Additional Topics

John Kraman

In a recent EdNext column, Checker Finn proposed what he expected to be a controversial solution to the problem of low levels of college readiness among our high school graduates: namely, “different ways of completing—and being credentialed for completing—one’s primary and secondary education.”

In case Checker is holding his breath, I would like to raise a (quiet) howl of protest—just not for the reason Checker expected. The reality is that differentiated credentials are already here; they are common, diverse and wide-spread. New York State did retire the “Local Diploma” option a few years back for non-special-education students, requiring all students to earn at least a Regents diploma. I say “at least” because there are many different kinds of Regent diplomas (see here for detailed look at the array of designations and endorsements in NYS).

New York is not alone. A decade ago, Achieve reported that twenty states had multi-tiered diplomas, with designations such as “honors,” “advanced academic” and “advanced technical.” To earn a higher diploma, states may require students to earn additional course credits or complete more advanced courses, especially in mathematics, science, foreign languages and/or technical programs. Others may require students to pass more state assessments, pass state assessments at a...

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...

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
  4. ...

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...

John A. Dues

 

John A. Dues is the Chief Learning Officer for United Schools Network in Columbus.
 

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."

                                                                                                                       -Nelson Mandela

As a society, we are in need of some serious soul searching. There is an urgent need to support and create as many outstanding schools as possible as a part of a larger plan for improving life outcomes in Columbus’s most challenged neighborhoods. In Central Ohio, outcomes for kids that grow up just a few miles from each other can vary immensely. Drive east on Main Street from Miller Avenue in the Near East Side to Capital University in Bexley and in the span of two miles you will get a snapshot of the different worlds that exist within our city. Take that same drive on Central Avenue from Dana Avenue in Franklinton to Grandview and you will have a similar experience. 

Challenges facing our students

Over the last year, there have been a series of articles in the Columbus Dispatch that provide a lens into some of these...

  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
  4. ...
  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
  5. ...

“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...

  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
  5. ...
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...

Pages