Additional Topics

  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...

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.

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.

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).

  • The Republicans are now in charge on Capitol Hill, and they’ve set their sights on No Child Left Behind. Politico reports that the chairmen of the education committees—Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Representative John Kline of Minnesota—have made it clear that an overhaul is in order. And what that likely means is a significantly reduced federal role in education. Gadfly is sanguine about that—but keep the annual testing, please.
  • It’s been a busy month in the world of Ohio charter schools. The end of 2014 brought about two Fordham-sponsored reports urging reform in the beleaguered sector: Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study Charter School Performance in Ohio and Bellwether Education Partners’ The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio's Charter School Sector. Both made big splashes in myriad Ohio media outlets, such as the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator, and Akron Beacon Journal. They also attracted the attention of charter school experts and Ohio’s Governor Kasich. Couple that with an encouraging slowdown in the number of new charter schools in the state (authorizers are becoming choosier), and 2015 looks bright for schools of choice in the Buckeye State.
  • Over the last ten years, the Chinese government, via an entity called Hanban, has set up 1,100 state-run Confucius Institutes to teach Chinese language and culture in schools worldwide. Last month, Hanban Director-General Xu Lin admitted to the
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New York City has a serious attendance problem. This new report from the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School reveals that 240,000 students in the nation’s largest school district—more than one in five—were chronically absent during the 2012–2013 school year. Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent or more of class time, adds up to almost a month of school per student and is (unsurprisingly) correlated with poor performance on end-of-year tests. Indeed, the authors of the report argue that chronic absenteeism better predicts a student’s academic achievement and school’s test scores than more traditional metrics, such as eligibility for free or reduced price lunch. And schools with high absent rates are more likely to face other poverty-related problems, including high rates of teacher and student turnover, high numbers of unemployed males, low adult education levels, and higher numbers of homeless students. The lattermost factor is particularly startling. Nearly 80,000 New York City school students were homeless at some point during the 2012–2013 school year. Often forced to move from shelter to shelter, they are most at risk for chronic absenteeism. The city is making efforts to fix these problems—and, if successful, these steps that could be applied to other urban areas facing similar issues. For example, the Department of Education is teaming up with the Department of Homeless Services to provide transportation and childcare and build affordable housing. The city also plans to transform nearly one hundred of the lowest-attended schools into full-service community schools,...

A new National Bureau of Economic Research study examines how gender composition in schools and classrooms impacts student performance. Analysts study middle school classrooms in Seoul, South Korea, where the students are randomly assigned to single sex schools, co-ed schools with single sex classes, and co-ed schools with mixed gender classes. In Seoul, under the “Equalization Policy,” the prior achievement of students is used to “balance” the performance in the classroom. In other words, they dole out kids of varying performance levels across classes—so essentially the average quality of peers is held constant. Students are not allowed to submit schooling preferences, which means that compliance to random assignment is high. Other variables, like curriculum and school funding, are more or less held constant because Korea adheres to a national curriculum and schools are centrally financed. The sample comprises 76 percent of middle schools in Seoul; no differences were found in student background across school types. There are two key findings. First, classroom or school gender composition does not impact outcomes for females. Second, the impact of single sex education on male achievement varies by school gender composition, with single sex schools increasing achievement and single  sex classes within mixed gender schools decreasing achievement. Yet interestingly, they find that the impact of single sex schools on male achievement is driven by increases in student effort and study time—not gender. Males report spending more time on homework and tutoring. Analysts hypothesize that single sex schools are able to specialize teaching techniques when...

Pop quiz: If you’re a Chicago ninth grader, what are the chances you’ll have earned a four-year college degree ten years from now? This research brief from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), claims it’s just 14 percent. Sounds grim until you do a little math: At present, the national high school graduation rate is 81 percent; four-year college enrollment is 38 percent, while the six-year graduation rate among those enrollees is 59 percent. Multiply those figures together and you get an 18 percent national “degree attainment index” (a figure that sounds curiously low given that one-third of Americans ages 25 to 29 have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Regardless of how you keep score, Chicago has improved markedly since CCSR first published its index in 2006. High school graduation rates have jumped from 53 percent to 73 percent, and a higher percentage of grads are enrolling in four-year colleges (college completion rates have not changed significantly). Meanwhile there has been a slight increase in the grade point average and ACT scores of CPS students, even though more than 5,000 additional students took the exam compared to eight years ago—implying that the improved high school graduation rate cannot be attributed to reduced rigor or a lower bar. Still, with 75 percent of CPS high school students reporting they want to obtain a four-year degree, while only one in six are projected to reach that goal, there’s a yawning...

In a must-read piece in Education Week, James R. Delisle takes aim at one of the biggest trends in education: differentiated instruction. The method is meant to reach students learning at drastically different levels, but Delisle charges that it complicates the work of teachers by forcing them to prepare separate materials and is almost impossible to put into practice. Fordham President Emeritus Chester Finn once asked if differentiated instruction was a hollow promise. Delisle and the Gadfly give a resounding yes.

You know it’s January when Rick Hess reveals his annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Rankings, a rock-’em, sock-’em power poll of the biggest, baddest wonks in academia. Check out the post to discover the biggest risers and hottest newcomers, along with the perennial champions making up the top ten. (And note the presence of peeps who were EEPS.) Of course, any list of influential education voices that doesn’t include a certain winged, anthropomorphized insect is notably incomplete.

In a dramatic victory for both restive pupils and the Apple Store, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted the citywide prohibition on cell phones in public schools. The oft-defied ban was increasingly seen as unenforceable, with critics arguing that it prevented parents from keeping in touch with their kids and some teachers fretting that mobile devices were already being used...