Additional Topics

Diverse schools

My colleague Mike Petrilli has written a fantastic book in The Diverse Schools Dilemma. It chronicles the struggles, tensions, and emotions that he and his wife experienced in trying to find diverse, yet high-performing, elementary schools for their two boys in the D.C. metro area.  Mike’s dilemma is one shared by many socially-conscious middle-class parents: How can we provide a great education for our own kids while at the same time supporting schools that serve a diverse (economically, socially, and racially) group of students? And the greatest show of support you can give a school is to deliberately entrust your own children to it.

As Mike documents, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve; sometimes the chosen path is filled with doubt, even regrets.

As I read Mike’s book, I kept thinking to myself how I wished all parents gave as much thought and concern to choosing where to send their kids to school as did he and his wife. If this were the case, there would be little need for education reformers—which brings me to the cognitive dissonance I have been feeling lately.

Mike’s book came out the same week that my colleagues and I in Ohio released a new report on Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. For that report, researchers from the Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP) analyzed some...

Diverse Schools Dilemma
Buy the book!

Mike Petrilli took to the airwaves today to discuss his new book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, on Kansas City Public Radio. Joining host Jabulani Lefall and Dr. Lawson Bush, an education professor at California State University, Los Angeles, Mike explained his personal experience with school diversity—as a student and a parent—and the merits of socioeconomically mixed schools. Want more? Listen to Mike’s interview with Southern California Public Radio on the topic from Tuesday or, best of all, buy the book!

Listen to the Kansas City Public Radio interview below.

After Bennett

Mike and Kathleen wonder what will happen to the Common Core after Tony Bennett’s defeat, and ask why so many students miss so much school. Amber ponders whether teacher turnover harms student achievement.

Amber's Research Minute

How teacher turnover harms student achievement; By Matthew Ronfeldt, Loeb and Wyckoff - Download PDF

Heather Schoell, a white, college-educated, stay-at-home mom living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was incredulous when a friend suggested that she should send her daughter to the local public school. “Honestly, I was like, ‘Right, D.C. Public Schools—we’re not even looking at that,’” Schoell recalled later. Maury Elementary wasn’t much to look at; its drab 1960s-era building had opaque, yellowing windows that made the place feel desolate. One hundred percent of its students were African American, most from low-income families. Schoell pictured mayhem behind those dreary windows, poor kids just running around. But her friend, who had volunteered at the school for twenty-five years, continued to press her: “Give it a chance, go inside and see,” she would say.

    Student participates
    Research shows racially and socioeconomically integrated schools benefit all students.
    Photo by the Knight Foundation

So Schoell did, when her daughter was two and a half. And what she saw wasn’t at all what she’d imagined. The principal at the time, an army veteran, exuded a confidence that put many of Schoell’s concerns to rest. The school was disciplined, teachers had high expectations for students, and the administration was eager to welcome new students.

Schoell was relieved to find that the school might be a real possibility. She and her husband couldn’t afford private school. And the couple, both raised in rural communities, refused to decamp to...

Six days after the election, and by a miniscule margin, Washington State became the forty-second state to allow charter schools. Charter advocates and operators will have plenty of work ahead if they want to convince such a polarized electorate (which rejected charters thrice before) that the forty schools they’re now permitted to open will add quality and innovation to the state’s public school landscape. The battle is won, but the war will continue.

Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) has released the preliminary findings of their study on the impact of the GreatSchools program in D.C. and Milwaukee—and the news is good! The GreatSchools program runs an online search engine to help parents discover their children’s schooling options. The programs in the two cities studied went further, providing in-person parent training to supplement the materials. CEPA found that these programs successfully influenced parents to select higher-performing schools. Disseminating information, the goal of so many groups (ourselves included), is not always enough; groups that actively try to educate parents about their options should be lauded and replicated.

Mayor Bloomberg’s fiscal plan for 2013, which proposes to shrink Gotham’s budget by $1.6 billion, caused an uproar earlier this week. It all began when a court stopped the city from selling additional taxi medallions as a revenue raiser, leaving a $635 million deficit. To plug the hole, Hizzoner’s budget would apparently...

As I write in my brand-new book The Diverse Schools Dilemma, gentrification has supplied us with the best opportunity in a generation to create socioeconomically-mixed public schools. But is that opportunity being seized? We know that lots of neighborhoods are gentrifying. But are demographic changes in communities leading to demographic changes in their schools?

To find out, I had Greg Hutko, our research intern, sift through national education data to pinpoint the ten public schools that have seen the biggest decrease in their share of poor students (defined as those eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch) over the past three years. Here’s what we found:

Fastest-gentrifying schools
The 10 fastest-gentrifying schools

What to think of this list? First, I was surprised that the two neighborhoods thought of as the Ground Zero of gentrification—D.C.’s Capitol Hill and NYC’s Brooklyn—didn’t have any schools make the cut. And it’s telling that suburban schools outnumber urban ones on the list. (As Atlantic Cities just reported, the suburbs are where you find the nation’s most diverse neighborhoods.)

Most of these are inner-ring suburbs—Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia; Glendale and West Hollywood, bordering L.A.; El Cerrito in Northern California’s East Bay. But two exurbs make the cut, too: Casa Grande, Arizona (between Phoenix and Tucson) and San Clemente, California (between L.A....

Tony Bennett
Icarus's hubris.
Painting by Lucílio de Albuquerque.

I want to convince you that the education reform movement needs to reflect on the sad, devastating saga of David Petraeus.

Many will shrug off this whole story as just the latest example of Greek tragedy bleeding into American public life: A high-powered individual falls prey to his lurking hamartia—the fatal flaw of hubris or unchecked appetite that proves to be his undoing.

It’s all the more heartbreaking, head-scratching, and headline-grabbing because so many of those who crash into the sea with melted wings are those we honestly believed to be immune. Petraeus was the model soldier.  Elliot Spitzer was a modern-day Elliot Ness.

I’d like to put aside, for the time being, whether such tawdry tales should ever make their way into the news cycle. Many of you will argue that no matter how lascivious the act or prurient the public’s interest, such matters should remain private. That’s worth a discussion, but for now I just want to focus on what is, not what should be.

And what is includes a pillar of public life disgraced, at least two families suffering beyond imagination, and a professional legacy tarnished. The first will forever compromise a gifted individual’s ability to contribute his talents towards the good of our nation; the second will...

"Moving Up" is The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation's charter school sponsorship accountability report for 2011-12. Through it, we hope to help readers understand the complexities of charter schools and better appreciate the hard work of the teachers, school leaders, and board members who serve not only the schools we sponsor but also the schools around the state and nation that are working to make a difference in the lives of children. This year's report features an in-depth look at the struggles of two Fordham-sponsored schools in Dayton; it is researched and written by former Dayton Daily News reporter and editor Ellen Belcher.

Diverse Schools Dilemma

Modern urban parents face a quandary: Will the public schools in their walkable, socioeconomically-diverse communities provide a strong education for their kids? Mike Petrilli sheds light on this question and more in his new book, recently profiled by the Washington Post and USA Today. Through the lens of his own effort to find a school for his sons, Petrilli takes the reader through the ins and outs of making one of the most important decisions a parent can make. Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews says, “Every parent who has struggled with choosing a school should read this book. It is deep, up-to-date, blessedly short and wonderfully personal.”

The book’s official publication date is today, November 13. It is available for purchase in print, as an Amazon Kindle eBook, and as a Barnes and Noble Nook eBook....

Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio's SchoolsShould urban parents send their kids to socioeconomically diverse public schools? That’s the question at the heart of Mike Petrilli’s new book, recently profiled by the Washington Post and USA Today, and the topic of a lecture he’ll give at 8PM ET next Wednesday, November 14, at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill. Two neighborhood moms (Candice Santomauro and E.V. Downey) will offer comments, too. Register now for a timely and important conversation; be sure to come by at 7:30PM ET for a reception beforehand.

See you there!