Additional Topics

SWING AND A MISS
Bob Herbert's op-ed in Politico Magazine lambasts the pro-charter efforts of Bill Gates and other wealthy donors. Herbert seems to think that the movement is a failure because charter schools have not already succeeded in eliminating the achievement gap and reducing racial inequities. He might be expecting more from charters than even Gates and his compatriots. 

CONTRACT REVOKED
Pennsylvania's School Reform Commission just canceled the contracts of 15,000 Philadelphia teachers, forcing teachers to pay their own health premiums and face other cuts to their benefits. District leaders say there was "nothing else to cut" following years of layoffs and school closures, but teachers are calling it an ambush.

BETTER TOGETHER
D.C. public schools are seeing positive results from including technology in the classroom in blended learning models. The online learning software allows students to work at their own pace and frees up instructional time for teachers. Self-promotion alert: Fordham's own Michael Brickman and John Elkins recently reviewed a study from the indispensible CEE-Trust examining efforts to establish blended learning networks in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

APPETITE FOR DEBATE
The battle over school lunches extends as far back as the 1940s and has been increasingly politicized in recent years, especially with the adoption of Michelle Obama's school nutrition program. This week, the New York Times Magazine's Nick Confessore dives so deep into the issue, your ears will start to hurt....

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Note: Gadfly Bites is taking a break for the rest of the week. Back on Monday with a round up.

  1. Patrick O’Donnell has dug into Cleveland schools’ value add scores and teased out what the district believes are substantive gains in this area for students tested over the last two years. There’s some speculation that charter school students in the district’s portfolio helped bring up the grade, but even more speculation that important aspects of the Cleveland plan are starting to bear fruit: observable, data-based fruit. But, says CEO Eric Gordon, "we can't afford simply to meet (expected progress). We have to exceed the state's expectations for my kids to step up… But you have to start somewhere…2014-15 will be about exceeding." Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The board of education in Strongsville is concerned about unpaid fees from its families, for things such as art supplies and participation in sports, to the tune of about $170,000. They voted unanimously to withhold report cards and online access to grades—among other steps—for those delinquent families. I am certain that their students rose up in a unanimous cheer when this was announced. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. The court-ordered mediation between district and teachers union continues in Reynoldsburg today, in conjunction with the lawsuit seeking to close the district’s schools for the duration of the strike. These are based on the safety concerns of the parent who brought the suit, but most observers are quietly hopeful that some contract talks
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Welcome to the new-and-improved Late Bell, Fordham's uncanny afternoon newsletter! We're starting off our bold new era with a special Fordham-in-the-news edition.

WHEN YOU’RE AN EDUCATION-POLICY WONK AND A PUBLIC SCHOOL DAD
“Education leaders are often put off by parents who know a lot about schools and won’t shut up. Petrilli is definitely in that category,” notes Jay Mathews of the Washington Post on a recent column in which this education-policy dad asks where’s the beef on curriculum.

THE EDUCATION-REFORM PLAYOFFS
At the National Review Online, Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. asks whether pushing only a test-based accountability system is the best strategy. But that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on reform: “Major-league education change is still needed, maybe now more than ever, and it’s no time for either complacency or despair.”

YOU SAY SKILLS, WE SAY KNOWLEDGE
Emily Richmond chronicles why Common Core might be more difficult to implement in the higher grades since the standards are based on the idea that kids need knowledge. Case in point? Richmond highlights Robert Pondiscio’s take on close reading.

TO WAIVER OR NOT TO WAIVER?
‘“We’re punishing schools and educators, and arguably kids, because state policy makers don’t want to do what” the Education Department demands. “Talk about friendly fire," said...

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  1. Less than a month until it’s all over and the gubernatorial race in Ohio is trending rather lopsided. Problem is, certain issues that typically arise during a contested race just haven’t gotten a lot of play this time around. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is briefly quoted in this piece, lamenting about the lack of specifics on K-12 education from either side. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Oddly enough, state board of education races seem to be getting more play in the media than the gubernatorial race…in certain places. We’ve clipped a few stories about individual district races before, but here’s a nice overview on all of the contested seats on the board. You would have thought that Common Core would have been a bigger issue, but it seems that charter schools are more relevant to most candidates…especially if they are Democrats. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Big changes are being promised for the education provided to students with special needs in Columbus City Schools, following a pretty earth-shaking admission that the district had routinely followed a “no-fail” policy for students on IEPs, moving young people along whether they passed or not. These changes even include efforts to allow former students to retake classes to pass on their own merit. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. A press conference was held in Chillicothe on Friday with both the founder and the current owner of a local private school, which closed its doors earlier that day. As you might expect, lack of money was the issue
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  1. EdWeek took notice of the KnowYourCharter website rollout in Ohio this week...and of the reaction it generated from Fordham and others. (EdWeek)
     
  2. Youngstown City Schools’ Academic Distress Commission adopted an updated recovery plan this week. Among the goals, to be achieved by 2017, are a PI score of at least 85 for two consecutive years, a value-added score of a “C” for two years, meeting proficient standards on at least 14 of 22 indicators, and achieving an 80 percent four-year graduation rate. How to achieve these goals? Step one – curb the micromanagement of the district’s board of education. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. A follow up on yesterday’s story about the abrupt closing of a private school and daycare in Chillicothe. Parents are hurt, confused, and scrambling. For the most part it sounds as if other private schools, nearby districts, and childcare providers are working well with parents to help them find new schools. Very good journalism here. (Chillicothe Gazette)
     
  4. It has been said that no one knows the state board of education exists. After reading the survey answers of the three candidates up for election in District 5, I can believe that ignorance is bliss. To repeat: one of these people will be on the state board of ed come January. (Canton Repository)
     
  5. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson talks about his visit to Ginn Academy, an all-boys prep school in Cleveland Metropolitan School District with awe and respect for what the school
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“STOP STEALING KIDS’ FUTURES”
In New York City, pro-charter school parents and kids will march at the Families for Excellent Schools rally. “We need to stop stealing the possible,” says Eva Moskowitz in a New York Post op-ed.

WHEN YOU TRIP AND FALL...
“I'm almost certain it didn't mean to, but OCR may have stumbled into the most significant federal charter policy action since the birth of the charter movement two decades ago,” says Michael Petrilli to Politico Pro’s Morning Education.

WHAT WOULD SMARICK SAY?
The Department of Education announced $20 million “for finding, training, and keeping  good turnaround principals”—a worthy venture to beat the lacking-leaders conundrum. But is SIG even worth saving?

DISCIPLINING ON DISCIPLINE
Oregon's Department of Education is levying a fine against Portland Public Schools for suspending a disproportionate number of African American special-education students. A tricky subject, but on school discipline, Mike Petrilli doesn’t want school to repeat old mistakes

COMMON CORE AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS
“For many schools, [Common Core is] not going to drive any monumental shift in what they’re doing. There are lots of private schools that have rigorous college prep curricula to which Common Core is compatible,” says Kathleen Porter-Magee....

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  1. The Plain Dealer, with typical deliberation and thoroughness, took a couple of days to check out the new KnowYourCharters website before publishing their take. They suspect that politics may have “crept in” to the project. But seriously, nice Cleveland-centric take on the story with lots of quotes from charter school foes and supporters, including our own Chad and Aaron. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Here’s an addition to yesterday’s stories about district opposition to state testing requirements, some of which are new this year. This time: the above-average Columbus suburb of Westerville. Complete with calculations of testing time required. (ThisWeek News/Westerville News & Public Opinion)
     
  3. The USDOE has awarded a grant of $795,000 to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to support its efforts to find, train, and keep good turnaround principals. Congratulations! (EdWeek)
     
  4. More on the ongoing efforts of a church in Monroe (more than three years so far) to buy a closed high school building from the local district. The latest is a public hearing. It went about how you thought it would. The alternative now being put together is for more taxpayer money to go into the property and for the district to take a big financial hit. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  5. A private school in Chillicothe which will be closing for good tomorrow (after nearly two decades in the community) with very little notice. While it is certain to be to be
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Marc Mannella

As the founder and Executive Director of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, I was surprised to read Dr. Laurence Steinberg’s Flypaper post on how KIPP charter schools approach character development. In response to his portrayal of our character work, I want to offer a KIPP educator’s perspective.

The headline of Dr. Steinberg’s piece asks, “Is character education the answer?” Neither I nor anyone at KIPP believes that teaching character in and of itself is the answer to the challenges faced by our students—85 percent of whom grow up in poverty. But just because character isn’t the answer, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of an answer. We know from several studies that certain character strengths play an important role in increasing students’ academic success. And a growing body of research, like that by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University, indicates that elements related to KIPP character strengths like social intelligence and optimism are ultimately teachable.

When approached thoughtfully and deliberately, teaching character strengths can help students develop the resiliency to overcome life’s obstacles. We’re already seeing that KIPP students graduate college at more than four times the rate of students from the country’s lowest-income families; by investing in character in our schools, we are aiming to raise that rate even higher.

While Dr. Steinberg is complimentary of much of KIPP’s work, his description of our approach to teaching character as a settled protocol is not entirely accurate. It is in fact a highly...

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On the whole, the new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is another example of executive overreach and federal interference run amok. Really, the department is going to sue local school districts if their lighting is poor? Does anyone think this is a good idea? Secretary Duncan, this is "tight-loose"?

But there is a silver lining: This could be an incredibly helpful tool for charter schools. We know from a recent University of Arkansas study (and several before it) that charter schools are woefully underfunded. This is particularly true in states where most charters serve poor and minority children. They also have meager access to high quality facilities. (I hear some are even poorly lit!)

I'd love to see charter associations throughout the country file complaints with OCR, asking it to investigate states that don't do enough to provide equitable funding to charter schools serving high proportions of poor and minority children. Advocates in New York City might file a complaint against Mayor Bill de Blasio for refusing to provide equitable facilities. And certainly charter advocates that have already filed lawsuits alleging discrimination against charter schools (in Washington, D.C. and New York state) should use the tactic, too.

It almost certainly didn't mean to, but OCR may have stumbled into the most significant federal charter policy action since the birth of the charter movement two decades ago. So tenth-amendment hawks: Lighten up!...

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This study does exactly what its title promises. Specifically, analysts study two instructional practices in mathematics: (1) engaging students in discourse with the teacher and their peers to make sense of problems and explain answers and (2) using appropriate mathematical vocabulary. Importantly, these practices also reflect the Mathematical Practices of the Common Core math standards, specifically those that require students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others and those that require students to attend to precision, including the use of appropriate mathematical vocabulary. The study occurs as part of a larger evaluation of Project M2, an advanced math curriculum (i.e., it includes content that typically appears at higher grade levels or content studied in depth with challenging task and problems) covering geometry and measurement in grades K–2. The final sample includes thirty-four K–2 teachers and their 560 students who participated in a field test from 2008–11. Teachers were randomly assigned to the intervention and control groups. The former attended roughly ten days of professional development, after which they were observed weekly and rated on fidelity of implementation to the content and the two instructional strategies of interest. Students were administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) as a pretest and control measure. Bottom line: Teachers’ implementation scores for verbal communication and encouraging use of math language—the two strategies—significantly predicted math achievement as gauged by the students’ percentage gain scores on an outcome measure known as the Open Response assessment. For example, if a kindergarten student with...

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