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Pop quiz: If you’re a Chicago ninth grader, what are the chances you’ll have earned a four-year college degree ten years from now? This research brief from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), claims it’s just 14 percent. Sounds grim until you do a little math: At present, the national high school graduation rate is 81 percent; four-year college enrollment is 38 percent, while the six-year graduation rate among those enrollees is 59 percent. Multiply those figures together and you get an 18 percent national “degree attainment index” (a figure that sounds curiously low given that one-third of Americans ages 25 to 29 have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Regardless of how you keep score, Chicago has improved markedly since CCSR first published its index in 2006. High school graduation rates have jumped from 53 percent to 73 percent, and a higher percentage of grads are enrolling in four-year colleges (college completion rates have not changed significantly). Meanwhile there has been a slight increase in the grade point average and ACT scores of CPS students, even though more than 5,000 additional students took the exam compared to eight years ago—implying that the improved high school graduation rate cannot be attributed to reduced rigor or a lower bar. Still, with 75 percent of CPS high school students reporting they want to obtain a four-year degree, while only one in six are projected to reach that goal, there’s a yawning...

DIFFERENTIATED STROKES FOR HETEROGENEOUSLY GROUPED FOLKS
In a must-read piece in Education Week, James R. Delisle takes aim at one of the biggest trends in education: differentiated instruction. The method is meant to reach students learning at drastically different levels, but Delisle charges that it complicates the work of teachers by forcing them to prepare separate materials and is almost impossible to put into practice. Fordham President Emeritus Chester Finn once asked if differentiated instruction was a hollow promise. Delisle and the Gadfly give a resounding yes.

BUT WHEN WILL WE GET A PLAYOFF SYSTEM?
You know it’s January when Rick Hess reveals his annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Rankings, a rock-’em, sock-’em power poll of the biggest, baddest wonks in academia. Check out the post to discover the biggest risers and hottest newcomers, along with the perennial champions making up the top ten. (And note the presence of peeps who were EEPS.) Of course, any list of influential education voices that doesn’t include a certain winged, anthropomorphized insect is notably incomplete.

GRADE-LEVEL TEXTS
In a dramatic victory for both restive pupils and the Apple Store, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted the citywide prohibition on cell phones in public schools. The oft-defied ban was increasingly seen as unenforceable, with critics arguing that it prevented parents from keeping in touch with their kids and some teachers fretting that mobile devices were already being used...

  1. Tired of reading about calls for fixes to Ohio’s charter school law? Me neither. Chad Aldis has a guest commentary in the Enquirer today on that very topic. “It is past time,” he says, “for Ohio's charter sector to leave its troubled past behind.” Yes indeed. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Akron are also still keen to opine on education fixes as well. They laud the leaders of the new 131st General Assembly for their verbal commitment to education this week but warn of similar previous rhetoric that went nowhere. Interestingly, they use their soapbox to urge legislators to utilize specific data and research to inform their work. I won’t spoil the surprise and let you read it yourself to see of whom they are speaking. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. Members of the Youngstown school board say they agree with an outside consultant’s recommendation that communication needs to be improved between the board and the district superintendent. Just not so much that they think it a good idea for the supe to attend all their meetings. Go figure. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. From the “haven’t we been down this road before?” file: A local church was the highest bidder in an effort to sell a closed school building in Middletown. They’ve got some big plans for the place which – says the pastor – will enhance the community. And the sale will save the district a packet. But Middletown is just down the road from Monroe, where
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WHAT TO WATCH
In a new article from Education Week, readers get the low-down on what to expect from the 114th Congress on the education front. First, we’ll see a race to get a reauthorized ESEA bill to the president by mid-February. Next, we can expect to see some debate on two major ed-reform issues: grade-span testing and charters schools. Finally, get ready for what may be the reemergence of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and an education-research bill.

ESEA AS PIE
The first item on that list is the one that interests us most right now. For the best in-depth take on the GOP’s plans to tinker with No Child Left Behind (the most recent ESEA reauthorization, passed in 2001 and renewed in 2007), read Maggie Severns’s fantastic piece at Politico. Alongside a useful history of the law and a fresh look at the testing debate, the article cites Fordham’s own marvelous Mike Petrilli on the prospects for legislative action. The process, he says, will be “all about Congress taking a red pen and deleting” language in NCLB.

MORE FROM MIKE
Over the New Year, we Fordhamites caught ESEA fever. And the only cure is more Petrilli. For relief from your symptoms, make sure to check out Mike’s piping-hot take on which elements of the law are likely to stay and which will be left behind like so many...

  1. The 131st Ohio General Assembly kicked off its first session yesterday – mostly with housekeeping and welcoming activities. But the Senate president did set a bit of a tone in his opening remarks by calling for “education deregulation” in Ohio, urging his members to recognize the diverse nature of school districts when proposing sweeping education measures and asking, "Why do we hold everybody to the same structure?” Fascinating. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The Dayton Daily News reported on yesterday’s opening sessions in both the House and Senate.  Seems like both chambers are interested in tackling education issues, including the clarion call for charter law reform. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. The Beacon Journal’s series on racial diversity in schools continued yesterday with a piece about efforts in Akron schools and elsewhere to hire more minority teachers and what it means for students to have a teaching staff that attempts to mirror the growing diversity of the student body. Of particular note is the case of Akron’s Buchtel High School, whose principal has been given a dispensation by the local teacher’s union to hire directly rather than to accept transfer requests and merit assignments. (Akron Beacon Journal)

ESEA reauthorization explained in a single table

Once upon a time (OK, it was 2007), we D.C. policy wonks were gearing up for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act (a.k.a. No Child Left Behind), and all the buzz was about the new federal requirements that would be added. Checker and I dubbed it “No Idea Left Behind.”

What a difference eight years makes. As Politico reported last week, with Republicans fully in charge of Capitol Hill, the only question this time around is how much Congress will subtract. Call it No Red Pen Left Behind.

Below is my take on the major ESEA provisions that are dead for sure, those that will survive, and the handful of policies that will animate the coming debate. [1]

[1] To be clear, some of the provisions listed here aren't in ESEA proper. Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation fund were created as part of the 2009 stimulus bill; the administration dreamed up the requirements that states adopt teacher-evaluation systems and "college- and career-ready standards" as part of its conditional ESEA waivers. The administration would, no doubt, like to fold all of these into a new ESEA. I doubt that's going to happen....

EDUCATION SNAPSHOT: MASSACHUSETTS
Newly-appointed Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, a close associate of Governor-Elect Charlie Baker, will oversee implementation of a host of reforms, including the transition to Common Core, the replacement of the MCAS test (which he helped put in place during a stint in state government in the 1990s) with PARCC, and a promise to open at least fifty more charter schools over the next four years, which would bring the state total to 130. 

THEY THROW IN THE ARTILLERY CLASSES FREE
NPR investigates what’s being called the “largest employer-sponsored childcare program in the country”: military preschool. The program, which serves over 200,000 children at 800 centers and staffs 40,000 employees, has become a national model for early childhood care. The military subsidizes nearly two-thirds of the costs of childcare, and centers offer high teacher pay, mandatory training, and professional development and accredited facilities.

CALLING ALL COUNSELORS
The ratio of students to counselors in national high schools is 478:1, nearly double the recommendation put forth by the American School Counselor Association. This strain is particularly felt during college application periods, when guidance offices shuffle through hundreds of students and are often asked to write letters of recommendation. First-generation college students, who are more likely to misunderstand the financial aid process and undermatch for colleges, are particularly disadvantaged by this high ratio. For more on the importance of counselors and other non-teacher school employees, check out our blockbuster Hidden Half report from...

  1. The Big D promised us a look at ECOT – Ohio’s largest and oldest virtual school – and here it is. Aaron is quoted in this story, which notes some pluses of the statewide virtual model along with all of the usual minuses. But honestly, why does no one involved seem to want to know WHY so many students are choosing online education, despite some obvious quality issues? Until that question is asked and the myriad answers fully understood by folks on both sides, no improvement can possibly be made. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Lest we think the Dispatch is only about charter school hit pieces, here’s an editorial from the weekend where “the Columbus Plan” is reinvoked very positively. Many have already forgotten the Columbus Education Commission and its 55 recommendations – and with Mayor Coleman heading for the sunset, some serious mojo behind those recommendations will be lost – but the Big D has not. They note that some progress has been made on more than half of them, but that many of the biggest recommendations languish, mainly due to lack of funding. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of editorials, the Blade returns to discussion of the “5 of 8” rule from a couple of months ago, but uses it as a springboard to opine on the need for more/better/different funding mechanisms for schools in Ohio. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. There’s no editorial on this topic yet, but expect one along shortly as the Beacon Journal digs into
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  1. Starting the new year with a bang, the Big D’s got a front page story on charter schools in Ohio, noting that a very small number of new schools opened in 2014. Our own Aaron Churchill and ODE’s John Charlton both attribute this to diligence by the department. Not sure the journalist agrees. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Charter schools are on the minds of the editorial board in Cleveland as well. Today’s editorial repeats the call for action to reform the state’s charter school sector, citing the recent CREDO and Bellwether reports, and Fordham’s central efforts in pushing reform. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Not content to stop at an editorial, the PD’s political prognostication also covers charter school law reform, noting CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham while betting that charter law reform will be one of Governor Kasich’s top 5 priorities in 2015. I predict that that is correct. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Fascinating story about “ESC shopping” among districts in Geauga County. Ledgemont Schools – in fiscal distress – were required to shop around for a new Education Service Center looking strictly at cost. Others have already decided to stay put, but several are shopping around. What they are looking for – lower cost or better services or both – differs from district to district. Worth a read. (Willoughby News-Herald)
  1. The Auditor of State released an audit of one of Ohio’s largest online schools. There were some findings regarding inappropriate travel reimbursement. Two staffers have already reimbursed the school. Why is this news? It’s not. But that doesn’t stop the Big D’s Education Insider team from wringing it for all its worth, with a heaping helping of unnecessary smarm. (Columbus Dispatch) The more matter-of-fact version can be found in Gongwer. Meanwhile, in a small school district near Springfield, actual crime appears to have occurred. Do take note of how the local press is handling that story, which has been developing for a week or so. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  2. Speaking of money, here’s something that any number of schools (district, charter, STEM, private, whatever) might want to take note of. The board of Granville Schools recently passed a resolution establishing “cash balance guidelines” for the district that set a cash reserve target of no less than 10 percent of annual revenue. Any time balances go below that level for two consecutive months, the treasurer must prepare a report as to why and include options for cuts to offset. Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. I have now twice confessed to not understanding the point of Public Broadcasting’s “American Graduate” program, which rolled (seemingly unhelpfully) through Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. Even after doing some outside digging, I don’t get it. Students who are at risk of not graduating high school are – I’m pretty sure – aware
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