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Jean-Claude Brizard

I met Jean-Claude Brizard almost four years ago when he was leading the school district of Rochester. After talking to him for about an hour, I was so impressed that I became convinced he was destined for even bigger things.

Born in Haiti and reared in New York City, Brizard is a career educator. He was a student in the Big Apple’s public schools and eventually became a teacher, principal, and district executive in that same system. He graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy, Class of 2007, was recruited to Rochester, and then, in 2011, was scooped up by incoming Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to become CEO of the Windy City’s school district, the third largest in the nation. Brizard is now a senior advisor at College Board, working with an extraordinary leadership team alongside David Coleman, an author and ardent advocate for the Common Core State Standards.

Jean-Claude knows the ins and outs of urban districts as well as anyone around today, and those experiences have left him skeptical about the century-old institutional arrangements in place in virtually all American cities. He has endured some of the toughest political episodes with unmatched dignity. What struck me most during my initial conversations with Jean-Claude—and since—was on full public display during his most challenging times in Rochester and Chicago. He has that magical combination of utter confidence and genuine humility that produces an approachable posture and a near Zen-like calm....

British author and director of research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, Gabriel Sahlgren brings us back to Economics 101 with the contention that there is one root cause of all problems afflicting education today: a lack of proper incentives for quality. He argues that the strongest system would be built on a functioning, choice-heavy education market. From there, his argument proceeds rationally: Readers are treated to a thorough explanation underpinning school choice as it relates to competition and quality. Sahlgren evaluates an impressive body of research, covering studies that are cross national (such as Hensvik’s 2012 finding that school competition eventually leads better-qualified individuals to become teachers), large scale, and small scale. And he uses all of this to arrive at his ideal education market, which includes, among other things, vouchers, closures of failing schools, for-profit schools, and better information and accountability systems. From 10,000 feet, much of this seems like old news. But as one parachutes into the grass below, Sahlgren proves himself to be a refreshingly realistic proponent of market-based education reform. He acknowledges the meager gains that many choice programs have produced (which he attributes to programs borne of political compromise and ideology) and repeatedly warns politicians that implementing his reforms could prove politically treacherous. For Sahlgren, reform is all or nothing. He’s not wrong. But, then, he doesn’t have to get elected.

SOURCE: Gabriel H. Sahlgren, Incentivising Excellence (England: The Centre for Market Reform of Education Ltd., 2013)....

Jeb Bush wrote a strong defense of the Common Core in the National Review, in which he stoutly advocates high standards, calls out Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, and argues that Obama’s support has “complicated the understanding of who initiated and led the development of these higher standards.”

 

AmberWinklerFoxNews.png

Speaking of the Malkin-Beck front, rumors and misconceptions abound on the Common Core. But Fordham’s vice president for research, Amber Winkler calls the misinformation (in this case on math) just a bunch of hooey on Fox News. Reading the Common Core State Standards is a good place to start to see what they actually entail.

The new emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools is hitting the ground running: Twenty-one Motor City schools will now remain open twelve hours a day, seven days a week. They will provide homework help, medical services, financial-literacy and tech programs, and parenting and pre-natal classes. Emergency Manager Jack Martin says that the cost will be handled partially by the state. He said that this is “not something that was nice to do; it’s something we absolutely have to do.”

NPR profiles California’s new school-funding system (a form of weighted-student funding), which allocates additional money to districts with many special-needs students....

Back in June, we at Fordham released a critical review of the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As we explained at the time,

…using substantially the same criteria as we previously applied to state science standards—criteria that focus primarily on the content, rigor, and clarity of K–12 expectations for this key subject—our considered judgment is that NGSS deserves a C.

Our review team felt that these new standards fell short in a number of critical areas. Far too much essential science content was either missing entirely or merely implied. Science practices, while essential to K-12 science learning, were given...

Back-to-school season is officially upon us and for many families that means new school supplies and backpacks and recalling where they stashed the warmer clothes. But if you're a public opinion pollster, back-to-school means it's time to dust off your old education surveys and see if anything’s changed from last year.

With three polls released this week (AP-NORC, PDK/Gallup, and Education Next),  trying to draw broad conclusions can be tricky given what, at times, seem to be fairly contradictory answers from the public. Some commentators have focused on what the data seem to show regarding hot-button policy...

“No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.” This is carved into a massive stone wall on the FDR memorial in Washington, but it could have been the preface to this slender, timely, punchy book by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann. These authors make a persuasive case for improving the academic achievement of U.S. students—and thus America’s human resources—so that the nation thrives well into the future. Schools are where human capital gets built, they argue, and the acquisition of essential skills is better measured by standardized tests than by years spent in class....

British author and director of research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, Gabriel Sahlgren brings us back to Economics 101 with the contention that there is one root cause of all problems afflicting education today: a lack of proper incentives for quality. He argues that the strongest system would be built on a functioning, choice-heavy education market. From there, his argument proceeds rationally: Readers are treated to a thorough explanation underpinning school choice as it relates to competition and quality. Sahlgren evaluates an impressive body of research, covering studies that are cross national (such as Hensvik’s 2012 finding...

Is it all just politics in the Badger State? Have you ever heard of the Common Core? Mike and Brickman talk dairy, while Amber hashes out the latest Education Next survey results.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2013 Education Next Survey by Michael Henderson and Paul E. Peterson, (Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG))

Chester E. Finn, Jr. breaks down why Fordham does not support implementation of the NGSS.

The cheesehead edition

Is it all just politics in the Badger State? Have you ever heard of the Common Core? Mike and Brickman talk dairy, while Amber hashes out the latest Education Next survey results.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2013 Education Next Survey by Michael Henderson and Paul E. Peterson, (Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG))

“No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.” This is carved into a massive stone wall on the FDR memorial in Washington, but it could have been the preface to this slender, timely, punchy book by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann. These authors make a persuasive case for improving the academic achievement of U.S. students—and thus America’s human resources—so that the nation thrives well into the future. Schools are where human capital gets built, they argue, and the acquisition of essential skills is better measured by standardized tests than by years spent in class. Equating 2009 NAEP data with 2011 PISA scores, the authors found that just 32 percent of U.S. students were proficient in math, earning a ranking of thirty-second in the world. More than half of Korean and Finnish students were proficient, while Shanghai topped the list with 75 percent. U.S. schools aren’t even educating their top students well: Just 7 percent scored at the advanced level in math. But they also highlight a few bright spots in this dark cloud. In Massachusetts, with its strong standards and commensurate accountability measures, 51 percent of students were proficient and 15 percent advanced in math. And in the South, where governors have pushed for school accountability for almost two decades, five states made the list of ten highest growth states. It is possible for the U.S. to improve the trajectory of its long-term economic growth, write the authors, “if we could replicate the performance...

The exchanges stemming from Mike Petrilli's recent op-ed and concerns about school-grading systems appear to reflect some confusion about poverty, performance, proficiency, and growth.  Much of the prevailing discourse seems more focused on finding someone (or something) to blame rather than marshaling a consensus for change.

The inconvenient truth I describe below is that when we benchmark academic growth rates, the best velocity is often not adequate to catch kids up to college and career readiness within a reasonable time. It is why next-generation delivery models that fundamentally change the use of time are so important and why getting kids off to a better start is essential. It is also why next-generation accountability systems that use multiple measures to create a balanced body of fair and useful evidence are needed.

Poverty and Proficiency

First, let me be clear: Poverty matters. It impacts children’s starting point in terms of early learning. This is why proficiency is correlated with poverty. Proficiency is a performance standard; it is a destination, a mile marker of attainment in the context of a content standard. It is one of several important indicators of "performance" and it is a lagging indicator. It does not imply academic effectiveness. Policy makers and pundits do a disservice to the public when they conflate "performance" and proficiency. If an accountability system weights proficiency highest, then it creates an incentive for schools to maximize starting point and focus on kids on the cusp of proficiency—not all kids. This is a major problem with NCLB's AYP measure and some states’ ESEA...

We don’t need Elon Musk to get you across the ed-reform world in 30 minutes or less

Mike welcomes Rick Hess back to the show by threatening to shoot him through a tube from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They chat proficiency rates, whether the Common Core is Jeb Bush’s RomneyCare, and Philly’s school-budget woes. Amber approaches non-cognitive ability in a creative new way.

Amber's Research Minute

Don’t Know? Or Don’t Care? Predicting Educational Attainment Using Survey Item Response Rates and Coding Speed Tests as Measures of Conscientiousness by Colin Hitt and Julie R. Trivitt, EDRE Working Paper No. 2013-05 (August 2013)

Over the past twenty years, opponents have charged charter schools with further Balkanizing America’s education system. Give parents a choice, the thinking goes, and many will choose homogenous environments for their children. And there’s certainly evidence that charters in some cities tend to be more racially isolated than traditional public schools.

Capital City Public Charter School
Capital City Public Charter School in Washinton, D.C., has achieved a nearly even racial and socioeconomic balance.

    But could charter schools actually be a solution to segregation—particularly as gentrification brings more white and middle-class families to our urban cores? A growing crop of social entrepreneurs thinks so. In cities across the country, educators and parents are starting charters expressly designed for diversity.

    Charter schools have certain advantages. As start-up schools, they can be strategic about locations, picking spots that are well positioned to draw students from different racial and socioeconomic groups. They can design academic programs that take diversity as a given and make the most of it. And they can be thoughtful about putting elements in place to appeal to whites and blacks, Asians and Hispanics, rich and poor.

    Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., was founded in 2000. It’s one of the oldest charter schools with significant racial and socioeconomic diversity. It serves elementary and middle school students from almost every...

    A Chicago public school and public library will begin to share space on Thursday, breaking ground for a new “library-within-a-school” model that may be “copied and mimicked all across the city,” according to an enthusiastic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Windy City’s schools and libraries have both seen financial troubles in the last couple of years. Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has clarified that proliferation of this model would be about “reducing storefront and leased space” and possibly result in moving libraries, not closing libraries. Gadfly likes efficiency and books—so hat tip!

    The school-funding crisis in Philadelphia has reached the boiling point: After Superintendent William Hite issued an ultimatum stating that schools may not open in time if the district does not receive at least $50 million more in funding by Friday, August 16th, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that it would borrow the cash, apparently obviating that eventuality. Now that the district will be able to re-hire some laid-off staff members, the School Reform Commission—Philadelphia’s appointed school board—will vote on whether to suspend portions of state law to grant Hite the flexibility to re-hire for reasons other than seniority. The unions, naturally, are furious, but this appears to be the best possible outcome for students.

    This week, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis asked the district’s Board of Education to stop approving new charter schools. The reason: Georgia’s Supreme Court has yet to decide whether Davis can withhold...

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