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Hi, my name is Andy. It’s been a while, so please allow me to introduce myself. I’ve got a feeling that with the proliferation of bloggers and tweeters since my departure, a quick recap is in order.

AndySmarick
He's back...

When we first met, I was a relatively recently married young guy with no kids, living a quiet, happy life near Annapolis, Maryland. I used to do a little education policy stuff here and there. Then I took a break, and did a bit of thinking and research for a couple organizations, including here at TBFI. Spent lots of time at coffee shops with a laptop and headphones.

I also had this small side project that took a little time and is finally about to bear some fruit.

Then I went away for a couple years. Now I’m back on the scene, crispy and clean.

So, if you don’t mind, allow me to reintroduce myself.

I’m now a thirty-six-year-old father of three, including a two-year old and four-month-old twins. I have a minivan. I wash a lot of bottles. I am told by a little voice at my knee every time a truck drives by. Or the mailman. I’m also excellent at reading books...

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TheNextGadfly

After Board’s Eye View bid adieu last week, rumors have been swirling about who might be buzzing around Fordham’s blogs next. Well, the wait is almost over: On Monday, Gadfly’s latest blogger will debut (again?). A few hints about the mystery man's identity:

  • He’s a self-described sucker for charter schools, scatter plots, Google docs, and good Race to the Top analysis
  • No one does the education news roundup better
  • Who introduced the “nuclear option” to federal-education policy?

Give up? Come back Monday to find out.

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The Fall Classic

Mike and Dara analyze the NAACP’s definition of discrimination and grapple with the unpleasant reality that Ohio’s online schools mostly suck. Amber looks at what it takes to exit high school these days.

Amber's Research Minute

Center on Education Policy, State High School Exit Exams: A Policy in Transition (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, September 2012)

 

 

Many of today’s parents yearn to live in or near the lively, culturally vibrant heart of the city—in diverse, walkable neighborhoods full of music and theater, accessible to museums and stores, awash in ethnic eateries, and radiating a true sense of community. This is a major shift from recent generations that saw middle class families trading urban centers for suburbs with lawns, malls, parks, and good schools.

But good schools still matter. And standing in the way of many parents’ urban aspirations is the question: Will the public schools in the city provide a strong education for my kids?

To be sure, lots of parents favor sending their sons and daughters to diverse schools with children from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. But can such schools successfully meet the educational needs of all those different kids? How do middle class children fare in these environments? Is there enough challenge and stimulation in schools that also struggle to help poor and immigrant children reach basic standards? Is there too much focus on test scores? And why is it so hard to find diverse public schools with a progressive, child-centered approach to education?

These quandaries and more are addressed in this groundbreaking book by Michael J. Petrilli, one of America’s most trusted education experts and a father who himself is struggling with the Diverse Schools Dilemma.

The book is now available for purchase from Amazon, in print or as an...

The laugh factory

Mike and Rick wonder if there’s still room for ed reformers in the Democratic Party after Chicago. Amber analyzes why American students continue to struggle with the SAT. And Rick makes a few jokes at Karen Lewis’s expense.

Amber's Research Minute

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 - The College Board Download PDF

Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project routinely presents—and laments—stark numbers on segregation (both racial and socioeconomic) in U.S. classrooms; this latest report is no different. It shows that racial segregation is on the rise, even in the face of the shifting demographics of America’s schools (white students’ “market share” of public school enrollment dropped 25 percent over the past thirty years): Fifteen percent of black students and 14 percent of Latino students attend schools that are less than 1 percent white (and 74 and 80 percent, respectively, attend majority non-white schools). Further, while the typical white student attends a school that is about one-third low income; the typical black student’s school is about two-thirds low income. But what is the role of schools and school systems in arresting or reversing such trends, which have so much to do with housing policy, income, neighborhood demographics, ethnic preferences, and parental choice? Orfield has his own answers, of course: paternalistic policy recommendations that include expanding magnet schools, reversing Supreme Court decisions, and constructing civil-rights policies for charter schools. But forcibly creating diverse schools is as logistically taxing as it is politically unpalatable. Instead of top-down mandates, Orfield and co. might better consider a “controlled choice” approach to diverse schools—treating them as one component of a larger school-choice movement that allows parents to choose a high-performing charter or district-run STEM school, just as much as a diverse classroom.

SOURCE: ...

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Now what?

Checker and Mike autopsy the Chicago teachers’ strike and wonder why students at top schools have the cheating bug. Amber looks at why kids jst cn’t seam to rite.

Amber's Research Minute

National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011 (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, 2012).

With so much attention focused on teachers (from hiring to evaluation to pay to firing), not enough has been paid to public education’s other vital human resource: school principals. And that’s a problem. “Unfortunately, when it comes to cultivating school leaders, current state-level practices are, at best, haphazard,” write authors Christine Campbell and Betheny Gross in this Center for Reinventing Public Education brief. Their recommendations are sound and straightforward: States should track the right data (anticipate when principals will retire, which ones need more support, and which training programs produce the best results) and strategically fill the leader pipeline (giving the right work to the right people in the right schools). Putting flesh on those policy bones, the brief provides specific examples of where individual states should target efforts. Iowa, for example, should employ principal-recruitment strategies because of the number of leaders nearing retirement age, while Indiana—with a younger principal population—should emphasize professional development. Getting teacher policy right is key. But so is principal policy. This brief offers a smart way forward.

SOURCE: Christine Campbell and Betheny Gross, Principal Concerns: Leadership Data and Strategies for States (Seattle, Washington: Center on Reinventing Public Education, September 2012)....

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At 31 percent, the United States currently ranks second among OECD nations—behind Norway—for the percentage of its workforce with a four-year college education. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we rank sixteenth for the percentage of our workforce with a sub-baccalaureate education (think: postsecondary and industry-based certificates, associate’s degrees). Yet a swath of jobs in America calls for just that sort of preparation, which often begins in high school. Dubbed “middle jobs” in this report by the Center on Education and the Workforce, these employment opportunities pay at least $35,000 a year and are divided among white- and blue-collar work. Yet they are largely ignored in our era of “college for all.” In two parts, this report delineates five major categories of career and technical education (CTE), then lists specific occupations that require this type of education. It’s full of facts and figures and an excellent resource for those looking to expand rigorous CTE in the U.S. Most importantly, it presents this imperative: Collect data on students who emerge from these programs. By tracking their job placements and wage earnings, we can begin to rate CTE programs, shutter those that are ineffective, and scale up those that are successful. If CTE is ever to gain traction in the U.S.—and shed the stigma of being low-level voc-tech education for kids who can’t quite make it academically—this will be a necessary first step.

SOURCE: Anthony P. Carnevale,...

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Thanks in part to the requirements of the Federal Race to the Top program, since 2010 states and districts across the country have adopted teacher evaluation systems that use student achievement as part of the assessment of individual teachers’ performance. Given the amount of energy and political capital the education-reform community has put into developing, negotiating, and implementing these plans, you would think it’s a sure fire way to boost student achievement. Unfortunately, the top-down nature of these changes may very well be undercutting any chance they have to make a real difference for kids.

Top-down systems that bypass or undermine school leaders rarely produce excellence in the classroom.

The problem is not about the details of these evaluation systems—although clearly some are better than others—but rather who should be in the driver’s seat in making the decisions about how to hire, fire, and evaluate teachers. And the reality is that teacher-evaluation reforms are unlikely to succeed for reasons education reformers should know well: Top-down systems that bypass or undermine school leaders rarely produce excellence in the classroom.

It wasn’t that long ago that education reform was driven forward by a commitment to freeing determined principals who had a vision for excellence from the constraints that prevented them from developing the teams and practices they needed to drive school-wide change. Today, by contrast, reformers seem to have lost faith in the transformative power of school leadership and are now pushing teacher-quality reforms directly from district offices and statehouses through a...

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