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This report, recently released by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), explores how states can better prepare students for successful careers by reviewing policies in thirteen states related to career and technical education (CTE). Specifically, its authors look at whether each state has: (1) facilitated collaboration between education and employer communities to promote CTE and close job gaps; and (2) created CTE learning opportunities and credentials that provide students with multiple pathways to gainful employment in high-skill industries.

Nine of these states do both, often by designating or creating groups responsible for providing these services. Some (such as Colorado) rely on state-level actors. Others opt for regional- and local-level institutions. Louisiana offers “Jump Start CTE programs” that are developed by “regional teams consisting of LEAs, technical and community colleges, business and industry leaders, and economic and workforce development experts.”

Ohio has taken a more interesting approach. In the Buckeye State, OhioMeansJobs disseminates workforce-demand data through the K–12 system. Schools then use this information to apprise the students of career opportunities via the Ohio Career Counselling Pilot Program.

Unfortunately, several states in the report fall short. Kentucky has no system in place for schools to collaborate with businesses in need...

Teachers affect student academic achievement more than any other school-based factor. As a result, states and school districts have experimented with incentive pay programs as a twofold strategy to both attract high-quality teachers and boost student performance. Evidence on the effectiveness of this tactic is mixed, but the policies can differ greatly in structure, and little is known about how the design of incentive plans might impact their effectiveness.

Enter a new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study that examines the structure of Houston’s recently implemented incentive pay system, as well as its effect on student achievement.

The researchers analyzed data from grades 3–8 from the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) merit pay system, ASPIRE (“Accelerating Student Progress, Increasing Results and Expectations”). ASPIRE is designed as a “rank-order tournament,” which rewards top-performing math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies teachers based on their value-added scores (estimates of the effect individual teachers have on student learning over a school year). Under ASPIRE, teachers receive a $3,870 bonus if their students receive value-added scores above the fiftieth percentile; scores above the seventy-fifth percentile result in even larger bumps—up to $7,700 per teacher.

The authors initially hypothesized that teachers who...

The Center for Research on Educational Options (CREDO) at Stanford University released findings last week from a first-of-its-kind study assessing the impact of online charter schools in seventeen states (including Ohio) and Washington, D.C. The news is dismal—for “virtual” charters nationally; for advocates like Fordham, who argue for e-schools’ rightful place in the school choice landscape but are weary of their quality problems; and most of all, for the students losing dozens (in some cases hundreds) of days of learning by opting into a virtual environment.

CREDO found that virtual charter school students nationally (those enrolled in a public, full-time online school) learned the equivalent of seventy-two fewer days in reading and 180 days in math compared with the traditional public school students to whom they were matched. That’s essentially an entire school year gone to waste in math and almost half a year gone in reading.

It is also striking that—unlike CREDO’s national charter studies, which discovered that many states’ charter school sectors handily outperform traditional public schools—in no state did online charter students outperform their traditional peers in both subjects. Two states’ online charters outpaced traditional public schools in reading; none did in math.

Why are...

Low-income strivers—impoverished families who work hard to climb the ladder to the middle class—may be the most underserved population in America today.

In few realms is that more evident than in education reform. For twenty years, national policies have focused largely on the lowest-performing students, often to the detriment of their higher-achieving, low-income peers. Many cities—including Chicago, Philadelphia, and Syracuse—have recently made a goal of reducing the number of school suspensions and other tough-love approaches to school discipline, with little concern for the impact on the kids who come to school ready to follow the rules. These efforts have received vocal support from the Department of Education. Policymakers and educators say they that are doing this in the name of equity. But when everyone in a school is harmed by some students' unruly behavior, it’s a strange notion of fairness.

Imagine that we wanted to prioritize the needs of low-income students who demonstrated a willingness to work hard and the aptitude to achieve at high levels—the kids with the best shot to use a solid education to put poverty behind them. What might we do?

First, we would put in place “universal screening” tests to look for gifted students in elementary...

In The Atlantic this week, Carly Berwick praised Germany for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality. That’s no small feat—and one well worthy of recognition and accolades. Indeed, in our recent book, Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Education High-Ability Students, we reported the same dual accomplishment in the Federal Republic. But we also pointed to a few weeds among these roses—namely Germany’s bright students, who aren’t enjoying any of these gains.

Much like the U.S., Germany has a decentralized education system—with sixteen Bundesländer that resemble American states in the ways they shape and pay for their school systems. This system was fairly static—and complacent—through the twentieth century. The economy was strong, east-west reunification was succeeding, employers and unions made decisions together, and the integration of vocational schooling with apprentice-style training produced a well-functioning workforce.

Then came what some Germans call the “PISA shock” of 2001. Much like the U.S. reaction to A Nation at Risk in 1983, residents of Germany were stunned to learn from their first Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data that their children were scoring well below the OECD average in reading, results that had been foreshadowed,...

Editor's note: This post is the second entry of a three-part series on Race to the Top's legacy and the federal role in education. You can read the first entry here and the final entry here.

The super-talented Joanne Weiss, former chief of staff to Secretary Duncan, has convinced me in two recent articles that Race to the Top (RTTT) was a skillfully administered program. Weiss and her colleagues cannily handled public transparency, technical assistance to applicants, and intra-department coordination. They deserve credit for the how of RTTT.

But the articles don’t directly address whether the federal government should’ve undertaken RTTT. Obviously, the administration would say yes. But why? The articles imply an answer, one consistent with progressive ideology and the administration’s approach to health care, environmental regulation, and much more: Expert central administrators can and should solve complex social problems, and the federal government is the logical perch from which to do so.

In Education NextWeiss is transparent about the federal government’s ambitions. “Race to the Top aimed to drive systems-level change,” she acknowledges. The administration wanted “comprehensive and coherent” state agendas aligned with the administration’s preferences on standards, tests, teacher evaluations, and more. RTTT didn’t aspire to influence “discrete silos”; it wanted...

New York is leaving too many gifted children behind. Scads of K–3 students in low-income neighborhoods aren’t even taking entrance exams for gifted programs. Four of the city’s 32 school districts don’t even have programs for gifted students, and many that do aren’t getting the word out. Which leaves it to savvy, pushy parents and watchful teachers to nudge kids forward, an arrangement that nearly always works better in middle-class communities.

Officials promised to continue trying to boost these numbers — but that’s not all that ails New York City’s approach to high-ability learners.

Every January, K–3 students who sign up for it may take a test to get into one of the city’s generally oversubscribed gifted programs. There’s a single city-wide score used to separate the wheat from the chaff: Pass, and you’re in; fail, and you’re not.

On its face, that approach looks fair. But it’s not. In Bedford-Stuyvesant’s District 16, for example, just 15 percent of test takers passed last year. In South Bronx District 7, it was 5 percent. Yet across a couple of rivers in Manhattan’s District 2, spanning the Upper East Side and much of the West Side, a whopping 42 percent of students...

Last week, in the wake of President Obama’s pledge to reduce the amount of time students spend taking tests, my colleagues Robert Pondiscio and Michael Petrilli weighed in with dueling stances on the current state of testing and accountability in America’s schools. Both made valid points, but neither got it exactly right, so let me add a few points to the conversation.

Like Robert, I don’t see how we can improve our schools if we don’t know how they’re doing, which means we need the data we get from standardized tests. But I also believe that—because we’re obligated to intervene when kids aren’t getting the education they deserve—some tests must inevitably be “high-stakes.” The only real alternative to this is an unregulated market, which experience suggests is a bad idea.

Must this logic condemn our children to eternal test-preparation purgatory? I hope not, but I confess to some degree of doubt. The challenge is creating an accountability system that doesn't inadvertently encourage gaming or bad teaching. Yet some recent policy shifts seem to have moved us further away from that kind of system.

As Mike noted, the problem of over-testing has been exacerbated in recent years by the...

What if federal aid for college students were focused exclusively on those who are truly ready for college? What if we stopped subsidizing remedial courses on campuses and insisted that students pursuing higher learning be prepared for college-level courses (none too strenuous nowadays in many places)? And what if those courses were also made available to young people even before they matriculated to a four-year program?

That would be a revelation and a revolution. But it might also do more to get young Americans and their schools serious about college readiness than anything we’ve dreamed up previously. It would save money. And it would end a great fraud that causes many college students to drop out—usually with heavy loan debts to either repay or default on—when they realize that they’ve been sorely misled as to their true preparedness for advanced-level academics.

Consider the irony: Today, federal financial support is available for eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds to study high school math and English after they reach a college campus (a vast percentage of them are required to take these remedial classes); yet such aid is unavailable to academically aggressive sixteen- and seventeen-year olds from low-income households, who could accelerate their academic progress by taking...

A new study by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel analyzes the alignment of the assessment’s 2015 Math Items (the actual test questions) for grades four and eight to the math Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

To do so, the panel enlisted as reviewers eighteen mathematicians, teachers, math educators, and supervisors who have familiarity with Common Core. This group classified all 150 items in the 2015 NAEP math pool for each grade as either matching a CCSS standard or not.

The reviewers determined that the Common Core and NAEP were reasonably aligned at both grade levels— not surprising, since CCSS writers had the NAEP frameworks at their disposal. Further, NAEP is by design broader than the CCSS and is supposed to maintain a degree of independence relative to the “current fashions in instruction and curriculum.”

Panelists found that 79 percent of NAEP items were matched to the content that appears in the CCSS at or below grade 4. The overall alignment of NAEP to CCSS standards at or below grade eight is even closer, 87 percent.

There is, however, variation in matches across content areas. In fourth grade, the least aligned content area was data analysis, statistics,...

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