Flypaper

THE SITUATION IS FLUID
Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham takes a second look at a much-discussed study that seems to indicate charter schools raise test scores, but not “fluid intelligence.” The results are “fascinating, but they are also easy to misinterpret,” he writes.

BOSTON COMMONS
Boston is getting a “chief of education,” who will cultivate relationships with allschools in Boston—public, charter, parochial, and private—plus Boston’s colleges and universities—“although he will not have direct power over those institutions,” notes the Boston Globe.

LACKING LEADERS, THE SEQUEL
Writing at Slate, Dana Goldstein says the school principal “just might be the most important figure in school reform.” But you already knew that.

OPT OUT OF...VACCINATIONS?!
California parents are deciding against vaccinating their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. Health experts say that’s contributing to the reemergence of measles.  

UNCHARTERED WATERS
Seattle’s First Place Scholars today becomes the first charter school to open in the state of Washington.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME STEM?
TIME Magazine reports the San Francisco 49ers have a plan to bring in sixty kids a day from Bay Area schools for daylong STEM education programs, focusing on the engineering of stadium construction and the physics of football.

SCREECHING TO THE TEST
As Lee County, Florida opts out of opting out, Fordham’s Petrilli notes that school boards might take similar “symbolic actions,” but “at the end of the...

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SEPTEMBER SURPRISE
Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Cato’s Neal McCluskey—from opposite sides of the Common Core debate—coauthor an op-ed calling on both sides to “stop fighting over basic facts, and tackle crucial questions,” like will Common Core improve outcomes?”

BEWARE THE "PHARAOH EFFECT"
The Wall Street Journal warns religious schools eager to take up NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's offer to subsidize preschool students that if they accept “favors from the government often they may come to regret the attached strings.”

NEW HISTORY WARS
The head of the American Historical Association defends the College Board’s AP History framework in a New York Times op-ed, noting a “once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.”

IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED
A new nonprofit called Education Post launched today in hopes of creating “an honest and civil conversation” about education...and was immediately attacked on Twitter....

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Last week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal sued the U.S. Department of Education over the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), with a particular focus on the role that Race to the Top (RTTT) played in encouraging their adoption. And three days later, rumors arose that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin might haul that same agency into court for revoking its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. Together these two suits bring some of the most criticized recent federal education policies under legal scrutiny. But President Obama’s conditional waivers are much more vulnerable to legal challenge than is his Race to the Top initiative. Here’s why:

Jindal’s lawsuit claims that the federal government has used legislation to incentivize state adoption of the CCSS. The complaint asks the court to (1) declare that these actions violate the United States Constitution and a number of federal statutes and (2) enjoin the federal government from continuing. There are a number of lenses through which the court could view these actions.

Let’s first look at the constitutional claim, which has virtually no chance of success. Louisiana alleges that the feds’ standards push violates state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment, which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

The federal Race to the Top program,...

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STRETCHING COGNITIVE LIMITS ON ACHIEVEMENT
Each year of attendance at an oversubscribed charter school increased the math test scores of students in the sample by roughly 50 percent over the typical students, EducationNext reports, but had no impact on their fluid cognitive skills.

TICK, TICK, TICK…..
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has received only 141 out of more than 500 contracts required for review to launch Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious universal preschool program. School starts September 4. That’s September 4, 2014.  

ICYMI: JINDAL SUES
And the story is getting some coverage: Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, Politico, and more. Petrilli’s take: “"Bobby Jindal is not going to win these lawsuits, but he is going to win politically just by staging the fight.”

HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL?  TAXICAB, MAYBE...
Sorry, Malcolm Gladwell. It turns out that 10,000 hours of practice will not make you an expert. A new meta-analysis finds practice explains just 12 percent of skill mastery and subsequent success, Smithsonian reports.

STRETCH THAT SCHOOL DOLLAR
The Daily Beast highlights twenty-five schools that are “doing the most with the least;” and note the charter...

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Being an education reformer is often frustrating. No matter how zealously we push an idea or how smart we think it is, sometimes nothing changes. Or—the Common Core is a recent example—we make fast, bold gains at the outset, only to see our efforts watered down, neutered, or repudiated outright. Sure, we take solace in education’s slow, steady improvement. But this, too, frustrates us because kids grow up fast and shouldn’t have to wait for the upgrades they needed yesterday.

The respected education innovator (and inaugural Charter School Hall of Famer) Ted Kolderie sums it up well in his provocative new book:

Trying endlessly to push change into an inert system makes no basic sense. A concept of education policy built on this theory of action does not work; is not practical…Nor does the effort to transform the system radically through political action succeed. It, too, is not practical. A political majority for radical change is almost a contradiction in terms.

Kolderie knows the reform struggles of the last thirty years as well as anybody, and The Split Screen Strategy: Improvement + Innovation does a fantastic job of showing the limitations of these faulty assumptions and naïve dreams.

Take charter schools, which have underperformed and proven unnecessarily contentious. Part of the problem is that their advocates early on lost sight of chartering’s original purpose:...

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Many of our recent ed-reforms—e.g. Teach for America, alternative certification, the Hamilton Project, and various “new teacher” projects—implicitly subscribe to the idea that great teachers are born, not made. Ed schools, too, largely consider “training” teachers to be beneath their dignity. Hence the path to instructional excellence is to welcome all sorts of smart people into the classroom via all sorts of entry paths, then weed out those who don’t cut it.

In her new book, Building a Better Teacher, veteran education journalist Elizabeth Green sets out to dismantle this notion.

If she’s right and the reformers are wrong it would be good news, for then we could devise purposeful strategies for improving classroom instruction at scale—and not subject kids to a trial-and-error process of teacher selection. This possibility makes Building a Better Teacher an important book. Alas, Green offers scant evidence to support the made-not-born thesis. Indeed, her biggest proof point—a lengthy examination of the teaching techniques pioneered by a small cadre of math teachers in Michigan—comes perilously close to undermining the case she sets out to build.

This narrative focuses on the work of Deborah Ball, currently dean of education at the University of Michigan. Back in the day, she was a gifted fifth-grade math teacher at Spartan Village Academy in East Lansing. While still a student at Michigan State (MSU), Ball and a colleague, an equally...

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The New York chapter of the United Federation of Teachers participated in an anti-police brutality rally this past Saturday, prompting the question of what exactly does the union stand for: teachers or a political agenda? Fordham’s vice president of research and coauthor of Fordham’s union-strength study, Amber Northern, explained to Fox viewers why the UFT’s decision to support this rally undermines their chief cause.

As Northern puts it, “the zebra is showing its stripes.” 

This post is an excerpt from a speech I gave last week at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s state of the schools event.

We’re in the midst of the biggest backlash to education reform in a decade, if not a generation. While some in the movement believe we need to just improve our message, or find new messengers, my sense is that our challenges run much deeper. If we’re going to succeed over the long haul, we need to take a hard look not just at how we’re selling, but also at what we’re selling. We need to look at our reform agenda and ask ourselves: Is it working? Do the pieces fit well together? Does it diagnose the problem correctly and offer the right cures?

This is where we’ve made our biggest mistakes: getting the diagnosis wrong. Specifically, we have diagnosed all of our schools as having the same disease, and prescribed the same medicine for all of them.

In many of our reform conversations, there’s been a lot of tough talk about “failing schools,” and the need to “blow up the system.” And heaven knows there are some terrible schools out there, and broken, dysfunctional systems.

But let me ask you: do you send your children to public schools? Do you think your own public schools are broken, failing, need to be blown up?

I’m a public school parent. I don’t think my son’s school is broken or failing. It’s not. And neither,...

BOBBY SUE
Bobby Jindal plans to file a lawsuit today, accusing the federal government of  illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt Common Core. It has been observed that the Louisiana governor may covet national office.  

EIGHT TOUGHEST CHALLENGES FACING ED REFORM
In Education Week, Fordham’s Finn notes where education reform has made significant advances, (a la school choice), but outlines work still to do—including one of the seven deadly sins.

THIS OP-ED SCORES IN THE 99TH PERCENTILE
“We have convulsions when we read the nonsense being passed off as testing insights,” says a real, live psychometrician in the New York Daily News.

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Amber Northern is no fan of teachers unions, and on Fox News she wonders why the New York UFT is a fan of Al Sharpton.

READING, WRITING, AND ROLLER COASTERS
Kids in Washington, D.C., and Maryland are back to school this week, but it’s still summer vacation in Virginia, thanks to the state’s powerful amusement-park lobby.

FRESHMAN ORIENTATION AT PCU
No idea what “Transnational Transgender Social Formations” means? Bari Weiss in the Wall Street Journal advises new students at Politically Correct University to stick...

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Neerav Kingsland

Marc Tucker is the author of an important new report: Fixing Our National Accountability System. You can find the executive summary here.

Although Marc and I disagree on the promise of Relinquishment (most specifically on charter schools), I agree with much of this thinking.

But, in this report, Marc makes a strategic mistake in dismissing choice-based reforms.

To put it another way: if there is a grand bargain to be made that significantly increases student achievement in the United States, it could look like this:

  • Reduce testing frequency and increase testing rigor
  • Improve the quality of the teaching force
  • Increase charter schools and choice

Why could this bargain work? Because both Democrats and Republicans might actually support all three strategies.

Why might Marc’s vision not be realized without a charter strategy? Because, without charters, his reforms reduce testing accountability and increase spending, without increasing any elements of choice, competition, or entrepreneurship.

This is likely a nonstarter for many Americans, especially centrist and conservative policy makers.

Seventy percent of the public supports charter schools. Urban charter schools outperform traditional schools. And countries such as South Korea have shown that choice and competition can increase student achievement.

Pragmatically, Marc would be much more likely to see his vision realized if he embraced charter schools. And I believe firmly that this would be better for students.

So here’s my plea: Marc, embrace charters and choice in addition to your other excellent...

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