Additional Topics

  • Over the weekend, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post wrote a thoughtful article about parents’ quest to better understand the Common Core’s approach to math instruction. For example, the standards want kids to understand numbers as something more than symbols. Thus, what “10” means might be taught by asking kids to draw ten candy canes. Word problems are also plentiful. The trouble is that these new and improved methods differ from how some older folks learned how to add and subtract—and these caring moms and dads are struggling to help with homework. These training sessions, paired with web resources like Khan Academy, are a smart solution. Not to mention the fact that they get parents more involved in their kids’ schooling—always a good thing.
  • Accountability at work is a beautiful thing—even (or especially) when the realities it reveals are ugly. Such is the case of the Louisiana voucher program. Louisiana Believes, a part of the Bayou State’s Department of Education, just released the 2013–14 annual report of the state’s scholarship program. Under the initiative, schools are permitted to take in voucher-wielding youngsters, but in return, these schools are subject to annual oversight pertaining to how their scholarship students perform. If a school’s not up to par, it can’t take in more kids the following year. In 2013–14, 126 schools participated, and at least twenty-three of them—about a fifth—fell short. Those are grim results, but kudos to Louisiana for ensuring that kids will be going to better-performing schools next year.
  • ...

The introduction of the Common Core State Standards into America’s schools offers a unique opportunity to rethink teachers’ professional development. Drawing on recent research and interviews with key state and district stakeholders, Education First’s latest report, Common Core State Standards and the Transformation of Professional Development, offers recommendations for how to re-conceptualize teacher training to drive effective Common Core implementation. The report consists of three briefs covering what professional development should look like, examples of successful systems, and advice for policymakers, respectively. Among the first’s key takeaways: Isolated and sporadic professional development should be replaced with ongoing sessions (both individually focused and collective) that help educators to cultivate a deep familiarity with the Common Core and to identify and utilize high-quality curricular materials that are well-aligned to the standards. The second brief highlights places where teacher development is working well and identifies effective practices to be replicated at scale. For example, Washoe County School District’s Core Task Project is a three-week Common Core implementation boot camp. It utilizes free resources provided by national organizations to immerse teachers in an intensive introduction to the standards, support them during implementation, and provide them with continuous feedback as they progress. The third and final brief challenges policymakers and district leaders to create conditions that support this new concept of teacher development. It proposes reallocating professional development dollars to reflect district priorities, building time into the school day for professional development, and encouraging school leaders to prioritize true instructional changes. While not all...

This week’s election results remind us that factors other than the ideologies and performance of candidates often determine the outcomes. One such factor is voter turnout. Campaign strategists and politicos often cite President Obama’s ability to mobilize the minority vote as a major factor in his successful 2008 and 2012 presidential bids. In those elections, down-ballot candidates politically aligned with the president benefitted from this galvanized voter pool. Not so in off-cycle elections, during which the vast majority of the country’s 500,000 elected officials win office—and which aren’t held on Election Day. (Note that midterm elections, like last night’s, aren’t off-cycle; midterms are held on Election Day, just like presidential ones.) So what does this mean? How are these elections different? And who benefits? These are the sorts of questions that Sarak F. Anzia tackles in her new book, Timing and Turnout. Anzia argues that organized groups have more influence in off-cycle elections because the voters they mobilize have a greater relative impact due to smaller overall turnout. Take teacher unions: Anzia offers data showing that educators operating under school boards whose members are elected off-cycle have higher salaries than those whose boards are constructed on federal election days. Other data demonstrate that, during such elections, voters who sympathize with teachers’ union ideology compose a larger percentage of the voting bloc, bolstering like-minded candidates. So, Anzia asks: Do these elections enhance democracy by increasing the public’s opportunities to choose their officials? Or do they marginalize the broader electorate by decreasing...

Less than four years after stepping down as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein’s tenure is already being re-appraised. A recent study showed that the small schools built from the remains of large, comprehensive high schools on Klein’s watch have smartly raised both graduation rates and college attendance. In his new book, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, Klein discusses his successes, shortcomings, and hopes for the future. At the helm of the nation’s largest school district, Klein pushed for radical reform over incremental change, in hopes of uprooting a stubbornly bureaucratic and complacent system. The Bloomberg administration’s set of education reforms, labeled “Children First,” centered on three major areas of improvement. The first wave focused on building and supporting great school leaders, namely principals, through the rigorous Leadership Academy. Designed to develop leaders eager to disrupt the status quo, the fourteen-month long academy immersed trainees in extensive role-playing activities and turned out hundreds of new leaders who went on to serve in the city’s most disorganized schools. Building on this foundation, Klein set out to establish a system of choice, breaking up large, failing high schools into dozens of small academies focused mainly on improving graduation rates among minority, low-income students. Klein further championed choice by attracting and encouraging charter schools, which now serve over 70,000 families who are happy with their kids’ education and continue to fiercely defend the right to...

There’s a wonderfully apt saying about why debates in the U.S. Senate last so long: “Everything’s been said but not everyone has said it yet.”  In that spirit, I offer my admittedly late thoughts on last night’s results. (It was a late night, so you may want to triangulate the real story by also reading the reactions from Eduwonk, Rick Hess, Eduflack, and Mike Petrilli.)

  1. The Uncertain Edu-meaning of the GOP Triumph: It was obviously a gigantic night for Republicans. They won just about every race imaginable. But it’s not clear what views, if any, all of these new office-holders share. Some are pro-Common Core; some aren’t. Some love choice and charters; some are more traditional. So we’ll have to stay tuned to see how this landslide settles.
  2. End of the Obama-Duncan Era: We’ll have to wait and see what the new reform era holds, but it feels more and more like the heady days of Race to the Top, ARRA, etc., are behind us. Secretary Duncan’s team still has work to do, on waivers in particular, but Maryland Avenue will no longer be the reform world’s center of gravity. The fundamental legacy question will be: How much of the Obama-Duncan reform agenda has become part of the consensus reform agenda?
  3. Lots of Union Spending, Meager Results: Were I a dues-paying teachers’
  4. ...
  1. Before we talk election results, let’s note that editors in Columbus opine today on Ohio’s parent trigger law. They are not really fans, but do recognize the need for change in chronically underperforming schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Also before we talk election results, let’s note that no decision was made during Monday’s Monroe school board meeting in regard to their mothballed high school. All bids for a sale/swap were rejected, making this at least the third rejection of an offer by a local church to buy the building. Lots of interests at play here, very few of them having to do with the students in the district. (Middletown Journal News)
     
  3. NOW we’ll talk election results. Lots of seats on the state board of ed up for votes yesterday. The good folks at StateImpact Ohio keep the overview short and sweet. Most incumbents running for reelection won. The Toledo Blade notes that their district’s incumbent – a Republican – beat out two challengers including another Republican. The Middletown Journal-News focuses on the Common Core angle, noting that both the District 3 incumbent winner and the District 4 newcomer winner are both supporters of Common Core. And the Canton Repository keeps it local, noting (somewhat huffily) that no Stark County resident will sit on the board for the first time in over a decade after an incumbent and a local challenger were defeated in Districts 5 and 8, respectively.
     
  4. The Ledgemont schools property-tax
  5. ...

With a few exceptions, most of the races decided yesterday didn’t hinge on education reform. But the outcome will have big implications for education policy nonetheless.

That was certainly true in 2010, when a voter backlash against Obamacare triggered a wave of Republican victories, especially at the state level, which in turn set the stage for major progress on education reform priorities in 2011 (rightfully dubbed “the year of school choice” by the Wall Street Journal). In fact, as Ty Eberhardt and I have argued, 2010’s Republican surge deserves more credit for the education reforms of the past several years than does Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top:

So here we are again, with Republicans winning stunning victories in races for governor’s mansions and statehouses nationwide. And once again this will be good for education reform, especially reforms of the school-choice variety. Voucher and tax-credit programs in Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona will continue apace; charter caps may be lifted and bad laws amended in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois; comprehensive reform efforts in New Mexico, Nevada, and Michigan have a new lease on life.

There’s good news for reformers on the Democratic side of the aisle too, what with the teachers unions’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day signaling their waning influence. Of particular note is Rhode Island—Rhode Island!—which just elected a pro-education reform, pro-pension reform Democrat as governor and a bona fide charter school hero as lieutenant governor....

Is Robert anti-teacher?

The midterm elections, Common Core math confusion, Joel Klein, and teacher selection tools.

Amber's Research Minute

Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, and Nick Huntington-Klein, “Screen Twice, Hire Once: Assessing the Predictive Validity of Teacher Selection Tools," Center for Education Data and Research, Working Paper 2014-9 (2014).

DON'T FORGET TO CARE ABOUT ELECTIONS
You’ve got to pick up groceries on the way home. And drop off the kids at a sleepover. And call someone about fixing the cable. But in the midst of your daily grind, be sure to remember that today is the day that Americans decide who will have control over the Senate, the House of Representatives (although, let’s face it, there’s not a chance of that changing hands) and dozens of statehouses around the country. For an eleventh hour look at some of the major races, as well as updates throughout the day, turn to Politics K–12.

HEALTHIER GRUB IN MINNESOTA
School lunches in Minnesota are getting a healthy makeover, thanks to a new program aimed at eliminating seven unwanted ingredients frequently found in processed meals. While there is some concern that revamping the school lunch menu will be costly, an analysis found that removing the seven ingredients (mostly artificial sweeteners and preservatives) will only cost an average of 35 cents more per meal. 

BURNAROUND
“The previous administration had a policy that a school like this was left to fend for itself, and that’s why we’re here today, because we reject the notion of giving up on any of our schools,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stated at an East Harlem school last night. The brutal burn came in the midst of a...

  1. At the end of the last House Rules Committee hearing on Common Core repeal, the chair halted testimony late in the evening saying that the next witness (a supporter of the bill) was so important that more committee members should be here to hear her. Well, the heck with that. Supposedly, there’s going to be a Rules Committee hearing tomorrow with no further testimony and a possible vote on the bill. Why the change of tack? The chair now double-negatively says, “I'm not sure that at this point that we haven't heard what everybody possibly has to say." And the bill’s co-sponsor says, "I was ready to vote it out a while ago.” Hmmmm... We shall see. Link (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Back in the real world, the state superintendent has approved an updated academic recovery plan for Youngstown City Schools, which gives more authority to the academic distress commission over the school board. It also limits the number of school board meetings to two per month. How’s that for intestinal fortitude? Oh, and it also sets some very concrete goals for both the short- and the long-term to improve the district’s academic performance. Not exactly the state takeover the Vindy’s editors were asking for a few months ago, but they’ve got to be pretty OK with this as a compromise.  (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. Our friends at Learn to Earn Dayton are helping to spearhead a new push to get high school seniors into and through college.
  4. ...

Pages