Additional Topics

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The previous posts in this series can be seen herehereherehere, here, and here.

It takes enormous conviction to take on longstanding arrangements. We remember great reformers—Dr. King, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony—as much for the certainty behind their zeal as for their deeds.

As David Brooks wrote about revolutionaries like Mandela and Lincoln, they believe in “objective and eternally true standards of justice,” follow them faithfully, and are indignant when they’re violated.

Zealots of all types, whether virtuous or not, attract like-minded, like-constituted followers. But the reform leader has a particular need for devoted comrades. He’s picking a fight with the establishment, and he needs folks who’ve got his back.

Consonance in views and disposition has benefits. It displays a united front, allows for consistent messaging, and engenders an esprit de corps.

But when a group is of one opinion and convinced of the righteousness of its cause, virtues can distort into vices. Unified becomes monolithic; principled becomes doctrinaire; daring becomes rash; confident becomes unrepentant; progressive becomes unrestrained.

Accordingly, opponents can actually aid reformers. They can serve as a ballast helping to ground the reformer, serving as a moderating influence on his proclivity for excess. A reasonable opponent helps reveal the location...

The presidential edition

Jeb Bush, Arizona’s citizenship test, the State of the Union Address, and the SAT scores of teachers.

Amber's Research Minute

SOURCE: Hamilton Lankford, et al., "Who Enters Teaching? Encouraging Evidence That the Status of Teaching Is Improving," Educational Researcher, Vol. 43 No. 9 (December 2014).

 

Alyssa:             Hello this is your host Alyssa Schwenk of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Here at the Education Gadfly Show and online at edexcellence.net. Now please join me in welcoming my co-host the Anthony Fox of education reform, Robert Pondiscio.

Robert:            The last man standing?

Alyssa:             The person whom at the end of the day we would all trust to completely restart the Education Reform Movement should we all be in the Capitol when it's attacked by aliens, and everyone dies.

Robert:            You're going to have to explain the reference.

Alyssa:             As I think most of our listeners know, the State of the Union-

Robert:            Wait, as in none of them know.

Alyssa:             ... as most of them, we are talking to some of DC’s best and brightest wonks, most of them I hope were watching the State of the Union last night-

Robert:            You just called me stupid didn’t you?

Alyssa:             You're from New York you're not in the DC. Okay, so last night was the State of the Union and anytime that the President and most of the line of secession is together the Secret Service insists that somebody stay behind at an undisclosed physically secure location. So that in the event that there is a massive terrorist attack, or the Capitol gets Independence Day-ed, there is somebody to restart the government.

Robert:            Continuance of government right.

Alyssa:             Last night it was Anthony Fox the Secretary of Transportation. It's one of my favorite parlor games in the week leading up to the State of the Union, like, “Who’s he going leave behind? Does this mean anything about what policy announcements the President might make that night?” So you are that person that I would trust to restart the entire movement. How do you feel about that honor?

Robert:            I feel like I fooled another one.

Alyssa:             I think you're selling yourself short there, Robert.

Robert:            Well, thank you Alyssa.

Alyssa:             On that note let’s play Pardon the Gadfly.

Ellen:               In President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night he said nothing about K-12 education, was this a missed opportunity?

Alyssa:             Robert, what do you think?

Robert:            Were we expecting him to say anything about K-12? He’s on this community college kick; he talked about that ad nauseam.

Alyssa:             That's true, I do think though given that the ESEA hearing started this morning, people were expecting a little bit more of a mention. I personally think it was a good move on his part not to mention it. It's in front of Congress right now, Arne Duncan said his piece, it's time to let Congress work out the nuts and bolts and then proceed from there.

Robert:            Fair enough. I like Frank Bruni’s column in the New York Times today where he kind of cast come cold water in. This is confirmation bias because I'm not a big fan of the community college gambit either. But Bruni writes that, “It's awfully late in the game.” What he means by that is, it's not it's late in the Obama Administration’s game to talk about community college; it's late in the academic lives of students to be concerned about free community college.

His point, and this is something we've talked about a lot on this podcast, is that we shouldn't take our eye off the ball on K12. I've come to think of what's going on in education now as a bar bell, we're focusing on the weights at both ends, but not in the middle. Everything’s all about universal Pre-K on one end, college on the other, who’s paying attention to what connects those two things?

Alyssa:             That's true, I do think though implicitly for the community college plan to work, we do need good K12 education. The community college plan I feel rests a lot on students being prepared.

Robert:            Sure.

Alyssa:             And if community college is going to work, and I hope that it does. I think it is a good path to the middle class, I think it, at least in the community I grew up with, offered a lot of opportunities for kids who wouldn't necessarily have continued their education. But if it's going to work we do need good K12s.

Robert:            Sure, it's hard to bash community colleges, we all love them. I don’t have this data in front of me, but from the top of my head guess what the three year graduation rate is for community colleges for first time students?

Alyssa:             I'll be optimistic with fifty percent.

Robert:            Guess lower.

Alyssa:             Twenty.

Robert:            Guess lower.

Alyssa:             Oh gosh.

Robert:            That's all right, you're in the ballpark.

Alyssa:             Okay.

Robert:            I think it was like eighteen or nineteen percent of first time community college students graduating within three years. Now, guess what percentage of those students require remediation?

Alyssa:             Oh that's-

Robert:            Stick with your original guess.

Alyssa:             Fifty.

Robert:            Fifty percent, that says we've got a problem and it's not a community college problem-

Alyssa:             It's a K12.

Robert:            ... it's a K12 problem.

Alyssa:             Yeah. All right well second question, Ellen?

Ellen:               The New Yorker published a profile of possible Presidential nominee Jeb Bush, but discussed his support for “for-profit” education and the Common Core. How will these issues affect a potential campaign?

Alyssa:             First off I love that we're still saying “possible” Presidential nominee. I think you know if he was perhaps in the Capitol when it got Independence Day’ed he wouldn't be a Presidential nominee. Otherwise I do think he’s running. What about you Robert?

Robert:            I hadn’t heard? He’s running?

Alyssa:             The New Yorker thinks he is.

Robert:            I guess he is then.

Alyssa:             If the New Yorker thinks is, I guess he is. In this profile it discusses, obviously it's the New Yorker it's a very long profile-

Robert:            It's always long.

Alyssa:             Oh, so long.

Robert:            Yeah, they get paid by the word there.

Alyssa:             Well this writer made out well on this piece then. It discusses his history in Florida, his run for Governor, and particularly his involvement in education both in the charter sector, and now more recently with Common Core. It raises the possibility that both of those things might harm his Presidential campaign.

Robert:            Yeah, it's an interesting question. I guess the conventional wisdom is that if you're going to be a Republican nominee, or want to be the Republican nominee, “Thou shalt disavow Common Core.” We've seen Bobby Jindal flip flop on this-

Alyssa:             Wait, he’s running for President too?

Robert:            Have you not heard?

Alyssa:             Haven’t seen it in the New Yorker yet.

Robert:            There was an interesting ... Let’s assume that the conventional wisdom is that you have to be anti-Common Core. There was an interesting article, I don’t remember where it was, but John Kasich in Ohio came out and said, “Look all of the anti-Common Core stuff is hysteria.” Call me a foolish optimist, I'd like to think that at some point grownups are going to stand up and say, “Look, we need higher standards; the political opportunism that has surrounded the opposition to Common Core on the GOP side has just got to stop.” Now tell me why I'm wrong?

Alyssa:             Tell ... Why does it have to stop?

Robert:            No, tell me that I'm wrong that it's not going to stop, and Common Core will be fatal for a Bush candidacy?

Alyssa:             I do think particularly getting through the primaries it's going to be tough, given the action that we've seen at the state level. That being said the article seemed to think that the for-profit charter schools that he was involved with seeding-

Robert:            That's different.

Alyssa:             ... could be a bigger detriment to his campaign. I would actually say that Common Core I think is a tougher road for most of the people who are going to be voting in the primaries.

Robert:            Yeah, it's hard for me to separate this out because I talk and write about Common Core a lot and I find myself saying the same thing over, and over again, that once people understand what Common Core says, their opposition softens. Once they understand that it's not a Federal takeover that there's a difference between curriculum and standards and there was a Bush quote in the article where he talks about local control.

But it does require a bit of a leap of faith that people are going follow you through that logic chain. I'd like to think that this is not fatal to a Bush candidacy. I am a little bit more concerned honestly about the for-profit charter stuff. Look, I'm a big charter guy; some of the results from for-profit charters have been not good. There's just something that makes you uncomfortable about conflating-

Alyssa:             That's fair.

Robert:            ... the profit motive and education, it just kind of goes against the grain. There's also a quote in the article where Bush says, and I'm paraphrasing, he doesn’t really care if somebody makes a buck, as long as their kids are getting a good outcome. And that's fair, but that strikes me as more likely to be demagogued than Common Core.

Alyssa:             That's true. I do think though, at the end of the day, Bush has for over a decade now been very authentic on the issue of education. He absolutely cares about it. His dad, his brother, we're kind of the politics guys; he’s more of the policy guy. I think when starts to campaign “officially” we're going to see kind of a different Bush than we've seen from his dad and his brother. So I think it will be interesting.

Robert:            Yeah, but if you're in favor of choice and charters, and I think those are red meat issues for the GOP, he’s your guy.

Alyssa:             Yeah, well we will see. Ellen third question?

Ellen:               Robert, you just wrote an editorial about Arizona’s new Citizenship Test. Should other states follow suit?

Alyssa:             All right, bring it Pondiscio.

Robert:            Yes.

Alyssa:             That's it?

Robert:            Any other questions? Come on Alyssa, this is not a heavy lift. Have you seen the Citizenship Test?

Alyssa:             I have, I actually looked at a couple of the questions last night. They were fairly-

Robert:            Did you strain your brain? Was it hard to remember why there are fifty stars on the flag? Did you have to really dig deep to remember who your Senator is? Or who the President is? Is this a heavy lift?

Alyssa:             Well, since I live in DC I do not have a Senator, but that is an issue for another day.

Robert:            Okay.

Alyssa:             I agree that the test is something that all students-

Robert:            Ridiculously simple?

Alyssa:             ... could and should know. But I don’t believe that adding another multiple choice test to the education-

Robert:            Alyssa ...

Alyssa:             ... requirements for graduation-

Robert:            Alyssa ...

Alyssa:             ... will necessarily make kids more engaged citizens, which is ostensibly the end.

Robert:            I don’t even know how to respond to this. This is so not a heavy lift. Here’s an interesting story, before I was with Fordham I worked for the I worked for the Core Knowledge Foundation, and I met a teach at a charter school, a Core Knowledge school in North Carolina who herself was taking the Citizenship Test. She turned it into an activity with her students; I think she was a second grade teacher. Out of one hundred questions on the Citizenship Test, guess how many come up in the Core Knowledge sequence by second grade?

Alyssa:             Forty?

Robert:            Seventy-five.

Alyssa:             Okay.

Robert:            This is second grade stuff. Come on this is not a heavy lift. If kids in Arizona, or elsewhere, can't do this it's a national embarrassment. In fact, here's a bit of data for you Xavier University a few years ago reported that 97.5 percent, virtually everybody, would be citizens who take the test pass it. What's the ratio of American citizens who ... And the way this works by the way, there's a hundred questions, you get asked ten, if you get six right you pass, 97.5 percent of would be citizens do it. What percentage of Americans, native born, can do the same?

Alyssa:             Two out of three.

Robert:            Exactly right, two out of three, and if you raise the threshold to seven out of ten, still low, and then will how many pass?

Alyssa:             From Americans?

Robert:            Yes, native born.

Alyssa:             One out of two.

Robert:            Fifty percent, that's humiliating.

Alyssa:             I agr-

Robert:            You’re a cab driver who just became a citizen and knows more about our government than you do.

Alyssa:             Do I think that kids should know that? Yes. Do I think it needs to be tied to their graduation? No. Same way that I don’t think you should be asked for your driver’s license when you go to vote, or what all the county judges in your state are when you go to register. Would I like-

Robert:            I am so comfortable-

Alyssa:             ... people to know-

Robert:            ... with you being wrong.

Alyssa:             … this? Yes. All right well I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this point then.

Robert:            We're agreeing that you're wrong.

Alyssa:             We're agreeing to disagree.

Robert:            If you insist.

Alyssa:             All right, well that's all of the time that we have today for Pardon the Gadfly-

Robert:            And for Alyssa being wrong.

Alyssa:             ... up next Amber’s Research Minute. All right today on Amber’s Research Minute we have Dara Zeehandelaar filling in for Amber. Welcome to the show Dara.

Dara:               Thank you.

Alyssa:             Earlier we were talking about the designated survivor of the State of the Union so I guess my first question is: did you watch the State of the Union last night?

Dara:               I did and I also just learned about the designated survivor thing-

Alyssa:             Isn’t it the-

Dara:               ... this morning.

Alyssa:             Isn’t it the coolest part about the State of the Union?

Dara:               But who was it?

Alyssa:             It was Anthony Fox, who was the Secretary of Transportation. Which I think makes a lot of sense. In the last couple years, it's been the Energy Secretary, it's been the Agricultural Secretary, if you're going to have to restart a government from scratch the things you need are roads, food, and an energy source. I actually think it's kind of brilliant.

Robert:            Was Arne Duncan ever the designated survivor?

Alyssa:             No, and the Secretary of Education has only been the designated survivor once in 1989-

Robert:            Fascinating.

Alyssa:             ... according to Wikipedia.

Dara:               I just figured they would draw straws about who does have to go. Who can stay at home on the couch?

Alyssa:             Who’s in sweatpants-

Dara:               ... stay home.

Alyssa:             Who’s in sweatpants-

Robert:            My couch is a convenient location.

Alyssa:             Who’s in sweatpants eating some popcorn? Yeah, all right what do you have for us today?

Dara:               Today we have an article from Educational Researcher called, “Who Enters Teaching: Encouraging evidence that the status of teaching is improving.” From the all-star team of: Lankford, Loeb, McEachin, Miller and Wyckoff. It explores changes in the New York State teaching workforce since the 1990s after the State implemented a number of policies to improve the quality of its new teachers.

Briefly those policies: beginning in 1998, the State increased the general and content specific course work requirements needed for certification, and upped the number of hours of required field experience. It also eliminated Ad Hoc alternative certification pathways, like transcript review in favor of alternative pathways with formal requirements and it discontinued emergency and temporary licenses.

The authors ask, “After these changes to State policy what happened to the new teaching workforce?” Their data set combined SAT scores of individuals who completed certification and those who got hired combine their SAT scores with their personnel files. In total they looked at about two hundred and twenty thousand individuals received their certification and of those a hundred and fifty-two thousand who were hired between 1985 and 2010.

Robert:            Hm, I'm in that data set. I was certified in Newark then.

Dara:               Well then this will be particularly interesting to you. Remember that you're in 1998 was when they started implementing the new requirements. First prior to 1998/1999 the data show that the average academic abilities of new teachers was low, and consistently falling.

After 1999 SAT scores of both the certified group, and those who were hired improved substantially. With the biggest improvements for the group that was actually hired, for example between ’99 and 2010, the share of entrance drawn from the bottom third of SAT test takers decreased by seven percent. And the share of the top third of SAT scores increased by thirteen percent.

Robert:            Not bad.

Dara:               The improvements among New York City teachers were larger and occur earlier than throughout the rest of the State. For example in 1999 forty-three percent of new, New York City teachers came from the bottom third of SAT scores-

Robert:            Yeah, I may be in there.

Dara:               ... By 2010 that number dropped to twenty-four percent. This is particularly interesting because New York City is home of the New York Teaching Fellows which is a formal alternative certification program-

Alyssa:             You're in that one too.

Robert:            Yep, that was my program.

Dara:               Improvements total the new teaching workforce are also more pronounced for teachers in hard to staff subjects, compared to elementary and non-hard to staff secondary subjects. Improvements are more pronounced for schools that enroll more poor students, and for entering minority teachers compared to white and Asian teachers.

Remember improvements occurred throughout the State not just in New York City, in all subjects at both rich and poor schools, and for teachers of all ethnicities. The authors rule out that the trends are the result in changes in the labor market, and conclude that the changes to the workforce are really likely due to the State policies. Of course the jury is still out on whether teacher SAT scores are related to student achievement at all. But as a proxy for the changing qualifications of the workforce SAT scores do show a varied market improvement in the past fifteen years.

Robert:            But they haven’t tied that to student outcomes obviously yet?

Dara:               No.

Robert:            Which is what this is really all about?

Dara:               Yes.

Alyssa:             Right.

Dara:               That is correct, and a very big caveat and I think there has been a lot of work with very mixed findings. Usually showing no relationship between SAT scores and other things like undergraduate institutions selectivity with student outcomes, but they also acknowledge there are so many intervening steps between all of those things, that you can't rule it out either.

Robert:            The one thing that surprises, and I was a New York City Teaching Fellow during this timeframe, but what surprises me about this a little bit is I have to confess, and I'm not a genius, but I found the certification exams to be baby simple. Almost as easy as the Citizenship Test.

Alyssa:             Oof, burn.

Dara:               The idea is that you don’t use those scores on the certification exams. Instead you use SAT scores which are much more universal. The author’s more broad argument which I didn’t go into here as I presented the findings is that by increasing the selectivity of the teaching workforce you get better candidates.

Which is counter to the argument that raising barriers to entry, and that's what these policies did the policies raised barriers to entry, and the counter argument is that that dissuades good people from entering. They say, “I'm going to go make more money somewhere else. My opportunity cost here is way too high. I'm going to go do something else.” The author’s argue that is not the case with these policies.

Alyssa:             Very interesting. You mentioned that it had happened during the introduction of New York Teaching Fellows, but did they go into at all about the recruiting tactics, or ...

Dara:               No, this was a very high level quantitative analysis and so there have been other studies that look at the compared different alternative certification programs. They look at Teach for America; they separate that out from other alternative certification programs. They separate that out from Teaching Fellows; this is not one of those studies.

Robert:            Right, and those are fairly small groups, you're talking about this is a Statewide setting not a Citywide?

Dara:               Right.

Robert:            So those programs would be impactful-

Alyssa:             Targeted.

Robert:            ... for those areas but maybe not Statewide?

Alyssa:             Right.

Dara:               And they didn’t identify how teachers got their credential they just said whether they were certified, whether they got hired. Then the piece about the New York City gains, one of the hypotheses that that might be attributed to, is the introduction of the Teaching Fellows Program in place the Ad Hoc alternative certification, and the elimination of the emergency credentials.

Robert:            Yeah, this will be interesting to watch long-term because if I'm not mistaken, New York State has raised the bar yet again in the last year or two. I believe, from memory, the figure is like forty percent of new teachers are now being denied certification so ostensibly that bar will get higher still which makes for a good long-term data set.

Dara:               Hopefully we'll continue to attract the best rather than increasing barriers to entry of those people.

Robert:            Here, here.

Alyssa:             Very interesting. Well that's all the time we have for this week’s Education Gadfly Show, till next week ...

Robert:            I'm Robert Pondiscio.

Alyssa:             And I'm Alyssa Schwenk for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute signing off.

Male:               The Education Gadfly Show is a production of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute located in Washington DC, for more information visit us online at edexcellence.net.

 

 

 

UNSTATED
President Obama’s State of the Union address last night was a brassy, wide-ranging expression of liberalism (it also answered the prayers of listeners nationwide by lasting less than an hour). But nowhere in the speech did the president broach the topic of testing and No Child Left Behind. A political move? Mike and Mike discuss.

SAME SPEECH, DIFFERENT CAPITOL
If last night’s excitement somehow didn’t sate your appetite for policy laundry lists translated into turgid, focus-grouped rhetoric, be sure to check out New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in Albany tonight. The word is that Cuomo will use the occasion to lay out a pro-reform agenda that might include lifting the cap on New York City charter schools.

DEPARTMENT OF WOODEN SHOES
The Hechinger Report has a thoughtful look at education in the Netherlands, where an intriguing bargain has been struck between schools and the government: Children there spend a greater amount of time in class (some two-hundred days a year, or nearly a month more than the average school year in the United States), and in exchange, teachers and principals are granted far more authority over class size, curriculum, and every other conceivable detail of student life.

STUDENT-PRINCIPALING
Education Week’s Arianna Prothero offers a look at the much-feted KIPP principal-training program. The charter network’s Fisher Fellows are instructed in how to found and lead schools, with a special emphasis on the...

  • In the president’s State of the Union address last night, he doubled down on his misguided call for universal community college, even though it has zero chance of passage in the Republican Congress. That wasn’t so surprising. But it was still disappointing that he missed an opportunity to talk about ESEA—one area of education policy where there could be bipartisan consensus. A good example of governing, rather than playing politics, came this morning from Senate HELP committee chairman Lamar Alexander, who held a thoughtful, respectful, and productive hearing about the testing provisions in No Child Left Behind. Alexander expressed his commitment to a bipartisan process and his intention to earn the president’s signature on an ESEA bill. Now that’s more like it. 
  • A recent New Yorker article profiled former Florida governor and possible presidential nominee Jeb Bush, with particular focus on his education reforms in the Sunshine State. The piece quotes bipartisan sources who question Bush’s support of for-profit managers of charter schools, along with conservative voices who lament his backing of the Common Core. What it doesn’t mention clearly enough, however, is the fact that Florida saw huge gains in achievement during Jeb's time (particularly among poor and minority kids), and that tons of studies have shown that his policies have worked. To be sure, the lackluster performance and shady self-dealing of some Florida charter schools are worth examining--the Gadfly has some ideas from Ohio for fixing those problems
  • ...

This new study from the Center for American Progress challenges the ubiquitous and frequently repeated statistic that the new-teacher attrition rate is 50 percent. Pulling from three NCES-sponsored surveys—the 2007–2008 and 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Surveys and the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study—the authors instead found that 87 percent of new teachers remained in the profession for at least three years and almost 70 percent stayed for five years or more. Even teachers in high-poverty schools, a subgroup that has traditionally seen higher rates of turnover, were found to have retention rates comparable to their counterparts in low-poverty schools. The uptick in staying power for the teaching profession “may have started before the Great Recession began at the end of 2007 and continued because of it, or it may have started in response to it,” the authors note. Cause for further investigation is large local district-to-district variation, such as in North Carolina, where attrition rates can differ by as much as ten percent. Regardless of the lack of specific identifiers, this trend rectifies the reporting discrepancy between the outdated 50 percent figure and points to a positive trend for retaining highly trained, enthusiastic teachers. Moreover, as TNTP highlights, teachers who spend at least five years in the classroom tend to improve their instructional strategies and are more effective. The authors acknowledge the “narrow focus” of the study; and while we walk away with more questions worthy of investigation, we can, for the time being, revel in the promise...

The massive 2014 protests in Albany led by the nonprofit Families for Excellent schools seemed, at the time, to strike like a bolt from the blue. Thousands of parents and students abruptly converged on the state capital in objection to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to curtail charter expansion, drawing sympathetic press coverage and even gaining the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo. But according to the American Enterprise Institute’s prolific Andrew P. Kelly, the rally bore less resemblance to lightning than electricity. His new paper, examining parental engagement in education reform and touching on public demonstrations in New York, Louisiana, and California, reveals some of the ways in which unfocused energy can be harnessed and channeled into effective, disciplined movements. It’s a critical area of study because public schools, their school boards, and their districts are democratic entities responsive to a gamut of competing constituencies. Social agitators from the time of the abolitionists have all had to learn to convert their missionary zeal into a force capable of mobilizing public support, and the relatively young undertaking of education reform will be no different. Vital groups like Stand for Children and Parents United for Public Schools, often led by educated whites for the primary benefit of disadvantaged minorities, are especially vulnerable to being cast as Astroturf outsiders rather than grassroots activists. To combat this easy delegitimization, successful education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs) enlist natural leaders among communities of parents and emphasize depth of commitment over a shallow...

A standard argument of those who downplay strong results among children in urban charters is that families who are motivated enough to exercise school choice are simply different, and their kids’ success is nearly preordained. This recent paper out of the National Bureau of Economic Research tests this assumption and studies the causal effect of takeover schools on student achievement in New Orleans’s Recovery School District (RSD). Specifically, it looks not at the impact of charter school admissions lotteries on the performance of kids who apply, but rather at the impact on the kids who don’t make a choice to apply—passive participants who are simply grandfathered into the newly constituted school. The sample includes eleven middle schools in the RSD that were slated for closure (called “legacy schools”) and subject to a full charter takeover, meaning they had all grades converted to a new school in a single academic year, typically in the same building. The comparison group is a group of same-grade students enrolled in schools that are not yet closed who, in the prior grade, went to a school that was similar to the one the legacy school students attended. Schools are “similar” if their performance scores are comparable to the legacy schools’. And students are matched based on race, sex, age, poverty, and other demographics. The “pre-takeover trajectories” of both groups of students are quite similar. They find that attending an RSD takeover charter substantially increases math and ELA scores (roughly .21 and .14 standard deviation, respectively,...

Arizona last week became the first state to make passing the U.S. Citizenship Test a high school graduation requirement. Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill mandating the test after the measure passed the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate in a single day. And that’s really about all the deliberation that should be needed for other states to follow Arizona’s lead. It’s a no-brainer in more ways than one.

Here are some of the questions on the test:

  • What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution called?
  • Name two rights in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Why do some states have more representatives than others?
  • Who is the governor of your state now?
  • How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
  • Who is the President of the United States?

These are among 100 basic questions on American government and history published by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization service. It’s not particularly challenging stuff. Those seeking citizenship are asked up to ten of the questions; six correct is a passing score. Arizona students will need to get sixty of the hundred questions correct in order to graduate—the same ratio as immigrants to our country seeking citizenship.

It’s curious to note that the federal government—by law and tradition, and quite correctly—makes no curricular demands on its schools or knowledge demands on its native-born...

Editor's note: This editorial originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Austin American-Statesman.

At noon on Tuesday, January 13, the Texas Legislature convened its eighty-fourth legislative session. Like many previous legislative sessions, many hours of discussions will be devoted to improving Texas education. Like many previous legislative sessions, legislators will no doubt enact new state education policies aimed at improving Texas schools.

Despite massive new education policies from previous legislative sessions, and after decades of effort, tons of money, and volumes of educational punditry and political debate, we are left with relatively little to show for considerable effort. As we go forward with future education policies, it seems wise to pause and ask an important question. Why has so much previous education policy delivered such meager improvement?

Indisputably, that question has multiple answers. But one of the most critical answers is too often overlooked: Previous state education policy has been minimally integrated with education practice. Put another way, there has been, and there still is, a cavernous gap between education policy and education practice. In order for education policy to be an effective catalyst for improved school outcomes, it must influence education practice—and education practice is under the direct control of education practitioners. These practitioners have meager influence on education policy.

Previous state and federal education policy has ignored a cardinal truth: When schools improve, that improvement will be primarily due to the actions of people in the...

  1. This could get messy. Field Local Schools has voted to non-renew the charter school they have sponsored for the last five years. And kick them out of their building for good measure. Depending on how you look at it, the reason is that the predicted financial help to the district failed to materialize (shades of Upper Arlington, Gahanna, and others) or that Falcon Academy for the Arts simply became too successful a competitor. A quick look at the stats says that Falcon is at least as good overall as the district schools and, as the article points out, better in some cases. The kids, teachers, and board prez sure seem to think so. Story developing, as they say. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  2. Sticking with the Beacon Journal for a moment, the editorial staff opined today on the state superintendent’s report on standardized testing in Ohio. I don’t like to opine myself upon other folks’ opining, but I will just say “be careful what you opine for”. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. While it is not unprecedented for a charter school in Ohio to have all union teachers (see Falcon Academy, above), it is pretty groundbreaking for a charter school that started out non-union to unionize. But efforts have been underway in Cleveland to do just that. Well, I say “efforts”, but what started out as fairly straightforward organizing devolved into legal wrangling. But the legal wrangling appears to be on hold for now as negotiations between union and
  4. ...

Pages