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StudentsFirst has made a thoughtful contribution to the burgeoning literature on school governance with its new policy brief Change the Leadership, Change the Rules: Improving Schools and Districts through Mayoral and State Governance. In it, the group argues that school boards have been largely ineffective in urban areas and examines two main alternatives: mayoral control and state control—the latter preferably via the “recovery district” model. It’s a short and snappy synopsis.

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project has produced another worthy read: Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Education is organized around three theses: inequality is on the rise against a backdrop of low social mobility; the U.S. is experiencing a growing divide in educational investments and outcomes based on family income; and education and smart interventions can help—such as those outlined in Caroline Hoxby’s Expanding College Opportunities project and Ben Castleman’s Summer Melt study. While the facts themselves are not new, the report offers an accessible and logical assemblage. Dig in!

On Monday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder chose finance expert Jack Martin to succeed Roy Roberts as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Martin enters the ring with four decades of private- and public-sector experience under his belt, including stints as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education and emergency manager of Highland Park Schools (another troubled school district in the Detroit metro area). What’s more, he is himself a DPS graduate. Martin is surely well credentialed and...

This dense yet eminently Tweetable report offers factoid after factoid to describe the state of child welfare in America—and, by default, the challenges facing education reformers and others. The compendium pulls from twenty-plus federal sources and highlights seven categories of child welfare, including education; health; economic circumstance; and family, social, and physical environments. In 2012, for example, 64 percent of children ages zero to seventeen lived with both parents. (Just 4 percent lived solely with their fathers—the same proportion as lived with no parents at all.) Two percent of eighth graders—and 9 percent of twelfth graders—reported smoking a cigarette daily. And 8 percent of youth from sixteen to nineteen are neither enrolled in school nor working. While the report is a belt-notch above 200 pages, the education section is digestible—if not groundbreaking: The authors report that reading to young children positively affects school success (happily, 83 percent of those ages three through five who weren’t yet enrolled in preschool were read to in the home at least three times per week). Hispanics continue to make strong gains in reading and math. But NAEP reading scores in general have improved little—save at the eighth-grade level. While not new, these are still notable findings—and a great reminder not just of the work ahead on the education-reform front but also the context in which those efforts occur.

SOURCE: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 2013)....

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Ethan Gray is the executive director of one of my very favorite organizations. CEE-Trust, an initiative of the extraordinary The Mind Trust, convenes and collaborates with reform-minded, city-based education groups, like foundations and advocacy organizations. The goal is to bring about transformational education change in America’s major urban areas.

Ethan Gray CEE-Trust

CEE-Trust’s explicit focus on cities is noteworthy; rather than focusing on state or federal policy—or even the district’s activities—it seeks to generate and support fundamental reform via an array of metropolitan leaders and a cross-sector approach. Its members are some of the most important and exciting groups in the business.

But CEE-Trust has been successful to date and holds such promise largely because of Ethan. He’s as sharp as they come, highly collegial, and remarkably entrepreneurial. Recognizing his great, budding talents, my colleagues Sara Mead and Andy Rotherham scooped him up early, and he’s been excelling ever since (see Sara’s recent piece on Ethan here).

Urban districts have been so dysfunctional for so long and are so enmeshed in their cities’ politics and power structures, I’ve been of the mind that meaningful change in inner-city education would require drastic state action. But CEE-Trust and its members have given me...

Bold Assertions Edition

Dara and Daniela—covering for Mike “Never-Returning-from-the-Beach-Because-These-Fruity-Drinks-Are-Too-Good” Petrilli—throw down on NYC’s transfer high schools, California’s potential NGSS adoption, and MOOCs in K–12 education. Amber is upbeat about early-college high schools.

Amber's Research Minute

Early College, Early Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact Study, by Andrea Berger, et al. (Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research, June 2013).

GadflyBusted! The Big Apple’s “transfer” high schools—the city’s schools-of-last-resort for struggling teens—saw more students drop out than graduate in 2011–12—seventy-eight more at the forty-four such schools surveyed, to be exact. By contrast, last year at the same forty-four schools, 619 more students graduated than dropped out. The schools’ principals attributed the flop to midyear changes in graduation requirements (tightened to match state requirements), while city officials—claiming that their own policy changes were “minor”—cited increased Regents standards, instead. For our take, see this week’s Education Gadfly Show.

School districts considering arming their teachers and administrators may need to think twice: Insurance carriers have threatened to raise their premiums or revoke their coverage altogether. This is not universal (Texas, for instance, has made it fairly easy for districts to arm employees and insurance providers have hardly batted an eye—now, whether these employees can actually use their weapons is another matter altogether); nevertheless, it is certainly an important development in the guns-in-schools debate.

As contentious as the New York City mayoral race is, the turbulence in K–12 education facing the new leader is more. New York City public schools must deal with implementation of the Common Core standards and the hard-fought (and still-controversial) teacher-evaluation system—and let’s not forget the conundrums of whether or not to continue the Bloomberg-Kline-era reforms, whether to close the city’s failing schools, whether to allow charters and traditional...

High school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation: Of all youngsters in the land, it’s no secret that low-income and minority students have the longest odds of achieving this educational trifecta. One intervention geared toward evening those odds is the creation of Early College (EC) High Schools—academically rigorous schools that, in partnership with colleges, offer college-credit-bearing courses. There are presently 240 such schools in the U.S. (ten of them in Fordham’s home state of Ohio, and one of these in our home town of Dayton), primarily serving low-income and minority youths. But how well do they work? According to this study by the American Institutes for Research and SRI International, they’re doing quite well indeed. The authors exploit the lottery-based admissions of ten ECs to estimate their impact on high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation for three cohorts of ninth-graders (who enrolled in years 2005, 2006 and 2007). The study finds that 77 percent of students admitted into an EC had enrolled in college itself one year after high school, whereas 67 percent of non-EC students had done so. Moreover, 22 percent of EC students went on to earn a two- or four-year degree, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students—and 20 percent of EC students earned that degree by the time they graduated high school, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students. For low-income and minority youngsters, the schools’ impact was even greater: Minority EC students were twenty-nine times more likely...

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.

Egad.

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...

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