Additional Topics

GIRLS RULE, BOYS DROOL
In terms of educational performance, girls appear to be on the way to running the world. Seventy percent of the countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation and Development showed that girls are outpacing boys in math, science, and reading. It remains unclear why boys are falling behind, but potential causes range from harsher disciplinary action against male students to a lack of male teacher role models in schools.

HOW "COMMON" IS COMMON CORE?
The Brookings Institute’s Tom Loveless provides a great look at a thorny question facing parents and students as school districts begin adapting to the Common Core State Standards: Will universal standards force schools to ditch accelerated curricula for high-achievers? As he asks, “Will CCSS serve as a curricular floor, ensuring all students are exposed to a common body of knowledge and skills?  Or will it serve as a ceiling, limiting the progress of bright students so that their achievement looks more like that of their peers?” For more on the topic, see Loveless’s paper for Fordham’s Education for Upward Mobility conference. And stay tuned for more on the topic in an upcoming policy brief from Fordham.

MEMPHIS: A REFORM STORY
Memphis is the site...

  1. With typical diligence, Patrick O’Donnell took his time in covering the introduction of HB 2 – the charter reform bill. His piece came out late yesterday, including an interview with our own Chad Aldis on the significance of the bill and of the high-level media coverage that preceded its introduction. "I think they got a lot of the really important things," Chad says of the bill. "This is a great start for looking at charter reform.” Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. O’Donnell also was able to garner a direct and specific response to the bill from the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. She calls the bill “tweaking” and “window dressing”, as you might expect. She also seems to have coined a new pejorative: “educaneurs”, which I can’t find anywhere else on the internet. Kudos. I have t-shirts already on order. They'll pair well with my bright yellow scarf. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Canton opine on the need for – and the apparent bipartisan interest in – charter law reform. They reference CREDO’s Ohio charter school performance study and the State Auditor’s recent report on charter school attendance in their argument. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Here’s a fascinating piece covering a public forum in Cleveland Heights-University Heights titled "The Myth of Failing Teachers" and discussing “the damaging effects of high-stakes
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AGAINST THE GRAIN
Chalkbeat New York covers New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial plan to evaluate and promote teachers, one that focuses on increasing assessment-based ratings to count for 50 percent of an evaluation and lowers the weight of principal observation and feedback. Fordham’s sensational tag team of Mike Petrilli and Andy Smarick weigh in on the plan, saying that Cuomo is moving in the opposite direction of other state leaders.

WE'VE GOT TO BOOK THIS GUY FOR AN EVENT
It looks like everyone over at Success Academy Harlem East has been eating their Wheaties. On his morning visit to the New York City charter school, Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, noted remarkable behavior by both teachers and students. The dedicated instructors and quality curriculum in place at the school challenged students and gave them the opportunity to critically engage with class material and learn from their own mistakes. Perhaps this is the secret behind the charter network’s unparalleled recent test scores.

EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT: OHIO
A new bill in Ohio has many charter school backers optimistic that they will see meaningful reform, specifically in the domains of accountability and transparency. The proposed legislation calls for a number...

  1. Slightly-belated coverage of Monday’s School Choice Week event in Columbus showed up in public media yesterday. I probably shouldn’t even clip this today as it’s obviously slanted (likely why it took so long to be published). The absence of Cleveland Schools’ CEO Eric Gordon from the coverage is especially egregious, but more importantly is the very odd photo of myself while speaking. While I know my words were neither particularly eloquent or inspiring, I apparently did hold sway long enough to get my fellow speakers to all look at empty air while I gestured about something. Ah well. Can’t look like a rock star at every event. (WOUB public media, Athens)
     
  2. In actual news, Republicans in the Ohio House gave clear indications of their priorities yesterday with the introduction of a number of high-importance bills, first in the 131st General Assembly. High on that priority list is reform of charter school law – HB 2. You can read coverage of the bill itself in several media outlets today. Both Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch include reaction from our own Chad Aldis. To wit: "Our independent research clearly shows the need for better transparency and accountability, so we're pleased with the legislature's decision to make charter school reform a priority… Parents of charter school students and all Ohio taxpayers should be very happy that our elected officials are tackling these reforms." Nice.
     
  3. Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee spent their full hearing time on
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NCL-BETTER
In light of yesterday’s post by Michael Petrilli on federal accountability measures, Neerav Kingsland offers suggestions for a few more improvements to NCLB: First, the feds should require states to clearly identify their bottom 5 percent of schools and create a plan to better serve the students attending them. Second, charter school programs should be quadrupled. Finally, let the federal funding help finance more innovative education programs in the states.

THE CHICAGO WAY
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s no-nonsense education agenda has earned him a lot of points with charter advocates, but lost him some with his constituents. In 2013, the city closed fifty low-performing schools, a move that rankled a large chunk of his Democratic base. Yet a new study shows that a majority of students affected by the closures were ultimately enrolled in higher-performing schools, making it a win for local accountability.

QUICK: WHAT ARE THE THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT?
Arizona recently approved a bill that will require high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. Some say students should emerge from the education system equipped with the kind of knowledge that shapes active civic duty, and Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio says the same. As many as twelve other states are pursuing similar legislative action.

TIDE STEMMED
The past decade has brought virtually no growth in the proportion of college graduates who leave school with degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Excluding some of the...

  • National school choice week is upon us—a time to push for high-quality choices, march across the country, and wear yellow scarves. It’s also a week when stories about choice, charters, and the like get much deserved attention. Such is the case in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo recently bucked teachers’ unions and announced a grand education-reform agenda. Proposed changes include more charter schools, tougher teacher evaluations, and, most impressively, a tax-credit scholarship program designed to allow low- and middle-income New Yorkers to attend private schools. As our very own Checker Finn observed, Cuomo may very well be the first Democratic governor to propose a private school choice program. A bruising political battle is sure to come, but for now, choice advocates have ample cause to celebrate.
  • The U.S. Department of Education is out to prove yet again how tone-deaf it is. Maine is the most recent state in danger of suffering from the department’s unlawful practice of revoking NCLB waivers over teacher evaluations—an issue not mentioned once in ESEA. Arne Duncan wants student tests scores to be a more significant factor in the state’s teacher evaluations. Is that so? The Nation’s Superintendent might want to watch the video from Tuesday’s Senate hearing on ESEA reauthorization, where lawmakers across the political spectrum expressed their distaste for mandating such evaluations from Washington. Duncan should take the hint and get out of the teacher-evaluation oversight business. Now.

A new study in Educational Researcher explores changes in New York’s teacher workforce since the Empire State implemented a number of policies to improve the quality of its new teachers. Beginning in 1998, the state increased the general and content-specific coursework requirements needed for certification and raised the number of hours of required field experience. It also eliminated ad hoc alternative certification pathways like “transcript review” in favor of programs with formal requirements and discontinued emergency and temporary licenses. The authors examine whether these policy changes had an impact on who entered the teaching workforce. Their dataset, comprising SAT scores, administrative data, and licensure and personnel files, looked at two groups between 1985 and 2010: 220,332 individuals who received their entry-level certification; and from within that group, a subset of 151,747 who received certification and were hired in their first teaching positions. They found that, prior to 1999 and the new policies, the average academic abilities of new teachers were low and consistently falling. Once the new policies were adopted, the SAT scores of both the certified group and those who were hired improved substantially, with the latter enjoying the largest gains. For example, between 1999 and 2010, the share of certified teachers drawn from the bottom third of SAT test-takers decreased by 7 percent, while the share from the top third increased by 13 percent. These gains occurred across the state, in all subjects, at both rich and poor schools, and for teachers of all ethnicities. But the improvements...

Retirement plans, much like recurring dreams and fantasy football rosters, are a captivating topic to those directly involved, but pretty much deadening to the rest of us. That’s unfortunate, because the state of our public pensions is a mess that we’re eventually going to have to reckon with. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the total budgetary shortfall facing this country’s public-sector retirement systems exceeded $900 billion in FY2012, and teacher-related costs may be the largest single contributor to that figure. The authors of this stark NCTQ report estimate that teacher pensions now account for a half-trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. A price tag that colossal can be tough to contextualize, but don’t miss the trees for the forest here—this debt is no mere abstraction to the hundreds of districts feeling its squeeze. Metropolises like Chicago and Philadelphia have undergone cataclysmic waves of layoffs, while some smaller districts have been so awash in red ink that they’ve simply been dismantled, leaving both jobless employees and dislocated students in crisis. With the stakes that high, it’s crucial that state officials begin to take steps toward retrenchment, and NCTQ has been issuing calls for responsibility for years. Doing the Math follows close on the heels of prior research, and its remedies are unchanged from earlier iterations: Switch over from defined benefits packages to 401(k)s, allow employees a greater measure of fairness and flexibility in exchange for diminished security, and face up to a realistic appraisal of investment...

A testing renaissance is looming. So say experts Sir Michael Barber and Peter Hill in this comprehensive and timely essay. The latest in a series on what works in education, this paper argues for the need to dramatically alter the way we approach educational assessment. Barber and Hill begin by addressing the purpose of testing broadly, then lay out a compelling case for change, contending that the current K–12 system is broken and that the availability of new technologies provides a unique opportunity for dramatically changing how we think about assessments. Potential benefits of the impending transition to computerized tests include the ability to better assess students’ higher-order thinking; obtain faster, more accurate student results; assess a wider range of student performance; and more effectively use test data to inform classroom instruction and improve student learning. The essay concludes with a “framework for action” offering suggestions for how policymakers and educators can best prepare for the transition. Recommendations include building teacher capacity for next-generation assessments, allowing for local customization of implementation, and establishing clear and consistent communication throughout the assessment transition. While it comes as no surprise to hear testing-giant Pearson singing assessments’ praises, amidst rampant claims of inefficiency and over-testing, a change in thinking in America is long overdue. This spring, millions of students across the country will take next-generation assessments aligned to more rigorous academic standards for the first time. As the authors emphasize, these new computer-based and adaptive tests are designed to measure knowledge and skills required...

  1. It took a few days, but newspaper editors have finally started taking note of the state auditor’s report on charter school attendance. Check out opinion pieces from the Akron Beacon-Journal and the Columbus Dispatch.
     
  2. Academic Standards Review Committees were mandated in state law last year, with members appointed by the Senate, the House, and the Governor. The committees began work yesterday, and the Statehouse is still standing. However, it does appear that a couple of the members are under the mistaken idea they were appointed to the legislature of the state board of education. Weird. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. Administration of PARCC tests is to begin in earnest in Ohio soon. The Ohio Department of Education did a little rollout event yesterday. You can check out the dry – but informative – version of the story, focusing on the rollout event itself in Gongwer Ohio. Or you can go down to the district level – far less dry and with far more skeptical commentators – with the Dayton Daily News.
     
  4. So the state auditor releases a report on charter school attendance and the result is at least 10 stories across the state and the above-noted op-eds so far, all of them baying for immediate action to end the travesty. So, this story about a report on Lorain City Schools (who are already under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission) should bring the house down right? A student allowed to sleep during class
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