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By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

I’ve known Kathleen Porter-Magee for a decade now. We’re both branches in the Checker-Finn ed-reformer-development tree. She was a young researcher for Fordham, and I was helping start the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (in which Checker was intimately involved). In the years since, I’ve had the wonderful fortune to work with Kathleen in a number of capacities and to see her evolve from a huge natural talent to one of the most important actors and commentators in our field.

Kathleen Porter Magee Thomas B Fordham Institute

For anyone who cares about Common Core, Kathleen’s blog Common Core Watch is absolutely a must-read. No one has been more thoughtful or prolific on the standards themselves and their implementation. When I’m about to write something about CCSS or the testing consortia, I go to KPM first. When the US Department of Education was putting together a technical review panel for the testing consortia, they too turned to KPM.

In hindsight, the last decade-plus has perfectly prepared Kathleen for this moment. She’s been a teacher and has led curriculum and PD for one of the nation’s finest CMOs and the schools of a large Catholic diocese. She’s also done wide-ranging research and writing on standards and much else.

But she’s...

Ohio’s State Board of Education made student privacy a priority in yesterday’s education data hearing.

“What data will be collected on my child?” Board President Debe Terhar read from an email she had received from one of a number of parents concerned with their child’s private information being accessed and shared by schools and outside parties. The board expressed parents’ apprehension toward the use of their son or daughter’s education records as it investigated the balance necessary between collecting data for accountability purposes and respecting the privacy of Ohio’s families.

The board invited testimony from experts in the data technologies currently used by Ohio schools as well as education privacy laws. Their aim was to provide the board – and their constituent districts and parents – with the latest information on challenges to effective data collection and threats to privacy.

The board questioned a panel of ODE data experts on the design and uses of the state’s Educational Management Information System (EMIS) and Instructional Improvement System (IIS). EMIS data proves necessary in state and federal funding formulas, performance accountability, and decision tools for policymakers. IIS provides current and secure data to teachers for individual student performance and curriculum alignment with standards.

The panel expressed confidence in the Ohio Revised Code’s data collection regulations, when asked by the board. Further, the panel referred to the systems’ data collection for measuring outcomes from Pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education as the “holy grail of program evaluation.”

Fordham and the board invited Kent Talbert,...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Today, By the Company It Keeps takes a breather for America’s holiday.

But what better way to head into this long weekend than with a dose of inspiration drawn from two of the most famous Fourth of July speeches in our nation’s history.

In 1852, leading abolitionist, former slave, and famed orator Frederick Douglass was invited to publicly celebrate Independence Day in front of a swollen Rochester crowd. But he was in no mood to rejoice, delivering as scathing a presentation as you could fathom in front of an audience prepared, instead, for national hosannas.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan used the moving story of the reconciliation of two presidential predecessors to remind the nation’s citizens that what united them was far greater than what pulled them apart.

At first blush, the sounds of these two speeches couldn’t be more dissonant. Their words seem to reflect entirely different histories, entirely different principles. But on our nation’s birthday, we can see that they are of one piece: We have had, and we will continue to have, enormous challenges to overcome—but unlike any nation before, we did, and we will.

As Americans, we are so very fortunate to have kept the company of those who founded this nation and for those who have sought to preserve and perfect it ever since.

Frederick Douglass, 1852

...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?...

It is one of the more remarkable press releases you’ll see.

It’s from the Department. And it's about SIG.

First, the background.

At SIG’s onset, I went on the record predicting it would end as a monumental, possibly historic, waste of precious resources—investing billions of dollars in dysfunctional schools embedded in dysfunctional districts against the clear lessons of decades of research and experience. SIG was surely the morbid apotheosis of the turnaround craze.

So, of course, I’ve been yearning for real data showing how the program is doing. But I’m not the only one. Many others, far less rabid than I, have been pestering the Department for SIG student achievement data.

Late last year, the Department famously partook in the fine Beltway tradition of “Friday-night trash-dumping,” releasing a smidge of really bad news about SIG’s progress on the Friday before Thanksgiving Week. It showed that about 40 percent of participating schools had actually gotten worse. As for the rest, we were told nebulously that they made either “single-digit” or “double-digit” gains.

No school level results; just aggregate numbers in the form of a bar chart.

And old numbers at that! Changes in performance from 2009-10 to 2010-11.  And this was late November 2012.


Eagerly have we been waiting for more.

So on Tuesday, there’s an announcement about SIG—a release in which the Department praises itself for its continued “commitment to transparency.” (I’m not making this up.)

I hoped that...

Big Ideas Edition

With Mike beaching it in an undisclosed location, Dara and Daniela take on some big topics: If affirmative action were to end, how could colleges maintain diversity? Do teachers need convincing to use technology? All things considered, is college worth it? Amber charts a course to charter quality.

Amber's Research Minute

National Charter School Study 2013,” by Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Stanford, CA: Center for Research on Education Outcomes, June 2013).

The missed opportunity in the education of gifted students runs up and down the system, including into and beyond the college gate. Last December, Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery showed that there are far more high-achieving, low-income students than previously thought—but that these young people, unaware of their options, often do not even apply to selective colleges. Now, Hoxby and Sarah Turner report on a well-crafted intervention aimed at closing the information gap. It’s called the Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project. After sending and emailing customized informational packets (which consisted of college-specific information and application fee waivers, alongside guidance on how to apply to selective colleges, on the net cost of college, and on colleges’ varying graduation rates—all at $6 a pop) to high-achieving seniors (10,000 of them in 2010–11, with a control group of 2,500, and 15,000 in 2011–12, with a control group of 3,000), the authors saw positive results: Compared to the control group, recipient students were 20 percent more likely to apply to public and private schools with similarly high-achieving students. And in this Hamilton Project paper, the authors outline ways to bring this initiative to scale: First, in order to scale up the number of students reached, the ECO project will need to team up with credible, established institutions, such as the College Board and ACT. Second, because the Census recently stopped gathering data on incomes, housing values, occupations, and adults’ education, the authors propose that the federal government allow them access to other sources...

A week catching up on education challenges and reforms in England made clear that the U.S. and its “mother country” continue to track—and copy and study and refine—each other’s programs and policies, much as they have done at least since Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s education teams realized how much they had in common. But the differences remain profound, too.

Similarities and differences between UK and US education reform
The U.S. and the U.K. continue to track, copy, study, and refine each other's programs and policies. But the differences remain profound, too.

Let’s start with nine notable similarities.

1. Both nations are engaged in major pushes to overhaul their standards, assessment, and accountability systems. Mediocre PISA and TIMSS results plus persistent domestic achievement gaps have caught the eyes of policymakers and education leaders on both sides of the pond, as it’s become clear that yesterday’s so-so expectations just aren’t good enough and that today’s testing-and-accountability regimes do not produce nearly enough world-class, college-ready graduates. Nor have they significantly reduced the most troubling performance gaps. Changes are afoot.

2. With standards-raising comes keen anxiety about implementation on the ground (will teachers, for example, be adequately prepared?) and about public outcry when more youngsters (and schools) are found wanting.

3. Whereas yesterday’s...

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due in part to the involvement of his campaign chairwoman, State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, he has fostered a relationship with charter advocates and Randi Weingarten. We’ll see how he handles this balancing act.

Chris Walters, a Virginia native and newly minted Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD, has...

The more things change, the more they stay the same—at least for seventeen-year-old achievement. According to the latest Long-Term Trend (LTT) NAEP report (released today), scores for youngsters in this age group have scarcely budged since the test was first administered in the 1970s. (Recall that the LTT report differs from the “main NAEP”: The former, given every four years, utilizes a similar battery of questions to test reading and math so that results are comparable longitudinally; the latter determines proficiency across a host of subjects, employing periodically updated frameworks and exams, hence with little potential for long-term tracking.) But there’s growth among younger pupils: Average scores for nine and thirteen year olds rose since the 1970s in both reading and math, sometimes substantially—from an eight-point gain (on a 500-point scale) for thirteen-year-old reading scores to a whopping twenty-five point gain for nine-year-old math scores. And most race- and gender-based achievement gaps narrowed—in some cases dramatically. The white-black reading gap at age nine, for example, decreased by twenty-one points; the seventeen-year-old white-Hispanic math gap shrank by thirteen points; and the female-male nine-year-old reading gap lowered by seven points. While some satisfaction should be taken from these gains by minority students (and by boys in reading and girls in math), the stunted achievement at age seventeen is more than worrisome. Will the Common Core alter this very long-term trend? The next LTT administration is slated for 2015–16.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Marc Porter Magee came to public fame as COO of arguably the most successful state-based education-reform advocacy organization of recent times, ConnCAN. Thanks to Marc’s leadership of its research and communications operations, that group was able to cause a major ruckus in an edu-complacent state with a huge achievement gap. Not only did Connecticut start talking differently about reform, it ultimately changed a number of its policies in big ways.

Marc Porter Magee 50CAN

Marc soon had the brilliant idea of trying to scale ConnCAN’s success using the same mindset as the leaders of the first highly successful charter schools: We have one great entity, so let’s see if we can replicate its model to reach an even larger audience. The result was 50CAN, a nonprofit research-and-advocacy organization with a growing number of highly effective state affiliates modeled on ConnCAN.

Marc serves as 50CAN’s founder and president. Strike up a conversation with him and you’ll quickly see how he’s been so successful. First, he’s smart as the dickens—he holds a PhD in sociology from Duke, cut his teeth doing D.C.-based think-tank work, and has a Mississippi-wide breadth of interests. Second, he’s an extremely creative organizational leader; I learn gobs by picking his brain about staffing, managing, setting goals, starting...