Flypaper

Myles Mendoza

As a parent of three young children in Chicago Public Schools, I’m starting to get nervous.

Luckily, my family can afford to live in a neighborhood with one of the city’s few higher-performing elementary schools that aren’t governed by selective enrollment. But in the upper grades, even Chicago’s best neighborhoods have almost no high-quality options unless you can afford a private school.

So we’ve begun the effort to get our kids tested to see if they can be among the lucky few to gain entry into Chicago’s selective enrollment schools. Because the system is point-based, families strategize on how to get their kids into these coveted programs. Parents in the know find tutorials online. Some even spend hundreds of dollars for test preparation.

Recently, as I sat in a testing center waiting for my son to finish his exam, I looked around and saw a lot of affluent parents like me. I wondered, what about the children without parents to advocate for them? What about those families without social capital or financial means—do they even know these gifted programs exist?

Gifted schools and programs are supposed to be for all students with unique abilities, but as I sat in the...

Despite the continued controversy surrounding Common Core, the vast majority of states that originally adopted the standards have chosen to stick with them. But the same can’t be said of several new standards-aligned assessments.

Developed by two state consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, these new tests offered member states shared ownership over common assessments, significant cost savings, and the ability to compare student performance across states. Despite this initial promise, however, membership in PARCC (and, to a lesser degree, Smarter Balanced) has been dwindling for some time now. But is this attrition due to the quality of the tests, as some claim?

To inform states about the quality and content of PARCC and Smarter Balanced, Fordham conducted the first comprehensive evaluation of three “next-generation” tests this past summer, recruiting reviewers who examined operational test items from PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and ACT Aspire. We also evaluated one highly regarded existing state test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). Our team of rock star reviewers, comprising educators and experts on content and assessment, judged these tests against benchmarks based on the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO’s) “...

Even a careful observer of education policy could wonder, “Who’s actually in charge of public schooling?” That is, at which level of government does the buck stop?

The long shadow cast by NCLB and all of the attention paid to ESSA might convince you that the feds are in control. We also know from experience, though, that local school boards and superintendents make the lion’s share of key decisions. And aren’t state departments and boards of education also important?

It gets even more confusing when there are public disagreements between these different government entities. States and districts routinely quarrel about funding levels. There’s a battle now in Illinois about local and state oversight of charters. In Michigan, there’s a clash over a new state body that could exert control over Detroit’s schools. Uncle Sam infamously got involved in Common Core, which raised state and local hackles galore. Thanks to Pierce, there are also the constitutional rights of parents limiting the authority of all levels of government. The list goes on and on.

The simple (if messy) answer to the basic question of who’s in charge is this: no one and everyone. Like much else in our constitutional system, powers are distributed in a layer-cake or marble-cake...

If a Supreme Court case yields an outcome that virtually every observer predicted, it’s tempting to dismiss the underlying legal issues as predetermined. But what if the result also confounds the expectations of those same prognosticators from just six weeks prior? Something extraordinary must have taken place, right?

That’s exactly what happened in the closely watched case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which concluded in a 4-4 split on Tuesday after initially dangling over public sector organizers like the sword of Damocles. When oral arguments were heard in January, the battle lines were familiar: four liberal justices clearly in sympathy with public employee unions, five conservatives set to rule against them. Archconservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who had previously been mentioned as a possible swing vote, gave every impression of siding with his ideological confreres. Headlines from that period were getting a lot of mileage out of words like “bleak” and “brutalized.” And “doomsday.”

And then…well, I guess you know what happened then.

It’s difficult to overstate the effect of Scalia’s death on the court’s deadlock—and, indeed, on the future of organized labor in America. A broad ruling on philosophical lines may have functionally transformed...

Ron Burgundy

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Last week, Education Week’s Alyson Klein had the opportunity to sit down with the men and woman who could be responsible for distributing 11 percent of the nation’s K–12 budget according to a fixed formula. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation…

Klein: Hello everyone, and thank you all for taking some time out of your schoolyard antics to talk about education policy. I’ll get right to the questions, starting with the Republican front-runner. Mr. Trump, critics say you have yet to articulate a coherent position on education. Can you clarify your position for our readers?

Trump: Oh, I’ll clarify it, Alyson. I’ll clarify it so good you won’t even believe it’s been clarified. Because it will be so great. I mean it will be way better than what we’ve had. And people will love it. That I can promise you. They will love it, because it will be great and because it will be successful and America will be great again. I’ve been very successful. I’ve had a lot of success, some of which has been in the educational field. Just look at Trump University, for example,...

Gob Bluth

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In a startling turn of events, the U.S. Senate has announced that John B. King, Jr. is not, as previously thought, the secretary of education. An Oversight Committee review of last month’s confirmation process concluded that the identically named John King of CNN fame is actually the new head of the Department of Education.

Informed of this news, individual GOP senators acknowledged the difference between the two men and demonstrated varying degrees of glee.

“Mitch gets us all together in the cloakroom and says, ‘The president wants John King. We’ll give him John King.’” recalled Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). “So we confirmed this TV fella instead. Take that, Barack.”

Though his clean-cut looks, strong jaw, and buttery inflection have won the television personality a loyal following among cable news aficionados, King isn’t known to hold any firm policy views on school choice, Common Core, labor organizing, or any of the other issues that have divided the parties on education over the last few decades. And King himself professed surprise at the selection, noting that he has no interest in schools.

According to his CNN colleagues, King’s favored topics of discussion...

Eric Taylor

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On Thursday, Donald Trump surprised an Ohio high school with an unplanned visit to the freshman civics class at Pyrite Academy.

Blake Herbert, who coaches the school’s football team in addition to teaching Pyrite’s Introduction to Civics class, said he wasn’t expecting the Donald’s drop-by, but added that he wasn’t the least bit surprised to find the orangeish sixty-nine-year-old sitting in the back of his third-period class.

“Trump has really galvanized civics education,” declared Coach Herbert, citing the candidate’s call to “loosen up” libel laws, restrict citizenship rights, and impose religious tests on immigrants, as well as his even-greater-than-Arne disregard for the system of checks and balances. “He’s really motivating kids to study civics. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Asked what he hoped his students learned from the would-be Republican nominee’s talk, Herbert was momentarily nonplussed. “Oh, no, no, no. He’s not speaking to the class. He’s attending it,” he corrected. 

The two dozen kids in Herbert’s class mostly assumed the man in the back of the room was a school administrator observing the lesson, Herbert said. They seemed unaware that their new classmate has nearly locked up the...

Toby Flenderson

This week’s Democratic debate featured something more surprising than a Lincoln Chafee cameo: twenty-two minutes of dedicated, substantive discussion on education reform policies. Campbell Brown called it “a dream come true.”

Despite the fact that nearly seven minutes were taken up by Senator Bernie Sanders’ incoherent definition of “private charter schools” (“A school that takes the money from the taxpayer, and then they give it to the people, and the people are not the public people, they’re the private people, the rich people! WALL STREET!!”), the rest was a deep exploration of Bernie’s and Hillary’s perspectives on Common Core, teacher pay, school accountability, and the best ways to evaluate—though both found it rather unnecessary—student progress and teacher impact. Both candidates talked pre-K, and the two drew sharp differences between Clinton’s focus on low-income female students and Sanders’s plan for million-dollar teacher pay.

Unfortunately, as time went on, national viewership plummeted from twelve million to seven. (Not seven million. Seven.)

Part of it was poor timing—NCIS: Baton Rouge came on around minute fifteen—but according to focus group guru Frank Luntz, “voters just don’t give a damn about education policy. I couldn’t even assemble a panel. I offered...

Quincy Magoo

Leading education researchers are celebrating a “breakthrough” in the decades-long struggle to close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

It occurred around 1:45 on the second day of the AEFP conference, as the Urban Institute’s Matt Chingos was presenting his working paper, “Dream World: Preparing for the Sanders Economy.” As he flipped to a slide featuring eighth-grade NAEP scores, the Seventy Four’s Matt Barnum entered the room characteristically late, arms overflowing with blueberry muffins that toppled to the floor when he tripped on a laptop cord. Racing against the five-second rule, he leapt suddenly to his feet in an explosion of crumbs and spittle. “It doesn’t look so bad from back here!” He mumbled through a mouthful of muffin.

Barnum was referring to the achievement gaps depicted on Chingos’s slide, which he claimed were smaller when viewed from a distance. This galvanized sundry researchers in attendance, many of whom were playing Candy Crush at the time.

The University of Washington’s Dan Goldhaber claimed that the gap between rich and poor students looked “almost insignificant” when he extended his arm and “crushed it” between his thumb and index finger (a technique he referred to as “Rubio-ing”).

“This...

Vic Dactylic

They may be young, scrappy, hungry, and happy, but does their knowledge astonish (or are they all brains and no polish)? In Partially Prudent: Hamilton's Effects on Students, a researcher at Maine’s Trinity College examines kids’ content knowledge a day or two after viewing Hamilton.

Her findings are alarming: Sixty-eight percent found George Washington “handsome and charming”; 49 percent associated fines with cabinet members’ lack of rhymes; and 84 percent could neither find nor call to mind the number of children (eight) born to this man so great, nor recall the wife of the famous striver (Elizabeth Schuyler).

Worse, their misconceptions appear to have bled over into pop culture, too. Recent performances by rapper Kanye West have been met with boos. One angry student snapped, “Rap’s all about sampling and sound, but don’t rip off the fathers by whom America was found.”

But critics, hold the phone—these negatives don’t stand alone. Students were twice as likely to know democratic principles the very next day, if the night before that same student saw the play. Forty-eight percent saw differences in the North’s and South’s economic cores, as well as their connection to the Civil War. Even those who...

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