Additional Topics

A few weeks ago, I bemoaned an Education Trust report positing that schools shouldn’t get A grades if they have significant achievement gaps, even if their students are making lots of progress. I guess I didn’t make a convincing case, particularly to the folks at 400 Maryland Avenue. As Anne Hyslop reported, the newly announced NCLB waiver guidelines now ask states for “a demonstration that a school may not receive the highest rating in the state’s accountability system if there are significant achievement or graduation rate gaps in the school that are not closing.” As Anne wrote, “this is almost verbatim from the recommendations” put forth by Ed Trust.

But is this a smart idea? Consider the case of Sawgrass Elementary School in Broward County, Florida. Let’s examine its stats (downloaded from this Florida Department of Education site). First look at the demographics, which show it to be a rare model of racial and socio-economic diversity:

  • 27 percent white
  • 28 percent black
  • 37 percent Hispanic
  • 6 percent Asian
  • 54 percent disadvantaged
  • 29 percent English language learners (ELL)

As for academic performance, Sawgrass has been making big gains in both math and reading, both overall and for its lowest-performing students. As for subgroups, let’s look at the percentage of students scoring at “satisfactory” or above on mathematics:

  • Its white students outperform the statewide white average by thirteen percentage points.
  • Its black students outperform the statewide black average
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis had a whole 30 minutes on the air on WHBC radio in Canton on Saturday morning, talking about the Common Core with host Joe Palmisano. Link is here. Common Core discussion begins at about the 38 minute mark, but stick around for the caller Q&A afterward too. Fascinating discussion. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, math teachers and administrators in Heath are uneasy about the uncertainty surrounding Common Core. Most seem optimistic that repeal won’t happen in Ohio, but just the possibility that years of work and $100,000 in materials and training could go for naught (and may have to be repeated twice more) is still disconcerting. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. We’ve all heard the stories of parents having difficulty helping their children with their “Common Core” math homework. Apocryphal or not – Common Core or not – math teachers in Newark really want to make sure that parents have all the tools they could want in order to help their elementary school students succeed. Thus, the Parent Math Academy was born. The online academy “teaches parents the concepts their children are learning in school, including new vocabulary words and an overview of any graphics or strategies the students might see.” Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. Journalists retrenched after the internet blowup over Ohio’s “5 of 8” rule last week, and spent the weekend digging in and trying to understand what the rule means in its present form, how it manifests itself in local practice,
  5. ...

BUSHWACKED
In a bout of unforeseen excitement at AEI, a routine guest lecture by controversial Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson turned to pandemonium when dozens of furious protesters bused down from the Gateway City to disrupt the talk. Over at Education Week, event organizer Rick Hess lambasted the activists as “rabble-rousers” and “enemies of free speech,” also apparently taking offense to their repeated use of train whistles.

BETTER LEARNING THROUGH VIDEO GAMES
A recent study has found that playing high-action video games may accelerate student learning. According to the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, students who played these games were faster at learning new sensory-motor skills than their non-gaming peers. As it turns out, high-action video games may enhance a student’s attention, perception, and ability to switch tasks and mentally rotate objects—skills that contribute heavily to a student’s ability to succeed in math and geometry.

IMPOSSIBLE DREAM?
When long-serving former Boston Mayor Tom Menino died last month, the occasion spawned countless panegyrics to the most powerful leader the city had ever known. Even while honoring his many accomplishments, however, supporters had to concede that his record on education failed to astound. Now his successor Marty Walsh is struggling to win the prize that eluded Menino during his two-decade tenure: a longer school day.

SHAME OF THE NATION
An article in today’s New York Times details the dilapidated state of Native American schools. School officials claim that the environment in which...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the second post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See here for the introductory post.]

Traditional principal preparation programs are notoriously non-selective. The new breed of program takes selectivity to the opposite extreme. Some have ratios of acceptances to inquiries or applications that rival competitive colleges—below 10 percent. For example, Building Excellent Schools (BES) receives upwards of 2,000 inquiries for between ten and twelve fellowships.

Every alternative program that we studied is looking first for intellectual capacity and leadership approach. Jane Shirley, executive director of Get Smart Schools (GSS), put it this way: “We’re looking for systemic thinkers. [Management expert] Peter Senge says that every system is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting. We want leaders who, when faced with a problem, understand it’s because whatever you’ve designed is supporting that particular problem—to understand the problem at the design level is the kind of creativity we are looking for.” GSS is preparing principals to lead autonomous schools, she emphasized, and “that is very different from leading schools in a bureaucracy.”

The University of Illinois is preparing principals to work in a bureaucracy, the Chicago Public Schools. But it has a similar emphasis. First, the program is embedded in a Ph.D. program, evidence of the kind of deep and creative thinking that it values. The program also demands that prospective leaders be capable of maintaining high expectations as a...

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis testified in the House Education Committee yesterday on HB 228. There are a number of provisions in the bill, including funding and kindergarten readiness, but Chad was testifying on the provision that would limit testing in Ohio to four hours per student per subject per year. He was against a quick fix with an arbitrary time limit. You can read his full testimony here. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. In other sausage-making news, HB 343 was stuffed like a lame-duck-flavored kielbasa in the House Education Committee yesterday. The possible remove of teacher pay schedule requirements from state law is getting the most play (check out the Plain Dealer’s coverage here – over 300 comments already! – and the Dispatch’s coverage here for a taste of that smoky link). The debate on this provision of the bill sounds eerily similar to that of the so-called “5 of 8 rule” from the state board of ed earlier in the week. But seriously, there was a lot more crammed into this bill than just pay schedules. That includes provisions on zero tolerance, safe harbor, third grade reading cut scores, and state report card changes. You can see a nice summary of everything in Gongwer Ohio.
     
  3. No matter how stuffed that HB 343 sausage is, it’s the teacher pay schedule removal provision that’s getting the most grilling. Here’s a guest commentary from a former Cincinnati-area district administrator opining that the schedule should not only remain, but
  4. ...

Draft Conference Agenda
Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Education for Upward Mobility
December 2, 2014
The Renaissance Hotel
999 9th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
 
8:00 – 8:45           Registration, breakfast and coffee available
8:45 – 9:00           Welcome and introductions, Michael J. Petrilli
9:00 – 10:15        Panel I: Escaping Poverty through Education, Work, and Personal Responsibility
 
About a third of the individuals who grow up in poverty in America climb the ladder to the middle class as adults. What do we know about their trajectory? How can we increase these numbers? What role does education play? Higher education? Industry certifications and other non-degree credentials? Military service? Apprenticeships? Following the “success sequence” (get a high school diploma, work full time, and wait until age 21 to marry and start a family)?
 
Presenters
Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution: “Education and the Success Sequence”
Andrew Kelly, American Enterprise Institute: “Big Payoff, Low Probability: Postsecondary Education and Economic Mobility in America”
...

NYC KIDS FLOOD PRE-K
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s full-day pre-K initiative is exceeding enrollment expectations. More than 53,000 children have signed up for the program, compared to about 20,000 attending full-day pre-kindergarten last year. The sharp rise in attendance is seen as a victory for the mayor, who has made expansion of pre-K programs a cornerstone of his education policy.

GOLD STANDARDS IN THE SILVER STATE
In part two of NPR’s terrific series on reading in the Common Core era, teachers in Washoe County, Nevada, discuss how the challenging standards demand more from both low and high achievers. The shift from simple comprehension questions to evidence-supported answers helps students at all levels of achievement stay engaged with the material.

IS IT SAFE?
The National Association of Secondary School Principals is working to address increasing security concerns accompanying a rise in technology and data storage in classrooms. Among its recommendations, the group suggests tougher encryption standards, development of statewide security plans, and district-level policies that determine what data can be collected and where...

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared on WLW radio with host Scott Sloan yesterday morning, talking about the Common Core. (WLW-AM, Cincinnati)
     
  2. More radio for the nostalgia buffs out there. And more Common Core for the more modern reader. All Sides with Ann Fisher gave a full hour to Common Core yesterday, starting with Rep. Huffman and discussion of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio. The rest of the time included enlightening discussion of math instruction in the Common Core era as well as some in-the-trenches talk about finding the best curriculum materials. Interesting listen. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
     
  3. Editors in Toledo opined on their expecations of the Ohio General Assembly during its lame duck session, now underway. Specifically, they advised legislators to avoid taking up the Common Core repeal bill in favor of more pressing and important issues. Probably something to do with ensuring safe drinking water for large cities on large lakes in the northern part of the state. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland opined in support of Ohio’s so-called “5 of 8” rule which prescribes certain staffing ratios for “support personnel” in schools and which has been recommended for removal by the state board of education. Perhaps you’ve heard about this issue? Maybe via social media? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. I know loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers have heard all about the ongoing drama in the Monroe school district in regards to their long-mothballed old high school. Latest news: Monroe City Council
  6. ...
  • Uber-effective charter leaders Judy Burton and Dacia Toll took to U.S. News this week to argue that charters and standards go hand in hand. Both reforms grew from the same analysis of and frustration over low-performing American schools. Charter advocates understand that we need to set high expectations for teachers and students; we also know that the Common Core does that, allowing American students everywhere to be ready for college and, more importantly, the world beyond. To be sure, the transition will be difficult at times. But, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
  • The New York Times editorial board penned an op-ed last week calling for a stronger school turnaround plan for the city. The impetus for and target of the piece was Mayor de Blasio’s long-anticipated blueprint to rescue struggling schools, which the paper deemed imprecise and almost surely doomed to fail. A prominent feature of the plan is to add wraparound services to low-performing schools over the next three years, including mental health and dental treatment. But because these kids are struggling now, a three-year plan seems tone deaf—especially when the solution has a poor track record. Given how strenuously the current administration is trying to roll back and negate the gains of Bloomberg and Klein, the criticism is deserved.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that, because U.S. students’ math scores are so much lower than foreign students’, some high-profile
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This book, out of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, is a useful field guide to the design and implementation of blended learning models, which combine computer-mediated resources like MOOCs with conventional classroom instruction. Nonetheless, readers may greet its subtitle, “Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools,” with a pang of foreboding. Blended initially makes you worry that its pages will mostly be a blend of TED Talk doublespeak. Indeed, the foreword (contributed by the High Prophet of Disruption himself, Clayton M. Christensen) ominously name-checks Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher and historian who first coined the now-inescapable phrase “paradigm shift.” But whatever their slight fondness for techno-jargon, authors Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker have written something valuable mainly because they are at pains to define their terms. This is the critical task facing advocates of blended learning, as Fordham itself has chronicled. Furnishing students with laptops and posting lesson plans on Blackboard isn’t blended learning; nor is a totally online experience that students access from home. For clarification, Horn and Staker use refreshingly simple graphics to outline the varying blends—from hybrid approaches shuttling kids between online activities, small-group instruction, and pen-and-paper assignments, to more unfamiliar models that explicitly make online teaching the backbone of coursework even within brick-and-mortar schools. The book doesn’t sidestep the question of what role teachers and facilities will play as more curriculum and tutoring is done remotely; the treatment is thin, but its vision of community schools providing family services, serving nutritious (and even edible)...

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