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I remember reading an interview with a successful business leader once. It went something like this:

Reporter: What’s the secret of your success?

CEO: Good decisions.

Reporter: How do you make good decisions?

CEO: Good judgment.

Reporter: How did you get good judgment?

CEO: Bad decisions.

I bring this up because yesterday I made a bad decision. May it please lead me to better judgment in the future.

It started on Monday, when I sent a tweet to advertise tomorrow’s Fordham Institute/Hoover Institution/Education Next conference marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report: 

This provoked a response from Chris Stewart, a.k.a. @citizenstewart, an African American education reformer. He and I went back and forth on whether the issue of single-parent families was a reasonable topic for discussion among education reformers—especially those of us who are not people of color.

I should have stopped there, and I’m sorry I didn’t.

But Tuesday morning, Education Next published its special ...

  1. In case you missed it, Mike Petrilli was part of a panel in All Sides with Ann Fisher yesterday, talking about standardized testing in Ohio and parents who are opting their students out of said testing, especially in Columbus. As awesome as he was, Mike’s perspective is one that ed reformers and others know pretty well. I personally enjoyed listening to Columbus City Schools’ Machelle Kline. As executive director of accountability in the district, hers was a calm, informative and very welcome perspective that folks may not have heard before in the midst of other overheated rhetoric. Dr. Kline is a guest throughout the show; Mike comes in at about the 40 minute mark. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
     
  2. We told you yesterday about a new study conducted in Mahoning County on the achievement of students opting for open enrollment to other districts nearby. The Akron Beacon Journal have read it and have taken the unusual step to do what appears to be a review of it, using their own previous look at Summit County’s open enrollment numbers as their basis. That piece, from last year, was primarily about the program’s funding mechanism and about racial disparities seen in utilization. Neither
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  1. If you can stand one more story from last week’s education writer’s conference in Colorado, I can. Fordham’s Mike Petrilli said, “Ohio needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector” during one of the final panels at the event. As noted in the article, the state budget and another House bill included dozens of provisions to do just that. The state auditor will be adding his valuable input on reforms tomorrow morning, and the Senate is poised to do the same soon. Sounds like progress. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There are those who say that Mike’s comment is, shall we say, plain as the nose on one’s face. And since we’re going there, here’s another one: Columbus City Schools needs regular audits of many of its systems, processes, and departments. So opine the editors of the Columbus Dispatch today. They focus heavily on the example of the steaming pile of fail that is the district’s transportation department, as revealed last week in an internal auditor’s report. Small item not mentioned: actions needed to fix up this vital system may be budgeted for next year. Unless of course those rigorous audits unearth anything else that needs fixing even
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The sudden departure of Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, caught many by surprise—including Starr. That’s a depressing sign of a dysfunctional school board, one whose members failed to signal serious concerns with their superintendent, even as recently as last fall’s school board elections.

If the board has any hope of recruiting a talented new leader for MCPS, among the largest districts in the country with more than 153,000 students, it needs to be crystal-clear about the direction it wants the system to take. As an MCPS parent and incorrigible education reformer, let me offer a few suggestions.

First, MCPS needs to recommit to its core mission: dramatically raising student achievement. As Starr’s struggles with the board burst into public view, he made a last-ditch effort to convince its members, and MCPS’s many ardent constituents, of his commitment to narrowing the achievement gaps between poor and minority students and white and Asian students. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But the achievement gap is measured primarily by test scores, and Starr made his...

  1. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill is quoted in this piece taking a good long look at online charter school ECOT. The headline probably says a lot about where the article intended to go from the outset: “turnover common at e-school.” That turnover is real, to be sure. The numbers don’t lie. But after reading the piece, I think that several someones at the Big D likely had their eyes opened a little about what really causes said turnover. As Aaron puts it: “The cost to make that transfer…is essentially zero.” As the ECOT rep puts it: “People [need] a short-term situation for a bullying situation, parents splitting, or they have a child… They have instability for that moment that doesn’t lend itself to a traditional school and how it’s structured.” And as a former ECOT student who didn’t complete a year in the school puts it: “It’s all you, pretty much…. You don’t really have a teacher standing over your shoulder telling you what to do, so I fell behind really fast. I think a lot of people are thinking it’s the easy way out. Honestly, that’s what I thought. But it really wasn’t.” Which of those statements
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  1. Editors in Columbus opined on the value of standardized testing in schools and the small but vocal opter-outers making noise on the topic. They’re right on the money here, noting the slippery slope that could result from curtailing testing (farewell accountability system, farewell Common Core) while also noting some practical changes that could be made to testing protocols in the state to “dial down the anxiety”. Nice There’s a number of good quotes in here, but my personal favorite is:  “No 9-year-old has reason to fear a PARCC test unless an adult has instilled that fear.” Exceedingly true. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Last year, editors in Youngstown practically begged the state to take over the local schools – mired in years of fiscal and academic crisis and beset by bickering and turf warfare among adults who seem to have little interest in actually bettering education for students. Following Governor Kasich’s State of the State speech earlier this week, in which he said, “... anybody in this state that supports a reform agenda to put our children first, please come and see us… We will help you.” Today, those same editors renew their call for the district to reach out
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  1. Senate Bill 3 had another hearing yesterday. That’s the “education deregulation” bill that would, among other things, allow a raft of exemptions to districts which meet certain criteria as “high performers.” Yesterday’s testimony focused on the proposed definition of a high quality district, some witnesses asking for a broader and some a narrower definition. As it stands now, the Senate Bill’s provisions would allow 125 districts to be considered high performing and therefore be eligible for regulatory relief in areas such as testing and teacher licensure. The state budget has a different definition of a high-performing district, under which just 20 districts would qualify. Hearings will continue. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. I am reasonably certain that suburban Pickerington City Schools would be considered “high quality” by both of the proposed measures. (Full disclosure, I have nieces and nephews who have graduated from and are currently in high school in P’town.) But in practice, Pickerington’s superintendent isn’t satisfied. Her “state of the district” report highlighted what’s going right and what’s not, especially as enumerated on the district’s most recent state report card. She spoke of plans in place and in development to address areas of poor grades – including a
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  • In case there was any doubt that you can fool some of the people all of the time: A new Fairleigh Dickinson poll reveals that a great many Americans have no earthly idea what’s actually in the Common Core State Standards—but they hate ‘em anyway. Over half the respondents believed global warming, evolution, and sexual education are included in the standards (they’re not). Almost comically, those who say they are most informed about Common Core are precisely those most likely to be wrong about what the standards actually contain. Thankfully, about four in ten have the honesty to tell pollsters they know nothing about Common Core.
  • Of course, standards are just part of the solution to a big national problem: Way too many high school seniors are graduating without being fully prepared for college or career. Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire has proposed a novel response: legislation that would require the state’s school districts to reimburse recent high school graduates who need remedial classes at the college level. Innovative, but terrible. It’s unrealistic to expect every graduating senior to be ready for college. Students would be better served by college entrance
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Faced with enormous budgetary shortfalls, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) opted in May 2013 to close forty-seven schools, one of the largest instances of school closures in U.S. history. CPS then set about relocating more than ten thousand displaced students into higher-performing schools for the 2013–14 year. The district called the schools that absorbed the transplanted pupils “welcoming schools.” The policy was supported by research showing that students affected by closure benefit academically if they land in a better school. The welcoming schools were all higher-performing on CPS’s internal measures of performance; they also received additional resources to ease the influx of new students (e.g., pupil safety and instructional supports). So how did the policy play out? According to University of Chicago analysts, 66 percent of displaced students enrolled in their designated “welcoming school” in fall 2013, while 25 percent attended other neighborhood-based CPS schools, 4 percent enrolled in charters and a similar number in magnets. An analysis of student records indicates that distance from home, building safety concerns, and residential mobility were all significant reasons why one-third of the total went somewhere other than their welcoming school. Interesting, to be sure, but the study does not report anything...

The late Don Meredith, beloved color commentator from the glory days of Monday Night Football, liked to break into song when a game hit garbage time, or a big play put the game out of reach. “Turn out the lights!” he would sing in his folksy Texas twang, channeling Willie Nelson. “The party’s over!” Dandy Don’s voice was ringing in my ears as I read a new report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future. The publication dares to ask out loud how much longer we can thrive as a nation when a vast segment of our society—Americans between sixteen and thirty-four who will be in the workforce for up to fifty more years—“lack the skills required for higher-level employment and meaningful engagement in our democracy.” Seldom have I read a more depressing report.

“Despite having the highest levels of educational attainment of any previous American generation,” writes ETS’s Center for Global Assessment Director Irwin S. Kirch in the report’s preface, “these young adults on average demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments compared to their international...

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