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Over at Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, our own Mike Petrilli and educator Deborah Meier have been engaged in a spirited back and forth about the role that poverty plays in education. Allow me to chime in, first by suggesting that while poverty matters, we are nowhere close to maximizing our educational potential, even given the current level of poverty.

I'm concerned that many of the same people who seem to be implying that few further gains can be made in educational outcomes without first solving the poverty problem also seem to have near-total faith in the power of the right government program to address any societal problem that comes our way. Education reformers and advocates for the poor ought not to allow for the creation of this sort of vacuum whereby the poverty conversation is dominated by those who believe the only answers to poverty lie in more safety-net programs that may indeed worsen the cycle of poverty and government dependency. Instead, those who believe that education is the primary path to economic opportunity must also fight to ensure that real opportunities exist.

It’s no secret that our current economic recovery is languishing, with cratering ...

Dear Deborah,

A healthy debate we've started indeed! I'm not sure we've bridged many differences, though; maybe we should change the blog's name to Bigging Differences.

In that spirit, let me float another provocative but commonsensical idea: We need to do everything we can—in our schools and in our larger social policies—to empower individuals who are working hard to climb the ladder to success. In other words, we need to spur on the strivers.

Let me explain some of my assumptions.

  1. As we've been discussing, I still believe in the promise of upward mobility. I don't buy into the dystopia of some on the left that pictures a future with an eviscerated middle class, opportunities only for the elite, and a vast dependent population. Times are tough now, but economic growth and jobs will return; the American Dream will be back.
  2. But I'm no utopian. Not all children born into poverty are going to make it out by adulthood. Most face powerful disadvantages—dysfunctional families, substance abuse, crime, segregation, broken economies, bad schools, etc.—and not everyone will be able
  3. ...

As waves of reforms and would-be reforms have washed over American public education these past three decades, high schools have mostly stayed dry. Although test scores have risen slightly in the early grades, especially in math, National Assessment results for twelfth-graders have been flat or down a bit. SAT scores are also flat, and ACT averages much the same.

ACT, the organization that administers the college-entrance test of the same name, judges only one-quarter of its test-takers to be fully ready for college-level academics, and the College Board is not much cheerier. In releasing SAT results for the 1.6 million members of the high school class of 2013 who took the test, the board estimated that just 43 percent met its benchmark for college and career readiness—a score of 1550 or better (out of 2400), which translates to a 65 percent chance of having a B-minus (or better) GPA during the freshman year in college.

And that’s among those who stick it out and graduate from high school. Millions of young people drop out. School discipline remains appalling,...

Over the past several weeks, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli has been debating Deborah Meier on her Bridging Differences blog about the relationship between poverty and education. One topic that’s come up is the impact of family breakdown. This guest post by Center of the American Experiment president Mitch Pearlstein explores what might be done about it.

Presuming one thinks it’s generally not great for children to live with only one parent, and that it’s not great for the commonweal either, what might you be tempted to say to a young woman or man who was blasé, perhaps even eager, to bring a child into the world in which it was understood, from Day One, that one of his or her parents was essentially out of the family portrait and would remain that way? This is what I might say with as much empathy and grace as I could:

I assure you I know that life can be terribly unpredictable and difficult. In fact, it usually is. This is especially case when it comes to the most personal and treasured things going on in our lives, starting with our children and other people we love. It also can be...

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 foundersaquatic life; the Maya, Inca, and Aztec; and Native American cultures. Thanks to research interns Melissa Reynolds and Singer Crawford for their help in compiling these lists.

Welcome to the final week of our Columbus Day unit. Two weeks ago we tackled the ancient American civilizations of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. Then we spotlighted Native American cultures. At last it’s time for Christopher Columbus himself (and other discoverers).

As I’ve written before, it’s harder to find good historical content for young children than science content. And sure enough, age-appropriate videos on Columbus (or the Age of Discovery writ large) are slim pickings. In fact, we’ve expanded our universe beyond Netflix and Amazon in order to bring in some other worthy selections.

Needless to say, Columbus is a controversial historical figure. Watch these videos with your children—and be prepared to explain the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Best videos on Christopher Columbus and the Age of...

As former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan knows a thing or two about education policy and the reforms that come with it. But in writing this book, she had a different goal in mind: to describe how she came to be a choice advocate and to provide a guide to other parents. With all the urgency of a politician but the patience of a mother—and she is most definitely both, as well as a smart, savvy, and likable human being—Keegan reviews her childhood, her career, and her experience raising four children in a piecemeal family of divorcees and step-moms. Drawing on these experiences, she reveals three “guideposts”: (1) Parents are and should be treated as sacred because children see themselves as reflections of their parents; (2) cultivate and cherish your children’s unique traits; and (3) see and help your children see their lives in a sacred context. Weaving in her background as a linguist and speech pathologist, Keegan illustrates how parents can provide their kids with what they know will help them succeed—and that’s communication. By age 3,...

In this study, researchers from Teachers College at Columbia University analyzed data from a cohort of 77,501 New York City public school students who entered ninth grade in 2005, seeking connections between students’ high school outcomes and college persistence and their achievement, background characteristics, and school environments. Two findings stand out among many: First, students who failed New York’s third-grade reading exam had significantly lower odds of graduating high school than their peers who passed. Of those who failed third-grade reading, barely one in three graduated high school, compared to a 90 percent graduation rate among those who passed. Second, for the students who did graduate from high school, the type of diploma earned was the strongest predictor of college enrollment and persistence one year after matriculation. (New York State awards three diplomas—local, Regents, and Advanced Regents—each with different requirements.) Less than one-third of the graduates who earned a local diploma enrolled in college in Fall 2009 and were still enrolled in Spring 2010. This rate is well below those who earned either a Regents (50 percent enrolled and persisted) or an Advanced Regents diploma (80 percent). Given the findings, the researchers suggest that the “conventional assumptions” about school...

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, is no friend of charter schools. He’s been clear, for instance, that if he steps foot in City Hall, Bloomberg’s policy of not charging them rent would be stopped and frisked. In response, 17,000 parents, students, and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday in support of charter schools and Bloomberg’s education policies. For a particularly good summary of the issue, take a look at Daniel Henninger’s piece in the Wall Street Journal. For our analysis, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show podcast.

North Carolina and Los Angeles have both encountered problems with their high-profile tablets-for-students programs. In North Carolina, around 10 percent of the 15,000 devices distributed have reportedly been defective, leading the state to suspend the program. And in L.A., some enterprising students managed to hack the tablets’ security filters (score for teenage resourcefulness—send them all to programming class!), leading officials to disallow taking the tablets off-campus—and boding ill for the program’s future after the school board reviews it later this month....

Although the latest glum international-education data weren’t even released until this week, last week brought a pair of provocative and contrasting speeches about the state of American education in 2013, both of which repay close attention—in part so that you can consider the differences between them.

On September 30, U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan spoke at the National Press Club. The following day, Louisiana state superintendent John White spoke at AEI.

Both men are very smart, very experienced, and very committed to a radically better education system for young Americans. Both were taking stock...

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...

It’s no exaggeration to say that private school choice has been a success. Every serious study into the efficacy of vouchers and tax-credit scholarships has shown either positive or neutral benefits for students, and virtually no significant research has found any signs of academic harm to children. This makes the popular narrative about school choice—that vouchers have done little good because the students who participate don’t outperform their public school peers—all the more frustrating. The mainstream press has advanced this story line. The latest version comes from (semi-mainstream) Politico and reporter Stephanie Simon, who concluded in a 1,600-word...

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, is no friend of charter schools. He’s been clear, for instance, that if he steps foot in City Hall, Bloomberg’s policy of not charging them rent would be stopped and frisked. In response, 17,000 parents, students, and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday in support of charter schools and Bloomberg’s education policies. For a particularly good summary of the issue, take a look at Daniel Henninger’s piece in the Wall Street Journal....

The OECD, much loved by education-data wonks for its yearly Education at a Glance report, has launched its latest international-data nerd-bible: the Survey of Adult Skills, run by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (or PIACC), which measures proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving among adults aged sixteen through sixty-five. In this debut edition, researchers surveyed roughly 166,000 adults in twenty-four countries, almost all of which are OECD members, meaning they have “advanced” economies. The bottom line: The U.S. performed below the international average on most measures. The researchers also found that proficiency worldwide is...

In this study, researchers from Teachers College at Columbia University analyzed data from a cohort of 77,501 New York City public school students who entered ninth grade in 2005, seeking connections between students’ high school outcomes and college persistence and their achievement, background characteristics, and school environments. Two findings stand out among many: First, students who failed New York’s third-grade reading exam had significantly lower odds of graduating high school than their peers who passed. Of those who failed third-grade reading, barely one in three graduated high school, compared to a 90 percent graduation rate among those who passed....

As former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan knows a thing or two about education policy and the reforms that come with it. But in writing this book, she had a different goal in mind: to describe how she came to be a choice advocate and to provide a guide to other parents. With all the urgency of a politician but the patience of a mother—and she is most definitely both, as well as a smart, savvy, and likable...

In this week’s podcast, Mike and Brickman talk tablet woes (and praise teenage hackers for their healthy disrespect for authority), charter support in NYC, and the research on voucher effectiveness. Amber tells us about PISA for geezers.

Teacher preparation, evaluation, and the characteristics of effective teaching are at the center of contemporary education research and policymaking.

Yet teaching is not afforded the same status as other professions in terms of recognition, pay, and career-advancement opportunities. As a result, nearly half of all new teachers leave the profession by their fifth year, and our finest teachers are among those who exit our nation’s classrooms for good.

How do we improve the stature of teaching to attract and retain more great teachers? What would it take to professionalize teaching?

NNSTOY believes that five key structures—found in almost every other field—have the potential to transform teaching into a profession that fosters continuous improvement, high expectations, and shared accountability.

This distinguished panel of educators and policymakers examine the ideas presented in this paper and their potential impact on the teaching profession.

Although the latest glum international-education data weren’t even released until this week, last week brought a pair of provocative and contrasting speeches about the state of American education in 2013, both of which repay close attention—in part so that you can consider the differences between them.

On September 30, U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan spoke at the National Press Club. The following day, Louisiana state superintendent John White spoke at AEI.

Both men are very smart, very experienced, and very committed to a radically better education system for young Americans. Both were taking stock of the reform movement, education politics, Washington’s role, and much else. They shared several common themes. But they also differed in big ways.

Commonalities first.

  • Both deplored political polarization, paralysis, and Washington gridlock.
  • Both noted that on-the-ground realities found outside Washington include some remarkably positive education developments that Beltway-based politicos and media seldom even notice. (Duncan referred multiple times to Washington’s “alternative universe,” inhabited also by non-Washingtonian “armchair pundits” who favor “blogs, books, and tweets” that transmit their biases rather than reality.)
  • Both took heated umbrage at the view—they didn’t name Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, the Education Policy Institute, or
  • ...

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