY
But they do know something about history standards—and they agree: AEI’s Rick Hess and Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. dispel outlandish myths on the AP U.S. History framework, but “[t]hat said, the framework has a full measure of shortcomings, starting with its inattention to America’s motivating ideals.”

HOMELESS STUDENTS
New data from the Department of Education shows that more public school students than ever before were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. 1.3 million elementary and secondary school children reported lacking a permanent home, many of them living on their own or sharing a space with a relative or friend....

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MONEY FOR NOTHING
Most Americans give poor marks to schools, but think their kids’ schools are pretty good. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Peterson says the same is true on school spending.  Most of us suffer from “buyer's delight”the tendency to think we "got a deal even when an objective observer would conclude otherwise.”

ICYMI
If you didn’t tune in to the debate to end all debates—on the Common Core that is—you can download the podcast version of “Should We Embrace the Common Core?” Spoiler alert: Yes, we should.

ARNE RESPONDS TO BOBBY
“He had a couple of unsuccessful lawsuits,” notes Duncan in response to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s latest Common Core lawsuit against the federal government. Ouch.

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Fordham’s Dara Zeehandelaar talked charter schools, teachers unions, and why the two are more water-and-oil than peas-and-carrots with Education Week’s charters-and-choice expert, Arianna Prothero.

TO KEEP KAYA OR NOT TO KEEP KAYA
Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, despite many columns of tough criticism of the D.C. schools chancellor, calls for D.C. voters to support the mayoral candidate that backs Henderson. “If both candidates agree that she must stay, then a vote for either one is fine. If Catania won’t make that promise, then the choice is either Bowser or more years of chaos and heartbreak.”

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR PARENTS
A New York City charter school is catching heat for telling parents they will be...

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Education Next

Not many education books debut as a New York Times bestseller, but The Teacher Wars, by Dana Goldstein, is not just any book. “A history of America’s most embattled profession,” it serves as a tonic to reformers who believe we’re the first ones to discover problems with America’s public schools, or to call for policies such as tenure reform, merit pay, or higher standards for entry into the profession. With sympathy for teachers but also clear eyes about the profession’s legitimate shortcomings, Goldstein has produced a book that will challenge defenders of the public education system and reformers alike.

In this edition of the Education Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli talks with Dana Goldstein about her best-selling book.

Additional episodes of the Education Next Book Club can be found here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog.

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Since the beginning of the No Child Left Behind era, most schools in all 50 states have been given an evaluation of student performance and an overall rating. While crafting a thoughtful and nuanced accountability system is a frequent topic of discussion on The Gadfly (and is really what matters most), here I simply want to discuss the label that sums up a school's overall evaluation. Some might say it's wrong on principle to label schools. Others worry (and sometimes justifiably so) that a nuanced view of schools get lost when we attempt to boil it all down to a single school rating. Moreover, some may see these labels as nothing but a value judgment about "good" schools and "bad" schools when it's clear that parents value many different things about a school. From academics and facilities to safety and course offerings, even the "best" school might not be best for all kids. 

However, we can make objective judgments in some areas.  In addition, use of these labels is not only widely supported, it's also ingrained in federal policy through both NCLB and waivers. So the question is: If we're going to put schools into categories, what should those categories be called?  A few ideas to consider:

1.       States should avoid too few or too many categories - One of the major gripes about No Child Left Behind at the time of passage was that it treated similar schools very differently. The law initially set a bar for schools to clear called Adequate...

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THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
The Senate Education Committee Wednesday unanimously approved a bill reauthorizing the Institute for Education Sciences. Edweek calls the bill “largely noncontroversial,” but Checker Finn has pointed out that it fails to safeguard the autonomy of critical education data.

AND IN THESE DETAILS
An Annenberg Institute report calls for states to “revisit and tune-up state charter laws and authorizer practices” to “eliminate student inequities” and “achieve complete transparency and accountability.” The AFT issued a statement trumpeting the report. ‘Nuff said.

TWEET LOVE, OR NOT
“Hey Karen Lewis, I can still read your tweets,” writes Natasha Korecki of the Chicago-Sun Times after being blocked by the CTU union president and possibly mayoral candidate. For Lewis’ part, she says she didn’t know that she’d blocked the reporter.

RETHINKING SCHOOL EVALUATIONS
Jeb Bush has inaugurated the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s school report card design competition, offering monetary prizes for the designs that best “reimagine the transparency, presentation and usability of school information.”  ExcelinEd’s emphasis on clarity underscores the widespread concern that existing evaluations poorly convey important information to parents and community members.      

NO EXIT EXAM
...

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Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.

photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it via photopin cc

Over the last few years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to incorporate character development into school curricula, and various efforts to do so have received wide attention. Perhaps the best-known effort is the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, which has been implemented in close to 150 charter schools across the country.

KIPP is aimed at children and teenagers from low-income families. Its explicit goal is increasing college enrollment by combining an emphasis on factors proven to bolster academic success (high expectations, parental involvement, time spent on instruction) with a novel focus on developing seven character strengths—zest, grit, self-control, optimism, curiosity, gratitude, and social intelligence. These strengths are tracked on a “character growth card” and encouraged through classroom discussions and assignments that incorporate lessons about character into more conventional academic activities. Teachers also go out of their way to both model and praise displays of good character.

KIPP has a long record of impressive accomplishments that have garnered much media attention, including Paul Tough’s bestseller, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Students attending KIPP schools have higher rates of high-school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion than students from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds who attend other types of schools. Numerous evaluations of KIPP schools have found that students show larger-than-expected gains on various measures of achievement....

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COLLEGE OPT OUT
Only 44 percent of Americans think getting a college education is “very important” compared to 75 percent four years ago, according to the annual PDK-Gallup poll, which also shows “a majority of public school parents want teacher training programs to be more selective.”

SUE BABY SUE
A lawsuit aimed at closing the charter school funding gap on behalf of upstate New York schools “could be a boon for nearly 70 charter schools” in New York City, Chalkbeat reports.  

POSITIVE, BUT SLOW MOVEMENT
The poverty rate for children under 18 declined last year for the first time since 2000, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau cited in the New York Times. But one in five children are still poor.

BLOW MINDS, TEACH STEM
“This story is simple: The future depends on great STEM teachers. We’re recruiting 100,000 more.” Check out Blowminds.org for career advice on how to change the world....

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Over the last month or so, there’ve been a number of notable stories highlighting the passing of the torch from urban districts to urban chartering. The former continue their long, slow decline while the latter experiences the exhilaration and growing pains of emerging adulthood.

A sobering new study from Brookings, “School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant,” finds that district “superintendents are largely indistinguishable” in their ability to improve student achievement. For those who’ve hoped that the half-century struggles of the urban district might finally be remedied by a superhero leader, this has to be deflating. The study finds that district leaders account for an infinitesimal fraction of achievement differences, that hiring a superintendent is not associated with increased learning, and that longevity doesn’t improve a superintendent’s influence.

In recent years, we’ve put an inordinate amount of faith in (and money behind) bold urban district leaders. The continued dispiriting results from NAEP TUDA, the Newark boycott, the LAUSD iPad dust-up, the Atlanta cheating scandal, DC’s “disappointing” 2014 test scores, Chicago’s strike, and much more should force us to take stock. Why exactly do we continue to tell ourselves that these ancient, preternaturally inept institutions are fixable?

It’s probably more than a coincidence that the Broad Prize, designed to call attention to urban-district bright spots, named—for the first time ever—only two finalists this year (instead of the customary four...

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Many people tune out when education discussions turn to data and statistics. For whatever reason, some folks just don’t like numbers. So a discussion about the development of education data is likely to attract an audience rivaling that of a paint-drying contest.

But if you care about K-12, you should definitely care about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This is the government body responsible for collecting and reporting a wealth of data on our schools—data that’s voluminous, comparable across years, and typically above reproach in terms of reliability.

I say “typically” because there is some reason for worry. Late in 2013, I scolded the federal government for massaging NAEP TUDA data, which reports on the performance of large urban districts. In short, we should’ve been deeply alarmed by the results, but the packaging gave the opposite impression.

This would’ve been troubling enough. What bothered me even more was that an advocacy organization that represents and serves large urban districts was an integral part of the release process.

But what happened next truly opened my eyes to the extent of the potential problem. The then-head of NCES quickly responded to my piece. He noted that his organization was only responsible for producing the data, which they do “free of ‘spin’ or partisan/political influence.” The National Assessments Government Board (which is in charge of NAEP), he wrote, is in charge of the public release pursuant to federal law.

He continued: “NAGB has...

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Paul Bruno

photo credit: ChalkbeatNY via photopin cc

With the release last month of the latest round test scores, Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz is now a bona fide national-education-reform celebrity. She is also the latest in a line of educator-activists—like Michelle Rhee or Diane Ravitch—who embody, for supporters and opponents alike, one “side” of the education-reform debate. As a result, discussions about the stellar results posted by her schools have generated much more heat than light. Allies are eager to elevate her to exemplar status and critics desperate to prevent her from receiving even a modicum of credit for her students’ success.

The argument breaks down along predictable lines. For advocates of charter schools and education reform more generally, Success Academies demonstrate what can be accomplished when a strong leader with a laser-like focus on student achievement can do when she is free to hire the best teachers for the neediest students.

Critics of charter schools and reform are equally confident that Moskowitz is, in effect, running a scam: skimming the easiest-to-teach students, pushing out the ones who prove difficult later, and claiming all the while to be doing better work than the city’s other educators who are forced to operate without her considerable advantages and educational slight-of-hand.

What neither side is willing or able to admit, however, is how little we really know about why Moskowitz’s students seem to be doing so much better than...

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