Additional Topics

MORE ON INSTITUTIONAL FAILURE AT UNC
Continuing their terrific coverage of the unfolding academic scandal at the University of North Carolina, the Washington Post weighs in with an important finding: Of the over 3,000 students who enrolled in academically deficient classes in the school’s African and Afro-American studies department, a narrow majority were not athletes. Some weren’t aware that the coursework—including Swahili classes that evidently required no knowledge of the language—was bogus, but most seemed to have knowingly used the shadow curriculum for an easy A. 

AND THE WINNER IS...
The superintendent of the Houston Independent School District received the Urban Educator of the Year award at the CGCS conference yesterday. While the rising graduation rate and narrowing achievement gap were cited as reasons for the decision, winner Terry Grier admitted that Houston is still a work in progress, saying “We’re that close to being a breakout urban district, and we’re not going to stop until we make that happen.” 

DEPARTMENT OF GOOD NEWS
A bit of good news in Mississippi, home to a public school system that has long been considered one of the nation’s worst: According to an index compiled by Opportunity Nation, more students in the state are graduating high school and headed to college, narrowing the so-called “opportunity gap.” The four-year high school graduation rate has crept up 4 percent over the last few years....

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  1. Patrick O’Donnell concludes (?) his “test mania?” series with the national level view. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Teacher value-add data was released by ODE yesterday, and promptly taken down because of a data glitch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Doug Livingston takes a look at the numbers – and the processes – involved in transferring students for disciplinary reasons in Akron City Schools. Numbers were up last school year. There are some further questions that need to be asked here. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. What got the ABJ thinking about disciplinary transfers? Kenmore High School did. It seems that disciplinary transfers concentrated in Kenmore the last couple of years, leading to several high-profile incidents that tarnished the school’s reputation. Things are quieter this year so far, it seems, but the issue of “transfer students” still seems to be on everyone’s minds. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Here’s one for my colleague Robert Pondiscio: The Cleveland Play House – in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School district – received a $2 million federal grant for the CARE Program. It is intended to improve social emotional learning skills while increasing literacy learning among otherwise underserved students. The story notes that students will have access to high quality digital tools and training as well as Common Core standards based instruction. Thanks Common Core! (Examiner.com)
     
  6. Speaking of federal grants, afterschool programs in Youngstown are largely funded by such grants. There was a rally yesterday by students in support of
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SIZE MATTERS
Tom Vander Ark at Real Clear Education weighs in on new research showing that smaller high schools may yield serious educational rewards. Among other positive effects, the new MDRC study concludes that New York’s small high schools have helped boost graduation rates among low-income students over the past decade. For the last word on the costs and benefits of small schools of choice, read Fordham’s own Amber Northern, who reviewed the study for this week’s Education Gadfly Weekly.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE
First he ran an ad touting his efforts to slow down the progress of Common Core in New York. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo—a center-left Democrat in a comfortably blue state, with a healthy lead over his election opponent—has completed his long-rumored transformation into a besuited chicken, protesting that he had “nothing to do with Common Core” in last night’s gubernatorial debate.

IF ONLY SAM COOKE WERE ALIVE TODAY
In the first installment of a new series celebrating the classroom totems of yesteryear, NPR has put together a quick read that finally explains what a slide rule is for.

TARHEELED AND FEATHERED
An extensive investigation into academic practices at the University of North Carolina has uncovered nearly two decades of academic fraud, the Washington Post reports. From 1994 to 2011, over 3,000 students, including a significant portion of student-athletes, took part in a so-called “shadow curriculum” that inflated grades and lowered standards for...

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  1. Editors at the Dispatch weighed in on the KnowYourCharter website today. Every line is worth a read, but just a hint: they are not fans. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. As you may remember, Columbus City Schools is a pilot site for Ohio’s parent trigger law, and 20 schools in the district are, for the first time, eligible to be taken over/reorganized/reconstituted if a majority of parents want that to occur. Today, KidsOhio.org released an overview of all the schools on the list, noting that all have improvement plans already in place and that most have had new principals within the three-year time frame of the trigger review. Interesting. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The PD’s “test mania” series continues, this time talking with teachers about their views. No spoilers from me. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. I applaud the PD for their extensive “test mania” series, but I have to ask if it was really necessary to use those thousands of words/pixels and all those column inches/bytes to keep on saying that everyone hates testing. Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, those last three words sum up the entire PD series. However, here’s the other side, as presented in a technical and – dare I say it – less picturesque way by a guest columnist in the Dayton Daily News today. Their guest is a veteran teacher who needs over 600 words to express not only why he finds testing valuable but also what he has personally done
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Trying to understand how education spending is influencing our education priorities is like looking through murky water, notes this report from the Data Quality Campaign: “[I]t is evident something is there, but it is not exactly clear what.” For example, education leaders need to know whether investments in interventions have an impact, whether schools with high numbers of special-needs students are receiving the resources to which they are entitled, and whether dollars spent on teacher development have led to improvements. Without a clear picture of education spending, there is little to inform decision-makers. The report proposes several solutions. First, states should find new ways to make financial data more accurate and transparent for stakeholders. This starts with changes in data collection, including a shift to a common system of financial information record-keeping across states. Second, raw financial data should be translated for use in public reports, including information that connects education dollars to outcomes. The report also encourages states to create a forum for district leaders to share best practices and learn from one another. To illustrate DQC’s proposed reforms, consider this process with funding for special-needs students: Districts could use financial data to tie how much extra funding is given to special-needs students and what services and equipment they receive. If we had this information for each district, we could begin to identify best practices and apply them across the state and beyond. These reforms require a fundamentally different system than the one currently in place, but this change...

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2014 marks the first year that minority students are projected to surpass their white counterparts in public school enrollment. And nearly one in four students in American schools speak a language other than English at home. Currently, these students, categorized as “dual language learners” (DLLs), are shuffled through a four-part “reclassification” process: a screening assessment, English proficiency support services (such as vocabulary interventions), reassessment, and follow-up monitoring. Such models are mandated by the ESEA, so all states comply in one way or another—but the lack of interstate consensus on exactly how to comply has led to a “chaotic” system, says analyst Conor Williams. There are three issues: (1) local control over which of the four currently available English language proficiency assessments they administer; (2) a lack of consensus regarding when a DLL is proficient and ready for mainstream English instruction; and (3) uncertainty about how to prepare educators and create appropriate DLL instruction. By failing to coordinate reclassification policies, DLLs, who are more likely than other student subgroups to move from state to state, fall further behind their peers academically or lose their precious bilingualism—an asset schools should be nurturing, not silencing. Williams’ proposed solution? A unified set of standards, much like the Common Core State Standards, that align with current research on language acquisition timelines and encourage instruction in both native languages and English. Some states, like Minnesota, are already in the process of revamping their English Language Learner policies. And while successful implementation will...

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Frank McCourt, the memoirist and legendary English teacher at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, was once challenged by a student who asked what possible use a particular work of literature would have in his life. “You will read it for the same reason your parents waste their money on your piano lessons,” McCourt replied tartly, “so you won’t be a boring little shite the rest of your life.” Perhaps schools should collect Boring Little Shite (BLS) data and report it alongside AYP and FRPM. Jay Greene seems to be working on it. A data hawk and acerbic defender of school choice and vouchers, Greene might have been voted least likely to give a damn about the arts before his surprising 2013 study linking field trips to art museums to a range of desirable outcomes, including critical thinking and empathy. He’s at it again in the current issue of Education Next with an interesting study on the effects of taking students to see live theatre, including improved grasp of the play, vocabulary, empathy, and tolerance. Greene and his co-authors make much of these enhancements over a control group who only read the plays or saw film versions. But the good effects aren’t entirely surprising. Attention is the first, most important key to learning. It stands to reason that the novel experience of attending a live performance will capture students’ attention of a play in a way that more familiar modes (watching a movie, reading) do not. Likewise, repeated exposure to vocabulary,...

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All the world's a stage - October 22, 2014

The benefits of live theater, how and whether to discipline, detrimental reading tests, and relative school costs.

Amber's Research Minute

The Relative Costs of New York City’s New Small Public High Schools of Choice,” by Robert Bifulco and Rebecca Unterman,  MRDC (October 2014).

SHORT-TIME PRINCIPALS
Yesterday’s Late Bell highlighted NPR’s review of the brief tenure of many urban superintendents. But high turnover rates plague principals as well, as Chalkbeat Colorado reports. Of Denver’s 185 schools, thirty-four have seen at least two changes in principals over the last six years. The lack of continuity disrupts learning and hampers the implementation of new policies and standards. 

DUNCAN MAKES THE CASE FOR PRESCHOOL
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is making a big push for universal preschool, saying the time to debate the issue is over and the time to implement early education is here. At a recent speech in Los Angeles, Duncan urged lawmakers to increase budgeting for early childhood programs by as much as $350 million.

ELECTION SPOTLIGHT: ILLINOIS
The educational philosophies of the gubernatorial candidates in Illinois, who take the stage for their final debate next Monday, could not be more at odds. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn wants a three-year moratorium on charter schools, while his Republican challenger, businessman Bruce Rauner, has donated generously in support of the movement.

CHARTERS: NOT JUST FOR CITIES ANYMORE
The upcoming midterm elections may prove instrumental for the eight states (Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia), that have historically prohibited charter schools. Most of the states have large rural populations, a...

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  1. The annual leadership conference for charter school authorizers is taking place this week. EdWeek’s Arianna Prothero is there and learned a lot about closing down poor performers from Fordham’s Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen Upton, among others. (EdWeek blog)
     
  2. "If I am elected it will be an indictment of Common Core and a call for local control." Why yes, there are races for State Board of Education seats coming up in two weeks. Why do you ask? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. The good folks at StateImpact also have a full voters guide for the state board races. This link is to the intro piece. Links to all candidate statements received in the various races are available there. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Beacon Journal is really only interested in one of those state board races – District 4. In what is probably a rare move, editors have made an endorsement in the race. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Thanks Common Core. Due to the roll out of new Common Core-aligned tests in Ohio this year, Lorain City Schools’ new academic recovery plan must lack in specifics as far as growth targets go. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  6. Raise your hand if you love modular classrooms. Anyone? Didn’t think so. The folks in several burgeoning Licking County school districts don’t like them either. (Newark Advocate)
     
  7. For those of you still struggling to digest the recent Rolling Stone profile on Lima, Ohio, here’s a little look at
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