A massive longitudinal study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore, from first grade through their late twenties, to track who got ahead. (NPR)
A proposal to weaken tenure laws and attach student performance to teacher evaluations will appear on Missouri ballots this November. (Teacher Beat)
A new organization, launching this winter, will review Common Core–aligned materials. (Curriculum Matters)
A new report questions the theory that “undermatching” students—that is, sending students with academic potential, often from low-income backgrounds, to lower-tier colleges—actually leads the students to be less likely to graduate. (Hechinger Report)
As part of a series on how play relates to learning, NPR Ed profiles Adventure Playground in Berkeley, California, a free-range “wild playground” embraces the theory that letting kids play hard and self-organize leads them to become better problem solvers. (NPR)
Greenville Online: “Back to school: New rules, new standards
Democrats for Education Reform: “Is there a relationship between state public charter school policies and charter student learning outcomes?

Want to receive First Bell in your inbox every morning? Sign up today....

As Gadfly readers know—from his “farewell address,” if not before—the irreplaceable Checker Finn stepped down as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s president last week, handing me the reins and the opportunity of a lifetime. As Checker made clear, he’s not retiring, disappearing, or giving up the fight—just letting go of the day-to-day responsibilities of managing an increasingly complex organization. He will, as he wrote, have more time than ever for troublemaking. American education will be the better for it.

So what does this mean for Fordham? Let me assure friends and foes alike that “evolution” is the apt term. Don’t expect any abrupt changes. Checker has been delegating a lot of decisions to our seasoned, superb senior staff for years; that talented team, along with our top-notch board of trustees, will continue to steer a steady course in the years to come, both with our national work and our efforts in Ohio.


That’s not to say, however, that “abrupt change” isn’t needed in the education-reform movement. Let’s begin with that great, late philosopher Michael Jackson:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Those of us lucky enough to work every day at improving our schools need to start by looking in the...

Source: Students Matter. Note: NCTQ recently updated their data to reflect Ohio's new seven-year probationary period.

It’s open season on teacher employment protection laws in U.S. state courts. The watershed moment, of course, was June’s Vergara v. California verdict holding California’s laws unconstitutional. Vergara began back in March of 2012, when nine public school students filed suit against the State of California, arguing that California’s laws violated its constitutional guarantee of an effective education. In the seven weeks since, two high-profile copycat cases have been filed in New York State. Have we reached a point of no return? And if so, is that a good thing—even for those who oppose tenure? Don’t be so sure.

It’s important to keep in mind that teacher tenure is a state-law issue. Every state writes its own legislation, so laws are usually different from state to state. Just because teacher tenure is poorly structured in California doesn’t mean tenure is bad everywhere. In fact, the current landscape provides a perfect opportunity to showcase this important lesson. Let’s start with California.

In Vergara (and its copycats), three types of laws were at issue: (1) tenure, which determines under what circumstances the state will grant a teacher employment protections; (2) dismissal, defining the process through which states fire tenured teachers; and (3) seniority, which mandates what


California’s new weighted student funding system has reached the one-year mark—and there are some lessons to be learned. (Hechinger Report)

A federal judge reaffirmed his order that the state of Louisiana must give the federal government student data on its school-voucher program. (School Law)

A study finds that many of Illinois’s teachers lack the proper credentials to teach their subjects. (Chicago Tribune)

As Head Start approaches its fifty-year anniversary, the program will undergo some seismic changes. (Education Week)

Education Week: “U.S. Reviews of Standards, Tests Enter New Phase
Get Schooled: “In DeKalb, millions went to attorneys while students did without. Overspending tab: $32 million

Andy's odyssey: Part two

This series is wrestling with a set of related questions. Is education reform inherently anti-conservative? Are reformers behaving as though it is when it should be informed by conservatism? What have we wrought by stiff-arming conservatism? How might things be better if we sought counsel from conservatism?

One of the most important aspects of this inquiry relates to balancing change and preservation. A National Affairs article by Phillip Wallach and Justus Myers, “The Conservative Governing Disposition,” sheds valuable light on this issue and proves a helpful guide to understanding conservatism’s role in education reform.

The article describes the “conservative governing disposition,” an approach to policymaking that wonks and practitioners alike should understand. It also surfaces three issues that will be a recurring theme in this series.

Conservative governing disposition

The authors distinguish the conservative “disposition” from policy proposals—it’s an approach, not an agenda. It can be seen in the work of giants like Burke, Hume, Madison, Hamilton, Hayek, and de Tocqueville. One scholar described it as more of a “temperament (and) less an articulate philosophy.”

Wallach and Myers write, “Conservatism starts with the premise that social practices, habits, and institutions embody the accumulated wisdom of trial-and-error experience.” So much of what exists is evolutionarily sturdy; it is not here by accident. The authors smartly note, “Dispositional conservatism is sympathetic to complexity.” What progressives might consider messy or byzantine, a conservative would see as full and robust, made so...

Eva Myrick Chiang

Imagine reading this job advertisement:

WANTED: Credentialed professional with at least a master’s degree to run a school. Will work on average fourteen hours per day or more, six days per week, and be on call twenty-four hours a day most days of the year. Must handle pressure and stress well—oh, and the pay isn’t that great, either.

In many places across the United States, this is the type of workload we demand of our school leaders. Each and every one of our schools desperately needs a talented, competent leader, but what intelligent person would sign up for that job?

It’s time for us to have an extreme makeover in what we expect from our school principals. Traditionally, principals were seen as building managers and disciplinarians. They made sure that the lights were on and that everyone was following the rules. But the role has changed, and the needs of our students demand that we now have visionary instructional leaders running our schools.

This change of roles can be problematic for districts because, well, the lights still need to be turned on, payroll still has to be processed, and buildings still have maintenance issues. That is why we now have to shift our thinking about who is doing what in districts. We have to make the principal’s job more doable, more protected, and more supported so that the job appeals to our most talented professionals. We have to create the district conditions that support effective school leaders so that...

Because of inadequate capacity in public schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio is asking New York's religious schools and community organizations to host his expanded government-funded pre-K—leading to church-state issues. (New York Times)

The Hechinger Report argues that teacher-training programs need to focus more on getting their trainees in-classroom experience. (Hechinger Report)

A recent federal study found that fourth graders had trouble with some of the basic functions of a computerized writing assessment. (Curriculum Matters)

A task force studied chronic absenteeism in Chicago and issued recommendations, including upgrading data systems that track absentee students and bringing back truancy officers. (Inside School Research)

Yahoo News: "What If Everyone Went to College?"
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation: "6 Ways to Recruit Great Leaders as Principals"...

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled senate has voted in favor of a budget that would increase teacher salaries. Democratic leaders claim the budget is “smoke and mirrors.” (Teacher Beat and New York Times)
A D.C. charter school is enrolling parents and young children in the same school, in an effort to help disadvantaged kids by building up the skills of the adults surrounding them. (Washington Post)
Kids at Detroit schools run by the Education Achievement Authority are adjusting to increased class time and other strategies to catch up kids hailing from the troubled Detroit Public Schools. (Hechinger Report)
According to a new study, students in Langley Park, MD, are four times more likely than their peers nationwide to leave school early in order to help pay the bills at home. (NPR)
The Newark Charter School Fund has granted $259,000 to improve services for Newark’s charter school students with disabilities. (Charters & Choice)
New research delves into how to get at-risk students across the high school finish line. (Inside School Research)
Politics K–12 puts together a snapshot of teacher-union spending on national political campaigns. (Politics K–12)
Christian Science Monitor: “Common Core education standards: why they're contested left and right

Want to receive First Bell in your inbox every morning? ...

Shaun Dougherty and Michael Gottfried

The discourse around college and career readiness has focused primarily on implementation of the Common Core. Notably absent is much consideration of how those programs might serve the needs of students with less direction or discernment about what career paths may be most productive or in demand. But with the Perkins block grants (with its focus on career and technical education or “CTE”) being among the few programs with hope of being reauthorized by the feds, it’s time to starting paying attention to CTE and the students it could serve. In fact, reauthorization could prove to be critical, as approximately 20 percent of both students with disabilities and students receiving free and reduced-price lunches enroll in three or more CTE courses in high school.

The bill put forth by Senators Portman of Ohio and Kaine and Warner from Virginia seeks to increase the flexibility states have in using funds allocated through block grants to improve CTE programs. This increased autonomy can certainly be a good thing: it allows states to use funds to establish career academies and allows them to expand traditional CTE models to fit specific needs, rather than having to rely on a federally mandated set of guidelines.

While state flexibility is important, so is implementation based on evidence of what works. States will benefit from being able to expand their pool of potential CTE-related investments, but fidelity of implementation remains a key factor. A randomized experiment, for example, has shown that implementation of career academies...

Monday’s Politico story on the messaging battle over the Common Core has kicked up another round of recriminations, particularly on the Right. What particularly caught my eye was my good friend Rick Hess’s allegation that supporters of the Core (myself among them) were expressing hubris and vanity because we’ve decided that we need our arguments to be more “emotional.”

Ugh. Those are two qualities I certainly don’t want to be associated with. This might be a good time to step back—sans emotion—and take stock of where we’re at.

Get another cup of coffee; this is going to be a long one. I plan to tackle three big topics:

  1. Who’s winning?
  2. Which concerns about the Common Core do I see as legitimate?
  3. How can we supporters of the Core respond constructively to those concerns?

Who’s winning?

The current narrative—pushed by Politico and other media outlets—is that the anti–Common Core forces have momentum on their side. Glenn Beck is making money from movie-ticket and book sales. Republican governors are running scared. Red states are starting to topple.

This is all true, and there’s little doubt that in the “air war” over the Common Core—especially in the conservative media—we’re getting our butts kicked. Furthermore, when it comes to grassroots organizing, the tea-party groups (like FreedomWorks) are much more effective. They have the energy, the passion, and the ground troops.

Which makes it all the more remarkable...