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Last year, Mike daydreamed of a future in which autonomous vehicles would shuttle his kids around the Beltway while he was freed to relax and tweet the extra hours away. It’s an attractive notion, and not just for reasons of convenience; this is an innovation that could reduce roadway congestion (thus benefiting the economy) and save many of the roughly one-and-a-quarter million lives lost each year in traffic accidents worldwide.

While the achievement of such a vision seems probable someday, it may not happen before the Petrilli boys get their driver’s licenses—and not because the technology is lacking. In recent months, nearly every major car company (and even companies previously having little to do with cars, like Apple and Google) have hinted that a bit of their autonomous vehicle magic is just around the corner. So-called "active safety" features have already become more commonplace. Anti-lock braking and stability control have been available for years, but several brands are rapidly adding features that alert you if you deviate from your lane; some can even help you brake and steer.

Now Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, promises...

Either all of Ohio’s education journalists are on spring break this week or they’re glued to the Education Gladfly. Whatever the reason, education news and opinion is hard to come by across the Buckeye State today. Here’s is the paltry result of that dearth:
 

  1. Voters in tony New Albany-Plain Local Schools rejected two levy requests back in November and their rainy-day surplus is exhausted. The budget cuts required by this state of affairs continue to be phased in. Pay-to-play fees have already increased and the promised reduction in busing begins on April 7. Workforce reductions come at the end of the school year. All of these items were on the minds of residents during a recent school board meeting. The reactions to them are varied and interesting, especially the issue of transportation. Worth a look. (ThisWeek News/New Albany News, 4/1/15)
     
  2. Our other story today also comes from central Ohio. It is a look at home-schooled students who live within the boundaries of Delaware City Schools. It all sounds pretty nice at first; even the headline is sunny and Kumbaya-ish. Homeschoolers can, and do, participate in Delaware’s extracurricular activities including sports and band. And everyone is happy…until
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Singular - Official Teaser Trailer

Singular - Official Teaser Trailer

Trying to solve the @thnkscommoncore mystery. On iTunes April 1.

Singular: 2014's biggest edu-mystery

The creators of This American Think Tank bring you a new podcast that investigates a mystery that’s been plaguing the planet for nine months: Who the frack is @thnkscommoncore?!

  1. There was some opining on House Bill 2 this weekend. That’s the first of the charter law reform bills introduced in the 131st General Assembly, which passed both the education committee and the full House last week. Editors in Akron opined on changes to the “sponsor-hopping” provisions this weekend, provisions which were altered from introduction to passage. (Akron Beacon Journal, 3/28/15)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Chillicothe seemed more bullish as they opine on the reforms in HB 2, and the bipartisan support for charter reform that helped initiate the bill in the first place. (Chillicothe Gazette, 3/28/15)
     
  3. We close out with more editorializing. Editors in Columbus opine this morning against testing opt-outs in Columbus and elsewhere. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/30/15)

This post has been updated with the full text of "The demise of college is greatly exaggerated."

On a snowy December night in 1981, I packed my clothes and stereo into the back of a battered Ford Capri and drove away from SUNY Oswego. I was midway through a restless sophomore year and decided to “take a semester off.” I didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be my last day as a full-time college student.

I finished my degree eventually, after far more years than I ought to admit, through a combination of classes, life-learning credit, CLEP exams, and independent study. Ultimately, my college education was highly personalized, largely self-directed, and only loosely bound to a physical campus. Cheap, too. I ended up spending far more on my daughter’s preschool than my entire bachelor’s degree.

Given all this, I ought to be solidly in agreement with the argument put forth by Kevin Carey in his new book The End of College, which holds that American colleges and universities are operating on a deeply flawed and increasingly unsupportable model. The litany of complaints is familiar: College is too expensive, caters to elites, and saddles young people...

  1. Busy end to the week around here. First up, House Bill 2 passed out of the education committee on a party line vote on Wednesday. Despite those last amendments we told you about earlier, this is still a huge step forward for charter law in Ohio. Chad is quoted saying just that in the following coverage:  The Alliance Review, 3/26/15, others via AP, and Gongwer Ohio (3/25/15)
     
  2. Also on Wednesday, Senate Bill 3 – the education deregulation bill – passed the full senate on a vote of 24-9. As it stands now, 125 districts would qualify. The Dispatch piece names names of those districts in Franklin and Delaware County. None are surprising. Now, on to the House. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/15)
     
  3. Ahead of a full House vote on HB 2, editors in Columbus opined that while “significant”, the bill still wasn’t the best it could be, especially with regards to what didn’t make it in to the bill in committee. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/26/15)
     
  4. The House vote on HB 2 took place yesterday morning. Some discussion was had on the floor on what did and didn’t make it into the bill, but in the end
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  • The Columbia Journalism Review ran a good takedown by Alexander Russo of some unconscionably lazy reporting from the national media on the political controversy surrounding the rollout of Common Core-aligned tests. Esteemed outlets like the Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, and the New York Times have made a rampaging giant of the anti-standards pygmy, forecasting a nationwide revolt against PARCC exams that just hasn’t materialized. Hey, we get it: Conflict moves more newspapers (or, uh, pixels) than consensus. And those parents and teachers irresponsibly keeping kids from participating in the assessments absolutely deserve to be called out. But let’s try have a sense of proportion.
  • Amazingly, though, the opt-out movement isn’t the most overblown education nonstory in recent memory. That dishonor belongs to the absurd Pearson kerfuffle. Some parents had a cow this week over the news that the testing company monitors social media for potential security breaches (if a student shares exam materials over the web, it could compromise assessments across the country and, by extension, the vital school-level information we glean from them). But this is an industry-wide best practice—companies are trawling through publicly available data for instances of very real cheating, not installing
  • ...

A new study published in the American Education Research Journal asks, “What Works in Gifted Education?” Five gifted education and curriculum researchers assess the impact of differentiated English language arts units on gifted third graders. The units—one on poetry and one on research—“reflect more advanced, complex, and abstract concepts,” as well as concepts normally introduced in the fourth and fifth grades. Analysts explain that “even advanced learners vary in their readiness levels, interests and preferred learning profile and learn best when these differences are accommodated.” (Differentiated instruction can be broadly conceived as modifying at least one of three key elements of curriculum: content, process, and product. The evaluated units primarily focus on the former.)

Researchers randomly assigned gifted classrooms to treatment and comparison conditions such that roughly 1,200 students from eighty-five gifted classrooms across eleven states participated in year one of the study, one thousand in year two, and seven hundred in year three (though the number of classrooms and states changed each year). The three years (2009–2012) comprised the three cohorts. All classes were pre-assessed using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills so that they could control for prior achievement, which is important because schools use different methods to identify gifted...

Here’s the top-line takeaway from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes’s (CREDO) comprehensive Urban Charter Schools Report, which is meant to measure the effectiveness of these schools of choice: For low-income urban families, charter schools are making a significant difference. Period.

CREDO looked at charter schools in forty-one urban areas between school years 2006–07 and 2011–12. Compared to traditional public schools in the same areas, charters collectively provide “significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading”—the equivalent of forty days of additional learning per year in math and twenty-eight additional days in reading. As a group, urban charters have been particularly good for black, Hispanic, and English language learner (ELL) subpopulations. Indeed, putting the word “urban” before the phrase “charter school” is becoming somewhat redundant. As Sara Mead recently pointed out, urban students comprise only a quarter of students nationally, but more than half (56 percent) of those enrolled in charters. Thus, perhaps the most encouraging finding in the study is that the learning gains associated with urban charter schools seem to be accelerating. In the 2008–09 school year, CREDO found charter attendance producing an average of twenty-nine additional days of learning for students in...

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