Additional Topics

Tomorrow morning, some of you are going to feel bad about yourselves for tonight’s debauch. Not much I can do for headaches and queasy stomachs, but I can help you insulate your self-esteem: Read these five things before the festivities. You’ll head into the evening knowing you smartened yourself up. And tomorrow, when someone looks at your haggard visage and says, “Last year went out with a bang, huh?” you can say, “Yes, indeed. I did some high-quality edu-reading.”

This year, readers beat a trail to our blogs for Common Core content; six out of ten of Fordham’s top ten blog posts in 2013 were from Common Core Watch, moderated by Kathleen Porter-Magee. These included posts on real lessons we can learn from Finland, calling out Pearson’s conflicts of interest in New York, four fundamental misunderstandings associated with the anti-testing movement, the case for why conservatives should support the Common Core, the false promise of leveled literacy programs, and why criticisms of the Common Core mathematics standards don’t add up.

Mike Petrilli’s point-by-point rebuttal of an anti–Common Core Wall Street Journal op-ed also made the cut, as did Andy Smarick’s controversial interview with former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard and a roundtable reaction to the Tony Bennett flap. But the number-one spot went to none of these contentious education-policy topics; instead, the Fordham Institute’s most read blog entry was a list of Mike Petrilli’s top-ten television shows for young children. Go figure.

The following, for your enjoyment, are our ten most read blog posts of 2013. Happy holidays to all!

...
1. The 10 Best Television Shows for Young Children
Michael J. Petrilli
March 11, 2013
 @MichaelPetrilli

Happy holidays from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute!

For more Gadfly shenanigans…

To learn more about what the Gadfly really says, check out the most recent issue of the Education Gadfly Weekly. And have a happy New Year!

The Gadfly (What Does Gadfly Say?)

What Does Gadfly Say?

Mike makes a funding pitch to Eli Broad.

From NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s pledge to provide universal preschool to bipartisan legislation proposing federally funded preschool grants, we have witnessed in 2013 new momentum toward expanding access to early-childhood programs. Yet this evaluation of Tennessee’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program (TN-VPK)—the second in a series conducted by Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute and the Tennessee Department of Education—may cause some second thoughts. TN-VPK is a full-day, one-year, voluntary preschool program aimed at improving the school readiness of the state’s most disadvantaged four-year-olds. The initial evaluation found that the program succeeds in that mission: by the end of the preschool year, participating students made significant cognitive achievement gains when compared to eligible students who applied to TN-VPK but were not accepted (due to space limitations). The new study, however, which sought to evaluate the program’s long-term effects in both cognitive and non-cognitive domains, found that achievement gains made in preschool essentially disappeared when measured at the end of Kindergarten and again at the end of first grade. Though surely disappointing, these findings accord with many earlier studies of preschool effects (most conspicuously a raft of HeadStart evaluations), most of which indicate that cognitive gains made by disadvantaged preschool students are not sustained once in school. The news is not all glum, however: the study found some worthwhile non-cognitive benefits, such as improved attendance rates and lower Kindergarten retention rates, which compelling research indicates also contribute to longer-term education success. Nor has the final chapter been written on preschool....

Earlier this week, the New York Times featured an editorial on gifted education, noting that even our best students were in the middle of the pack in the recent PISA results. (Mike Petrilli pointed this out two weeks earlier.) The Times went on to discuss how our younger students generally fare better on global tests than our older students, indicative of our failure to nurture high flyers as they progress in education, and made four recommendations for improving gifted education: increasing government funding, expanding accelerated learning (including the possibility of online and video learning in rural areas), early college admission, and psychological coaching (citing research that suggests gifted kids should receive mentorship in order to learn how to handle stress, setbacks, and criticism). Stay tuned for additional lessons on how our international peers educate their high-ability youngsters.

Large school districts in California worry that they will lose out on state funding because of a new rule about verifying students’ poverty status. Part of California’s revamped school-funding system significantly weighted by income, this particular rule requires parents to turn in documentation on their own income status that the district then compiles. The problem is, parents seem reluctant to divulge such personal information or are confused about the paperwork.

The Louisiana legislative auditor this week said the state’s voucher program has too few quality controls. Namely, auditor Daryl Purpera said the legislature should ensure...

Anyone with even a passing interest in science fiction, or in the latest advances out of Silicon Valley, surely gets a kick thinking about Google’s self-driving cars, now under development and ready for road testing. Imagine: you could spend even more of your day staring at a screen or writing with your thumbs if you didn’t have to pay attention to traffic during your commute to work!

But amid all the buzz and brouhaha, an important point has gone unmade: while auto-piloted autos will surely make life more convenient for many adults, they will be nothing short of revolutionary for adolescents (and their parents). They will change the teen (and tween) years as we know them.

Why is that? Here’s a basic fact: most adolescents are ready for independent mobility well before they are qualified to operate a car. Those lucky to live in a city already know this. Many parents let their twelve-year-olds ride a train or city bus or a bike to school or a friend’s house; some even let their ten-year-olds do so. But of course these kids can’t drive the family car. But soon they will.

Well, not “drive.” But sit in the back as a robot takes them to school, or soccer practice, or karate class. Think about what this means for the parents. No more schlepping tweens around town, no more spending years with “chauffeur” as your primary job description.

Of course, this raises many questions, all of which deserve answers. How old must children be...

Today, NAEP TUDA results are released.

Actually, I should say the results are being packaged.

I’m disappointed in the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), entities that typically—and admirably—go about their work in a just-the-facts-ma’am fashion.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case here.

There’s an uncomfortable cheerleading quality to the materials being released. They have the effect of whitewashing the real story here—that today is a day to be sad for millions of disadvantaged kids. It is not a day for celebration.

In short, NAGB and NCES have gone out of their way to emphasize the gains that urban districts have made. They have titled two glossy productions, “Progress Over A Decade.” They show how urban district averages are getting closer to those of the nation as a whole. The release package even includes a cheerful statement and press release from the national organization whose job is to advocate for big urban districts.

Not a single voice dissenting from this roseate narrative is included.  

But the data-rich spreadsheets (downloadable from the website) tell the other side of the story.

Here are 10 important things revealed by the numbers themselves.

1.   In fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math, about one out of every four students reaches proficiency in the average large city. The brightest spot is fourth-grade math, where one in three are proficient. Specific examples:...

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansancient Asian culturesancient Greece; the Maya, Inca, and AztecNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery; the American founders;  movie adaptations of classic children’s books; and American folk heroes. Thanks to research interns Melissa Reynolds and Singer Crawford for their help in compiling these lists.

When people say that it’s not “developmentally appropriate” to teach young children about “academic” subjects like history, I like to point to ancient Egypt. Is there any topic, besides dinosaurs, that can better capture the imagination of a five-year-old than a civilization with pyramids, child kings, and a secret code? Not to mention the great adventure stories one can tell about discovering King Tut’s tomb and other treasures? Maybe I’m biased—I was eight when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, and turned me into a wanna-be archeologist—but ancient Egypt is a whole lot of fun. These videos provide a solid introduction. Enjoy!

The best streaming videos on ancient Egypt

1. Cyberchase: The Eye of Rom

Cyberchase: Zeus on the LooseCyberchase follows three Earth children as they use their math and problem-solving skills to

...

I can’t tell you how much I like the annual charter school “market-share” report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. It’s my favorite annual publication. They document how chartering has grown over the last year in major cities and show fascinating facts like which cities have the largest charter market shares, which cities’ market shares are growing fastest, and more. So much here to explore, but the biggest eye-popper is that we now have two cities in which charters are the majority school sector—NOLA and Detroit. Andy Eduwonk hosted a conference on charters in Charlottesville, VA, in 2003, and several pre-read papers contemplated a day far into the future when a city might have 10 percent of their kids attending charters. Today, there are 135 such cities. And in 32 cities, 20 percent of public school kids are in charters. The Urban School System of the Future is coming.

Bain & Company has an interesting paper out on districts’ pitiful performance in preparing principals. Big headline: A majority of schools fail to systematically develop their high-quality teachers into high-potential leaders (some districts and a number of CMOs are much better, but they are the outliers). Common roadblocks include a lack of encouragement for teachers to pursue these roles and infrequent feedback and coaching. The report frequently notes how other fields and sectors thoughtfully build succession plans—so why haven’t we done it in K–12? Something to ponder.

As in the U.S.,...

Pages