Education Gadfly Weekly

Opinion + Analysis: 
Opinion
The opt-out-of-state-testing movement has notched more wins lately. “Thousands,” we read, are refusing to take the tests in New York alone. And tons more interest and attention are being devoted to this topic in states and communities far and wide. Tough questions urgently arise: Is it legal to opt...
Opinion
Back in January, a Bloomberg News ranking of the world’s most innovative countries punctured the theory that low U.S. test scores are acceptable because U.S. students are happier and more creative than their overseas counterparts. Those (undeniably fuzzy) metrics don’t prove that high-ranking...
Briefly Noted
Great news: Kansas is cool again ! The Sunflower State’s House and Senate have emerged from a cyclone of negotiations with a school-finance bill that increases aid to poor school districts , reduces teacher-protection measures, creates a tax-credit scholarship program, and does not ban the Common...
Reviews: 
Report
Just how generous are public pension plans? In this AEI report, Andrew Biggs tabulates the benefits—including pension and Social Security benefits, but not including health care benefits—that an average, full-career, state employee who retired in 2011 or 2012 now receives and compares the total...
Book
This edited volume, courtesy of University of Pennsylvania education professor Laura Perna, addresses the widening gaps between the education qualifications of the population and the demands of the job market. Since a different analyst wrote each chapter, we are presented with a smorgasbord of data...
Working Paper
Why do many high-achieving students struggle to sustain their academic performance over time? Eric Parsons, an economist at the University of Missouri, takes a crack at finding the answer—and unearths a paradox. In this study, he follows a single cohort of high-performing students in Missouri from...
Gadfly Studios: 
Podcast
Mike and Michelle discuss the “opt-out outrage,” good news from Kansas, and hope for the quagmire that is the United States Congress. Amber has the goods on exactly how generous public pension plans are. Amber's Research Minute Not So Modest: Pension Benefits for Full-Career State Government...

The opt-out-of-state-testing movement has notched more wins lately. “Thousands,” we read, are refusing to take the tests in New York alone. And tons more interest and...

Back in January, a Bloomberg News ranking of the world’s most innovative countries punctured the theory that low U.S. test scores are acceptable because U.S. students are happier and more creative than their overseas counterparts. Those (undeniably fuzzy) metrics don’t prove that high-ranking countries like South Korea and Japan produce more innovative students, but they certainly cast a shadow over this romantic, goofball justification of U.S. underperformance, which we’ve seen from multiple sources including (of course) Diane Ravitch and...

Great news: Kansas is cool again! The Sunflower State’s House and Senate have emerged from a cyclone of negotiations with a school-finance bill that increases aid to poor school districts, reduces teacher-protection measures, creates a tax-credit scholarship program, and...

Just how generous are public pension plans? In this AEI report, Andrew Biggs tabulates the benefits—including pension and Social Security benefits, but not including health care benefits—that an average, full-career, state employee who retired in 2011 or 2012 now receives and compares the total with the income of full-time, full-year employees in his state. (Bear in mind that twenty-two states include teachers in their state retirement systems, while twenty-seven have separate systems for them.) In the average case, a retired state employee enjoys combined pension/Social Security income greater than the income of 72 percent of full-time employees working in his/her state. At the less generous end of this spectrum we find Maine, where benefits to full-career government employees (including teachers) exceed the earnings of 31 percent of full-time workers. At the high end is Oregon,...

This edited volume, courtesy of University of Pennsylvania education professor Laura Perna, addresses the widening gaps between the education qualifications of the population and the demands of the job market. Since a different analyst wrote each chapter, we are presented with a smorgasbord of data and recommendations. But readers should at least seek out Nancy Hoffman’s excellent chapter on career and technical education. She shows how our country’s large number of high-school drop outs and paucity of associate-degree holders has resulted in an economy with a surplus of careers for which nobody is qualified, while many ill-educated workers vie for relatively few low-skilled, low-wage jobs. Hoffman urges our school system to provide students with education and training towards a specific calling. This would keep kids in school and on track for real jobs. To achieve this, she...

Why do many high-achieving students struggle to sustain their academic performance over time? Eric Parsons, an economist at the University of Missouri, takes a crack at finding the answer—and unearths a paradox. In this study, he follows a single cohort of high-performing students in Missouri from grade 3 through grade 9 to see which school factors influence their academic success. Initial high flyers are defined as those who score in the top 10 percent of their grade cohort for grade 3 or grade 4 and do not score outside of the top 20 percent for the other year. Then he further sorts the initial high flyers into two groups: “soaring” and “falling,” based on their scores on grade 7 and 8 math exams. “Soaring” means a student scores in the top 10 percent on either grade 7 or 8 exams and doesn’t fall outside the top 20 percent in either grade. “Falling” means she doesn’t meet that...