Over a year ago, when Secretary Spellings invited all states to apply for a new pilot program to use growth models in their accountability systems, she included ??several requirements, one of which was "A growth model proposal must... ensure that all students are proficient by 2014." This week's Education Week commentary on growth models spells out some of the repercussions of that fateful requirement. In it, Michael Weiss clarifies the difference between status models, value-added models, and projection models (the latter used by most states participating in pilot).

I'll pause now for the vocabulary portion of our lesson...

Status model: holds that schools must bring, say, a low-performing 3rd grader up to proficiency by the end of the year for the school to receive credit for her performance, regardless of initial achievement (i.e, the NCLB model).

Projection model: holds that schools receive credit if ??learning gains are sufficiently large enough that a student appears to be on track to become proficient by say, 6th grade, regardless of initial achievement.

Value-added model: measures schools' relative effectiveness by accounting for students' initial achievement levels using multiple years of ??test score data.

All three of...

I've been enjoying the print media's and blogosphere's reactions to our new report, High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB. Most of the commentary is entirely predictable. For instance, the Education Trust expresses discomfort with us even raising the issue. From this morning's New York Times story:

Amy Wilkins, a vice president at Education Trust, which lobbies for policies to help close the achievement gap, said the gains by low achievers should be applauded. "My concern is that this report makes it seem like we have to choose between seeking equity and excellence," she said. "We need to strive for both."

Susan Traiman, the Business Roundtable's education policy director, goes a bit further:

We're producing progress at the bottom, and we need to maintain that," Ms. Traiman said, "but we need to ratchet up the performance of students at every achievement level if we're going to be competitive."

That's exactly right. But the award for truth-telling goes to Eduwonk Andy, who acknowledges that educators, at least, have to make difficult choices about how to allocate their time and attention.

There is also a belief that schools can do everything at once:


Too swamped today to dig into Fordham's new report, High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB? Check out this PowerPoint presentation to get the highlights.

Liam Julian

Find the op-ed here .

Ten years ago, New York joined the charter school revolution by passing a law to allow these innovative public schools to open. Today there are nearly 100 charters in the state and dozens more in the pipeline.

But now, thanks to the state's Department of Labor and a labor-friendly state judge, building a new charter school just got a lot harder and a lot more expensive.

That's the question posed by Fordham's latest report, High Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB. (Check out the full report or the one-page summary.) It contains two separate studies examining the status of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind era. The first, by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless,??concludes that the nation's top pupils have "languished" academically while the lowest-performing youngsters have gained dramatically. The second, by the Farkas Duffett Research Group,??finds that most teachers feel pressure to focus primarily on their lowest-achieving students and neglect the high achievers, even though this offends their sense of fairness. Both studies make clear that if we want our top achievers to make progress, too, we'll need to rethink NCLB's accountability measures.

The report's getting lots of attention in the media; see coverage from the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Education Week, and Chronicle of Higher Education. ...

Nearly missed this article from the latest Economist on Swedish private schools, probably beceause it was in the business section. A bit of background: A 1994 law made it so that

pretty much anyone who satisfies basic standards to open a new school and take in children at the state's expense. The local municipality must pay the school what it would have spent educating each child itself-a sum of SKr48,000-70,000 ($8,000-12,000) a year, depending on the child's age and the school's location. Children must be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis--there must be no religious requirements or entrance exams. Nothing extra can be charged for, but making a profit is fine.

Since the law was passed, the proportion of school-age Swedes attending private schools has jumped from less than 1 percent to about 10 percent, spurred more by the growth of private school networks than by mom-and-pop operators. (USA Today comments today on a similar phenomenon with charter networks in the U.S.) The article compares the biggest such operator, Kunskapsskolan ("Knowledge Schools"), to IKEA:

Like IKEA, a giant Swedish furniture-maker, Kunskapsskolan gets its customers to do much of the work themselves. The vital tool, though, is not

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss Fordham's new report on how high-achievers have fared as educators have turned their focus toward closing the achievement gap.


Checker laments in today's Ohio Education Gadfly that policymakers in Fordham's home state have gone soft on education.

Congress looks set to grant D.C.'s voucher program a one-year reprieve. (You have to scroll down a bit to see the story.)

As if teachers unions haven't caused enough headaches for charter schools, now labor unions are getting in on the act. An op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, written by a New York charter school president and a representative of the New York Charter Schools Association, talks about the interference of labor unions in one school's quest to expand its facilities. In New York, charter schools are supposed to be exempt from a state law requiring "prevailing wage" (in other words, charter schools don't have to pay union workers at union rates). This exemption saved some organizations, like the Brighter Choice Foundation, millions of dollars when they built a new KIPP middle school ($7 mil for the charter school, while the Albany school district spent $40 mil on a new middle school).

Apparently the labor unions weren't happy, because last fall the state labor commissioner told charter schools that they too had to pay union rates. Not only was the big boss in blatant disregard of state law, but then a state judge upheld the commissioner's decision. Now, thanks to union greed, a school like Buffalo's Tapestry Charter School is looking at inflated construction costs of nearly $1.5...