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  1. Say you’re someone who wants to open a charter school in Cincinnati, but say that your sponsor was warned in no uncertain terms by the Ohio Department of Education that your school was not allowed to open for a number of, say, very good reasons. What do you do? The folks at Hope4Change took what we’ll call a “counterintuitive” approach.  (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Week Three of Common Core hearings was short and sweet compared to previous iterations. I am sorry that I missed this editorial from Cleveland opining in exasperation at the “circus-like” nature of the hearings to that point, but honestly nothing about that description changed yesterday and it’s still a valid comment. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) A revised and amended version of HB597 was debuted yesterday. Gongwer’s coverage focuses on details of all the changes, and takes time to predict more committee hearings in the future. (Gongwer Ohio) Public radio’s Andy Chow discusses the changes in the bill made yesterday but notes that no further hearings or next steps were announced. (WKSU-FM, Kent) As it has done for the last two weeks, covering in the PD remained focused on the issue of ID in the bill – specifically, new language that the sponsor says will address concerns of those who oppose Intelligent Design being taught in schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) The change in language related to creationism also gets top billing in the Big D’s coverage, but I would draw your attention to
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[Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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 herehere, and here.]

Andy’s odyssey: Part four

The most convincing argument against conservatism is that by defending longstanding institutions it ends up protecting longstanding injustices.

Yes, there is a prima facie case for preservation: It’s sensible to safeguard things that have stood the test of time—libraries, respect for elders, voluntary community associations, the Western canon, charity. But enormous harm is done by protecting old, immoral institutions, like serfdom, honor killings, and the denial of women’s suffrage.

A corollary of the preserve-first approach, that change should occur gradually, promises wise, prudent adjustments. But it too can injure grievously. Ending the military targeting of civilians—once a common wartime practice—needed to happen immediately, not slowly. This understanding is reflected in Gladstone’s adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied;” Goldwater’s admonition, “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue;” and Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail rebuke of those advocating patience.

The dark sides of preservation and gradual change have been illuminated by the events of Ferguson and a recent Atlantic article on reparations. They illustrate with agonizing clarity why dramatic change is sometimes required; provide insight into the tragic...

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A fern between two Mikes: The Vergara fight goes coast to coast

A fern between two Mikes: The Vergara fight goes coast to coast

Fordham's Mike Petrilli and AEI's Mike McShane discuss the growth of Vergara-like fights nationwide and the pros and cons of taking the tenure debate to the courts.

READY OR NOT
This is the year when nearly every state must begin using assessments aligned to the Common Core, or other “college-and career-ready” standards, Education Week notes. And unlike last year, “this year’s achievement results will be a cornerstone of states’ public accountability reporting.”

THIRD PLACE
The United States ranks third (trailing Switzerland and Singapore) in competitiveness, based on several factors, including “an excellent university system,” according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. In education, the U.S. is seventh (of 144 countries) in higher ed; in primary ed, the U.S. ranks thirty-sixth.

BRITISH CODING INVASION
All students in the United Kingdom will learn computer coding as young as age five starting this year due to curriculum changes. In the U.S., “very few elementary age students are learning to code in U.S. schools, though the nonprofit Code.org is trying to change that,” reports Education Week.

DIVERSITY? WHAT DIVERSITY?
Heard the one about how U.S. schools have never been more diverse? County-level maps produced by the Urban Institute show schools are actually less likely to be diverse than before. Blame housing patterns.

“THE BOOK THAT GOT TEACHING RIGHT”
The New Yorker rediscovers “Up the Down Staircase,” the 1965 best-seller and “the most enduring account we have of teachers’ lives,” and discovers it’s out of print.

“I WAS A BIT OF A UNICORN”
Noted Glenn Peters as one of very few male preschool teachers in New York. According to NPR, “barely 2 percent...

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  1. College Board Senior Advisor and Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow at Fordham Kathleen Porter-Magee talks to the Plain Dealer about the replacement for Ohio’s New Learning Standards as proposed in HB597. Sounds like an inevitable mess should the bill pass. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Week Three of testimony on the aforementioned HB597 begins – and maybe ends? – today in the House Rules Committee. Editors in Canton opine again against the bill, calling the campaign against the Common Core in Ohio “misguided”. (Canton Repository)
     
  3. Something else that editors in Canton are supportive of: teacher evaluation. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Yesterday, we told you of registration problems for dozens of students in Mansfield, an untold number of whom are still sitting at home days after school started. There was a veiled intimation in that piece that a closed charter school was to blame. Today, the veil is off and without evidence or numbers the district blames the charter – which closed back in June – for failing to send complete records. While I am sympathetic to the work that is created by incomplete records, a couple of questions come to mind: 1. How many of these students had their records given to the charter school from the district in the first place? 2. Why is it apparently considered “going the extra mile” to create temporary schedules for such students to get them out of their houses and into school? 3. Why doesn’t the district have a “new
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Long before today’s education-reform movement was born, indeed long before A Nation at Risk, there was the Council for Basic Education (CBE), founded in 1956 by such notables as Jacques Barzun, Hyman Rickover, and Mortimer Smith. They believed, as do we, that “there is an intimate relationship between a healthy democracy and the ideal of excellence in education.”

For nearly half a century, CBE fought the good fight for excellence in American K–12 education, for rigorous standards, excellent teaching, and curriculum built upon serious content. For decades, it was very nearly the only voice to caution about the excesses of progressivism, relativism, and equity-at-the-expense-of-quality.

And for more than twenty years, from the dawn of special education to the enactment of Goals 2000, this invaluable organization was captained by A. Graham Down, who passed away on Saturday, a day after celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday at his beloved Cosmos Club.

Equipped with a plummy Oxbridge accent, as befits a superbly educated gentleman—history, music, education, and more—who moved to the U.S. from England at age twenty-five, Graham was as close to a Renaissance man as we have known in person. A dedicated and accomplished musician, widely read in many fields, a devotee of the humanities and the English language, a passionate education reformer, a raconteur and bon vivant, a tireless leader, fine writer, and owner of a grand sense of humor, his long career included stints as head of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, book reviewer for Education Next,...

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Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

VIDEO: Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

Elizabeth Green’s new book, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone), takes a look at the science and art of being and building a great teacher. But policy questions abound: Can teacher-preparation programs churn out the number of effective new teachers our schools need every year? Should it be harder to become a teacher? Is the real issue “teacher quality” or “quality teaching”? And if the latter, what can governors and other policymakers do about it?

This is a conversation and discussion with Green on her new book and on what makes a great teacher—and great teaching.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s offer to subsidize full-day pre-K programs came with a number of strings attached, and many religious organizations are refusing to play along. The city is tying funding to, among other things, regulations on after-meal prayer, displays of religious symbols, and references to religious texts. Many faith-based preschools would, of course, benefit from some extra cash. But perhaps mindful of a certain sacred text’s condemnation of money as the “root of all sorts of evil,” some are advising caution.

Driven by high rates of youth unemployment and the Internet, vocational education may finally be poised for a revolution. Two big changes are eliminating the biggest culprits of stagnation—low status and a lack of innovation. Nineteen-year-old auto mechanics, for example, can out-earn not only college-graduate peers but the median pay of all U.S. workers. And competency-based education MOOCs are allowing prospective laborers to learn skills at their convenience and in whatever order or manner works best for their careers.

Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, in a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, argued that socioeconomic diversity should be one of the cornerstones on which charter schools are built. Unfortunately, they’re only half right. Sure, we ought to support and encourage socioeconomically diverse charter schools. But defining charter schools by one or two specific characteristics misses the point. Different families have different priorities—and the entire basis of school choice is to give families different choices....

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Approximately 1.85 million students—or 57 percent of the U.S. high school class of 2014— took the ACT in 2014. That’s an 18 percent uptick since 2010, despite the overall number of graduates decreasing by 3 percent. Twelve states boast a 100 percent participation rate; yet all of them, predictably, have composite scores below the national average of 21. The highest marks belong to states in which just 20–30 percent of graduates took the ACT: Massachusetts (composite score of 24.3), New Hampshire, and Connecticut (each with scores of 24.2). Diversity is also up. The proportion of test takers who are Hispanic has increased since 2010, while the percentage of white students sitting for the ACT has dropped. College readiness, as measured by the ACT, remains stagnant, and achievement gaps persist. Students who meet at least three out of four of the ACT’s subject-specific college-readiness benchmarks are deemed to have a good shot at success freshman year. In 2013, 53 percent of white students met the math benchmark, compared to a mere 14 percent of African American students and 29 percent Hispanic students. This year, numbers are down one percentage point for both white and Hispanic pupils, while African American kids still register a paltry 14 percent. The numbers are nearly identical for reading, with no more than a one-point change in any of the three groups. Worse yet, the report notes that a significant number of test-takers who say they plan to go to college fail to actually do so. In...

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Two new studies add to the growing body of peer effects research that confirms what seems self-evident: learning alongside motivated, smart students enhances student outcomes. The first examines the peer effect on pre-K students diagnosed with a disability. Researchers measured student achievement among 670 students, roughly half with an IEP, in eighty-three classrooms in one Midwestern state, using teacher ratings of students’ language ability gains between the fall and spring of a single school year. IEP students appear apt to languish, language-wise, if enrolled in a low-skilled classroom; they do better when mainstreamed into heterogeneous settings. The second study uses Philadelphia public-schools data on nearly 35,000 elementary-school students who took the Stanford 9 exams during the mid- to late 1990s. The analyst employs a few different empirical strategies to untangle the true peer effect from other confounding factors. The main finding: elementary-school students in this urban district gained significantly when learning in a classroom with high-achieving peers, compared to similar students in an average classroom. The converse also applies. Students lost ground when placed in classrooms of lower average achievement. Interestingly, achievement also significantly increased in classrooms with more girls, even if the girls weren’t higher achieving. Predictably, achievement sank in classrooms containing more children with behavioral problems. As the proverb goes, iron sharpens iron—the research indicates that children stand to benefit when learning with suitable peers. Yet, as Daniel Willingham points out, it’s unclear whether enough well-mannered, high-aptitude students exist for all their peers who might benefit from...

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