Unassociated

After a sandstorm of education bills swept through the last few weeks of the Lone Star State's eighty-third legislative session, the dust cleared to reveal the passage of five major education bills:

  1. HB 5 rolls back the number of required end-of-course exams from fifteen to five and creates two high school diploma tracks
  2. SB 2 expands the state’s charter school system, increasing the state cap on charter school contracts from 215 to 305 over the next six years
  3. HB 866 will allow students in grades 3–8 who score well in either the third or fifth grade to be excused from certain standardized tests (this one requires federal approval)
  4. HB 2836 limits the number of “benchmark” exams districts can administer in grades 3–8 and orders that the state’s curricular standards be studied by a mandated commission
  5. HB 1926 requires that all districts, beginning in middle school, offer students the option of taking online courses (setting the limit at three per student, per year) and opens the virtual-education market to nonprofits and private companies, to be authorized by the Texas Education Agency

The big battle that was won: As Greg Richmond of NACSA reports, SB 2 is quality legislation that promotes both growth and accountability; in addition to raising the cap on charter contracts, it strengthens the application process and creates a default closure mechanism for failed schools. The big battle that was lost: HB 5 is a major setback. As Checker Finn warned when the...

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  • The Columbus Dispatch opines that the “campaign against the Common Core…is misguided and misinformed.” Instead, the Dispatch argues that the Common Core rightly describes “what children should know and be able to do at each grade level.”
  • The Akron Beacon Journal’s chief editorial writer, Laura Ofobike, defuses anti-Common Core hysteria, arguing that the “Common Core is supposed to produce students who graduate from high school equipped to make it in college or a career. How subversive is that?”
  • The Toledo Blade writes in favor of the Common Core (though, under the caveat that literature must remain in schools’ curricula). The Blade argues that the Common Core “promises to enhance the quality of public education” and that it “usefully makes a priority of instruction in critical thinking and basic ideas and concepts, rather than teaching to standardized tests.”
  • Nationally, the New York Times has endorsed the Common Core on grounds that include that they will “help students develop strong reasoning skills earlier than is now common.” Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, writes favorably toward the Common Core in the Washington Post, as has former Florida governor Jeb Bush in the Columbus Dispatch. Finally, Fordham’s president Checker Finn defends the merits of the Common Core in Defining Ideas, a journal published by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
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  • Common Core: Fordham’s Emmy Partin hit the airwaves to discuss the Buckeye State’s transition to the Common Core standards in English language arts and math on All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU, Ohio’s National Public Radio station. Ida Lieszkovsky, a reporter for StateImpact Ohio and Kelly Kohls, president of the Ohio School Board Leadership Council joined Emmy to inform the public about the new learning standards and to debate their merits. To view the video of the event, please click here.
  • Good school governance: Fordham published Limitless: Education, the Reynoldsburg Way, a short report that profiles Reynoldsburg City School District, a Columbus-area school that serves around 6,000 students. In Limitless, Ellen Belcher, an award-winning journalist and formerly of the Dayton Daily News, interviews school leaders, teachers, and parents to describe how one Ohio district pushes innovation and empowers leaders—all to better meet kids’ needs while maintaining fiscal discipline. If you’re interested in an example of “portfolio management” done well, you’ll want to read this report, which can be downloaded here.
  • Superintendents’ views on education reform: The Buckeye State is in the midst of serious educational reform—from brand-new learning standards to a revamped accountability system to teacher evaluations partly based on students’ test scores. How do district superintendents, who are tasked with implementing these reforms, view them? With a hearty embrace? With a grimace and frown? To read the views and opinions of Ohio’s superintendents (344 out of 614 responded to our survey),
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Blended learning: It’s the talk of the town and perceived favorably, but it hasn’t found widespread use…yet. Fordham’s May 2013 publication Half Empty Half Full: Superintendents’ Views on Ohio’s Education Reform surveyed 344 of Ohio’s 614 district superintendents: 59 percent of superintendents thought that blended learning would lead to “fundamental improvement.” However, despite the vocal support for blended learning, few superintendents (a mere 5 percent) report that it has achieved “widespread” use in their school district. In fact, 31 percent of superintendents reported that blended learning was of “limited or no use” in their district.

Blended learning refers to an instructional model that mixes virtual education with traditional face-to-face instruction. The model can vary depending on what instructional model the teacher chooses to implement. (Heather Staker and Michael B. Horn, Classifying K-12 Blended Learning, identify four blended learning models.)  

Who are the most laggardly of the laggards in terms of using blended learning? It seems, as might be expected, that superintendents of rural districts are the most likely to report little to no use of blended learning. And, importantly, it’s not on account of attitudinal resistance to blended learning from these rural school leaders.

Chart 1 shows that rural superintendents view blended learning favorably—as favorably as their peers in larger, more urban districts. Sixty-one percent of rural superintendents view blended learning favorably, a percentage that mirrors that of urban (61 percent) and suburban superintendents (66 percent), and is considerably higher than small town superintendents (45 percent). 

Chart...

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Education’s Fiscal Cliff, Real or Perceived?In our 2005 report, Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier, we wrote, “U.S. charter schools are being starved of needed funds in almost every community and state.” We backed that statement with funding data from seventeen states and twenty-seven districts. A 2010 report, tracking 2006–07 data, agreed. In the years since, some jurisdictions have moved to provide more equal funding levels to district and charter schools, yet large disparities remain. This paper—which will be published in the Journal of School Choice in September—examines the extent of those inequalities. Larry Maloney and colleagues tallied local, state, federal, and non-public revenue from 2007 to 2011 in Denver, Newark, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. The upshot: On average in 2011, charters received $4,000 less per pupil, per year, across all five studied locales, with gaps ranging from $2,700 in Denver to nearly $13,000 in D.C.—though jurisdictions with the largest spending gaps (Newark and D.C., specifically) actually narrowed the gap between district and charter funding during the study period while those that started out closer to equal funding widened the gap. The authors also noted that charter schools—which receive a higher percentage of their operating budget from nonpublic revenue, such as foundation grants—were hit harder by the economic recession than their district counterparts: While states seemed to find funds (sometimes federal bailout dollars)...

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How Blended Learning Can Improve the Teaching ProfessionTaking a page from Public Impact’s "Opportunity Culture” playbook, this paper from Digital Learning Now! (the seventh in its “Smart Series”) argues that blended learning will help improve teacher satisfaction and reinvigorate the profession. Both are surely good things when one considers current teacher-satisfaction rates—which have dropped substantially over the past few years. The DLN/Public Impact team argues that blended learning allows for improved working conditions (with more opportunities for collaboration), more tailored professional development, more varied career advancement, and professional flexibility (including the ability to teach remotely). To be sure, the authors do not make a convincing case for heightened teacher satisfaction through all of their suggestions, such as why teachers would intrinsically support increased class sizes (in order to make the technology affordable). However, most recommendations make good educational sense. Profiles of schools (mostly charters) that have utilized blended learning to increase teacher effectiveness and streamline teacher workload speckle the text, reminding us that blended learning is about leveraging technology, not replacing teachers.

SOURCE: John Bailey, Bryan Hassel, Emily Ayscue Hassel, Carri Schneider, and Tom Vander Ark, How Blended Learning Can Improve The Teaching Profession (Tallahassee, FL: Foundation for Excellence in Education, May 2013)....

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Voice of the GraduateMcKinsey’s survey of 4,900 recent graduates of two- and four-year colleges is the latest contribution to a literature of dismal news on our nation’s latest crop of young professionals. These are the top five findings: First, nearly half of all graduates from four-year colleges said that they were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree; graduates with STEM majors, however, were more likely to report the opposite. Second, a little over a third of alums of both two- and four-year colleges had regrets, reporting that they would choose a different major if they could do it all over again. What’s more, students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the most likely to wish they’d majored in something else, while health majors were the least likely. Third, university quality didn’t seem to matter much: Forty-one percent of graduates from U.S. News’s top 100 universities responded that they were not employed in the field they had hoped to enter, while 48 percent of students from other institutions conveyed the same. Fourth, the retail and restaurant industries were among the least desired fields—but ended up employing four to five times the number of graduates who had intended to enter these sectors. And fifth, liberal-arts graduates of four-year colleges fared worse than average across most measures: They tend to be lower...

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GadflyThe D.C. charter board has rejected the application for the proposed One World Public Charter School, whose high-status organizers include a former Sidwell Friends principal—due in part to “multiple grammatical and spelling errors” in the application. The board also rejected six other applications while okaying just two: a Montessori elementary and an adult-education program, both of which had been turned down in previous years and came back with stronger applications. Hat tip to the D.C. charter board for showing us how quality authorizing is done.

The online-education provider Khan Academy—with a little help from a $2.2 million Helmsley grant—has announced a plan to develop online, Common Core–aligned math tools for teachers and students. Hat tip number two!

After a bit of competition from within the ranks, the always-controversial Karen Lewis has been reelected to lead the Chicago Teachers Union. You get the champagne, we’ll get the party hats, and CTU will break out the celebratory lawsuits.

On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that three more states—Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia—will be granted NCLB waivers, bringing the tally to thirty-seven. This is another win for Hawaii, which (finally) eked out a teacher-contract deal just last month—and which just might get to keep its Race to the Top dollars, too. In the meantime, seven states remain in “waiver...

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The Obama administration has shown commitment to evidence-based policies through its Head Start reforms, programs to reduce teen pregnancy, and efforts to boost parenting skills; it is time to show the same commitment for college-readiness programs, argues this policy brief. The brief, which accompanies the latest Future of Children journal issue, argues that the federal government’s major efforts to better prepare disadvantaged pupils for post-secondary education have yielded no rigorous proof of success. Yet we annually pump $1 billion into the so-called “TRIO programs” (Upward Bound, Talent Search, Student Support Services, and a few smaller programs). In order to streamline efforts—and to ensure program efficacy—the brief authors suggest that Congress consolidate all federal spending in this realm into a single competitive-grant program and fund a broad variety of intervention approaches (tutoring, counseling, and instruction) run by an array of proven providers. The long-time recipients of TRIO dollars will naturally hate this reform, but what’s the point of programs that don’t accomplish their objectives? A tough-minded approach might finally narrow the vast college-enrollment gap between the nation’s poorest and richest students.

SOURCE: Ron Haskins and Cecilia Elena Rouse, “Time for Change: A New Federal Strategy to Prepare Disadvantaged Students for College” (Princeton-Brookings, The Future of Children Journal, vol. 23: no. 1, Spring 2013)....

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The latest study by Susannah Loeb and colleagues examines teacher assignments within schools in Miami-Dade from 2004-05 through 2010-11. There are three main findings: First, less experienced, minority, and female teachers were more likely to be assigned to classes with low-achieving students than were their more experienced, male, or white colleagues. For instance, teachers with ten to twenty years of experience were sorted into classrooms where achievement was .10 to .20 standard deviations higher, relative to the students assigned to first-year teachers. Second, teachers who have held leadership positions and those who attended more competitive undergraduate institutions were also assigned higher-achieving students. Third, black teachers had the most challenging assignments, particularly when teaching in schools with more white colleagues. That all sounds pretty bad from an equity perspective, but it’s far from clear which if any of these patterns may be intentional. For instance, the gender gap is largely explained by the disproportionate number of female teachers who teach special education, and the racial differences may be partially due to the propensity of black and Hispanic teachers to be assigned more minority and poor students—which may be their preference and may in fact be a positive thing for their pupils. Furthermore, the study did not examine teacher effectiveness, so we can’t say for sure that lower-achieving or minority students got less effective teachers. In the end, patterns of teacher assignment are complex, likely resulting from a mix of teacher, parent, student, and principal preferences.

SOURCE: Demetra...

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