Additional Topics

As I wrote last week, with the ESEA reauthorization process heating up, lots of advocates are now trying to influence the congressional deliberations. Secretary Duncan weighed in this morning. Here are ten things you should know about his speech.

  1. It was fifty years ago today. The initial frame of the speech harkens back to the original ESEA (1965) and its raison d’être. Duncan even cited Robert F. Kennedy. This is a civil-rights issue for the secretary; indeed, he repeatedly used words like “equity,” “fairness,” and “justice” in his speech. But to many, LBJ’s Great Society is also synonymous with the excesses of federal activity; it is the voracious, technocratic, disconnected, wasteful, ineffective, inside-the-Beltway bureaucracy. Conjuring up this era will motivate many…but not in the same way.
  2. Civil rights legislation? Given this framing and the news of Duncan’s having been deeply affected by the Garner and Brown cases, I was prepared for the secretary to be explicit that ESEA is civil rights—not just education—legislation aimed at righting longstanding racial wrongs. I also wondered if he would suggest that a vote against strong K–12 federal accountability would be in the same vein as opposing rights-expanding legislation of the 1960s. But he was mostly delicate in this area. He did, however, use President George W. Bush’s famous NCLB line against opponents of federal accountability. Duncan juxtaposed his own position (encapsulated, in his view, by a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. line) with the “
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  1. Fordham’s two reports on charter schools in Ohio – released a month ago – are still resonating in media circles. Then Enquirer’s latest prognostication on policy initiatives likely to take center stage in 2015 includes charter school law reform, and notes Fordham’s reports as support. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Commentator Marilou Johanek is pessimistic that the fix to charter law will come as promised, despite the CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham reports. I think what she means is that she’s sure something will be done with regard to charter law in 2015, but probably not what she and the Blade are hoping for. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. In the only other news of relevance I could find today, it seems that the administration and the teachers union have something of a differing view of how things are going in Middletown schools these days. The union said a pretty emphatic no to the idea of allowing the district supe to retire and be rehired. Not because they oppose the practice – perish the thought – but because they paint a far less rosy picture of the state of the district than the supe does. (Middletown Journal News)
     

RESEARCH BITES 1/12/15: Ohio’s Quality Counts Rating – Achievement Gains

Last week, Education Week released its annual “Quality Counts” report. Ohio earned an overall grade of a C. But Ed Week also generates that grade using an assortment of demographic, achievement, and financial variables, some of which are more valid gauges...

In AEI’s latest Vision Talks video, Arthur Brooks, its president and the happiest man in the think-tank world, argues that public-policy advocates need to make a better case: one that is moral, about people, and to the point. This talk could not be better suited for conservatives, especially as presidential hopefuls are (sigh) already campaigning. Many acknowledge that conservatives must talk about issues in a better way if they plan on expanding their base to young voters and minorities. But Arthur Brooks would have made a better case for conservatives if he hadn’t used education reform as his example.

Brooks makes some very valid points: Public policy advocates should discuss moral (not a materialistic or economic) goals; public policy is about helping people; and ideas should be communicated quickly. (And he adds in some the nifty fact that communicators have seven seconds to win someone over before the listener’s brain tells him move on.) But this doesn’t work with ed reform because, for the most part, we’re already there. From “A Nation at Risk” to “content, character, and choice” to having the “right to rise,” politicians have made that to-the-point and emotional leap. Blogger Alexander Russo rightly noted that this is “something that pretty much everyone in education advocacy has come to understand at this point.” Some groups, including the PIE Network and Education Cities, have been on that case for years with messaging advice to...

COMMUNITY CHEST
Yesterday, President Obama proposed making two years of community college free for qualifying students. Some see it as a way for more Americans to achieve better-paying jobs, while others see it as potentially stagnating low-income students’ pursuit of a four-year degree. One thing is for certain: A proposal of this scale comes with a hefty price tag. The proposal still awaits congressional approval; we’ll see how that goes.

THE BATTLE OF U.S. HISTORY
Mona Charen at NRO has a useful return to some of the issues in play from last year’s AP U.S. History flap, as well as a look at how Common Core politics might shape the debate in 2015. Quoted in the piece is Fordham’s own charming Chester Finn, who says the Common Core standards are “superior to the standards in 75 percent of the states.”

DEPARTMENT OF BAD NEWS
Success Academy, the New York City charter organization with the AWESOME test scores, recently cancelled its plans to open new schools this year. The new schools were to be part of a negotiation with the city to open or expand ten schools by 2016. This story provides yet another glimpse into the tricky nature of finding space for new charter schools.

WEEKEND PLAYLIST
While driving out to your ski chalet this Saturday, make sure to listen to this all-star Freakonomics podcast featuring former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Harvard economist John Friedman, KIPP co-founder...

The ed-policy world is abuzz: ESEA now probably stands a better chance of being reauthorized than at any time since NCLB’s signing, thirteen years ago yesterday.

Given the statute’s scope, today’s debate could include countless issues, such as possible changes to Title II rules on educator effectiveness, the expansion of the charter school grant program, the introduction of a private school choice initiative, reconsideration of competitive grant programs (RTTT, TIF, i3), and much more.

But the question consuming virtually all oxygen is what will become of NCLB’s calling card, namely its tough rules on standards, assessments, and consequences?

Based on reporting as well as whispers, tea-leaf reading, and blind speculation, folks believe federal accountability is in serious jeopardy. In short, the Right wants to eliminate the "federal," and the Left wants to eviscerate the "accountability."

To better understand where things go from here, it’s worth pinpointing where we are in the order of operations. Typically, when the passage of federal legislation is on the docket, there’s a several-month-long window during which the views of the most important stakeholders are put on the potter’s wheel for molding. Advocates’ top targets all reside on Capitol Hill: Most important are the chairs of the relevant committees, committee members, party leaders, and all other members (and, not incidentally, the key staff to all of the above).

But since ESEA reauthorization is now overdue by the age of third grader, with lots of false starts along the...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill appeared on WCPN’s Sound of Ideas yesterday, as part of a panel talking about charter schools in Ohio. Great discussion with some important details and nuance presented. You can check out IdeaStream’s brief report on the story here. And you can get the full audio here. Big thanks to WCPN and host Mike McIntyre for doing a whole hour on this important topic and for having us join in.
     
  2. There’s no denying that charter schools are the biggest area of interest in education policy in Ohio at the moment. Editors in Columbus once again opine on the subject of charters today, giving kudos to the Ohio Department of Education for their tougher stance on the “recycling” of closed schools and the authorizers who, well, authorize such things. And then they call again upon the General Assembly to overhaul Ohio charter law. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about expansion of dual enrollment in Ohio the last couple of weeks. That is, high school students taking college courses for credit through various avenues. Officials at Dayton’s Sinclair Community College are celebrating a record number of high school students doing just that via their programs this term. Nice. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. As predicted, editors in Akron published their take on the very interesting series of stories from earlier in the week on the topic of “racial lopsidedness” in many of Ohio’s classrooms. Worth a read, as is the series itself.
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Ah, January is upon us: The wind is howling, the thermometer is plummeting, and we are greeted by the nineteenth consecutive edition of Quality Counts, Education Week’s compilation of mostly useful data, analysis, rankings and commentaries.

The single best thing about QC is its focus on states, not just because it enables state leaders to view external gauges of their own performance and compare it with other states, but also—especially valuable today—because it reminds everyone that states remain the central players in matters of K–12 education quality. (So many have obsessed for so long about federal stuff and Common Core—itself a state initiative—that it’s easy, especially inside the Beltway, to lose focus.)

The analysts and authors of QC keep fussing with the variables, metrics and weightings by which they grade state performance. This year, once again, those variables are sorted into three buckets, two of which have to do with processes, practices, and inputs. Some of the latter (e.g., parents’ education) is completely beyond state control, and some is based on questionable assumptions about how much is enough (and whether more is better) when it comes to education spending. Only the achievement bucket focuses on outcomes. Along the way, some issues of key interest to education reformers—most conspicuously school accountability, teacher quality, and choice—have vanished from the QC calculus.

One helpful bit: If you don’t like their weightings within the variables, you can fiddle with them yourself and...

SAT WORDS: NOW WITH MORE COOING
Researchers from the Thirty Million Words project are setting out to educate (brand) new mothers on the importance of parent interactions from day one. Pulling from the famous 1995 Hart and Risley study, which found that children from working-class families hear an average of thirty million more words by the age of four than those of “welfare” families, the team is hoping that early interventions will encourage new parents to read and talk to their newborns at every opportunity. Hear, hear, says Robert Pondiscio, who has argued that it pays to increase one’s word power.

MORE ON READING
A new report by Scholastic found that less than one-third of children interviewed between the ages of six and seventeen read for fun on a daily basis. Being read aloud to, restricted digital time, and free time to read at school were all top factors among those who reported regularly reading for pleasure. Literacy experts say parents should continue to read aloud to their children throughout elementary school to build higher-level vocabulary and develop interdisciplinary background knowledge. But Michael Petrilli would argue that as long as kids are gaining knowledge, a little screen time doesn’t hurt.

BABES IN TECHLAND
Digital learning has carved out a permanent place for itself in the classroom. A new piece in Education Week explores how the tools of online education are being...

  1. Editors in Cleveland opine strongly against retire-rehire/double-dipping among the ranks of superintendents in Ohio. Choice words they used: “shameless”, “ridiculous charade”, “pension jackpot”. Ouch.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Fourteen people have applied to fill a recently-vacated seat on Reynoldsburg City Schools’ board, including the guy who sued the district last year to force the schools to close until the teacher strike concluded. Nuts and bolts version here from ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News. (Of note, this is the same publication that famously used the phrase “scab firm” in a headline about district strike prep.) A more discerning version of the story was in the Dispatch yesterday, where the guy was actually asked about it and wrote, for the record, “While often times my disagreements with board policies are what get noticed in the community, it is unfortunate that my much more frequent agreements and positive support for our schools goes unnoticed.” Would be a fun job interview to sit in on…if there is one.
     
  3. This story on Middletown schools’ ongoing funding woes – property tax revenues are projected to be down $1.3 million over the next two years – seems innocuous enough. Property taxes are an issue in many smaller districts around the state. However, let’s keep in mind yesterday’s story about Middletown’s mooted sale of a closed school building to a local church. I wondered while reading this whether the projected funding issues will make it less likely or more likely that outside agitators will intervene
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The Manuary edition

NCLB reauthorization, curriculum reform, the Common Core’s quintessence, and the impact of youth employment programs.

Amber's Research Minute
 

SOURCE: Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, Judd B. Kessler, "The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Summer Youth Employment Program Lotteries," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 20810 (December 2014).

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