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It is very rare for an education policy book to become a best-seller,
much less a national phenomenon. Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of
the Great American School System
has been both, in spades. A chronicle
of Ravitch’s “radical change of heart,” and an impassioned argument
against today’s dominant forms of school reform, it has become a bible
of sorts for the anti-reform movement. Mike Petrilli talks with Diane
about her book, the impact it’s had on the education policy debate, the
reactions it has sparked, and her vision for the future.

Click here to listen to the podcast.


Into the contentious debate over teacher
effectiveness and value-added metrics (VAM) comes this important, timely, and
supersized analysis, conducted by a trio of respected economists with the NBER,
showing that the impact of good teachers follows their students into adulthood.
The analysts pull data from 18 million test scores from roughly 2.5 million
children over two decades (1988 to 2009). They note changes in teaching staff
and find that, when high-value-added teachers (top 5 percent) joined a school,
end-of-year test scores rose immediately in the grade taught by those teachers.
In addition, a one standard deviation (SD) increase in a teacher’s value-added
score raises student achievement by 0.1 SD on average across math and ELA
(which equates to roughly one to two months of learning in a year). The
researchers also meticulously track subsets of students into young adulthood
(using income-tax records, W-2 forms, university-tuition payments,
social-security forms, etc.) and find that the pupils assigned to teachers with
higher value added across all grades are more
likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods,
and save more for retirement. Further, they find with another cohort that, by
age twenty-eight, a 1 SD improvement in teacher value added in a single grade
raises annual earnings by an average of about 1 percent (which could add
roughly $4,600 over a lifetime in additional earnings). And replacing a teacher whose value...


My friend Staley Keith was telling me about his childhood in North
Carolina – “Jesse country,” he said, “and I don’t mean Jackson.” Staley meant
the North Carolina of Jesse Helms, the outspoken segregationist*** who would
serve five terms in the United States Senate. “Us black kids walked to our
black school every morning and had to go by the white school.  They shouted racial obscenities and
threw rocks at us.”  No fun,
recalled Staley.  But one morning
he woke up to the news that North Carolina schools had to be integrated.  And Staley recalls his first thought,
“We gotta go to school with these m-----r f------rs.” 

To a large extent, much of the story of American education over these
last fifty years is a story of the failure to understand the complexity of our
country’s relationship to race and the deep consequences of integration.  As Jefferson said of
slavery, "[W]e have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor
safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the

Unfortunately, on the ground, in classrooms all over the country, the
interplay between justice and self-preservation has not had happy results for
African Americans. 

I once asked another friend of mine, an African American, who grew up
in a small northern town, whether, given the choice, he would send his children

The Education Gadfly

A quick look around Fordham’s Gadfly Daily
blogs reveals that it’s been a busy week in education reform. Here’s a brief
recap of what our bloggers wrote about:

That’s just
the beginning, so be sure to explore all the Gadfly Daily blogs and sign up for
our combined RSS feed.
Also, keep an eye on Board’s Eye View this Monday for a special post on Martin
Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by Peter....


Be you a school-finance junkie, an accountability
hawk, or a teaching aficionado, Education
’s annual Quality Counts report—which scores states on dozens of
indicators in six buckets and offers overall grades for each jurisdiction—will
be of interest. Celebrating its sweet sixteen, this year’s QC offers updated
data in every category but one. The overall rankings? Thanks to Ed Week’s
persistent use of some silly indicators like “Chance for Success,” wealthy
states continue to float to the top. (More
on that here
.) Maryland’s B-plus is enough
for a four-peat as the nation’s lead scorer; perennial powerhouses Massachusetts, New
York, and Virginia follow close behind. Yet some
shake-up has occurred, with Florida and Pennsylvania dropping
from the top ten. Ohio
earns a C-plus across all metrics, buttressed by its A on the “standards,
assessment, and accountability” indicator and its B-plus for equity in school
finance. Probably most useful are the report’s state profiles, which, after
this heavy-reform year, further explain each one’s policies along QC’s six indicators.
(Of course, this is the only part of the online report that costs dollars to
view.) Worth mentioning too is the host of commentary and analysis of the
findings—including pieces by South Korea’s former education minister Byong-man
Ahn (famous
for pushing back against his nation’s entrenched testing culture
) and Sir
Michael Barber (the theme of this year’s QC is “global competitiveness”)....

  • The Washington
    State Supreme Court’s ruling that the state wasn’t meeting its constitutional
    obligations to fund schools was thankfully toothless
    on enforcement, freeing legislators in a budgetary bind to include
    in some tough but necessary fiscal decision-making. Charter
    schools anyone
    • The
      Hewlett Foundation will hand out a cool
      to techies that code software capable of reliably grading essays as part of state tests. Ambitious,
      sure, but a great example of philanthropy driving needed innovation in edtech.
      • Dozens of Catholic schools in
        Philadelphia are shutting
        due to a 35 percent drop in enrollment since 2001 even as the
        mayor wants to get
        rid of 50,000 seats
        in underperforming district schools. Hmmm, there must
        be a solution
        • Slowly but surely, incentives and common
          sense are winning out, as the number of district schools in Chicago accepting
          the mayor’s offer of extra cash for a longer day quadrupled
          this week
          despite the teacher union’s continued
          . Keep at it, Rahm!
          • It’s that time of year: Governors from Virginia
            to Arizona
            are making all kinds of ambitious proposals in their State of the State addresses,
            from an extra
            $1 billion
            for Florida’s schools to Andrew Cuomo appointing
            as lobbyist for students in the Empire State. Let’s just see
            if these executives can back
          • ...

          The New

          New Year. New Website. Same great content.

          Explore. Interact. Learn.
          Get acquainted with the innovative new features of our redesigned website.

          Everyone’s a winner!

          The podcast kicks off the new year in style, with special guest commentary from Diane Ravitch on what 2012 will bring. Amber sees charter-school closures as a glass half empty and Chris loves up some celebrations.

          Amber's Research Minute Poll

          Help us name Amber's weekly poll, pop quiz, whatever you want to call it. Leave a comment with your idea. Extra points given for using Amber's name!

          Chris Irvine's What's Up With That?

          The controversial Cathedral High School touchdown Chris talks about in this week's episode.

          The Education Gadfly

          It’s been a busy day on the revamped Fordham Website. Here’s a rundown
          of what you may have missed:

          • On her new Common
            Core Watch
            blog, Kathleen Porter-Magee accepted
            Diane Ravitch’s challenge to take a standardized test and publish the results.
          • Board’s
            Eye View
            editor Peter Meyer summarized
            recent controversy around teacher evaluation and singles out D.C. as one
            city that’s getting it right.
          • Take a video tour of
            Fordham’s redesigned website and explore all the new features it has to offer.

          Be sure to check out the main page tomorrow for more commentary,
          and get all of our content delivered to you by subscribing
          to our combined RSS feed....


          Happy New Year! Regular readers of Fordham’s Flypaper blog
          will notice big changes today. Our website is the beneficiary of a major makeover
          (let us know if you like
          it), and, most importantly, we’re revamping our approach to blogging. We think
          you’ll benefit. 

          For the past four years, Flypaper has served as one of the liveliest
          and more prominent group blogs in the edusphere. And clearly, many of you like
          it. You enjoy the cacophony of voices and perspectives, on all of the major
          topics within the world of school reform. 

          But group blogs have their limits, even when they avoid
          group-think. As new content is added several times a day, important—and
          still-timely—posts get pushed down the page, and often out of sight. Readers
          with focused interests get frustrated and perhaps confused, and potential
          readers get scared away by the messiness of a lot of posts on a multitude of
          topics by all manner of authors.

          So we’ve split Flypaper into six separate blogs, all of
          which will live on the site, and all of which
          will comprise what’s now called Education
          Gadfly Daily. Here’s the new sextet:

          • Flypaper. Our flagship blog will remain, but
            will now feature content from Checker Finn and me, along with occasional
            guests. Its coverage will remain diverse—but the cacophony will ebb.
          • Ohio Gadfly Daily.
            This blog will present incisive
          • ...