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Quincy Magoo

Leading education researchers are celebrating a “breakthrough” in the decades-long struggle to close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

It occurred around 1:45 on the second day of the AEFP conference, as the Urban Institute’s Matt Chingos was presenting his working paper, “Dream World: Preparing for the Sanders Economy.” As he flipped to a slide featuring eighth-grade NAEP scores, the Seventy Four’s Matt Barnum entered the room characteristically late, arms overflowing with blueberry muffins that toppled to the floor when he tripped on a laptop cord. Racing against the five-second rule, he leapt suddenly to his feet in an explosion of crumbs and spittle. “It doesn’t look so bad from back here!” He mumbled through a mouthful of muffin.

Barnum was referring to the achievement gaps depicted on Chingos’s slide, which he claimed were smaller when viewed from a distance. This galvanized sundry researchers in attendance, many of whom were playing Candy Crush at the time.

The University of Washington’s Dan Goldhaber claimed that the gap between rich and poor students looked “almost insignificant” when he extended his arm and “crushed it” between his thumb and index finger (a technique he referred to as “Rubio-ing”).

“This...

Vic Dactylic

They may be young, scrappy, hungry, and happy, but does their knowledge astonish (or are they all brains and no polish)? In Partially Prudent: Hamilton's Effects on Students, a researcher at Maine’s Trinity College examines kids’ content knowledge a day or two after viewing Hamilton.

Her findings are alarming: Sixty-eight percent found George Washington “handsome and charming”; 49 percent associated fines with cabinet members’ lack of rhymes; and 84 percent could neither find nor call to mind the number of children (eight) born to this man so great, nor recall the wife of the famous striver (Elizabeth Schuyler).

Worse, their misconceptions appear to have bled over into pop culture, too. Recent performances by rapper Kanye West have been met with boos. One angry student snapped, “Rap’s all about sampling and sound, but don’t rip off the fathers by whom America was found.”

But critics, hold the phone—these negatives don’t stand alone. Students were twice as likely to know democratic principles the very next day, if the night before that same student saw the play. Forty-eight percent saw differences in the North’s and South’s economic cores, as well as their connection to the Civil War. Even those who...

Uli Kunkel

A new study commissioned by the National Institute for Hustling and Inciting the Launch and Implementation of School Mayhem (NIHILISM) reports that efforts by teachers and principals to enforce discipline in their classrooms have a negative impact on children’s education and future prospects.

Analysts A.J. Kaczynski and V. McVeigh found that “discouraging genuine expression will blunt students’ potential for success and happiness. America’s future would brighten if these faux Officer Krupke’s would allow the Jets and Sharks (and Crips and Bloods) to engage in the behaviors they desire. And anyway, who cares? Nothing matters.”

The report includes a laudatory foreword by Office for Civil Rights head Catherine Lemon. She writes that “my colleagues and I are doing everything in our power to root out discrimination against violent students without regard to race, gender, religion, economic status, or family background. Our counterparts at the Justice Department are also examining the ways in which inhibiting pupil expression may violate the First Amendment.”

SOURCE: A.J. Kaczynski & V. McVeigh, “Nothing Matters: Classroom Discipline and Student Achievement,” NIHILISM (March 2016)....

TFA to feds: “We aren’t a cult!”: Teachers’ unions have long criticized Teach For America’s practice of sending teachers into classrooms after just five weeks of training. Now TFA faces new challenges, as the FBI investigates allegations that it’s a cult. Agents have raised questions about “indoctrinating practices” at Institute, TFA’s summer training program for corps members. They cite a number of “telltale signs”: sleep deprivation, ritualized chanting, lack of compensation, and the shunning of quitters. A TFA representative took strong issue with the federal probe: “This is all a misunderstanding. We’re forging bonds. We’re a family. And to succeed, corps members need to be completely devoted to the success of their students. We can’t quit. And if someone does quit, we have to make sure they never again see the inside of a classroom.” Alumni admitted that, yes, some beliefs are common to all TFA corps members, but denied that there’s something in the water. “We never drank any Kool-Aid,” added one alumnus, “plenty of chardonnay, sure, but no Kool-Aid.”

A ghost(writer) in Peter Cunningham’s attic: Have you ever read an Education Post byline and said to yourself, “I wonder if this teacher or...

A new study examines the effects of disruptive elementary school peers on other students’ high school test scores, college attendance, degree attainment, and early adult earnings.

Analysts link administrative and public records data for children enrolled in grades 3–5 in one large Florida county (Alachua) between the years of 1995–1996 and 2002–2003. The demographic and test score data are linked to domestic violence, which is the part of the study that strikes me as odd.

They define “disruptive peer” not by how many times a child is disciplined in school or the severity of the offense, but rather by a proxy—whether a member of the child’s family petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order against another member of the family. Apparently, the literature shows that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to display a number of behavioral problems, among them aggression, bullying, and animal cruelty. Another study showed these students negatively affected their peers’ behavior. Nevertheless, calling these students “disruptive peers” is a misleading characterization given the lack of documented school infractions. They are kids exposed to domestic violence, and the findings should be understood within this light.

That said, here are the results: Estimates show that...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined this week in favor of a new bill that would prevent online schools from claiming credit for “education offered” vs. “education provided”. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/29/16) Editors in Youngstown opined similarly on the same topic. (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/30/16)
     
  2. Editors in Youngstown were busy this week, also issuing a wide-ranging opinion piece describing and despairing of the state of affairs with regard to the new Academic Distress Commission. However, I’m not sure you can blame the Youngstown Board of Education too much for looking for more meetings/more pay these days. As noted in previous editions of Gadfly Bites, everyone currently serving in Youngstown probably expected to either be out of a job or on very different footing in that job by now. With the protracted wheel-spinning related to the new ADC – and the dissolution of the old ADC, who handed down the fewer-meetings edict – everyone still standing is likely being asked to do much more than they thought they were going to be doing at this point in time. Just sayin’ that inaction has its consequences. (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/29/16).
     
  3. Lots of folks in the halls of power talking about the
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According to a recent report from the Education Trust, college completion rates for black students at four-year public institutions have increased. Of the 232 institutions that improved overall graduation rates from 2003 to 2013, nearly 70 percent increased graduation rates for black students. Almost half of these institutions (47 percent) also decreased gaps between black and white students. Unfortunately, that means that at 53 percent of institutions, the gains posted by black students failed to keep pace with those of white students, resulting in a wider college attainment gap. Even worse, nearly one-third of the institutions that improved overall student attainment exhibited graduation rates for black students that were actually flat or declining. The silver lining, however, is that there are institutions that can serve as a model for reversing these negative trends—and one of these exemplars is right here in Ohio.

At the Ohio State University in Columbus, graduation rates for black students are improving, and the gap between black and white graduation rates has decreased. Since 2003, Ohio State’s graduation rates for black students have improved by approximately thirty-one percentage points (from 41 percent in 2003 to over 72 percent in 2013), and the graduation...

  1. A little quiet today in terms of education news, but we’ll soldier on. No applications have yet been received for the permanent position of state superintendent here in Ohio, despite the efforts of a search firm. Deadline is April 8 and state board folks are confident that a slate of some kind will materialize by then. Columbus City Schools’ superintendent Dan Good does not want the job, which seems to be the actual point of this piece. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/27/16)
     
  2. Interim State Supe Dr. Lonny Rivera has said that he also doesn’t want the permanent job because he feels there is a lack of “civility” on the board. Harsh, especially since the dude might be an interim for a lot longer than he bargained for. But that perceived lack of civility is not unique to the state board. One elementary school aide in Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools is fighting a one-person crusade against incivility, improper fork usage, and Axe body spray via etiquette lessons. I could try to describe this for you in further detail, but I will instead direct you to the main image included
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  1. The most recent third grade reading scores across Ohio were released this week and the numbers got a lot of coverage across the state, including here in Central Ohio. It is reported that 89.5 percent of Columbus City Schools' third graders passed last year's test; not the worst in the county. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/24/16) In Northwest Ohio, Toledo City Schools had just shy of 72 percent of last year’s third graders pass the test, although with the allowed exemptions for special needs students and others, they say 95 percent of last year’s third graders were promoted to fourth grade. (Toledo Blade, 3/24/16) In Stark County, they are more interested in individuals than percentages, noting that 148 of last year’s third grade students in the county did not pass. (Canton Repository, 3/25/16) Note that the cut score for this year’s test rises again. That data has been promised in a more timely fashion.
     
  2. Free bachelors degrees from OSU will produce a raft of new preschool teachers in low-income Columbus neighborhoods. That’s the 50,000-foot view of this story from the D this week. Digging into the details yields some fine print and questions. The program is limited
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  1. Just some quick hits on today’s clips. Regular service will return on Friday. I promise. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on one of two items in this piece on charter school news, glued together (almost) by the subject of e-schools. Chad is quoted in regard to a new report on charter school funding. Oranges and apples are referenced, but not necessarily in that order. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/22/16)
     
  2. A new national study identified schools across the country who have been successful and shrinking or closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students in their communities. In Columbus, that short list includes five charter schools, one of which is Fordham-sponsored Columbus Collegiate Academy – Main. We couldn’t be prouder of the great work of CCA’s staff, teachers, families, and students. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/23/16)
     
  3. No offence to Stephen Stohla, but I can only imagine he was figuring he would either be out of his current job or permanently into a very different version of this current job by now. Either way, due to the lack of clarity around the judicial definition of the word “teacher”, he is still in his temporary job as Interim Superintendent of Youngstown
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