Additional Topics

  1. The Truth in Numbers review of State Auditor candidate John Patrick Carney has been published in the PD. Fordham is name-checked in discussion of charter school quality in Ohio, and a link is made to last year’s Parsing Performance report by our own Aaron Churchill. The detail of the piece shows Patrick O’Donnell’s typical journalistic excellence and it was good to have him assess the (lack of) truth of this politician’s statements, but really the bottom line is that auditors don’t really have much say in education funding regardless of their political leanings. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Patrick O’Donnell is clearly the hardest working education journalist out there these days. Here’s his look at another of the allegations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland: diagnostic testing allegedly used to determine admission. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Crap. Late evening negotiations didn’t take. Reynoldsburg teachers are on the picket lines today; the first time since 1978. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. Editors in Toledo opine upon their own analysis of the district’s report card. They praise the district where they can, tout for the upcoming levy, and bash charters and vouchers. (Toledo Blade)
  5. We may have noted this before, but it bears repeating. Monroe Local Schools is to be formally released from fiscal emergency and thus oversight by the state next month. In just over two years expenditures are down by millions, a stabilization loan is almost fully repaid, and ODE says the district had shown “great improvement
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Education Next

Not many education books debut as a New York Times bestseller, but The Teacher Wars, by Dana Goldstein, is not just any book. “A history of America’s most embattled profession,” it serves as a tonic to reformers who believe we’re the first ones to discover problems with America’s public schools, or to call for policies such as tenure reform, merit pay, or higher standards for entry into the profession. With sympathy for teachers but also clear eyes about the profession’s legitimate shortcomings, Goldstein has produced a book that will challenge defenders of the public education system and reformers alike.

In this edition of the Education Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli talks with Dana Goldstein about her best-selling book.

Additional episodes of the Education Next Book Club can be found here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog.

  1. Editors at the Vindy opined yesterday upon the need for immediate assistance from the state for the failing schools in the Youngstown area. They did not neglect the higher-achieving schools in the area, opining in praise of those schools and urging the constructive use of report card data to continue to improve. (Youngstown Vindicator)
  2. The BASA/OASBO folks have put out their analysis of Ohio’s report cards, and they conclude that performance index scores “closely followed” the percent of students in a district that are economically disadvantaged. (Newark Advocate)
  3. Editors in Akron have read the above report and have opined in sympathy with its conclusions. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. There’s a nicely-detailed look at the report cards of a number of charter schools in Springfield. Some interesting insights from the school leaders interviewed. (Springfield News Sun)
  5. Some excellent journalistic investigation in this piece by Patrick O’Donnell digging into the accusations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland. Specifically, allegations that the school “dumped” low-performing students before state testing in order to improve their results. Definitely worth a read. Having already been through this with Columbus City Schools and other districts around Ohio, both ODE and the education journalists should know what to look for…and what to do if they find it. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  6. The Lorain Academic Distress Commission has parsed the district’s report card and is discussing their take on it in the press. The takeaway: “bubble kids” are the answer
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Fuzz-free math

Mike and Dara discuss CCSS myths, noncognitive skills, and Dana Goldstein.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?, by David Card and Laura Giuliano, National Bureau of Economic Research (September 2014).

Common Core just had its best week in recent memory. The Intelligence Squared U.S. CCSS debate showcased strong arguments in favor of the standards, including from our own Mike Petrilli. William J. Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, made a conservative case for the standards in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  And an ECS report showed that, despite all the fuss, forty-plus states are moving ahead with implementation (and critics have barely made a dent).

Harold Levy, former chancellor of the New York City public schools and the brand-new executive director of Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed over the weekend lamenting school officials’ misuse—or non-use—of school and student data. For example, we know that high-performing, low-income students are less likely to attend college than their wealthier peers. And small numbers of truant pupils miss about a month of school each year even in schools with high overall attendance rates. These data are imminently actionable—we could provide opportunities for acceleration or gifted classes for high-potential poor kids, for example—but only if educators choose to use them.

A group of New York State charter school supporters is suing the state over what they describe as a chronic, unconstitutional funding gap between charters and traditional public schools. Plaintiffs say that charter students in Buffalo and Rochester receive between $6,600 and $9,800 less per year, per student. A similar lawsuit was filed in D.C. back in July. With funding gaps abounding...


An important, first-of-its kind Brookings Institution study asks whether school superintendents improve outcomes for students. The answer, according to authors, is no. They find that student achievement in particular districts doesn’t improve as superintendents stay longer, nor is there a bump when districts hire new ones. Supes account for a paltry 0.3 percent of the differences in student achievement among fourth and fifth graders in North Carolina (as compared to student demographics, which account for 38.8 percent, and teachers and schools, which account for 4 and 3 percent, respectively). On first read, these findings seem bleak. But the authors make two assumptions in their analyses, one out of necessity and one out of convention. First, because they rely on state administrative data and its limited variables, years-of-service in a single district is their primary observable superintendent characteristic. The assumption is that the longer one stays, the greater impact he or she should have. Yet, despite research in other fields suggesting that manager longevity is a predictor of organizational success, it is far from the only one. Effective district leadership requires knowledge of education policy and practice, communication and relationship-building skills, leadership capability, strategic thinking, conflict mediation, and innumerable other important-yet-unmeasurable characteristics. Second, adhering to conventional wisdom, the authors assume that a superintendent’s primary role is to improve student achievement as measured by standardized test scores—and that they’re capable of doing so directly within the district’s current structure. This isn’t necessarily true. Superintendents’ impacts are often secondary. For example, they hire...


Here’s a rare bit of good news from K–12 education: Every state—all fifty of ‘em plus the District of Columbia—have improved academically since the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) released its initial “Leaders & Laggards” report in 2007. But let’s not get giddy. For too many states, improvement is tantamount to winning the “most improved player” award in summer camp. It's great that Hawaii and D.C. have figured out which end of the bat to hold and where to stand in the outfield. But put them in right field and hope no one hits to them. Massachusetts is still batting cleanup. Minnesota and New Hampshire make a nice double-play combination, but let's not kid ourselves: This team is nowhere near ready for international competition. “Leaders & Laggards” is all about competition. The report takes an unapologetically business-oriented view of the nation’s K–12 performance, evaluating each state on eleven criteria, including international competitiveness, workforce readiness, technology, and return on investment. (Utah and Colorado get the most bang for their education buck; D.C., Louisiana, and West Virginia the least.) Some of the data is original and clever, such as which states have the most STEM-ready workforce. One in six Massachusetts students passed a science or math AP exam; only one in eighty Mississippi students managed to do so. You might not be surprised to see states like Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota post top marks for academic achievement among low-income and minority students; what’s more impressive is that polyglot Massachusetts,...

  1. More report card analysis today. This time, charter schools in Cincinnati go under the journalistic microscope with the invaluable assistance of Fordham’s Aaron Churchill. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  2. An even greater level of detail is applied to the report cards of charters in the Dayton area, including an in-depth look at Fordham-sponsored Dayton Leadership Academy. The picture is bleak, but there are clear signs of improvement. Kudos to journalist Jeremy Kelley for his work. (Dayton Daily News) As a bonus, here’s a TV piece looking at DLA. (WHIO-TV). And as an Easter Egg, there’s a cameo from former Fordhamite Bianca Speranza in the DDN piece as well.
  3. More Horizon charter school have been added to the list of buildings under investigation by the Ohio Department of Education. One in Columbus (Columbus Dispatch), and one in Cincinnati. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  4. These additional investigations were announced the same day that parents, students, and staff members of Horizon Schools were rallying in front of ODE HQ - that is to say, across the street from Fordham Columbus HQ – and speaking before the State Board of Education in support of their schools. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  5. Speaking of board meetings, the small item of 20 schools being eligible for parent-led reorganization in Columbus under Ohio’s “parent trigger” law was discussed at yesterday’s school board meeting. The Dispatch’s coverage focuses on the questions left unanswered after last night’s meeting but at least the highly-reasonable “let’s wait and see
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared on WHIO Reports on Sunday, talking charter school accountability in Ohio with a pretty antagonistic bunch. Can’t cover much detail in 20 minutes, but he did pretty well. (WHIO-TV, Dayton)
  2. Speaking of Fordham’s hometown, the DDN took a look at the reports cards of Dayton-area school districts. Seems it was the best of times for some and the worst of times for others. report cards. (Dayton Daily News)
  3. The Beacon Journal has also taken a look at report cards of districts in their region. They work hard to explain the numbers and letters but pronounce the report cards “confusing” to parents, educators, and taxpayers. Sure glad the ABJ is there to help out. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. Apparently no such confusion exists when it comes to the report cards of charter schools in Summit County. The subtlety and detail of the above article is very much lacking in this piece. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  5. I held this story over from yesterday’s issue so it wouldn’t get lost in the Monday surge of pieces. Former Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris is long gone, but her legacy lives on. Some years ago she volunteered her district to be a pilot for Ohio’s proposed “parent trigger” law. Fast-forward to 2014 and because of that law 20 school buildings in the district are eligible to be taken over, transformed, or converted into charters due to their poor performance on state report cards if
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Many people tune out when education discussions turn to data and statistics. For whatever reason, some folks just don’t like numbers. So a discussion about the development of education data is likely to attract an audience rivaling that of a paint-drying contest.

But if you care about K-12, you should definitely care about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This is the government body responsible for collecting and reporting a wealth of data on our schools—data that’s voluminous, comparable across years, and typically above reproach in terms of reliability.

I say “typically” because there is some reason for worry. Late in 2013, I scolded the federal government for massaging NAEP TUDA data, which reports on the performance of large urban districts. In short, we should’ve been deeply alarmed by the results, but the packaging gave the opposite impression.

This would’ve been troubling enough. What bothered me even more was that an advocacy organization that represents and serves large urban districts was an integral part of the release process.

But what happened next truly opened my eyes to the extent of the potential problem. The then-head of NCES quickly responded to my piece. He noted that his organization was only responsible for producing the data, which they do “free of ‘spin’ or partisan/political influence.” The National Assessments Government Board (which is in charge of NAEP), he wrote, is in charge of the public release pursuant to federal law.

He continued: “NAGB has...