Additional Topics

LIVE AND DIE BY IMPLEMENTATION
So says Robert Pondiscio on the future of the Common Core in Vox’s implementation-over-politics article. "As a teacher, I never once took down the New York state standards to decide what to teach. You teach curriculum, you teach books, you teach subject matter, and then you teach it to the standards."

STICKLERS FOR COMMAS
If you’re going to invest $645,000 in a pre-K campaign, make sure to place commas in the correct places. Otherwise, we might have to make the Chicago Manual of Style required reading for three- and four-year-olds.

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY
But they do know something about history standards—and they agree: AEI’s Rick Hess and Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. dispel outlandish myths on the AP U.S. History framework, but “[t]hat said, the framework has a full measure of shortcomings, starting with its inattention to America’s motivating ideals.”

HOMELESS STUDENTS
New data from the Department of Education shows that more public school students than ever before were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. 1.3 million elementary and secondary school children reported lacking a permanent home, many of them living on their own or sharing a space with a relative or friend....

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Heated debate has erupted over changes to Ohio’s new standards, assessments, and accountability policies. Most significantly, the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics has triggered efforts to roll back the new standards and the assessments associated with them. In addition to the Common Core, the state is undertaking other bold but controversial reforms, including the Third Grade Reading Guarantee—aimed at improving early literacy—and evaluations of teachers and principals that factor in student achievement.

These policy reforms reflect a shifting paradigm in K-12 education. For years, it was assumed that schools would provide...

The 2013-14 school year marked the first year of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (TGRG), a law that requires the retention of children not reading on grade level to be retained. This initiative was modeled after similar legislation in Florida and other states. The policy is also based on research that shows that students who can’t read on grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate than a child who reads proficiently. These numbers are even higher for children who live in poverty, particularly Black and Hispanic students.

In a TGRG document posted on its website,...

This year’s state report cards brought a new twist for some Columbus parents—a parent trigger. Parent triggers, made famous by several high profile efforts in California and a major motion picture, allow a majority of parents in (usually) low-performing schools to force changes to how that school operates. If this sounds to you like a recipe for controversy, you’re right. Even here at Fordham, Mike and Checker have taken different views on whether the pursuit of a parent trigger is worth the effort.

As for me, I’m a huge proponent of empowering parents. Giving dissatisfied...

In many school districts, classroom observations make up as much as 75 percent of teachers’ evaluation scores, according to a new study published in Education Next. And these scores predict a teacher’s ability to raise student test scores the following year, as measured by value-added models. With that in mind, analysts did a deep-dive into the observation practices of four school districts. They found that score stability and the quality of the information gathered improved as the number of individual observations increased, and that evaluations by trained, independent, outside evaluators (instead of principals) were more predictive of the following year’s...

Andy Smarick, a partner in Bellwether Partners and a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow at Fordham, dropped by Columbus last week to shake up the educational status quo, discussing his book The Urban School System of the Future.

The event, co-hosted by Fordham and School Choice Ohio, began with the premise that the century-old structure of the traditional school district is “broken” in large urban areas, leading to a long-standing cycle of poor performance for students and reform efforts that merely seek to “rearrange the deck chairs on the...

Ohio’s school and district report cards were released last week, nearly a month later than originally scheduled due to inclement weather….back in February and March. No matter; they’re here now and every education stakeholder is poring over them. But to what purpose are these troves of data being put? 

Out of the gate, stories in the media focused on the “big picture” issues: urban districts (pretty bad, with some rays of hope) and dropout recovery schools (same, minus most of those rays of hope). A single grade for “overall performance” is still not being given this year...

MONEY FOR NOTHING
Most Americans give poor marks to schools, but think their kids’ schools are pretty good. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Peterson says the same is true on school spending.  Most of us suffer from “buyer's delight”the tendency to think we "got a deal even when an objective observer would conclude otherwise.”

ICYMI
If you didn’t tune in to the debate to end all debates—on the Common Core that is—you can download the podcast version of “Should We Embrace the Common Core?” Spoiler alert: Yes, we should.

ARNE RESPONDS TO BOBBY
“He had a couple of unsuccessful lawsuits,” notes Duncan in response to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s latest Common Core lawsuit against the federal government. Ouch.

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Fordham’s Dara Zeehandelaar talked charter schools, teachers unions, and why the two are more water-and-oil than peas-and-carrots with Education Week’s charters-and-choice expert, Arianna Prothero.

TO KEEP KAYA OR NOT TO KEEP KAYA
Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, despite many columns of tough criticism of the D.C. schools chancellor, calls for D.C. voters to support the mayoral candidate that backs Henderson. “If both candidates agree that she must stay, then a vote for either one is fine. If Catania won’t make that promise, then the choice is either Bowser or more years of chaos and heartbreak.”

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR PARENTS
A New York City charter school is catching heat for telling parents they will be...

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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in a story about an important state Supreme Court case scheduled to begin tomorrow. The case addresses the issue of charter schools that hire for-profit management companies with public money and who then owns the assets of those schools should things go sour in the relationship. There is much more at stake in the decision however, which Chad was kindly allowed to point out. (Akron Beacon Journal). Chad gets a twofer out of this as the same story ran in the Youngstown Vindicator as well.
     
  2. Here, also, is a companion piece to the above story, running a few numbers on who owns the buildings in which Ohio charter schools operate. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. Editors in Cleveland opine on the need for charter school reform in Ohio…and offer a bit of advice to state senators on how not to do it. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. We mentioned last week about the report card analysis doing the rounds that shows a link between poverty and performance index scores for districts. Interestingly, one solution proposed in this story about that analysis is a fund analogous to Ohio’s Straight A Fund which would target interventions for low-income students. Legislative hearings on this topic are in the offing. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. One puzzling aspect of the Common Core hearings we’ve endured here in Ohio since last November is the notion that “no one knows who their State Board of Education representative is”, despite
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  1. The Truth in Numbers review of State Auditor candidate John Patrick Carney has been published in the PD. Fordham is name-checked in discussion of charter school quality in Ohio, and a link is made to last year’s Parsing Performance report by our own Aaron Churchill. The detail of the piece shows Patrick O’Donnell’s typical journalistic excellence and it was good to have him assess the (lack of) truth of this politician’s statements, but really the bottom line is that auditors don’t really have much say in education funding regardless of their political leanings. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Patrick O’Donnell is clearly the hardest working education journalist out there these days. Here’s his look at another of the allegations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland: diagnostic testing allegedly used to determine admission. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Crap. Late evening negotiations didn’t take. Reynoldsburg teachers are on the picket lines today; the first time since 1978. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Editors in Toledo opine upon their own analysis of the district’s report card. They praise the district where they can, tout for the upcoming levy, and bash charters and vouchers. (Toledo Blade)
     
  5. We may have noted this before, but it bears repeating. Monroe Local Schools is to be formally released from fiscal emergency and thus oversight by the state next month. In just over two years expenditures are down by millions, a stabilization loan is almost fully repaid, and ODE says the district had shown “great improvement
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Education Next

Not many education books debut as a New York Times bestseller, but The Teacher Wars, by Dana Goldstein, is not just any book. “A history of America’s most embattled profession,” it serves as a tonic to reformers who believe we’re the first ones to discover problems with America’s public schools, or to call for policies such as tenure reform, merit pay, or higher standards for entry into the profession. With sympathy for teachers but also clear eyes about the profession’s legitimate shortcomings, Goldstein has produced a book that will challenge defenders of the public education system and reformers alike.

In this edition of the Education Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli talks with Dana Goldstein about her best-selling book.

Additional episodes of the Education Next Book Club can be found here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog.

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  1. Editors at the Vindy opined yesterday upon the need for immediate assistance from the state for the failing schools in the Youngstown area. They did not neglect the higher-achieving schools in the area, opining in praise of those schools and urging the constructive use of report card data to continue to improve. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. The BASA/OASBO folks have put out their analysis of Ohio’s report cards, and they conclude that performance index scores “closely followed” the percent of students in a district that are economically disadvantaged. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. Editors in Akron have read the above report and have opined in sympathy with its conclusions. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. There’s a nicely-detailed look at the report cards of a number of charter schools in Springfield. Some interesting insights from the school leaders interviewed. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  5. Some excellent journalistic investigation in this piece by Patrick O’Donnell digging into the accusations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland. Specifically, allegations that the school “dumped” low-performing students before state testing in order to improve their results. Definitely worth a read. Having already been through this with Columbus City Schools and other districts around Ohio, both ODE and the education journalists should know what to look for…and what to do if they find it. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. The Lorain Academic Distress Commission has parsed the district’s report card and is discussing their take on it in the press. The takeaway: “bubble kids” are the answer
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Fuzz-free math

CCSS myths, noncognitive skills, Dana Goldstein, and gifted ed.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?, by David Card and Laura Giuliano, National Bureau of Economic Research (September 2014).

Common Core just had its best week in recent memory. The Intelligence Squared U.S. CCSS debate showcased strong arguments in favor of the standards, including from our own Mike Petrilli. William J. Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, made a conservative case for the standards in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  And an ECS report showed that, despite all the fuss, forty-plus states are moving ahead with implementation (and critics have barely made a dent).

Harold Levy, former chancellor of the New York City public schools and the brand-new executive director of Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed over the weekend lamenting school officials’ misuse—or non-use—of school and student data. For example, we know that high-performing, low-income students are less likely to attend college than their wealthier peers. And small numbers of truant pupils miss about a month of school each year even in schools with high overall attendance rates. These data are imminently actionable—we could provide opportunities for acceleration or gifted classes for high-potential poor kids, for example—but only if educators choose to use them.

A group of New York State charter school supporters is suing the state over what they describe as a chronic, unconstitutional funding gap between charters and traditional public schools. Plaintiffs say that charter students in Buffalo and Rochester receive between $6,600 and $9,800 less per year, per student. A similar lawsuit was filed in D.C. back in July. With funding gaps abounding...

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An important, first-of-its kind Brookings Institution study asks whether school superintendents improve outcomes for students. The answer, according to authors, is no. They find that student achievement in particular districts doesn’t improve as superintendents stay longer, nor is there a bump when districts hire new ones. Supes account for a paltry 0.3 percent of the differences in student achievement among fourth and fifth graders in North Carolina (as compared to student demographics, which account for 38.8 percent, and teachers and schools, which account for 4 and 3 percent, respectively). On first read, these findings seem bleak. But the authors make two assumptions in their analyses, one out of necessity and one out of convention. First, because they rely on state administrative data and its limited variables, years-of-service in a single district is their primary observable superintendent characteristic. The assumption is that the longer one stays, the greater impact he or she should have. Yet, despite research in other fields suggesting that manager longevity is a predictor of organizational success, it is far from the only one. Effective district leadership requires knowledge of education policy and practice, communication and relationship-building skills, leadership capability, strategic thinking, conflict mediation, and innumerable other important-yet-unmeasurable characteristics. Second, adhering to conventional wisdom, the authors assume that a superintendent’s primary role is to improve student achievement as measured by standardized test scores—and that they’re capable of doing so directly within the district’s current structure. This isn’t necessarily true. Superintendents’ impacts are often secondary. For example, they hire...

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