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GadflyBusted! The Big Apple’s “transfer” high schools—the city’s schools-of-last-resort for struggling teens—saw more students drop out than graduate in 2011–12—seventy-eight more at the forty-four such schools surveyed, to be exact. By contrast, last year at the same forty-four schools, 619 more students graduated than dropped out. The schools’ principals attributed the flop to midyear changes in graduation requirements (tightened to match state requirements), while city officials—claiming that their own policy changes were “minor”—cited increased Regents standards, instead. For our take, see this week’s Education Gadfly Show.

School districts considering arming their teachers and administrators may need to think twice: Insurance carriers have threatened to raise their premiums or revoke their coverage altogether. This is not universal (Texas, for instance, has made it fairly easy for districts to arm employees and insurance providers have hardly batted an eye—now, whether these employees can actually use their weapons is another matter altogether); nevertheless, it is certainly an important development in the guns-in-schools debate.

As contentious as the New York City mayoral race is, the turbulence in K–12 education facing the new leader is more. New York City public schools must deal with implementation of the Common Core standards and the hard-fought (and still-controversial) teacher-evaluation system—and let’s not forget the conundrums of whether or not to continue the Bloomberg-Kline-era reforms, whether to close the city’s failing schools, whether to allow charters and traditional...

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A British schoolteacher, Daisy Christodoulou, has just published a short, pungent e-book called Seven Myths about Education. It’s a must-read for anyone in a position to influence our low-performing public school system. The book’s focus is on British education, but it deserves to be nominated as a “best book of 2013″ on American education, because there’s not a farthing’s worth of difference in how the British and American educational systems are being hindered by a slogan-monopoly of high-sounding ideas—brilliantly deconstructed in this book.

Photo by Christos Tsoumplekas
There's not a farthing's worth of difference in how the British and American educational systems are being hindered by a slogan-monopoly of high-sounding ideas. 

Ms. Christodoulou has unusual credentials. She’s an experienced classroom teacher, she currently directs a nonprofit educational foundation in London, and she is a scholar of impressive powers who has mastered the relevant research literature in educational history and cognitive psychology. Her writing is clear and effective. Speaking as a teacher to teachers, she may be able to change their minds. As an expert scholar and writer, she also has a good chance of enlightening administrators, legislators, and concerned citizens.

Ms. Christodoulou believes that such enlightenment is the great practical need these days, because the chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions,...

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The missed opportunity in the education of gifted students runs up and down the system, including into and beyond the college gate. Last December, Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery showed that there are far more high-achieving, low-income students than previously thought—but that these young people, unaware of their options, often do not even apply to selective colleges. Now, Hoxby and Sarah Turner report on a well-crafted intervention aimed at closing the information gap. It’s called the Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project. After sending and emailing customized informational packets (which consisted of college-specific information and application fee waivers, alongside guidance on how to apply to selective colleges, on the net cost of college, and on colleges’ varying graduation rates—all at $6 a pop) to high-achieving seniors (10,000 of them in 2010–11, with a control group of 2,500, and 15,000 in 2011–12, with a control group of 3,000), the authors saw positive results: Compared to the control group, recipient students were 20 percent more likely to apply to public and private schools with similarly high-achieving students. And in this Hamilton Project paper, the authors outline ways to bring this initiative to scale: First, in order to scale up the number of students reached, the ECO project will need to team up with credible, established institutions, such as the College Board and ACT. Second, because the Census recently stopped gathering data on incomes, housing values, occupations, and adults’ education, the authors propose that the federal government allow them access to other sources...

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GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due in part to the involvement of his campaign chairwoman, State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, he has fostered a relationship with charter advocates and Randi Weingarten. We’ll see how he handles this balancing act.

Chris Walters, a Virginia native and newly minted Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD, has...

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There are a number of laudable statistics found in this year’s Diplomas Count: At 75 percent, the U.S. graduation rate in 2010 hit its highest point since 1973—the most recent year for which data are available—marking an 8 percentage point boost from ten years earlier. Further, Hispanics boasted a 16 percentage-point rate improvement; African Americans, a 13 percentage-point bump, which halved the white-Hispanic graduation-rate gap and cut the white–African American gap by 30 percent during that same time period. Yet this year’s report focuses on a depressing corollary point: We’re failing our youth who have already dropped out. Currently, 1.8 million young adults, or 6.5 percent of those aged sixteen to twenty-one, are neither enrolled in school nor have they received their diploma. And we have no comprehensive public-policy strategy to bring these youth back to school or get them college- or career-ready. Still, the report profiles a handful of dropout-recovery programs—run by districts, CMOs, or nonprofits—that are working to reengage would-be students. It’s tough stuff: One Boston-based nonprofit brought 501 of the 867 students it contacted back to the classroom in 2011–12, for example. Among them, fewer than 100 graduated at the end of the year. The message? Progress is good, but there’s no rest for the weary.

SOURCE: Education Week, Diplomas Count 2013: Second Chances: Turning Dropouts into Graduates (Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education, June 2013)....

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In this new NBER working paper, Jason Grissom and colleagues explore the implications of involuntary teacher transfers (or those in which educators are shuffled from one school to another without say) in Miami Dade County’s public schools. Specifically, analysts examined which types of schools made use of—and accepted teachers from—the transfer policy, “the characteristics of transferred teachers and their replacements, and whether the transfers affected productivity, at least in terms of teacher absences and value added. First, they examined involuntary transfers from 2009 through 2012, finding that seventy-three (of 370) of the district’s schools transferred at least one teacher in at least one of those years, totaling 375 teacher transfers. Schools that used the policy tended to be far lower achieving and tended to serve higher percentages of African American students and those with free-and-reduced-price-lunch than schools that did not. The involuntarily transferred teachers were sent to higher-achieving schools than those they left (on average, they were moved from D to B schools on Florida’s A–F grading system). With regards to teacher characteristics, the booted educators were relatively experienced, with 60 percent having five or more years of teaching under their belts and only 8 percent having one year or less. They were absent more often than other teachers—and in mathematics, they had significantly lower value-added scores than those who were not transferred. Importantly, their replacements tended to be younger, less experienced, and generally higher performing (though the sample size for this particular analysis was small). Finally, the authors found...

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GadflyNew York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”

The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s. (Blaine Amendments still exist in thirty-six other states.) Judge Lewis’s ruling marks the first time a tax-credit-scholarship program has been struck down on these grounds. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that tax-credit-scholarship money never reaches the state treasury and thus cannot be considered public. An appeal in the...

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  • Lisa Peng, a student at Shaker Heights School District near Cleveland, has asked President Obama to urge Chinese President Xi Jinping to release prisoners of conscience, including her father.
  • Even during the last days of schools, Reynoldsburg School District’s students have continued to learn, either reviewing concepts they had not yet mastered or participating in career interest projects.
  • A new pilot program at Cincinnati Public Schools, in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, aims to battle childhood obesity.
  • In the wake of former Ohio State University president Gordon Gee’s controversial remarks about the University of Cincinnati, university president Santa J. Ono fired back, calling for more flagship universities in Ohio.
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A report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) sheds light on the poor quality of school governance in the United States. The author, Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education, argues that governance establishes two things: one, who is in charge of education policy (who makes and implements it), and two, how policy decisions are made (through a deliberative body or through a single executive). Ultimately, successful governance systems are able to determine what government agencies and what level of government has the ability to administer and implement education policy, as well as who is accountable for the quality of education. Tucker explains that the American system is hindered by having the local, state, and federal levels of government pushing forward policy independent of each other. This creates an incoherent governance system and diffuses accountability. So what is the Tucker’s suggestion to improve the current system? Governance, according to Tucker, should be centralized at the state level, limiting the roles that both local and federal agencies have on in creating and implementing education policies. Local governance of schools is resistant to policy reform because there are not many incentives to deviate from the status quo (e.g., the strength of unions at the local level and low voter turnout for school board elections). Meanwhile, central control from the federal government of local schools would not be supported by the public. In strengthening the capacity for states to create education policy and changing the roles at the local and...

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How do Ohio’s science standards stack up, in comparison to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? What is the cost of teacher pensions? What’s your teachers’ value-added rating? And, what’s the latest on the Columbus reform plan? For answers to these questions, read the short notes below:

  • Fordham issued a “C” grade to the recently released Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS are the result of a two-year effort by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve to develop world-class K-12 academic standards in the sciences. NGSS’ “C” grade is clearly inferior to those awarded to twelve states (including Ohio, whose standards received a “B”), as well as the NAEP and TIMSS frameworks, as rated in Fordham’s State of State Science Standards 2012. Nevertheless, the NGSS grade is clearly superior to grades given to the woeful science standards of sixteen states—and the PISA framework. In this video, Checker Finn provides a two minute break down of why Fordham does not support the implementation of the NGSS standards.

 

  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District will save about $1,200 per pupil in pension costs by 2020 as a result of the Buckeye State’s recent changes to state law (Senate Bill 341 and 342, which passed in fall 2012). This is a key conclusion of Fordham’s recent report The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School-District Budgets, in which the district-level costs of teacher pension obligations
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