Additional Topics

  1. The annual leadership conference for charter school authorizers is taking place this week. EdWeek’s Arianna Prothero is there and learned a lot about closing down poor performers from Fordham’s Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen Upton, among others. (EdWeek blog)
     
  2. "If I am elected it will be an indictment of Common Core and a call for local control." Why yes, there are races for State Board of Education seats coming up in two weeks. Why do you ask? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. The good folks at StateImpact also have a full voters guide for the state board races. This link is to the intro piece. Links to all candidate statements received in the various races are available there. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Beacon Journal is really only interested in one of those state board races – District 4. In what is probably a rare move, editors have made an endorsement in the race. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Thanks Common Core. Due to the roll out of new Common Core-aligned tests in Ohio this year, Lorain City Schools’ new academic recovery plan must lack in specifics as far as growth targets go. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  6. Raise your hand if you love modular classrooms. Anyone? Didn’t think so. The folks in several burgeoning Licking County school districts don’t like them either. (Newark Advocate)
     
  7. For those of you still struggling to digest the recent Rolling Stone profile on Lima, Ohio, here’s a little look at
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[Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The previous posts in this series can be seen hereherehere, here, and here.]

Andy’s odyssey: Part six

The greatest friction between contemporary education reform and conservatism is the former’s obsession with “new” and the latter’s deep skepticism of it.

This conflict has its roots in the very different worldviews of progressives and conservatives. Those on the political right generally seek to preserve, believing that longstanding practices, policies, and institutions possess the wisdom of ages. They have evolved and grown robust. In Yuval Levin’s words, they “developed through years of trial and error and adapted to their circumstances.” They possess stores of social capital that facilitate the healthy functioning of society.

Progressives generally seek to dramatically change, aspiring to uproot society’s injustices and inefficiencies, possessing great faith in our ability to create something new and better from scratch. This frame of mind among America’s political left is clear and consistent.

Thomas Paine famously wrote in Common Sense of “our power to begin the world over again.” The FDR museum celebrates how the former president “fundamentally changed the role of the federal government in the...

CUOMO SLOW-WALKING COMMON CORE
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign has been tough on his Republican opponent, and now it’s training its sights on Common Core: In a new ad, Cuomo vows to hold off on using Common Core test results for evaluation purposes for at least five years. Of course, by that time, he’ll have already lost a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, so there will be no worries about backlash. 

REVOLVING DOOR FOR URBAN SUPERINTENDENTS
The departure of Los Angeles public schools chief John Deasy sheds light on the high turnover rate of urban school district superintendents. A tenure of three and a half years is about average, though experts argue it takes at least four years for superintendents to begin making a long-lasting impact.

FORDHAM CINEMA CLUB
Real Clear Education showcases First Generation, a new film documenting the lives of first-generation college students. These students often face difficulties during the admission process and have little knowledge of how to navigate student loan applications. Research shows, however, that almost all college graduates see a return on their investments, earning upwards of $1 million more over a lifetime than those with just a high school diploma.

SHOP CLASS AS FINAL CREDIT
In what could be a major step forward for the revival of Career and Technical Education, the New York State Board of Regents...

There’s apprehension in some ed-reform circles that things have gone sideways.

There’s the resistance to Common Core coming from the right and the left. There’s frustration with ESEA waivers. There’s the mess in Newark. There are twelve students demanding Harvard divorce Teach for America.

But each of these is, of course, an anecdote, and “data” is not the plural of “anecdote.” So are these chapters in a larger backlash-to-reform narrative, or are they just well-publicized exceptions to the reform-is-winning rule?

I’ve spent some time going through four recent surveys of the views of the public, educators, parents, and insiders. They offer encouragement to the reform community, though with one important exception. In short, many of today’s most prominent reforms are quite popular, but it looks like folks are perturbed by a meddlesome Uncle Sam. (If you have time, I recommend your taking a gander at the data from Education Next, Phi Delta Kappan, Whiteboard Advisors, and Education Post.)

Consistent with public opinion data going back decades, today’s Americans think their local schools are doing fine, but they think schools in the rest of the nation are seriously troubled. Whether you ask the public or parents, only 1–4 percent believe the nation’s schools deserve an A.

Though people rate their local schools much higher, there’s broad agreement that low-income kids, even in our esteemed local schools, aren’t getting what they need....

  1. The Ohio Department of Education has taken unprecedented steps to combat the “recycling” of closed charter schools, learning in the process, I think, of how many ways there have been to actually do it. One such school in Cincinnati needs a whole new set of board members – to be appointed by ODE – ASAP. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. As if yesterday’s “pig weighing”/ “test-mania” story wasn’t enough, the PD published another one later in the day. This one consists mainly of quotes from emails from local superintendents responding to the first piece. Spoiler alert: overtesting is “an abomination”. Who says journalism is dead? Not me. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Abomination or no, teachers are getting ready to “feed the pig” before they weigh it (to use the North Coast technical terms I learned this week), by which I mean they are prepping for the new PARCC exams. Case in point: Springfield Twp. teachers, who are schooling their students in online document submission and editing ahead of PARCC test administration. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Must be the pigs. ODE has gotten wind of what they term “an uproar” on the topic of over testing of students. And so the department has submitted a request to the federal government to exempt certain advanced students from the "double testing" that would otherwise occur under NCLB requirements. I’m sure the request was worded a bit more technically, but in a nutshell: "So can the end-of-course exam in English be used as
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Polls of parental attitudes about education can give guidance to those of us researching, dissecting, and commenting on education issues—clueing us in on issues of concern and, more importantly, helping framing those issues in ways which resonate with the general public. Education Post, a newish education-based communications network whose mission is to “cut through the noise” and to foster “straight talk,” published just such a poll earlier this month. As similar efforts have shown, poll respondents (1,800 “school parents” nationwide) feel better about their own children’s education than they do about the “education system” at large. Eighty-four percent of parents were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their child’s school. But when asked about the education system broadly, 60 percent thought there were “some changes” that needed to be made, while 33 percent thought that the system needed a “complete overhaul.” A mere 3 percent of respondents thought that the system was “fine as is.” When asked about specific changes to improve “the system,” 88 percent supported “higher standards and a more challenging curriculum,” 78 percent supported “expanding the number of charter schools so parents have more options,” 93 percent supported “more accountability for teachers and principals,” and 84 percent supported “teacher evaluations that use test scores, classroom observations, and surveys from parents and students to help teachers improve.” In short, education reformers’ current interests are all namechecked and given support with the polling data. But this latest poll is no more likely to be reformers’ manna...

Isabel Sawhill is the founder of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, an effort from which she draws much of the impetus for her latest book: Generation Unbound. She reviews decades of research and literature to support the notion that “traditional” patterns of education, marriage, and parenting—in that order—are a thing of the past, especially in the lives of low-income individuals. Delayed parenting—one of the pillars of the “success sequence” that some education pundits espouse—is largely nonexistent in impoverished communities, where we fervently believe education can do so much to help break the cycle of poverty. Sawhill notes that these are facts of modern life, like it or not (a traditionalist, she seems not to like them very much). Ideologues on the left argue for more social support for unmarried parents; those on the right for a return to traditional marriage. Sawhill posits a third way—foregrounding the various downsides of single parenthood, providing as much information about and access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) as possible, and even incentivizing their promotion and use. With this “split the difference” approach, sure to be controversial with many, she believes that many young people who would otherwise simply drift into parenthood instead become “planners” who are able to put their own education and stability first before bringing children into the equation. While Sawhill focuses mainly on economic and equity issues in her book, education is never far from the narrative, especially when the topic of young people in poor...

EDUCATION SNAPSHOT
Federally owned schools located on Native American reservations, which serve about 48,000 students nationally, face extreme poverty and lack of resources; they are also marked by low performance scores, with some schools reporting proficiency at 25 percent. The AP’s Kimberly Hefling looks at the sorry state of an under-resourced elementary school on a Navajo reservation, where housing, transportation, and local facilities are in appalling disrepair and scarcity. 

COMMON CORE PUT TO THE TEST
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues for high-quality standardized testing. Two major state assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are in the process of evaluating Common Core-aligned assessments, as Education Week’s Catherine Gewertz reports.

DOLLARS AND PENCE
Last week, Governor Mike Pence elected not to apply for a federal grant that might have afforded up to $80 million for Indiana preschools. In a statement justifying the decision, he wrote, “It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state's mission and programs.” Fordham tackled the issue of Pence’s repudiation of the Common Core standards this spring in the scintillating “Indiana’s Potemkin Standards?”

FRESH CHANGES TO AP COURSES
Looking past the enormous hue and cry surrounding changes to the AP U.S. History curriculum, the College Board is going forward with new content in a bevy of subjects areas. The Hechinger Report ...

  1. Fordham was name-checked as a “reputable” charter school sponsor as editors in Columbus opined on recent stories about the questionable lease deals enjoyed by some Imagine charter schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. The story here is likely to be “more charter school shenanigans” as far as charter detractors are concerned, but a few things about this story of a former school leader convicted of fiscal malfeasance stand out to me. First, questionable spending came to light via a tip to the state auditor’s office. This is typical of how these things go with district schools, ESCs, and even student booster clubs. The news is full of them. Second, the tip came in 2013 and was acted upon quickly and decisively. It is over in less than a year, with repayment of funds ordered. Far quicker and simpler than Columbus’ data scrubbing crimes and even some athletic booster misfeasance that has been floating around for two years or more. Third, and perhaps most important, the charter schools in question survived the removal of a leader (good riddance) and seem to be continuing to serve their students as well as or better than the neighborhood schools. Call it shenanigans if you must and call for an end to all charters, but I think this is actually a very positive story of how it should work in any public entity where misfeasance is found. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. Keeping with the theme of charter schools for a moment, here’s a story about
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MOVEMENT ON BULLYING
A new report by the nonprofit Child Trends reveals that about 70 percent of D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Charter Schools enforced anti-bullying policies in line with the 2012 Youth Bullying Prevention Act. The study did not study implementation of the policies in question, and it found that a small number of schools neglected to submit any policy whatsoever.

CASH-FLOW PROBLEMS
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released data showing that state funding for K–12 education has been cut in thirty of forty-seven states reviewed. Budget cuts are especially evident in regard to talent acquisition, with the widespread dismissal of teachers and support staff. For information on D.C. school spending, check out our new Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer

REDEFINING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN TENNESSEE
Chalkbeat Tennessee just launched an interactive page to educate the public on the state’s Achievement School District. The ASD is composed of struggling schools that have been taken over by the state from local districts and grouped into a single, larger entity. Seen by many as a controversial approach to school improvement, similar programs exist in Louisiana and Michigan. For the definitive panorama of district-level reform in Tennessee, stop whatever you're doing and check out Nelson Smith’s seminal 2013 report for Fordham.

WAR OF ATTRITION
In a must-read/long-read Education Next piece, four Mathematica researchers examine the question of whether KIPP's attrition rates may be an important factor...

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