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It was the best of times…

…for the Republican Party. Election Day 2014 was a rout, with the GOP winning full control of Congress and its largest House majority since World War II. Republican governors were re-elected in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, and Maine. Democrat Pat Quinn was booted out of office in President Obama’s home state of Illinois. Republican now control two-thirds of state legislatures too. The GOP groundswell “will be good for education reform, especially reforms of the school-choice variety,” predicted Fordham’s Mike Petrilli

It was the worst of times…

...for teachers’ unions. “It’s open season on teacher employment protection laws in U.S. state courts,” noted Fordham’s Brandon Wright on the heels of June’s Vergara v. California verdict holding California’s tenure laws unconstitutional. And the hits just kept on coming. In October, the commission that runs the financially troubled Philadelphia public school system unilaterally canceled the union’s contract and ruled teachers must contribute to their health insurance to free up money for classrooms. (A good decision to avoid the big squeeze.) Election Day made the annus horribilis complete. The $60 million the AFT and NEA spent on campaigns merely advertised their impotence. The unions took out their frustrations in the waning days of 2014 on a TIME magazine cover story on tenure. “It’s a lot easier to gin up phony outrage over magazine covers than reckon with the question of...

JEB THE APOSTATE
Will Jeb Bush’s support of the Common Core keep him from realizing his presidential aspirations? Since his announcement yesterday that he has “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States,” Politico, The Hill, and Time have all published articles detailing how the issue might hinder Jeb’s campaign, while Libby Nelson of Vox explained why it won’t affect his run.  

BE PREPARED (DISNEY ALERT)
The 2012 suspension of six teaching programs at Lake Superior State University in Michigan has been called a much-needed wake up call, and many argue that other schools should follow suit. But Education Week reports that many schools are hesitant to pull the plug on their teacher prep programs, even when they are not adequately training future teachers for the classroom. Teacher programs, and their lack of accountability, have been called out before; for more, read NCTQ’s 2014 Teacher Prep Review.

WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE HARVARD GRADS
Alternative teacher prep program Teach For America reports a drop in corps applications this year, potentially losing 25 percent of recruitment potential. Training Institutes in New York and Los Angeles may be the first to feel the effects of a drop in enrollment, but TFA spokespeople say some pockets across the country are swelling with candidate applications. 

IN MY DAY WE WERE UP CHOPPING FIREWOOD BY DAWN
Following recommendations in a report by the...

Dear Santa,

On behalf of a host of certified experts, policy wonks, busybodies and know-it-alls: All I would like for Christmas this year is your help in getting people to do what we know is best for them rather than what they want to do.

I know, I know, there are all those old clichés about a free society and the “pursuit of happiness.” But why do those stubborn kids and parents refuse to understand that we know better than they do what will bring them happiness? OK, maybe not perfect happiness, but we certainly know what’s good for them.

Consider Michelle Obama. She went to Princeton, for Pete’s sake, and Harvard Law School. I think she even passed the bar exam. She’s a real expert on so many things. She definitely knows what’s good for kids. After all, she has two of her own. And she has some sort of garden at the White House where they grow stuff that she says is healthy to eat. Surely she knows better than kids and parents and cafeteria ladies and Aramark what students ought to eat for lunch. After all, she persuaded the president of the United States and the Congress—experts all—to change the rules regarding the food that schools serve to their pupils.

But those stubborn kids don’t want to eat what she says they should eat—and they’re bankrupting their school districts by refusing to buy it! They’re not just stubborn. They’re downright destructive! If only...

1. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks here at Fordham Ohio’s policy HQ. Yesterday, we held a public event to herald the release of the new report from Bellwether Education Partners, outlining 10 policy recommendations to improve the quality of Ohio’s charter school sector, something that is sorely needed. Here is a selection of coverage as it stands now. More will likely follow in the coming days:

2. Fordham, and the Bellwether report (and maybe a certain humble news clipper perhaps?), got the Big D’s Education Insider thinking about the legally-embattled...

  1. Bellwether Education Partners today released a new report detailing ten policy recommendations to help improve the quality of Ohio’s charter school sector. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece from the Big D. As partners in the report, we are hopeful for much more attention to the report in coming days and weeks. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill was busy on the airwaves yesterday, talking about Common Core on two radio shows. The second hasn’t been archived yet, but yesterday’s first appearance was on the Ron Ponder Show on WHBC in Canton, where Aaron appeared in between segments on standards and testing with the superintendent of Canton City Schools. You can hear the WHBC audio by clicking here. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
     
  3. Going back to the subject of charter schools for a second, here’s a story about a dream that refuses to die…even though it probably should. A Pittsburgh-area man is trying for the fifth time to launch a charter school in his Pennsylvania hometown. Why do we in Ohio care about this story? Don’t we have charter problems of our own going back many years? Yes, we do. And he was one of them, as founder of the two Talented Tenth charter schools in Columbus shut down last year by the Ohio Department of Education as “educational travesties”. Here’s hoping he gets skunked again in PA. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
     
  4. The PD published an opinion piece this morning on teacher compensation. Seems like the author
  5. ...

SHAME OF THE WORLD
First Lady Michelle Obama said Friday that we need to accelerate efforts to extend education to girls in all communities. Worldwide, 62 million girls do not attend school, and in some countries, less than 10 percent move on to secondary school for reasons such as high tuition or material costs, early and forced marriage, and lack of safety measures while commuting to and from school.

LOOK AWAY
The Hechinger Report sat down with Mississippi principal Shannon Eubanks to discuss state leaders’ recent rebuke of the Common Core State Standards. Eubanks, along with teachers and district leaders, worry that repealing Common Core midway through the school year will cause chaos for teachers, who have spent two years implementing the new standards. Common Core is designed to close the gaps between high- and low-achieving students, but abandoning the standards this late in the game would leave many kids behind.

TUESDAYS ARE NOW DUCK L'ORANGE DAYS
The push to increase the nutritional value of cafeteria fare has had a major negative side effect: Students aren’t eating the healthier food. In an attempt to make healthier food more palatable, some districts are hiring professional chefs out of prestigious culinary institutes. Santa Clarita Valley schools recently hired a chef out of Le Cordon Bleu, the chain of world renowned culinary institutes that has produced famous chefs like Julia Child and Mario Batali. 

CHART(S) OF THE WEEK
Vox has a quick, revelatory set...

  1. The folks at Gongwer covered CREDO’s latest report looking at the quality (or lack thereof) in charter schools in Ohio. Probably took them a week to get to it as they were exhausted after the marathon of lame duck legislating last week. Chad is quoted. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The Ohio Department of Education submitted their budget request for the next biennium last week. Among other things, they have requested funding for another round of Straight-A Grants. Says the state superintendent: "The early successes and outcomes of this grant program require that we continue these efforts… Encouraging schools to pursue sustainable, innovative, local ideas will help transform and modernize Ohio's education system." Nice. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. It has been said that the real success of Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee will become apparent if and when last year’s “all-hands-on-deck” efforts to help students read on grade level is repeated as a matter of course in multiple years. Columbus City Schools appears to be confident they can do this, and they have even expanded their reading academy outreach to include math as well. Here’s hoping for excellent success in both areas for those families. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. One newly-elected state school board member met with her constituents last week….many of whom didn’t know she existed until then. Sigh. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. We told you some months ago about Toledo City Schools’ effort to oust a teacher using, for what most folks believe is the first time,
  6. ...

REFORM MARCHES ON
Though the heavily publicized Rolling Stone story of rape and scandal at the University of Virginia has seemingly fallen apart amid accusations of shoddy reporting and fabrication, the school continues to search for ways to curb the universal college culture of binge drinking. While it takes more than social adjustment to stop determined sexual predators, experts agree that irresponsible substance abuse greatly contributes to the number of sexual assaults on campuses.

I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS
With officials from city halls all the way to the White House banging the drum for universal pre-K, Chalkbeat examines the varied definitions of that term. In some jurisdictions, the “universal” part is actually restricted to low-income families; in others, the costs of the program aren’t fully covered. “If [politicians] started out trying to create a universal program and came up short,” one observer notes, “they don’t want to stop calling it universal.”

THIS WI-FI BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER E
The FCC expanded the E-Rate program that provides high-speed Internet for schools and libraries, disbursing an additional $1.5 billion in funding. The initiative constitutes about a third of the expenditures of the Universal Service Fund, which has seen its budget grow by 20 percent during the Obama presidency. Members of the five-person commission split 3-2 along party lines on the increase, with one dissenting Republican claiming that the proposal “simply pours money into...

  1. Marion journalist Michelle Rotuno-Johnson finished her week back in third grade, but seemed only to get into the nuts and bolts of Common Core implementation on the last day. You can check out all the entries from the week now. NOTE: She, like many others, seems a bit obsessed with the amount of tests being taken by her third grade buddies. But while she does note that MAPS testing is optional for schools, she should also have spelled out that the OAA/PARCC double-shot is a one-year-only consequence of the transition to PARCC. And that PARCC doesn’t count this time around. (Marion Star)
     
  2. I’m going to go out on a limb to predict that the four-district consolidated high school idea kicking around Geauga County at the moment will eventually go down the same path to neglectful oblivion as the two-district merger mooted earlier this year. But not until after some fireworks. (Willoughby News Herald)
     
  3. Former state school board member and current Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims took his Men of Color initiative into Dayton City Schools this week. 100 volunteers visited schools to help provide role models to high school students and to inspire young men toward future careers. Sounds fantastic, but don’t forget charter schools, guys.  (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. Here is a story about just the kind of student that the Men of Color initiative is trying to inspire, but I think Corey Spears has already found some serious motivation within himself, after
  5. ...

THE KING STAY THE KING
The reform-minded John King is leaving his current post as New York’s Education Commissioner in order to accept a position in the Department of Education. While his tenure in the state has received plaudits from some in the pro-charter movement, King’s departure is sure to please union officials who called for his resignation last spring. He’s also the latest in a series of reformers to leave top spots in their states, as Fordham’s own Andy Smarick observed today.

SNOW JOB
In a unanimous vote, state Board of Education officials in West Virginia approved a trial plan to introduce more flexible instructional time in a select number of schools. Selected schools will still be required to have 180 school days, but the schools will be able to choose how long each school day is and employ out-of-classroom teaching, such as online learning, on a snow day. At the time of this writing, there was no news yet on whether the state’s children had threatened to hold their breath until they turned blue in protest.

BUT WHEN WILL KETCHUP REJOIN ITS VEGETABLE BROTHERS?
Outraging first ladies and delighting children across the land, Congress has included compromise elements in the much-debated Omnibus Appropriations Bill that will allow schools to back away from including whole grains in their meals, as well as slow-walk the adoption of stricter sodium restrictions until 2017. That means that the world remains safe for cafeteria french fries...

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