Additional Topics

This familiar May visitor to edu-wonks’ desktops looks a bit different in 2013. Typically a bulky digest of all manner of education-related statistics, this year’s Condition of Education is more modern (with a beefed-up report and data website) and more svelte (by over 200 pages). The yearly tome of data now tracks but forty-two indicators across four areas: population statistics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and post-secondary education as well as data on four “spotlighted” stages: trends in employment rates by education attainment, Kindergarten entry timing, rural education, and college financing. From it, we learn that Hispanic immigrants are over three times as likely to drop out of high school than non-immigrant Hispanics; that charter school enrollment is still on the upswing, by 11 percent between 2009–10 and 2010–11; that 60 percent of kiddos aged three to five attend full-day preschool; that only 36 percent of female high school dropouts aged twenty to twenty-four are employed (compared to 59 percent of males of the same ilk); that employment rates among young adult males dropped at least 7 percentage points from 2008 and 2010—no matter their education level; and much more. NCES doesn’t attach policy recommendations to its data dump, but that shouldn’t stop the report from furthering some important conversations. Many, including us, have recently been questioning the “college for all” rhetoric, as an example. The dips seen in employment rates are further proof: We need to think hard about what worthy, non-college...

This article originally appeared on Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, where Mike Petrilli is debating Deborah Meier through mid-June.

Dear Deborah,

Tackling the larger issues of poverty and inequality
Start by clarifying the issue.
Photo by Taylor Dawn Fortune

I want to return to the perennial question of poverty as it relates to educational outcomes. One of the main arguments against education reform is that it misdiagnoses the problem. We have big “achievement gaps” in terms of test scores, graduation rates, college-going, and much else, but that’s primarily because of inequities in our society, not because of the failings of our schools—so goes the thinking.

As I indicated in my first post for Bridging Differences, I’m not opposed to tackling these larger issues of poverty and inequality. (Neither are most reformers.) But we’d better have a good understanding of what we’re tackling. I would argue that clarity is sorely lacking.

Is the issue really poverty, per se? The fact that many families in the U.S. don’t have enough income to provide the advantages that other children enjoy? If so, are we satisfied with delineating the problem with the poverty line (currently about $20,000 for a family of three)? That qualifies 23 percent of all children (as of 2011), up from 18 percent before the...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Robin Lake is the Director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington. I’m personally indebted to her, because for more than a decade, my thinking has been consistently informed, influenced, and improved by CRPE’s work. Robin has been instrumental to CRPE’s most important contributions, including extensive research on charter schooling and hands-on support for districts attempting the groundbreaking “portfolio” concept.

Robin Lake CRPE

She has published on issues as diverse as special education, turnarounds, accountability, innovation, LIFO, SEA reform, and governance. Her counsel is sought by organizations across our field and by policymakers of all stripes.

And she’s just a really good person. Everyone likes and respects Robin, especially those who know her best. I’ve admired her thoughtful, sensible approach to this work and her honest, down-to-earth interactions with friends and colleagues.

Her responses will give you a flavor for her many other strengths. She’s sharp, modest, open, honest, and really funny.

Now she’s TOTALLY wrong about her critiques of my book, which is perfect in every way imaginable. But I won’t hold that against her, especially because her answer to my Slaughter/Sandberg question is hilarious, and her analyses of Ronaldo’s dancing, Messi’s godliness, and Beckham’s tattoos are spot on.

So with no further...

Bianca Speranza

Last week I began my long awaited journey as a 2013 Teach for America Corp member in Southwest Ohio (SWO). Fellow corps members from all over the state, country, and even world convened in Cincinnati for a weeklong induction. The week served as an introduction into the region where we will be working for the next two years, as well as time for us to get to know each other and the motivation behind our reasons for wanting to join TFA.

We spent the week focusing on two major themes: heart and getting started. Heart: Who are the people we are working with, what are we trying to accomplish, and why does this work matter to us and to others? Over the course of five days we dove head first into the history of Cincinnati, Dayton, and Covington, discovering the people that make up these great cities and the unique challenges associated with each of them. The experiences ranged from visiting the Freedom Center to learn about the racial inequalities that have plagued Cincinnati for many years, as well as eating dinner in the home of a single-parent mother and hearing from her first hand what is important to her as a parent in Covington, KY. We also visited high-performing charter schools such as the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), hearing from their leaders, students, and teachers that the stale status quo of under achievement in a city can be just that and that there are ways to reach above...

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to announce its decision in the biggest affirmative-action case in years: Fisher v. University of Texas. Before it does, let's consider two important findings about the real world of higher education.

Fisher v. University of Texas
The Supreme Court is set to decide in the biggest affirmative-action case in years.
Photo by Scott* on Flickr

The most recent one is a Brookings Institution study published this month showing that several long-standing federal programs intended to prepare low-income students for college don’t work. These programs send funds to colleges and universities, which run summer schools, counseling programs, and other initiatives to help disadvantaged high schoolers get ready for college. Despite the billion-dollar-a-year investment, they make no apparent difference.

The other finding was in the blockbuster research by Stanford's Caroline Hoxby and Harvard's Christopher Avery released in December. The study identified tens of thousands of qualified low-income students, 30 percent of them racial minorities, who aren’t even applying to elite colleges. If they did, the study concluded, they would almost surely be admitted, receive a lot of financial aid, and have the potential to perform well.

The takeaway from both studies is that higher education is spectacularly bad at “affirmative action,” as originally envisioned: reaching out to disadvantaged students and...

The Academic and the Wonk

Can wonky Mike and data-loving Dara come to an agreement on Texas’s education reforms, Illinois’s rebuff of online learning, and a moratorium on Common Core–related stakes? Amber joins the number-cruncher brigade with a study on the effect of career and technical education on math achievement.

Amber's Research Minute

Balancing Career and Technicial Education with Academic Coursework: The Consequences for Mathematics Achievement in High School,” by Robert Bozick and Benjamin Dalton, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

In 1958, over 18,000 U.K. infants (including nearly 1,000 immigrants) joined the National Child Development Study—a longitudinal, population-representative survey. For this study, researchers tracked these youngsters through to age forty-two to determine whether childhood reading and math skills (at age seven) predicted adult socioeconomic success. The initial finding is a nothingburger: “Mathematics and reading ability both had substantial positive associations with adult [socioeconomic status].” But look a little closer! The correlations between adult SES and childhood reading and math know-how were greater than those between adult SES and one’s economic status at birth or one’s intelligence (as measured at age eleven). The methods are weedy but the message is clear and hopeful—socioeconomic status in childhood plays a role in students’ future level of success. But school-based knowledge matters more.

SOURCE: Stuart J. Ritchie and Timothy C. Bates, “Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status,” Psychological Science 24(5): (May 2013).

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

In the early 2000s, I knew Nelson Smith in passing. I would see him at meetings occasionally—he was the friendly, scholarly guy who seemed to just know a whole lot about all things education reform. Soon I would be fortunate enough to get to know him much better.

Tim Daly TNTP
Nelson Smith, charter school guru, as Gen. Lew Wallace in the Andersonville Trial, American Century Theater

I was part of a team turning the Charter School Leadership Council into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nelson was selected as the first President/CEO, and I worked for him for the next three years. Turned out he had experience as a charter school authorizer, at New American Schools, at the U.S. Department of Education, and much more. Oh, and he did know a whole lot about all things education reform.

But he was also just a great person to work with. We had fun building an organization together, and there’s no doubt that our conversations about chartering greatly influenced my thinking (which ultimately led to The Urban School System of the Future). He’s urbane (see his JFK quote below), has a great sense of humor, does remarkable impersonations, and not only does he know more...

Mike the Squish

Is Mike going soft on accountability? Are private schools doomed? And why on earth is anyone still majoring in journalism? We ask, you decide.

Amber's Research Minute

Voice of the Graduate by McKinsey & Company, May 2013

This article originally appeared on Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, where Mike Petrilli will be debating Deborah Meier through mid-June.

Confusion never stops 
Closing walls and ticking clocks 
Gonna come back and take you home 
I could not stop that you now know

Come out upon my seas 
Cursed missed opportunities 
Am I a part of the cure? 
Or am I part of the disease?

-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002

Folks on both sides: Are you part of the cure or the disease?
Is everything for which reformers fight actually making things worse?
Photo by ToniVC

Dear Deborah,

I am haunted by the title of your last post: “The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap.”

Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?

"It's OK to ask: 'What if I'm wrong?'" you wrote last week. So let me ask it. It wouldn't be the first time. A year ago, for example, I explored the "test-score hypothesis"—a line of reasoning, undergirding much of the reform movement, that says...

Pages