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A week catching up on education challenges and reforms in England made clear that the U.S. and its “mother country” continue to track—and copy and study and refine—each other’s programs and policies, much as they have done at least since Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s education teams realized how much they had in common. But the differences remain profound, too.

Similarities and differences between UK and US education reform
The U.S. and the U.K. continue to track, copy, study, and refine each other's programs and policies. But the differences remain profound, too.

Let’s start with nine notable similarities.

1. Both nations are engaged in major pushes to overhaul their standards, assessment, and accountability systems. Mediocre PISA and TIMSS results plus persistent domestic achievement gaps have caught the eyes of policymakers and education leaders on both sides of the pond, as it’s become clear that yesterday’s so-so expectations just aren’t good enough and that today’s testing-and-accountability regimes do not produce nearly enough world-class, college-ready graduates. Nor have they significantly reduced the most troubling performance gaps. Changes are afoot.

2. With standards-raising comes keen anxiety about implementation on the ground (will teachers, for example, be adequately prepared?) and about public outcry when more youngsters (and schools) are found wanting.

3. Whereas yesterday’s...

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due in part to the involvement of his campaign chairwoman, State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, he has fostered a relationship with charter advocates and Randi Weingarten. We’ll see how he handles this balancing act.

Chris Walters, a Virginia native and newly minted Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD, has...

The more things change, the more they stay the same—at least for seventeen-year-old achievement. According to the latest Long-Term Trend (LTT) NAEP report (released today), scores for youngsters in this age group have scarcely budged since the test was first administered in the 1970s. (Recall that the LTT report differs from the “main NAEP”: The former, given every four years, utilizes a similar battery of questions to test reading and math so that results are comparable longitudinally; the latter determines proficiency across a host of subjects, employing periodically updated frameworks and exams, hence with little potential for long-term tracking.) But there’s growth among younger pupils: Average scores for nine and thirteen year olds rose since the 1970s in both reading and math, sometimes substantially—from an eight-point gain (on a 500-point scale) for thirteen-year-old reading scores to a whopping twenty-five point gain for nine-year-old math scores. And most race- and gender-based achievement gaps narrowed—in some cases dramatically. The white-black reading gap at age nine, for example, decreased by twenty-one points; the seventeen-year-old white-Hispanic math gap shrank by thirteen points; and the female-male nine-year-old reading gap lowered by seven points. While some satisfaction should be taken from these gains by minority students (and by boys in reading and girls in math), the stunted achievement at age seventeen is more than worrisome. Will the Common Core alter this very long-term trend? The next LTT administration is slated for 2015–16.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in...

The missed opportunity in the education of gifted students runs up and down the system, including into and beyond the college gate. Last December, Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery showed that there are far more high-achieving, low-income students than previously thought—but that these young people, unaware of their options, often do not even apply to selective colleges. Now, Hoxby and Sarah Turner report on a well-crafted intervention aimed at closing the information gap. It’s called the Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project. After sending and emailing customized informational packets (which consisted of college-specific information and application fee waivers, alongside guidance on how to apply to selective colleges, on the net cost of college, and on colleges’ varying graduation rates—all at $6 a pop) to high-achieving seniors (10,000 of them in 2010–11, with a control group of 2,500, and 15,000 in 2011–12, with a control group of 3,000), the authors saw positive results: Compared to the control group, recipient students were 20 percent more likely to apply to public and private schools with similarly high-achieving students. And in this Hamilton Project paper, the authors outline ways to bring this initiative to scale: First, in order to scale up the number of students reached, the ECO project will need to team up with credible, established institutions, such as the College Board and ACT. Second, because the Census recently stopped gathering data on incomes, housing values, occupations, and adults’ education, the authors propose that the federal government allow them access to other sources...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Marc Porter Magee came to public fame as COO of arguably the most successful state-based education-reform advocacy organization of recent times, ConnCAN. Thanks to Marc’s leadership of its research and communications operations, that group was able to cause a major ruckus in an edu-complacent state with a huge achievement gap. Not only did Connecticut start talking differently about reform, it ultimately changed a number of its policies in big ways.

Marc Porter Magee 50CAN

Marc soon had the brilliant idea of trying to scale ConnCAN’s success using the same mindset as the leaders of the first highly successful charter schools: We have one great entity, so let’s see if we can replicate its model to reach an even larger audience. The result was 50CAN, a nonprofit research-and-advocacy organization with a growing number of highly effective state affiliates modeled on ConnCAN.

Marc serves as 50CAN’s founder and president. Strike up a conversation with him and you’ll quickly see how he’s been so successful. First, he’s smart as the dickens—he holds a PhD in sociology from Duke, cut his teeth doing D.C.-based think-tank work, and has a Mississippi-wide breadth of interests. Second, he’s an extremely creative organizational leader; I learn gobs by picking his brain about staffing, managing, setting goals, starting...

In which Terry celebrates cheating (sort of)

Terry livens up the airwaves, bantering with Mike about NCTQ’s blockbuster report, the Blaine Amendment, and Philly’s budget woes. Amber waltzes through the dance of the lemons.

Amber's Research Minute

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency,” by Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel Nakashima, NBER Working Paper No. 19108 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2013).

The following is Mike’s final entry in Deborah Meier’s Bridging Differences blog—for now.

How poverty is like global warming
Poverty is a lot like global warming.

Dear Deborah,

It's been a real joy to join you in dialogue these past six weeks. I very much appreciate the opportunity and hope we can continue the discussion in other forums in the months ahead. (Well, maybe after the summer break!)

Let me use my last correspondence to introduce one new idea and summarize some of the others we've explored—to determine just how far we've come in bridging our differences.

The new idea is this: Poverty is a lot like global warming.

As a Whole Foods Republican, I acknowledge that global warming is real, that it's a major threat, and that it's caused (at least in part) by human activity. Here the science is overwhelming.

But unlike most progressives, I'm not yet convinced that we know how to stop it. Will curtailing our carbon output halt climate change? Or is it too late at this point? Here the science is inconclusive.

Yet many environmentalists (including President Obama) argue that we should take drastic actions to limit carbon production anyway, even though such actions are likely to wreck the economy, which...

There are a number of laudable statistics found in this year’s Diplomas Count: At 75 percent, the U.S. graduation rate in 2010 hit its highest point since 1973—the most recent year for which data are available—marking an 8 percentage point boost from ten years earlier. Further, Hispanics boasted a 16 percentage-point rate improvement; African Americans, a 13 percentage-point bump, which halved the white-Hispanic graduation-rate gap and cut the white–African American gap by 30 percent during that same time period. Yet this year’s report focuses on a depressing corollary point: We’re failing our youth who have already dropped out. Currently, 1.8 million young adults, or 6.5 percent of those aged sixteen to twenty-one, are neither enrolled in school nor have they received their diploma. And we have no comprehensive public-policy strategy to bring these youth back to school or get them college- or career-ready. Still, the report profiles a handful of dropout-recovery programs—run by districts, CMOs, or nonprofits—that are working to reengage would-be students. It’s tough stuff: One Boston-based nonprofit brought 501 of the 867 students it contacted back to the classroom in 2011–12, for example. Among them, fewer than 100 graduated at the end of the year. The message? Progress is good, but there’s no rest for the weary.

SOURCE: Education Week, Diplomas Count 2013: Second Chances: Turning Dropouts into Graduates (Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education, June 2013)....

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

For this week’s BTCIK, I wanted to celebrate the close of another school year by shining light on a true school leader—someone who’s taught, supported teachers, supported schools, and run schools.

Kaya Henderson District of Columbia Public Schools

So we’re lucky enough to have as a guest Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Like so many involved in this work, she is a passionate advocate for the interests of kids in need. But she’s been able to turn that commitment into a number of groundbreaking accomplishments—growing TFA, launching TNTP, crafting and implementing IMPACT, and more.

There’s no doubt that were she to decide to hang up her ed-reform cleats now and apply her talents elsewhere—God forbid!—she’d be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But there are quite a few of those in our business. What sets Kaya apart, at least in my book, are rare personal qualities that remain unseen unless you have the chance to spend some time in her company.

She’s a sophisticated thinker; you don’t achieve the professional successes she has through gumption alone. She’s courageous; though everyone knows her for her approachable style, warm disposition, and infectious smile, Kaya’s accomplishments are partly attributable to her titanium backbone.

Most importantly, though—and I wish I had a better...

  • Lisa Peng, a student at Shaker Heights School District near Cleveland, has asked President Obama to urge Chinese President Xi Jinping to release prisoners of conscience, including her father.
  • Even during the last days of schools, Reynoldsburg School District’s students have continued to learn, either reviewing concepts they had not yet mastered or participating in career interest projects.
  • A new pilot program at Cincinnati Public Schools, in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, aims to battle childhood obesity.
  • In the wake of former Ohio State University president Gordon Gee’s controversial remarks about the University of Cincinnati, university president Santa J. Ono fired back, calling for more flagship universities in Ohio.

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