Rather than abandoning the Common Core entirely, North Carolina lawmakers will convene a commission to find ways to revise them. (Washington Post)
The Horizons Science network, a charter school chain in Dayton, Ohio, is under investigation after allegations arose of serious misconduct among school officials at one of their schools. (Charters & Choice)
A New America Foundation report argues that preschool programs should be seen as essential parts of elementary schools and be given comparable funding and school hours. (Washington Post)
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed an expansion of charters in Boston and other urban areas. (Associated Press)
Dallas Observer: “The People Choosing Texas' Social Studies Texts Don't Know Enough about Social Studies

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Peter Sipe

Twelve years ago, my wife and I went back to school. Not the same one, though: she went to medical school and I went to education school. I don’t think I’ll shock even the gentlest reader by asserting that the former was harder than the latter, but I would like to offer a glimpse of how differently rigorous they were.

Here’s a reconstruction of a typical conversation from our school days:

Me: “How was school, dear?”

Wife: “I have to master the circulatory system by Monday or repeat the entire year. How was school, dear?”

Me: “I have to write a one-page reflection on what education should be.”

Wife: [Mutters oaths, none of them Hippocratic.]

I can’t imagine a professional school more rigorous than medical school. And I’ll leave aside for now how crazy hard it is just to get in, or the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-illegal madness of what happens after a doctor graduates. (Free romance tip: marry a doctor after she’s finished residency, not before.) But say what you want about it—and my wife and her classmates did, believe me—those med students learned how to be doctors.

Me? This ed student’s classes generally went like this: a professor would speak for a bit on some theoretical matter, then we’d break into small groups to discuss it for an extravagantly long time, then we’d get back into a big group and share our opinions some more. I remember a class one evening in which you could not speak unless you had been...

A new study finds that toughening high school exit criteria did not increase the likelihood that graduates would go on to college. (Inside School Research)
Rick Hess points out that throwing money at stagnating school systems can actually make it more difficult to change them. (Education Week)
Politics K–12 rounds up the House and Senate campaigns with education-policy angles to keep an eye on. (Politics K–12)
Federal data shows that in 2012, female college graduates were still only earning 82 cents for each dollar that a man was—four years out of college. (Education By The Numbers)
Huffington Post: “These States Are Scrambling To Adopt New Education Standards
US News: “Common Core in Flux as States Debate Standards, Tests
The New York World: “At some city schools long suspensions are tool of choice”...

It feels like there are two very different charter-school conversations going on. The first is about policy and practice; the other is about philosophy and politics. Both have their place. But a recent collection of events and articles demonstrate why it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

The first presupposes (or, at minimum, concedes) the legitimacy of chartering and then explores how to make it better. These conversations typically focus on statutes and regulations, authorizers and operators, curriculum and instruction; they mostly attract wonky policy types and nuts-and-bolts practitioners.

The second, about philosophy and politics, is essentially about whether chartering is good or bad. Participants are interested in basic questions such as, “Should charters exist?” and “What does chartering mean for public education?” This conversation, which typically emanates from deeply held principles and big ideas, seems to attract the scholarly, the idealistic, and the impassioned—but also the certain and the dismissive.

There are a couple unfortunate upshots of this. The first relates to the charter-related content that gets the most attention. Sadly, the more name calling you do (“privateer,” “hoax, destroy, privatize,” or this doozy: “corporate interests, hedge fund managers and billionaires starve public schools and services of resources and suck up as much profit as they can”), the more press you get.

Similarly, if a charter story has any political angle, it’ll get ink. A Democratic congressman is rebuffed by a union, so he votes in favor of major charter legislation? Big news....

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...