Additional Topics

Special-education funding is a thorny landscape, within which lie sundry footpaths whereby dollars are allocated via intersecting trails of state, local, and federal statutes and regulations. More difficult still is that few states offer trail maps for this complex terrain. Data are cumbersome; evaluations of program effectiveness are rarely undertaken. This is what makes this account from Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor so refreshing. The mixed-methods report explains the characteristics and costs of special education in the Gopher State, as well as the practical effects of the state’s special-ed requirements—and offers recommendations for the state legislature on how to lower special-education costs and streamline compliance regulations. In Minnesota, for example, the number of special-education students increased 11 percent between 1999–2000 and 2010–11, and spending on this group bumped up 22 percent (this while overall student enrollment dropped 3 percent). According to district leaders, this has meant that “school districts have had to divert a substantial portion of general education dollars and local operating levies to pay for special education expenditures.” The report offers the legislature a number of suggestions for how to counteract these trends. For example: Supply districts with comparative data on different staffing patterns and their costs. As special-education costs rise (even as disability identification in the nation continues to decline), more such mapping and bushwhacking must be done. Expect more from Fordham on this front in the upcoming months.

SOURCE: James Nobles, Jody Hauer, Sarah Roberts Delacueva, and Jodi Munson Rodriguez, Evaluation Report:...

GadflyA fierce school-choice debate rages in Alabama—but the threat to the Common Core standards has receded, for now. When it became clear that the Senate Education Committee would not approve a bill to revoke the Heart of Dixie’s commitment to the standards, the sponsor of the bill himself withdrew it from consideration. This is well and good. Now maybe they can get back to safeguarding the separation of powers—and implementing the Common Core.

South Dakota has the (dubious) honor of being the first state to explicitly authorize school employees to carry guns to work. State groups representing teachers and school boards expressed concern that the bill had been rushed to a vote, did not actually make schools safer, and ignored other approaches to safety, such as employing armed officers. In related news, a Texas school employee recently shot himself at a concealed-carry class for teachers.

Boston has approved a new school-assignment plan that reflects not just geography but also school quality—amounting to the greatest change in the way that the city assigns students in twenty-five years and “finally dismantling the remnants of the notorious [1970s] busing plan.” Mike Petrilli is optimistic; for his take, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show podcast.

The opposition to KIPP DC’s plan to build a new high school is indicative of challenges that most charter schools face: Its future neighbors...

We’re honored and humbled by the news that the EWA named Flypaper the best blog in the “education organizations and experts” category of its annual awards. We always thought Flypaper readers had great taste; now it’s official.

Second prize went to FERPA Fact, a publication of the Student Press Law Center and Ray Salazar of The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher. Education Sector’s The Quick and the Ed received a special citation.

In explaining their decision, the judges wrote,

The benefit of Mike Petrilli's blogs is that each unfolds clearly and intelligently to make its point about a range of ed issues he's familiar with -- and which he introduces to the reader in a fair manner. His tone is open and respectful -- not only of those he disagrees with, but of the reader, who may not be the same ed policy wonk he is.
Petrilli reminds me favorably of Malcolm Gladwell. The other contributors are well-versed in the topics they write about while still writing in a way that could engage a wider audience than educators.

Are you new to Flypaper? Read the seven posts that cinched the award below.

1.   The test score hypothesis
2.   We don't judge teachers by numbers alone; the same should go for schools
3.   Can schools spur social mobility?
4.   The case for public-school choice in the suburbs

Education Next

In this edition of the Ed Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli sits down with Tony Wagner to discuss his new book, Creating Innovators.

Business leaders, pundits, and politicians all seem to agree: America needs to get much better at nurturing innovation if we are to rebuild our economy, expand opportunity, and win a secure future for our children. But what exactly is innovation? And more importantly, how can parents and educators develop it in our young people? What can we learn from young adults of the Millennial generation who themselves are highly successful innovators and entrepreneurs? And what does all of this imply for education policy?

To answer these questions and more, Tony Wagner, the author of The Global Achievement Gap, and the first innovation education fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University, interviewed more than 150 people. The result is his acclaimed and commercially successful recent book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. In today’s edition of the Education Next Book Club, we speak with Tony about his book, innovation, and how schools across the world can help to light the spark of innovation within their students.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

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

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has released a new study by Marguerite Roza and Monica Ouijdani that examines the cost of class size reduction – what it would cost per student to create smaller classes, and how those costs can add up significantly. And perhaps more importantly, the authors discuss whether the funding needed to create those smaller classes could be more effectively utilized elsewhere in the education system.

The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-by-State Spending Analysis begins with an attempt to downplay the rhetoric about “skyrocketing” class size and to determine just what the average class size is state by state. This is made difficult by the fact that the most-current class-size information nationwide hails from 2007-08. The authors suggest that this lack of current information is what allows anecdotal evidence of class size expansion nationwide to trump any sober analysis of the numbers.

Roza and Ouijdani, using both National Education Association (NEA) and National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) data on student-teacher ratios (generally available through 2012), generated an estimate of average class size in all states where reliable information was available. Sadly, Ohio’s reported data from NEA and NCES in 2011-12 were not in agreement and so no estimate was able to be generated for the Buckeye State. But the results show, in general, that average class size across the United States (38 states and the District of Columbia were included in the study) has decreased since 2007-08.This downward trend has...

Gifted students are our future engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and job creators; as such, we will depend on them to keep our state competitive with the rest of the country--and the world. Despite this, the majority of these students aren't receiving the education they need in order to reach their full potential. Learn more about the state of gifted education in Ohio and how to improve it at Educating Our Brightest: Improving Gifted Education to Boost Ohio’s Prosperity and Success.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Ohio Associated for Gifted Children are partnering to host an exciting discussion about gifted education and its impact on Ohio’s prosperity.

The event will feature a presentation from Fordham’s President Chester E. Finn, Jr. as well as a panel discussion moderated by the Columbus Dispatch’s Jennifer Smith Richards.  The panelists will include:

*Marty Bowe, superintendent of Perry Local School District (Stark County)

*The Honorable Bill Hayes, Ohio House of Representatives

*Carol Lockhart, principal of John Hay Early College High School (Cleveland Metropolitan School District)

*Ann Sheldon, Ohio Association for Gifted Children

Location: Columbus Museum of Art (MAP)
480 E. Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

March 20, 2013 at 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM

The event is free and open to the public. Light breakfast will be served. To register for the event, click here....

  • The state Board of Education selected Richard Ross as state superintendent of public instruction. Ross is currently the director of Governor Kasich’s Office of 21st Century Education and former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools.
  • This year’s state Report Card marks the final year that districts will be graded on its current rating scale. In 2014-15, Ohio will move to an A to F system.
  • State Auditor Dave Yost put forward policy recommendations intended to improve the way that the Ohio Department of Education tracks student data.
  • Akron Public Schools has upgraded its Internet bandwidth and computer software in advance of the Common Core and its aligned assessments, the PARCC exams.

Everybody knows that excessive screen time is bad for kids; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero TV-watching (or other media use) before the age of two. But once children are into the preschool years, even the AAP says that an hour of television is OK, as long as it’s “high-quality content.” And a brand-new study indicates that the right shows, like Arthur, can even “ease aggression in young children.”

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But what counts as high-quality content? Here I’ve selected my favorite programs, with some help from my friends, and with inspiration from other lists (here, here, and here), based on four criteria. They must be:

1.   Educational (with special points for building content knowledge in science, history, literature, art, or music, though teaching social or emotional skills is good, too)
2.   Engaging and well done
3.   Enjoyable for parents
4.   Either currently on the air or available on Netflix Instant Streaming (or both)

I’ve broken my list into two categories: The best shows for two- and three-year-olds and the best shows for four- and five-year-olds.

Best Television Shows for Two- and Three-Year-Olds

1.   Kipper (available on Sprout and Netflix)

2.   Wonder Pets! (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)

3.   Blue's Clues (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)...

There is tension inherent in being a conservative education reformer.

On the one hand, I’m a strident advocate for grand change. For example, my book is about ridding ourselves of traditional urban school districts. I strongly support charters and vouchers. I believe in overhauling teacher evaluation systems and much of the policy architecture they undergird (preparation, credentialing, compensation, tenure, etc.). I’ve written recently about my growing belief that SEAs are outdated.

There is often invisible but incalculable value in institutions and practices that have survived the test of time.

I firmly believe that these reforms are in the best interest of kids, especially disadvantaged boys and girls.  But I suspect these views get encouragement from my right-of-center worldview: that government programs are generally clumsy and expensive and often have regrettable and far-reaching unintended consequences; that it’s wise to hold entities accountable for achieving results by using measurable performance indicators that inform consequences; and that markets are generally efficient, nimble, and responsive to consumer needs and create space for the kinds of entrepreneurial activity that generate continuous improvement.

But the other half of my conservatism means I generally believe in preserving things that have been around for a while. As I wrote in this piece about prudent school-closure policies, there is often invisible but incalculable value in institutions and practices that have survived the test of time.

Even if they seem weathered on the outside, below their surfaces can dwell vast, unseen virtues. And like the roots...

The Letdown Edition

Mike and Dara talk about Louisiana’s ed-reform disappointment, anticipate the effect of big money in L.A. (or not), and plan for the Snowquester that wasn’t. Amber puts her teacher hat back on with a study on student ability grouping.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Sorting Students Improve Scores? An Analysis of Class Composition,” by Courtney A. Collins and Li Gan, NBER Working Paper Series (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2013)