Additional Topics

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,
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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
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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...

Reformers understandably fixate on our disputes du jour. They generally have compelling characters and some perceived peril: college kids rattling plastic sabers at TFA, a pair of Pelican State politicians double crossing Common Core, etc.

But of far greater moment is our never-ending uphill struggle against homeostasis, nature’s inclination to slide back to the comfortable equilibrium of the way things have been. Its reverse pull—like gravity, invisible and relentless—is the real danger. Slowly, silently shifting tectonic plates, not fast-moving, thunderous storms, bring down mountains

This is why we should pay close attention to three subtle storylines about to converge.

The first is the exodus of reform-oriented state chiefs. The Race-to-the-Top era made state leaders of prominent reform figures: Deborah Gist in 2009; Chris Cerf, John King, Kevin Huffman, Stefan Pryor, and Hanna Skandera in 2011; John White and Mark Murphy in 2012; Tony Bennett in 2013. They led efforts to create next-generation accountability systems, overhaul tenure and educator evaluation, expand choice, toughen content standards, improve assessments, and more.

But that tide is receding. As Andrew Ujifusa reported, twenty-nine states have changed chiefs in the last two years. This includes Barresi (Oklahoma), Bennett (Florida), Cerf (New Jersey), Flanagan (Michigan), Huffman (Tennessee), Nicastro (Missouri), Pryor (Connecticut), and, per yesterday’s major announcement, John King (New York). Huge questions are left about reform in these states and others: What becomes of the ...

  1. CREDO’s latest report looking at charter school quality (or lack thereof) in Ohio got a bit more play yesterday. Public radio in Northeast Ohio ran a piece on the report itself, including parts of an interview conducted at our Tuesday press conference in Columbus. (IdeaStream Public Media) Meanwhile, the PD covered yesterday’s City Club of Cleveland event in which CREDO’s Macke Raymond discussed her findings in depth, and they noted Fordham’s connection to the report. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) You can check out the full video of the event here.
     
  2. The 130th General Assembly is drawing to a close here in Ohio, with lots of backslapping and fond farewells…and a raft of lame duck legislation. The current legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio may have at last run out of time after a last-ditch effort to amend it to another bill was ruled “out of order” at the 11th hour yesterday. Stick a fork in repeal, it’s done...for now. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. Back in the real world, here’s a great guest commentary piece from two longtime math teachers in Northeast Ohio opining on the topic of how Common Core could help solve what they call America’s “math phobia”. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. We’ve noted recently that Columbus City Schools’ board has done away with the “policy governance” model it has used for almost a decade and reinstated a more hands-on, committee-based model. A consultant’s recommendation for Youngstown City Schools’ board is the
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Editor's note: This post originally appeared in slightly different form on the Commentary website.

Given the volatility and sensitivity of “racial profiling” these days, heightened by recent developments in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland and by brand new law-enforcement “guidelines” from the Justice Department, one could be tempted to thank the National Education Association for its recent effort, in league with a bunch of other organizations, to develop curricular materials by which schools and teachers can instruct their students on this issue.

One should, however, resist that temptation. It turns out that, once again, the NEA and its fellow travelers are presenting a one-sided, propagandistic view of an exceptionally complicated issue that elicits strong, conflicting views among adults; that carries competing values and subtleties beyond the ken of most school kids; and that probably doesn’t belong in the K–12 curriculum at all.

My mind immediately rolled back almost three decades, to the days when the Cold War was very much with us, when nuclear weapons were a passionate concern, when unilateral disarmament was earnestly propounded by some mostly well-meaning but deeply misguided Americans—and when the NEA plunged into the fray with appalling curricular guidance for U.S. schools.

Here’s part of what the late Joseph Adelson and I wrote in COMMENTARY magazine in April 1985:

[T]he much-publicized contribution of the National Education Association (NEA), to give but one example, looks blandly past any differences between the superpowers. Its one-page “fact sheet” on the USSR simply summarizes population, land area, and

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SANCTUARY CITY
Following the president’’s executive order providing temporary relief for unauthorized immigrant families, the Los Angeles Unified School District has received roughly 16,000 transcript requests. (The information is necessary to apply for the expanded DACA program.) Yesterday, district officials and union leaders agreed that they would help eligible students to access records to complete their applications.

MAYBE THERE'S ROOM IN WESTCHESTER
During an American Enterprise Institute event on Tuesday, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz unveiled her plan to have one hundred charter schools in the Success network within the next ten years. Moskowitz has been dealing with pushback from NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration has thwarted efforts to obtain space for expansion. She claimed that the schools are besieged by “people who are trying to kill us.

A PEN AND A PHONE AND A BILLION DOLLARS
President Obama announced a billion-dollar public/private early childhood education initiative. $250 million from the Department of Education will be divided between eighteen states to expand preschool programs, the Department of Health and Human Services has allocated an additional $500 million for daycare in forty states, and private groups have raised another $330 million through the “Invest in US” campaign. The initiative could go a long way to realizing the goal of enrolling every American child in preschool, which was announced in the president’s 2013 State of the Union Address. 

BREAKING: CAMPUS ACTIVISTS UPSET ABOUT SOMETHING
Ed-reform rock star and unofficial Friend of Fordham...

  • Across New York State, 32 percent of would-be teachers were denied certification because they failed to pass a basic Academic Literacy Skills exam, the New York Post reports. Let that rattle around in your head for a moment. The test measures reading comprehension and writing skills and is part of a new battery of tests that the Empire State now requires for people who want to teach within its borders. Shockingly, in many of the state’s teacher-prep schools, a majority of candidates failed the tests. At least one school had no students pass. Schools with low pass rates have to come up with corrective plans, such as improving instruction or denying admission to more applicants. Three cheers for smart policy.
  • Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant is hoping to throw out the Common Core, and educators across the state think it’s a bad idea that threatens to reverse the state’s progress. Indeed. Mississippi has arguably the worst schools in the country—and has for some time. And the CCSS represent a vast improvement over what was previously in place. Worse, during the state’s mostly political discussions about the standards, educators have apparently been largely absent, which is a shame because many of them are optimistic about the Common Core.

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