Additional Topics

This study reports on the first large-scale, randomized-control trial measuring the educational value of field trips. In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Arkansas and, because of the high demand for tours, the authors were able to randomly select student groups to go. They matched participating groups with control groups based on similar grade level and demographics. In total, almost 11,000 students in grades K–12 at 123 schools were involved. About half of the students took a field trip to the art museum. They received a one-hour tour in which they viewed and discussed about five paintings. (Some had additional time in the museum.) Several weeks later, the authors gave a quiz to both the participating and control groups. Even after such a modest exposure to art, the results were pretty staggering: First, participating students were able to recall a great deal of information from their tour, showing that exposure to art and culture can be an important tool to relay content information to students. Second, participants demonstrated a greater ability to think critically about art—the authors showed students a painting they had never seen before and asked them to write about it. Third, they showed...

Education Next

It’s not exactly news that America’s education system is mediocre and expensive in international comparison. What’s less well known is that our schools’ ineffectiveness and inefficiency could have big implications for the country’s economic growth in decades to come. In a new book from the Brookings Institution Press, three of the world’s leading education scholars explain that nothing short of America’s prosperity is at risk due to our educational underperformance.

In today’s Education Next book club, Mike Petrilli speaks with all three authors—Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann—about the evidence they bring to bear in Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School.

Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog. Check out the Education Gadfly Weekly for a short review of the book....

Note: This post is part of our Netflix Academy series. See background, and links to other educational videos worth streaming, here.

Constitution Day is Tuesday, which is an excellent opportunity to teach children about our nation’s founding (a subject required for study by the Common Core state standards).

That gave me an excuse to dig into the Netflix and Amazon archives to find videos that might be available that could help elementary school children learn about our founders, the Revolutionary War, and the big ideas of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there’s not much. Most of what’s online is a better fit for older students—probably middle schoolers—such as several of Ken Burns’ excellent documentaries.

But thanks to the wonderful animated shows Liberty’s Kids and the classic Schoolhouse Rock!, all is not lost.

As always, if I’ve missed something good that’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime, please let me know in the comments section below.

Best videos on George Washington and the American founders available for streaming

1. Liberty's Kids

Liberty's Kids


Sue, baby, sue!

Mike tries to goad an unflappable Michael Brickman into a fight on New York’s mayoral election, whether school choice is the only path to reform, and whether Arne Duncan is bullying California. Dara does the math on math teachers from TFA and Teaching Fellows.

Amber's Research Minute

The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows Programs by Melissa A. Clark, et al., (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, September 2013).

I liked Preston Smith from the very start.

We talked about sports and music, teased each other like high school friends, and bonded over stories of our young kids and smart, loving wives. We also shared a hardscrabble past and a set of small shoulder chips that produced in both of us a forward-leaning posture and an abiding passion for education reform.

But there’s so much more to Preston, the CEO and co-founder of Rocketship Education, maybe the hottest CMO in America. He made it out of a tough neighborhood, attended and excelled at a top-flight university, joined Teach For America, won awards for his extraordinary teaching, served as a founding principal in his early twenties, and then started the first Rocketship school—turning both into the highest performing schools in San Jose, CA.

He worked his way up through the organization, and when CEO John Danner resigned in early 2013, Preston, at only 33, took the organization’s helm and was charged with overseeing both its existing eight schools and audacious national growth plans.

I was lucky enough to be part of a two-year...

If you missed “A Back-To-School Conversation About Education” on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show with education secretary Arne Duncan and a panel of experts (including our own Mike Petrilli), here are the key takeaways:

  • Arne Duncan slams U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of U.S. colleges and talks up the Administration’s alternative;
  • Our Twitter klout score is nothing compared to Arne Duncan’s, something I was reminded of when guest host Susan Page asked about Duncan’s Tweet-heard-round-the-world on letting high school kids sleep later;
  • It’s possible Duncan overslept himself, since he was “not familiar” with the DOJ’s lawsuit against the Louisiana voucher program (yeah, right);
  • It’s bipartisan love when Duncan gives a shout out to Mike’s work on diversity in education and Mike is said to be more positive on Duncan than the liberal panelist (Richard Rothstein)
  • Mike gives his view on Common Core: the Feds should stay out, it’s state-led, and content is back, baby!

Listen to the recording here....

Behind the rise of Bill de Blasio in the race for New York City Mayor is his proposal to raise taxes (mainly on the rich) to pay for universal pre-K throughout the city. More schools for toddlers is always a winning campaign promise and, as de Blasio is right to assert, states and cities need to do better at preparing their youngest and most at-risk children to succeed in school. Pre-K today in New York, as in most places, is a fragmented potpourri of private and public programs—some very good, others not so much. For every Abbott Preschool Program, there is a Head Start center that does little to help children once they matriculate into elementary school. (I was once a student teacher at a Head Start site in New Orleans and saw both sides of the coin.)

Bill de Blasio photo from Wikipedia

If the goal of de Blasio is to close the achievement gap, stymieing the gap in a child’s formative years is much more rational strategy than waiting to combat the gap once it exists. For...

Note: This post is part of our Netflix Academy series. See background, and links to other educational videos worth streaming, here.

I love the dinosaur stage. Love, love, love. And when your child is ready to graduate from Dinosaur Train and take in some lifelike depictions of prehistoric monsters, this is where to start.

Walking with Dinosaurs is hard to beat, as are its cousins, Walking with Monsters (pre-dinosaur animals) and Walking with Beasts (post-dinosaur). The entire Walking series has a great narrative and is dominated by lifelike scenes of animals in action. The rest of these shows focus more on modern-day paleontologists—a great window into science but a tougher sell for short attention spans.

If I’ve missed something good that’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime, please let me know in the comments section.

Best dinosaur videos available for streaming

1. Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs

Using cutting-edge computer-generated imagery, this Emmy Award–winning series brings to life the Cretaceous, Triassic, and Jurassic periods, focusing on individual dinosaurs, or dinosaur families, to show the ever-changing Earth through their eyes.


The rapid gentrification of many large American cities represents a triumph and an opportunity for Republicans—a triumph because it was mainly Republican ideas (welfare reform, aggressive crime-fighting tactics, pro-growth policies) that set the trend in motion, and an opportunity because the wealthier and (frankly) whiter new residents are more likely to vote for the GOP.

Cities are for strivers

Yet a natural Republican constituency—parents with children—continues to exit cities once their kids reach school age. This is bad for Republicans, to be sure, but it’s also bad for cities, as much capital—human, social, and financial—decamps for the suburbs and beyond.

So why are twenty-something, single city-dwellers turning into thirty- and forty-something, suburban moms and dads? It’s education, stupid: the paucity of high-quality urban public schools.

Some hope that current education-reform efforts—raising standards, holding teachers accountable, and creating more charter schools—could help persuade these parents to keep the faith with big cities. And they might, at the margins. But most of these efforts don’t address the fundamental challenge that urban schools face: the diversity of their student population.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean racial or ethnic diversity,...

Amanda Ripley delivers a familiar admonishment to a new generation of Americans: The (mediocre) schools we have are the schools we deserve. In her first—and quite excellent—book on education, Ripley skillfully communicates this message through the experiences of teenaged U.S. exchange students inserted into three countries—Finland, South Korea, and Poland—for one year. All three countries have made recent leaps and bounds in educational achievement, and all three approach education in different ways: Finland’s “Utopia” model relies on highly trained, autonomous teachers and effective school choice. South Korea’s “Pressure Cooker” approach demands hard work in an ultra-competitive environment. And Poland’s “Metamorphosis,” which began in the late 1990s, focuses on rigor; accountability; high expectations; and district, school, and classroom autonomy. So with her veteran-journalist cap firmly in place, the author visits each of the three students in their host countries to compare their experiences—and perhaps gain insight as to why American students have lost ground. According to Ripley, American culture is a root cause of our education failings, including what parents want in a school, what kids learn at home, or officials’ unwillingness (or inability) to change teacher training, accountability systems, and curriculum. For instance, unlike the Finnish, we shield...