Additional Topics

  1. The Dispatch today published an op ed by our own Chad Aldis, reinforcing the call for a common-sense overhaul of Ohio’s charter school law. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Editors in Akron today published their own editorial on the same subject. They are a bit more pessimistic about both recommendations and determination on the part of Ohio’s elected leaders than Chad is, but they seem generally supportive of the Fordham-sponsored research that has led up to the overhaul effort. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. I mentioned that yesterday’s StateImpact story on the “American Graduate” project seemed to be missing something. Specifically, it seemed to lack any tie-in to real efforts going on in Cleveland to help students with difficult family and life circumstances to stay in school and graduate. Thus I was hopeful that this follow-up story talking more deeply about the specific struggles faced by several of the college students on the Cleveland panel would help to provide more insight. I was wrong. Sorry folks: “Just Don’t Not Achieve, No Matter What” is not a helpful message for kids in the real world. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. We’ll end on a bit of good news. We told you several weeks ago that the Parma school district was simultaneously negotiating with both teaching and non-teaching staff unions and that a recent round of talks led to speculation about what could have been a double-whammy strike.  Well, it now seems like the longest-simmering of these negotiations – with the non-teaching
  5. ...
Jack Schneider

Editor's note: This post is the sixth entry of a multi-part series of interviews featuring Fordham's own Andy Smarick and Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at Holy Cross. It originally appeared in a slightly different form at Education Week's K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric blog. Earlier entries can be found hereherehere, hereand here.

Schneider: In our previous post, you implied—through one of your fictional stories—that research could be used in the courts to establish particular policy positions, and I'd like to follow up on that.

I'm perpetually frustrated by the fact that, for every complex issue, there is competing research to cite. It's a real dilemma for which I don't really see a solution. Maybe we can talk through this a bit.

Smarick: I actually see the vast majority of research as complementary, not competing. 

Studies on the same subject often ask different questions, use different data sets, and have different methodologies. So if you only read the titles, you might think two reports are in conflict; but once you get into the details, you see that they paint a fuller picture of some issue when taken together. Let me give you just one very simple example. 

Some research shows that early-childhood programming can help disadvantaged kids show up for kindergarten much better prepared to learn. Other research shows that some of these programs aren't effective and that, in lots of cases, the benefits of pre-K can wear off somewhere down the line (say, when...

  1. As we approach the end of the year, expect a lot of “looking back” articles from reporters across the state. Usually there’s not a lot new in these pieces – making life difficult for clipsters like myself – but here’s an interesting one. The former chair of the academic distress commission overseeing Youngstown City Schools looks back on her time in the (very) hot seat and on what’s happened in the six months since she left the commission. Not much has changed for the district academically – for which the former chair seems to blame the “shifting target” of success indicators – but the commission itself has taken some serious steps to curb the influence of the Board of Education since she left. Fascinating, and a bit sad. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. The president and CEO of Innovation Ohio has a guest commentary in the Blade today, ostensibly rebutting the pro-charter school commentary from the president of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools published two weeks ago. But honestly, after the last two weeks of high-quality data, specific recommendations, media attention, and political support for real change in Ohio’s charter sector, this piece just comes off as tired, slanted, and behind the times. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Perhaps I’m missing something here? Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate program pulled into Cleveland last week and held what is presented in this piece as a “pep rally” for a group of eighth graders from a low-income neighborhood in the city. It
  4. ...

It’s the end of another great year in education-reform punditry. What was on the mind of Fordham experts and guest bloggers this year? Common Core for sure, from teaching literacy to the coming assessments; but also the fate of unions, no-excuses charters, career and technical education, differentiated instruction, and more.

Presenting your favorite (Fordham) things (in 2014), according to your clicks:

Flypaper (and Ohio Gadfly Daily)

10. Vergara, Harris, and the fate of the teachers unions
By Andy Smarick

9. Boston’s high-quality charters make no excuses
By Michael Goldstein

8. Turning the tables on the vocational ed debate
By Emily Hanford

7. A few reflections on the Common Core Wars
By Michael Petrilli

6. Education reform in 2014
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

5. The opt-out outrage
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

4. It pays to increase your word power
By Robert Pondiscio

3. Is differentiated instruction a hollow promise?
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

2. Lies, damned lies, and the Common Core
By Michael Petrilli

1. Teachers, the Common Core, and the freedom to teach
by Jessica Poiner

Common Core Watch

10. New York’s Common Core tests: Tough questions, curious choices
By Robert Pondiscio

9. What’s behind the declining support for the Common Core?
By Michael Petrilli

8. Smarter Balanced assessments: A big moment for our schools
By Joe Wilhoft

7. The reading paradox: How standards mislead teachers
...

  1. Editors at the Dispatch opined on the need to fix charter school law in Ohio – now. Due is given to the recent CREDO and Bellwether reports on the charter school sector in Ohio, to Fordham’s role in getting those reports done and out in the world, and to Governor Kasich’s pledge to make change happen next year. Now the hard work begins.  (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Lots of Ohio news outlets are looking back on the 130th General Assembly now that it is over; mostly in large-scale wrap up pieces. Journalist Ben Lanka however is focused specifically on the legislative challenge to Ohio’s Learning Standards (including Common Core). Chad is quoted in this story, which notes the failure to repeal Ohio’s Learning Standards this time around, and assuring us that the legislative fight isn’t over yet. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. Like a fun-house-mirror image of item 1 above, editors in Youngstown opined on the need to fix charter school law in Ohio – now. However, there is no mention of the CREDO and Bellwether reports, the Vindy claims credit themselves for shining light on the need for action, and their suggestion for action is a bipartisan commission outside of elected officials. Weird. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Like a mirror-image of item 2 above, the Dayton Daily News also talked about the fate of Common Core repeal legislation in the 130th General Assembly. They seem a lot more pessimistic about the effort’s ability to reconstitute next year, and about
  5. ...

RANK CONFUSION
The Education Department unveiled its new college ranking system designed to keep higher education institutions accountable for performance on “key indicators.” The administration will look at factors such as expansion of college access to disadvantaged groups, net price and available scholarships, and graduation rates. University presidents and chancellors, however, say the rating system does a poor job of measuring metrics that truly matter, such as relationships with professors and campus culture.

EASY GRADERS
Governor Cuomo continues to anger New York teachers unions with his reform agenda. Cuomo expressed his desire to expand charters and alter teacher dismissal procedures in a letter to John King, New York’s outgoing education commissioner. The governor specifically took issue with the fact that recent teacher assessments classified only 1 percent of the state’s teachers as ineffective.

TIP #1: DON’T DISCLOSE THE DETAILS OF ANY UNSOLVED CRIMES
Just in time for all those last-minute revisions at the December 31 deadline, the Answer Sheet blog has a useful guide to aceing your college application essay. Among their expert pointers: Stick to a clear message, don’t get too cheeky, and abide by word limits. Notably, they offer no guidance on whether to compose your heartfelt work in Comic Sans.

WEEKEND LONG READ
While savoring your Sunday cantaloupe, take some time to enjoy the latest entry of “A Promise to Renew,” the Hechinger Report’s epic, award-winning series on Newark’s Quitman Street Renew School. In turnaround since 2012,...

Just when we thought the week couldn’t get any better, Governor John Kasich gave all of Ohio’s   education reform groups an early Christmas present, pledging to “fix the lack of regulation on charter schools.” Nice! There was quite a bit of coverage of this pledge across the state, in three distinct flavors:

  1. First were the reports that explicitly linked Kasich’s comments to the two reports (CREDO and Bellwether) which Fordham commissioned and released in the last two weeks. Best examples are Gongwer Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch (who first broke the story), and the Cincinnati Enquirer. The latter piece also ran in other outlets in their network. 
     
  2. Next up are the folks who trumpet the good news from the governor and reference “recent reports” without talking directly about Fordham. These are the Cleveland Plain Dealer (not namechecking CREDO or Bellwether either for that matter) and the Canton Repository. But good news is good news, so let’s not quibble.
     
  3. And then there’s the Youngstown Vindicator, whose version of the story is a) self-contained and b) devoid of mention of any catalyzing event. You know what? We’ll take that too.
     
  4. The Beacon Journal was conspicuously silent on the governor’s comments yesterday – about charter schools or anything else. What were they talking about instead? A “mass exodus” of teachers in Ohio due to changes in pension rules a couple of years back.  It’s an
  5. ...

EGGHEADS IN ONE BASKET
For high schoolers with their eyes set on the Ivy League, piling on extracurriculars, volunteer hours, and APs may seem like a necessary evil. These days, the competition to get through the eye of the admissions needle is nearly insurmountable, and many of the brightest, most overscheduled kids are being waitlisted. A recent article has some advice for these young hopefuls: Instead of spending all your time juggling, put your energy into one master project. In other words, now would be a good time to unearth those plans to start a nonprofit sending iPads to Sudan.

NOW IF YOU'LL EXCUSE ME, I NEED TO GO SEE A MAN ABOUT A CAMPAIGN JET
In a statement earlier this week, Scott Walker walked back some of his strong opposition to the Common Core. The Wisconsin governor went from supporting a repeal-and-replace agenda to allowing schools that might wish to use standards to continue doing so. Furthermore, in response to Jeb Bush’s presidential non-announcement, Walker claimed that he would not let the former Florida governor’s decision affect his own and that he would like to “do more with education reform, entitlement reform, and tax reform,” while serving the people of Wisconsin.

ORDER WITHOUT CASUALTIES
NPR has a terrific, granular look at one school’s application of what is being called “restorative justice.” The approach seeks to minimize the use of suspensions and expulsions as a punishment for disruptive behavior—punishments that have been...

Jack Schneider

Editor's note: This post is the fifth entry of a multi-part series of interviews featuring Fordham's own Andy Smarick and Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at Holy Cross. It originally appeared in a slightly different form at Education Week's K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric blog. Earlier entries can be found herehere, here, and here.

Smarick: For several decades some education advocates (including teachers’ unions), after failing to win in legislatures, have successfully used state courts to achieve one of their top priorities: increasing K–12 funding. In a historical twist, some in the reform community, unable to win in legislatures, are now using state courts to overturn tenure rules.

Regardless of your views on any specific policy matter, what do you think of the general strategy of using courts instead of the elected branches to achieve K–12 policy goals? More specifically, what do you think of the Vergara decision, which overturned California's laws on seniority and tenure?

Schneider: It's a good question. Because this is an issue around which there's a lot of philosophical yoga. Liberals and conservatives alike bend themselves into all kinds of positions—advocating judicial restraint and judicial activism—depending on whether they like the outcome of a case.

Frankly, I see no problem with using the courts if the elected branches fail to act. The desegregation cases of the 1950s and 1960s are a great example of this. States and school districts were in violation of the law, and the courts—the Supreme Court as well as lower courts—stepped in to...

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