The Oklahoma Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the state’s Common Core repeal. (Associated Press)
Arne Duncan says that current state levels of K–12 education funding in Philadelphia are “unacceptable.” (Politics K–12)
A recent paper finds that providing free eyewear to students in developing nations leads to vastly improved educational outcomes. (Economist)
Florida has become the first state to adopt standards for teaching personal finance. (Curriculum Matters)
The Montgomery County school district, which has a growing achievement gap, may consider changing attendance boundaries with the goal of achieving greater diversity. (Washington Post)
A survey asked middle and high school students whether their parents prioritize achievement, feeling happy, or caring for others. Of the respondents, 80 percent of kids picked achievement or happiness—and when asked what they themselves think is most important, the results were the same. (NPR Ed)

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One of the great misconceptions in education is that the reform movement is monolithic. There have always been competing camps, often defined on ideological grounds. Conservatives and libertarians tend to stress school choice, for example; liberals are much more comfortable with an intrusive federal role.

But the divisions feel more rigid today than at any other time that I can recall, the rivalries more heated. This is a big problem, one we need to get a handle on lest school reform go the way of Syria, with rival factions spending more time clobbering each other than fighting a common foe.

I was reminded of this on Friday, when I had the honor to speak to the nation’s state superintendents. During a panel session on the Common Core, I made an off-hand comment that riled several of those in attendance. “Let’s be careful about the happy talk,” I said, “about Common Core and teacher evaluations peacefully coexisting.” I went on, “It’s not hard to understand why teachers are nervous when we tell them that we expect them to teach to new, higher standards but that their heads are on the chopping block if they don’t succeed.” We should allow for a pause in the consequences associated with the evaluations, I argued, echoing a recent statement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not surprisingly, this rankled the handful of state supes who are pushing hard on the teacher accountability agenda. And upon reflection, I can...

The AFT convention opened on Friday, and Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk is posting regular updates on its resolutions and activities in his Teacher Beat blog. (Washington Post, Curriculum Matters, Teacher Beat)
In one resolution, the AFT—while stopping short of the NEA’s call for Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s immediate resignation—demanded that President Obama put Duncan on an “improvement plan” and that he resign if he doesn’t switch to more union-friendly positions. (Teacher Beat)
Common Core has become a wedge issue in this GOP presidential preseason. (Hechinger Report)
Time: “Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core
Washington Post: “Md. student test scores drop significantly as state shifts to Common Core

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Articles of the week from the Education Gadfly

Whither the NEA?
Chester E. Finn, Jr. | July 9, 2014 | Flypaper

On school discipline, let’s not repeat all our old mistakes
Michael Petrilli, @MichaelPetrilli | July 8, 2014 | Flypaper

Teachers, the Common Core, and the freedom to teach
Jessica Poiner, @jpoiner17 | July 7, 2014 | Ohio Gadfly Daily

Vergara, Harris, and the fate of the teacher unions
Andy Smarick, @smarick | July 7, 2014 | Flypaper

Fordham in the news

Public schools like KIPP are most powerful as a “direct retort to people who say we must first end poverty before we can do anything to improve education.”
Chester E. Finn, Jr. | New York Post | July 9, 2014

"Our research suggests, however, that better hiring practices alone are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role."
Lacking Leaders report | StateImpact Ohio | July 7, 2014

Sweet Tweets

I’ve never been to the annual conference of the National Education Association and I’ve never regretted it
@educationgadfly | July 10, 2014

I love this piece so much I'm posting it twice. "The Fallacy of ‘Balanced Literacy’" #reading ...

A new report digs into the many ways parents’ education affects children’s economic, social, and health outcomes—and finds that mothers have an especially significant influence. (Washington Post and Inside School Research)
Researchers have found that involving body movement in ed tech improves learning. (Hechinger Report)
A new report from the Friedman Foundation outlines three lessons that school-voucher advocates can learn from the charter movement. (Charters & Choice)
New Jersey has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. Twelve states (plus D.C.) have now done so. (Curriculum Matters)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Study: Teacher associations in Georgia among nation's weakest

I’ve never been to the annual conference of the National Education Association and I’ve never regretted it, but it would have been fun to be a fly on the chandelier at last week’s shindig in Denver.

For starters, the delegates voted to ask Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign. Similar resolutions had been introduced at previous NEA conferences but never passed. Media coverage indicates that it was Duncan’s (muted, even ambivalent) response to the Vergara court decision in California that “broke the camel’s back.” Education Week’s ace journalists note that Duncan has for some time served as flak catcher for the NEA’s mounting unease with various Obama administration policies, enabling the union to “shoot the messenger” rather than denouncing a President that it ardently supported in both 2008 and 2012. (Duncan scoffed at the resolution.)

Then Dennis Van Roekel, outgoing from the NEA’s presidency after six long, slow, boring years, gave a long, rambling valedictory speech. It wasn’t surprising that he attacked Michelle Rhee—but the other “corporate reformers” whose “onslaught” he described include Democrats for Education Reform!

Do you share my sense that perhaps the historic coupling of the NEA and the Democratic Party is loosening a bit?

Which sense was reinforced by a third event at this year’s convention: accompanying her overwhelming election as the next NEA president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia has made clear in interviews that among her missions—above all, “winning back public trust” for teachers—is loosening the partisan bonds and beginning...

A great new CRPE study finds that many parents—in particular, parents with special-needs kids and lower levels of education—face barriers to school choice, even in areas with an abundance of options. (Charters & Choice)
With New York City set to provide up to 53,000 full-day pre-K seats this fall, private preschools are worried about keeping their teachers—even accusing the city of poaching. (New York Times)
Most fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. struggle with personal-finance concepts, such as taxes and retirement savings. Compared to other OECD countries, U.S. students scored in the middle of the pack, while Shanghai, China, took the lead. (Inside School Research)
A new CAP report creates an ROI index by rating school districts on how much academic achievement they gained for every dollar spent, concluding that school districts and states should spend on education more strategically. (Washington Post)
New York Post: “Scaling up for success: KIPP’s formula for great schools”...

Just as the education-reform movement is starting to figure out how to use test-score data in a more sophisticated way, the Obama administration and its allies in the civil-rights community want to take us back to the Stone Age on the use of school-discipline data. This is an enormous mistake.

We all know that there are real problems with the ways that discipline is meted out in some American schools today. You can find campuses where huge numbers of students are suspended or expelled, particularly African American and Latino teenagers and mostly boys. Those young people are extraordinarily likely to end up in America’s bloated prison system as adults, causing all manner of societal suffering along the way, not to mention blighting their own lives. “Zero tolerance” policies—by removing administrator discretion and treating all offenses as equally injurious—have arguably made things worse.

I whole-heartedly support efforts to improve the ways that schools handle these issues; tips and training on creating a positive school culture and reducing suspensions and expulsions are welcome. Nor do I doubt that some of America’s 100,000-plus schools discriminate against minority children. Russlynn Ali, the former assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, talks about the district where a black Kindergartener gets suspended for pulling a fire alarm while a white tenth grader does the same thing and gets off with a warning. That’s wrong, and I’m grateful that students...

Delegates to the National Education Association’s annual convention called for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign and approved a policy statement strengthening their opposition to the use of tests in teacher evaluations. (Answer Sheet and Teacher Beat)
While the graduation rate in Prince George’s County went up slightly from 2012 to 2013, the percentage of those who graduated on time in 2013 (74.1 percent) was down from 2010 (76.2). (Washington Post)
For children in rural areas, summer means having a tougher time finding fresh fruits and vegetables. (Hechinger Report)

A new NCES report finds that most of those who graduated college during the recession (in the 2007–08 school year) were employed four years later. (Institute of Education Sciences)
StateImpact Ohio: “The Process of Picking Principals
WABE: “Why is a Good Principal Hard to Find? (And Keep?)”...

The most interesting story coming out of the landmark Vergara and Harris decisions is the coming irresistible-force-immovable-object collision of reformers’ aggressive new litigation strategy and teachers unions’ stout-defense approach to leadership.

These cases provide the nation’s unions an opportunity to produce next-generation leaders who strengthen labor’s long-term position through new rhetoric and priorities. But the unions’ recent bearing—elevating aggressive individuals wedded to longstanding ways—may be a path to their political marginalization or worse.

Most observers interpreted the Vergara-Harris tandem as an anti-union one-two combination. The Vergara decision was the uppercut, a jarring repudiation of California’s policies on tenure and seniority. Harris was the enervating body blow setting up the denouement. It chipped away at unions’ ability to extract dues from nonmembers in the name of preventing “freeriders” ; the Court emphasized the right of individuals to refuse to financially support organizations with which they disagree, which could have major implications for mandatory-dues policies.

Said simply, Vergara struck down union-supported policies, and Harris may eventually serve to turn off a stream of income upon which unions depend for their negotiating and advocacy activities.

A doughty response from labor was to be expected. This is no glass-jaw gang.

But their reaction has been positively martial. The first paragraph alone in the NEA’s statement included “privatizing public education and attacking educators,” “ultra-rich cronies,” and “deep-pocketed corporate special interests.” The California Federation of Teachers declared, “The judge fell...