Additional Topics

In 2006, we wrote, “The policy debates over [immigration] in the halls of Congress will go on, but the hard task of blending millions of immigrants (legal or not) into American society marches on daily, at least in the nation’s schools.” While that hard task continues, this Pew study on second-generation Americans offers some assurance that the work is not for naught. It tracks census data from the 20 million second-generation Americas above the age of twenty-five—and supplements them with Pew’s own survey data—to compare the educational and economic status of these second-gen Americans to both their parents’ generation and the broader populace. Bottom line: Children of immigrants are climbing the socioeconomic ladder. Second-generation adults fare better than those in the first generation in median household income (by $22,000), college degrees (by 7 percentage points), and more. They’re also 16 percentage points likelier to have finished high school. And most of these favorable comparisons hold within racial subgroups. This may be partly because fully three quarters of both Hispanic second-gen’ers and Asian second gen’ers (groups that comprise three-quarters of this population) believe that “most people can get ahead if they work hard.” By contrast, only 58 percent of the general American public feels the same way. That said, Pew analysts also point to some worrisome trends. Among them, second-generation Hispanics were considerably worse off than their Asian counterparts on such gauges as economic achievement and educational attainment. Our 2006 assertion still rings true.

SOURCE: Pew Research Center, Second-Generation...

Wheelchair Basketball
Ambiguous government writing sparked a debate over disabled students' "right" to sports.
Photo by Canadian Paralympic Committee

Two weeks ago I kicked up some dust when I wrote that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had apparently created a right to wheelchair basketball via its new guidance about athletics and students with disabilities. Nor was I the only one to read it that way—the disability rights community saw it as a “landmark moment” too, akin to the passage of Title IX.

Not so fast, says the Department in a new Education Week article:

Seth M. Galanter, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, said that the guidance neither breaks new ground nor mandates new policy for the states that did not previously exist. During an interview, he pointed to a footnote in the guidance that says it is not adding requirements to applicable law.
Mr. Galanter also said that while the bulk of the guidance document offers examples of where the civil rights office would or would not find violations, the portion that talks about offering different or separate activities does not prescribe any penalties.
"The guidance does not say that there is a right to separate or parallel sports programs," Mr. Galanter said. Instead, the guidance urges—but does not require—that when...

Amber and Rob, sitting in a tree…

Mike and Kathleen are disappointed by the most recent Next Generation Science Standards and by Alabama’s decision to withdraw from the Common Core testing consortia…But if Amber’s discussion of a study on charter performance didn’t cheer them up, news of her recent engagement did!

Amber's Research Minute

Charter School Growth and Replication by Emily Peltason and Margaret E. Raymond (Stanford, CA: Center for Research and Education Outcomes, January 2013)

The issue left behind
The more Republicans talk about education, the better they do with voters. But the party seems oblivious.
Photo by Photomatt28

As the Republican Party searches its soul and its ranks for policies, strategies, and leaders that can restore it to fighting strength at the national level, few expect education reform to loom large among the issues needing close attention. Yet it’s hard to get very far on such central challenges as economic growth and international competitiveness without paying close heed to the capacity of America’s workforce in the medium term​—​and to the prowess of our scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs over the long haul.

Keep this in mind, too, as any pollster will tell you: The more Republicans talk about education, the better they do with voters. 

A number of GOP governors, past and present, have figured this out, among them Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Rick Snyder. And plenty of education reform is underway at the state and, sometimes, local levels.

The national party, however, appears somewhere between oblivious and brain-dead on this topic. Observe, for example, a Congress that’s many years overdue in revamping and reauthorizing such core federal education programs as No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

No, it’s not just a GOP problem. Gridlock...

Plenty of folks in the education business seek the limelight. Not all deserve it—at least, not for doing good. But some individuals and groups that do great good for kids, teachers, and schools prefer to do so quietly, even invisibly. And two such entities are merging as Gene Wilhoit—previously of the Council of Chief State School Officers and, arguably, the most important force behind the Common Core standards—joins Sue Pimentel and Jason Zimba’s crackerjack (but small and quiet) team at Student Achievement Partners, which might be the most valuable enterprise in the land when it comes to defending, improving, explaining, and implementing the Common Core. Neither Wilhoit nor SAP is a glutton for publicity—but the work they’ve done, and continue to do, deserves respect and gratitude.

Earlier this week, Ohio Governor John Kasich unveiled his education reform plan. Among its many features are an expansion of private school vouchers and Ohio’s first-ever charter school facility funding. Perhaps most promising, the governor proposed a $300-million Innovation Fund to kick-start projects aimed at reshaping how schools deploy technology and human resources. In a town-hall meeting, Fordham's Terry Ryan told the governor and a rapt audience that the Innovation Fund is "very exciting...There's a lot of untapped energy out in the field that's waiting to take charge and take control of the opportunities."

As school districts begin to come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to maintain their current spending levels, Stanford scholar Eric A....

We are hosting regional conversations in Cincinnati and Dayton about student mobility and our report, Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. Both events will feature a presentation of the report findings from Community Research Partners and a panel discussion among local education and community leaders about the impact of mobility and what might be done about. Please join us!


Tuesday, February 26 12:00pm to 1:30pm

United Way on Reading Road



Tuesday, February 26 7:30am to 9:00 am

Dayton Racquet Club


Are you a Columbus-area parent that wants to live in or near a culturally vibrant neighborhood, and send your child to a school that serves a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds? But you find yourself wondering, Will the public schools in the city provide a strong education for my kid?

If you are looking for the best school for your child and finding it hard to navigate all the options, join us as author, father, and education policy expert (and Fordham Executive Vice President) Michael J. Petrilli details his family’s journey.

Columbus International High School

Tuesday, February 26 · 5:30pm to 7:00 pm

Click here to RSVP 

Switching it up

In a surprise twist, Dara Zeehandelaar hosts Fordham president Checker Finn on this week’s Gadfly Show. They discuss Tom Harkin’s retirement, wheelchair basketball, and the flap over the MAP. Amber intervenes with a word on late interventions.

Amber's Research Minute

Late Interventions Matter Too: The Case of College Coaching in New Hampshire by Scott Carell and Bruce Sacerdote (National Bureau of Education Research, Dartmouth College, University of California Davis, July 2012).

School closures
School closures are traumatic.
Photo by Thomas Hawk

Secretary Duncan and his team were mobbed the other day by agitated parents and kids protesting the closing of public schools around the land. Though Uncle Sam has no real control over this, it's true that Duncan came to Washington promising to close (or overhaul) a thousand schools a year and, more recently, has been pressing for radical action in the lowest-performing 5 percent—i.e., about 5000 schools. Actual data in this realm are scarce, but NCES reports roughly a thousand closings a year among “regular” public schools (meaning that, in one sense, Duncan's promise is being kept, though not by him), as well as who knows how many charter and private schools that bite the dust. But even if the total is closer to 2000, in a country with 100,000 schools that's just 2 percent a year. Moreover, schools keep opening, too, hundreds of them every year in every sector.

Nobody likes to close schools. Secretary Duncan remarked to the crowd, “I don't know any educator who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to close schools.’” And it’s self-evident that nobody likes to have his or her own school closed. It's traumatic for families, teachers, students, neighborhoods, communities, even entire villages and towns.

But there are three big reasons why schools close and will continue to close—while others open.

First and most obviously, big demographic shifts....

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is regarded as perhaps the most powerful lawmaker in U.S. education policy, will not seek re-election in 2014. While he was an impediment to change—making this good news for reformers—the word on the grapevine about his possible successor is troubling. Namely, there is talk that if Sen. Patty Murray does not take on the role due to her role on the Senate Budget Committee, the next name on the list is—Sen. Bernie Sanders? We shudder to think.

Last week, the Education Department—with nary a nod to Congress or public debate—declared what Mike Petrilli dubbed a “right to wheelchair basketball” via its new “guidance” on the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. While few oppose the desirability of making reasonable accommodations for the disabled in school sports, the guidance, as pointed out by Politics K–12, “goes farther and says that if reasonable accommodations can’t be made, students with disabilities ‘should still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular activities,’” thus turning “guidance” into a fully fledged unfunded mandate. For more on this debate, check out Mike’s appearance on NPR’s “On Point” show.

In its latest foray into the study of charter-school quality, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has a major new study out, reporting that schools’ long-term success can be predicted by how they performed in their first year. Schools that start the game swinging will generally continue to do well, while those...