A few good reads

Bill Gates just released his foundation’s annual letter, and he summarizes the edu-important parts here. He focuses on the findings of the gigantic MET study. While I’m happy that he is personally publicizing what they learned about teacher effectiveness, this short piece only underscores the concerns I raised here. Implementing the study’s findings is the tough part, but his only reference to that is a glancing blow about budgeting. I really hope they have a detailed, coordinated plan in place.

Check out a smart piece by Checker on the very important issue of cut scores for common assessments. This is one of the issues that, if mishandled, may contribute to the centrifugal force pulling the testing consortia—and Common Core—apart. (Cost may prove to be another.) If you think I’m mother hen-ing this thing, consider Alabama’s recent decision to drop out

According to Politics K–12, a number of House GOP leaders are charging that the Administration is standing in the way of students hoping to participate in the D.C. scholarship program. This program, which allows a small number of D.C. kids to choose nonpublic schools, seems to always be on its last legs. Kudos to Speaker Boehner et GOP al. for continuously patching it up and fighting for the kids it might serve. As my book, The Urban School System of the Future, shows, there is wide variation in the quality of private schools (see section 3), so I’m not a reflexive supporter of all scholarship programs. But there are some great private schools in the District, and this program seems to have gotten some very good results, especially related to graduation rates.

An article in the NYT cites a new study arguing that the achievement gap in classroom grades between boys and girls starts very early…and that it’s at least partially attributable to differences in behavior. That is, boys are docked in grades because they don’t comport themselves too well. At least that’s what you’d take away from the first couple paragraphs. “Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades—and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.” The article draws lots of parallels and implications from there. My Belldub colleague Sara Mead summarizes the study here, explaining its approach and largely refuting the NYT lede.

I’m testifying tomorrow before the US Senate HELP Committee on the Administration’s granting of NCLB/ESEA waivers. It should be a very interesting conversation. I’ve written before about my struggles with defining the right relationship between the federal government and the states when it comes to K–12 policy. The waivers have brought these tensions front and center, and in the process, they’ve shown just how tough this subject is. Not all NCLB opponents are waiver fans; and not all NCLB fans are waiver opponents. In my written testimony (available tomorrow), I offer a possible—if unexpected—path forward. We’ll see how it plays.

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