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In this research brief, economist Joel Elvery asks whether any of Ohio’s metro areas could be considered a “brain hub.” He identifies such cities as those with a high ratio of “knowledge” to manufacturing jobs. Cities with a higher ratio have recently tended to display stronger economic growth (e.g., San Francisco, New York, D.C.). Elvery found that, of the eight major cities in Ohio, only Columbus could be considered a “brain hub.” Its knowledge to manufacturing job ratio was a robust 3.7 to 1.0 (the national average was 2.4). Cincinnati ranked second among Ohio’s cities (2.3 to 1.0), but Toledo, Youngstown, and Canton had virtually one-to-one knowledge to manufacturing job ratios (1.2, 1.1, and 0.9 respectively). The data indicate that, with the exceptions of Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio’s cities are behind and losing ground. Can they catch up, or has time passed by these blue-collar towns? Perhaps, it is simply too late. But if Ohio’s cities are to have any chance to compete in a knowledge-based economy, a world-class K-12 education will undergird city-wide transformation. In her remarks at a September College Now Greater Cleveland event, Cleveland Fed president Sandra Pianalto said: “[I]f we want to improve our region’s economy, if we want people here to have higher incomes, we need to improve the educational attainment of our citizens, especially our young people.” I couldn’t agree more. If Ohio’s cities are to get more of these prized “knowledge jobs,” it starts with dramatic improvement to our cities’...

Dear Deborah,

Earlier this week you wrote that you were “stunned” that I’d suggest a simple rule for our young people: “Don’t have babies until you can afford them.” Stunned was a much kinder word than many commenters used to describe their reaction–or their thoughts about me!

But let me admit to being stunned by your statement, “The odds that young women in poverty will find ways out of poverty are not great (above all in today’s economy and wage scale).”

This strikes me as incredibly defeatist and fatalistic, not to mention depressing. But it also strikes me as incorrect.

Let’s do the math.

Today the federal income poverty threshold for a single person is $11,490. If that person works a minimum-wage job for 40 hours a week and for 50 weeks a year, she earns $14,500 per year. Ergo, she’s not poor, at least according to the official definition. (To be sure, she’s not living the high life either–and is almost surely sharing a home with family or friends to make ends meet.)

What if this worker has a baby? Now things get much more challenging. The poverty threshold for a family of two is $15,510; a minimum-wage job is no longer enough. Furthermore, working 40 hours a week is tough when you’ve got a baby to care for. On the other hand, additional government benefits kick in–the earned income tax credit, childcare subsidies, food stamps, possibly housing vouchers–that might keep our worker (and her baby) just...

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaurs; the American founders; aquatic life; and the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. Thanks to research interns Melissa Reynolds and Singer Crawford for their help in compiling these lists.

Welcome to Week Two of our Columbus Day unit. Last week we tackled the ancient American civilizations of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. Next week, we’ll do the Age of Discovery (including Mr. Columbus himself). This week, it’s Native Americans in the spotlight.

There’s no lack of content on Native Americans online; we’ve selected a mix of documentaries, fictionalized stories, and animated shows that do a great job introducing elementary school students to this essential part of U.S. history. As with any videos (or books) for young children, it’s essential that parents participate in the learning process, especially to help explain, in age-appropriate ways, the more tragic aspects of Native American history.

As always, if you find other videos worth watching, please share them in the comments section below.

Best videos on the Native American cultures available for streaming

1. American Experience: We Shall Remain

American Experience: We Shall Remain

From the award-winning PBS series American Experience comes “We Shall Remain,” a provocative multi-media project...

Kalman R. Hettleman

Rumors are flying that Andres A. Alonso, until last June CEO of the Baltimore schools, is the frontrunner to become NYC chancellor if Democrat Bill de Blasio, as seems likely, wins the mayoralty in November. I have known and observed Dr. Alonso closely over the last six years, first as a member of the Baltimore school board that hired him and second as a policy analyst and writer on urban school reform. And it’s hard to imagine a better choice for New Yorkers.

That is, unless you are a business-as-usual administrator or principal. If so: beware. When the Baltimore school board hired him in 2007, our risky vision was to recruit a game-changer who would surpass the then-heralded superintendents in New York (Joel Klein, for whom Dr. Alonso served as a deputy chancellor), Chicago (Arne Duncan) and D.C. (Michelle Rhee). What we sought was what we got—and then some.

In his first year in Baltimore, he absorbed a large budget shortfall in large part by eliminating over 300 central-office jobs, devolving school budgets, giving principals all-but-complete autonomy, starting many non-conventional high schools, making 240 school visits, emailing staff between 5am and midnight, and quoting racing driver Mario Andretti: “If things were under control, they weren’t moving fast enough.”

That was just a start, and media handicappers of the chancellor’s race have pointed out his six-year record of accomplishment:

  • On state assessments,
  • ...

Dear Deborah,

We've been writing about the democratic control of education (or the lack thereof), but let me shift the conversation back to the education of democratic citizens. I strongly agree with those who argue that our current fascination with “college and career readiness” overlooks a third, probably more important, c-word: citizenship. That's public education's raison d'etre, right? To prepare our young people to take their rightful place as voters, jurors, taxpayers, and leaders—to become “the people” that gives our government its legitimacy?

Many people are doing good work on this challenge; let me recommend that you check out the new group ...

As a Relinquisher, I’m weary of broad government mandates. I believe educators should run schools, parents should choose amongst these schools, and government should hold schools accountable for performance and equity.

So what to make of the Common Core—which will be the broadest combination of federal- or state-initiated regulatory overhaul that we’ve seen in decades?

Admittedly, it took me a while to sort through my competing impulses. But here’s the path I followed:

Skepticism: The research on standards

1.    There’s very little evidence that higher standards lead to higher achievement. As Tom Loveless notes, states with better...

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which gives public dollars to low-income students to escape low-performing schools for private schools of their choosing, has come under fire from the Department of Justice for “imped[ing] the desegregation processes” of two dozen school districts. Not so, says this new study in Education Next. In fact, the University of Arkansas authors find that the transfers resulting from the voucher program “overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which...

The University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has emerged as the leading voice of reason on the vexing overlap between charter school policy and special education policy. In this new report, CRPE turned to Manhattan Institute scholar Marcus Winters to examine data from New York’s charter and traditional public schools to help explain why it is that charters enroll fewer special-education (SpEd) students. Just as CRPE previously argued, diagnosing and addressing this gap (around 4 percent, according to earlier estimates) requires nuance—and New York State lawmakers made a serious mistake by rushing enrollment quotas into law...

As part of the AEI Teacher Quality 2.0 series, the authors of this paper take on the delicate issue of school-staffing design. In the first two pages, they rip apart arguments others have spent years carefully constructing: Teacher pay may be too low, but, they counter, across-the-board raises are impossibly expensive for even profligate spenders ($16 billion per year, or roughly the entire Title I budget for just a $5,000 per teacher raise, according to their calculations). Professional development is also important, but won’t do much good when teachers have so little adult interaction and feedback. And of course we...

In this week’s podcast, Mike and Michelle debate whether to teach family planning in schools, whether an extreme love of sports hinders academic achievement, and whether Michigan’s “count day” is a great way to distribute state education dollars (hint: it’s not). Amber asks us not to mind the charter-district SPED gap.

The Common Core State Standards will soon be driving instruction in forty-five states and the District of Columbia.

While the standards are high quality, getting their implementation right is a real challenge—and it won't be free, a serious concern given the tight budgets of many districts and states.
But while critics have warned of a hefty price tag, the reality is more complicated.

Yes, some states may end up spending a lot of money. But there are also opportunities for significant savings if states, districts and schools use this occasion to rethink their approach to test administration, instructional materials and training for teachers. The key is that states have options, and implementation doesn't need to look (or cost) the same everywhere.

States could approach implementation in myriad ways. Here are three:

• One, stick to "Business as usual" and use traditional tools like textbooks, paper tests, and in-person training. These tools are very familiar in today's education system, but they can come with reasonably high price tags.
• Two, go with only the "bare bones" of what's necessary: Experiment with open-source materials, computerized assessments, and online professional development in ways that provide the bare bones of more traditional, in-person approaches. This could save major coin, but could require more technology investment and capacity for some states.
• Or, three, find a middle ground through "balanced implementation" of both strategies, which offers some of the benefits—and downsides—of each model.

But how much money are we talking? Take Florida: 

If Florida sticks to business as usual, it could spend $780 million implementing the Common Core. Under the bare bones approach, the tab could be only $183 million. A blend of the two? $318 million.

But that's the total cost; don't forget states are already spending billions of dollars each year on textbooks, tests, curricula, and other expenses. Look at it that way and the sticker shock wears off: The estimated net cost of putting the Common Core in place in the Sunshine State, for example, ranges from $530 million to roughly $67 million less than what we estimate that they are spending now. 

Each implementation approach has its merits—and drawbacks—but states and districts do have options for smartly adopting the Common Core without breaking the bank. Further, they could use this opportunity to create efficiencies via cross-state collaborations and other innovations.

To learn more, download "Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?"

Shut it down!

In this week’s podcast, Mike and Michelle debate whether to teach family planning in schools, whether an extreme love of sports hinders academic achievement, and whether Michigan’s “count day” is a great way to distribute state education dollars (hint: it’s not). Amber asks us not to mind the charter-district SPED gap.

Amber's Research Minute

Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” by Marcus Winters, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington, September 2013.

The University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has emerged as the leading voice of reason on the vexing overlap between charter school policy and special education policy. In this new report, CRPE turned to Manhattan Institute scholar Marcus Winters to examine data from New York’s charter and traditional public schools to help explain why it is that charters enroll fewer special-education (SpEd) students. Just as CRPE previously argued, diagnosing and addressing this gap (around 4 percent, according to earlier estimates) requires nuance—and New York State lawmakers made a serious mistake by rushing enrollment quotas into law three years ago. Winters examined students in Kindergarten through third grade from the 2008–09 to 2011–12 academic years, targeting twenty-five charter elementary schools that participated in enrollment lotteries in order to compare lottery winners and losers. He emerged with four key findings. First, the primary driver of the SpEd gap is the type of student who applies to attend a charter in Kindergarten: Those with autism and speech impairments were less likely to apply to charter schools in the first place. And though this study cannot tell us why, it tells us that parents of SpEd students switch schools a lot until they find the right fit for their child. Second, charters are less likely to indicate that students need SpEd services, and they’re more likely to declassify students who are “special needs”; specifically, students in charters are more likely to have their Individualized Education Program (IEP) classification removed by Year...

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which gives public dollars to low-income students to escape low-performing schools for private schools of their choosing, has come under fire from the Department of Justice for “imped[ing] the desegregation processes” of two dozen school districts. Not so, says this new study in Education Next. In fact, the University of Arkansas authors find that the transfers resulting from the voucher program “overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which they are located.” The government will eventually reopen, but here’s hoping that the DOJ lawsuit goes away permanently.

Reviewing the latest misguided barnburner by former Fordham trustee (and current rabble-rouser) Diane Ravitch, the Manhattan Institute’s Sol Stern has penned a scathing but fair rebuke. He points out that her newfound “educational romanticism”—characterized by her suggestion that all children read poetry and be freed from the demands of knowledge-rich curricula—does not just contradict her life’s work but is also terribly short-sighted, especially for low-income children: “If they’re not taught lots of content knowledge in the early grades,” Stern writes, “they’re doomed to fall further behind. They will never be able to read Walden or understand poetry.” He labels her bottomless blog a “propaganda hub for the national anti-corporate-reform coalition” with “all the subtlety of an Occupy Wall Street poster”; he faults her book for its “pie-in-the-sky” solutions;...

Michael Casserly

There may be a lot to question about how the Broad Foundation makes its award selections every year, but its annual attempt to honor improvements in urban education does not warrant the bilious commentary by Andy Smarick about the recent choice of the Houston Independent School District. Smarick grounds his claim on the incorrect assertion that the award is given “for supposed urban district excellence.” In fact the prize is granted by the foundation for “America’s most improved public school districts.” Announcement of the prize states clearly, “These districts represent progress, not perfection.” Strike one for Smarick’s argument.

Smarick goes on to claim that Houston has made little progress academically since 2003. To bolster his contention, he selectively uses eighth-grade reading trends on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), something that the Broad Prize can’t use because only twenty-one of the seventy-five districts eligible for the prize participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment of NAEP. Still, Smarick might have noted that while eighth-grade reading proficiency remained low in the most recently available results (2011), Houston’s improvements since 2003 were twice as large as the nation’s gains and identical to the gains of the “distressingly low” large cities—which, by the way, include urban charter schools, Smarick’s favored delivery system.

Meanwhile Houston’s fourth graders, who Smarick also omits from his commentary, show gains three times as large as the...

Dear Deborah,

We've been writing about the democratic control of education (or the lack thereof), but let me shift the conversation back to the education of democratic citizens. I strongly agree with those who argue that our current fascination with “college and career readiness” overlooks a third, probably more important, c-word: citizenship. That's public education's raison d'etre, right? To prepare our young people to take their rightful place as voters, jurors, taxpayers, and leaders—to become “the people” that gives our government its legitimacy?

Many people are doing good work on this challenge; let me recommend that you check out the new group Citizenship First, for starters. (Here's a neat idea it is promoting: By 2026, every high school graduate should be able to pass the U.S. Naturalization Exam.)

But I want to put a related issue on the table that rarely gets discussed. It's the most basic requirement of citizenship, a responsibility that we "experts" often overlook in our quest for more ambitious goals: self-sufficiency.

Let me state it clearly: If we haven't prepared our young people to be financially self-sufficient once they finish their educations, we have failed in our most fundamental duty. And the "we" is meant to be inclusive: our education system, our social service agencies, our families, our churches, you, me, and all of us.

Yes, the poor we will always have among us. And there will be times—like these past five years—when the economic situation throws people out of work. We absolutely need a safety...

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