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The Education Gadfly

Apple had Fordham’s bloggers all abuzz this week: On Common
Core Watch, Kathleen cautioned that expense and questionable durability would keep
iPads from replacing textbooks anytime soon
, while Chris countered at
Stretching the School Dollar that betting
against Steve Jobs’ company tends to be a losing proposition
. On Flypaper, Checker
used Apple’s outsourcing of iPhone production to China
to question whether America’s
economic future may depend on our schools’ ability to teach hard work and diligence

Fordham’s newest blogger, Choice Words editor Adam Emerson,
argued that participants in the current school choice debate might
benefit from a history lesson
. Terry wrote on the Ohio Gadfly Daily that Ohio
Governor John Kasich could learn
a thing or two about school funding
from Florida’s Rick Scott. On the national front,
Mike warned that while many in Washington
praise ESEA flexibility in theory, they are more
than a little uncomfortable with increased state autonomy
in education.

Explore Fordham’s blogs for more commentary and subscribe to
the combined Fordham RSS feed
to stay on top of everything....


(Gad)flies on the classroom wall

Mike and Rick wonder what (if anything) Newt’s resurgence means for education in the 2012 election and whether the white working class would benefit from schools that sweat the small stuff. Amber delves into NCTQ’s latest teacher policy report and Chris ponders a texting-free education.

Amber's Research Minute

NCTQ 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Rhode Island Rep. Peter Petrarca wants to ban text messaging during school hours? Is this a good idea? Leave your comments below.

Part narrative, part analysis, this seventeenth
edition of ALEC’s education-policy report card offers reformers a hearty pat on
the back—and then delivers a swift kick in the pants. Split into five chapters,
the report rehashes reform victories (in the areas of school choice and teacher quality, mainly) from the past year. As
authors Matt Ladner and Daniel Lips note, these reformy ideas have hit the
mainstream (exemplified by Obama’s embrace of charters and meaningful teacher
evaluations). But, they also remind us, saying and doing are distant cousins.
In a subsequent chapter, they showcase states’ meager academic-achievement
gains on NAEP, breaking these gains down by race and socioeconomic and disabled
status. (Florida, unsurprisingly, fares best on these
metrics.) And then comes the pain: Using a revised set of indicators (based on last year’s report-card
), Ladner and Lips rank states’ overall education-policy scores (yes,
much like our own city-based
from summer 2010) on six categories: academic standards (measured by
cut-score rigor), charter laws, homeschooling regulations, teacher-quality
policies, virtual schools, and private-school choice. The unexpected upshot:
Missouri has the strongest education-policy package out there. Florida and
Minnesota round out the top three with B-pluses, both. Indiana—even with its top-notch reform
package this year
—earns a B (as does Ohio). The average grade for the states is a
depressing C-plus. A detailed methodology is absent (how were the six


This second book from
former D.C. councilman Kevin P. Chavous is much lighter on education policy
than his
first writing
, but his own convictions emerge clearly indeed: To succeed,
students need school choice and supportive adults. Chavous’s easily digested
book features ten inspired stories of diverse students (from immigrants to
adult-learners) who encounter sundry obstacles during their school careers,
from gangs, drug addiction, and abusive parents to teenage pregnancy,
homelessness, and just plain awful schools. In each tale, a student’s life
trajectory arcs for the better when a supportive adult appears. Ronnie from
Baltimore, for example, avoids a life of crime and drugs in the projects
through the support of his grandfather and eighth-grade English teacher. Read
beyond the stories and you’ll see clear rationale for—and virtue of—school
choice. Jamie, for example, finds her niche in school only when her parents
move her to a strong charter in her neighborhood. And Chardi finds support at
St. Mary’s urban Catholic school. Frequent typos aside, those who carp that
schools (and the dedicated workers in them) can’t trump a family’s influence
would be wise to thumb this book.

Kevin P. Chavous, Voices of Determination: Children that Defy
the Odds
(New Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction Publishers, 2012)....

  • It’s no secret that American science education is lagging—and
    Fordham will shed more light on why next week when we release our new
    evaluation of state science standards. Meanwhile, the more than 200 separate and often overlapping federal STEM programs
    that the GAO pointed out this week
    demonstrate the dangers of
    turning to Washington to fix things.
  • A Virginia state legislator is proposing that any parent have
    the right to observe
    his or her child’s classroom
    , given reasonable notice. Gadfly objects…to
    having to give reasonable notice. Let’s welcome parental involvement in
    education, not lock the school doors.
  • Chicago’s longer school day has
    only been implemented in a few schools, but is already stressing the district budget. Meanwhile, the teacher union has submitted demands for its new contract, including rejecting Emanuel’s proposed 2 percent
    raise for the longer
    hours. Budgets may get tight in the Windy City, but this is a cause worth finding
    the cash for..
  • President Obama threw a curveball Tuesday night in his State
    of the Union speech when he called on states to raise
    the compulsory education age to eighteen
    . Reducing dropout rates sounds great but
    the White House has no tools (other than jawbones) by which to make it happen.
    With ESEA reauthorization stalled and Race to the Top struggling, another
    sweeping mandate is the last thing the President needs.
  • Former teacher
  • ...
Gadfly Studios

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”)....