Additional Topics

MORE ON COMMON CORE READING
NPR has wrapped up its four-part series on Common Core reading with a great look at a classroom of Washington, D.C. fifth graders picking their way through American history readers. The complexity of their standards-aligned texts—which require the students to answer questions using evidence from the reading—should challenge them to read more closely and develop an appetite for greater difficulty. Fordham’s incomparable tandem of Robert Pondiscio and Kevin Mahnken tackled this aspect of the literacy wars back in September.

BUT WHO WILL INVENT SELF-WRITING PERSONAL ESSAY SOFTWARE?
As high school seniors are beginning to make college plans, tech companies are stepping up to provide more tools to do so. Among them, LinkedIn’s new University Finder helps students identify schools with high grad-employment rates with certain companies, and Parchment.com purports to show students their chances of getting into their top schools. Check out the other online tools and pass them along to college-seeking seniors.

FORDHAM BOOK CLUB
Newsweek’s Abigail Jones talks to John Demos about the strange story of the Heathen School, chronicled in the historian’s 2014 book of the same name. Opened in Connecticut 1817, the Foreign Mission School (as it was officially known) sought to educate and convert American Indians as well as immigrants from China, Hawaii, and India. Local prejudice doomed the project from the start, and Andrew Jackson’s obsession with Indian removal...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the third post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See here and here for prior posts.]

Every leadership development program is guided by leadership standards, statements of what successful leaders should know and be able to do. This is true of the exemplars examined in this blog series and of open-enrollment programs run by countless colleges and universities. Thirty-two states comprise the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) which developed a competency framework that is used in programs licensed in member states. It includes standards relative to school culture, management, community relations, and vision of learning.

In fact, most competency frameworks—whether guiding mundane licensure programs like many carrying the ISLLC imprimatur or other, more heralded alternatives—include similar expectations. School leaders should provide vision, set worthy goals, build effective teams, cultivate positive cultures, drive quality instruction, and get results. One would be hard pressed to distinguish successful from unsuccessful leadership development programs by looking only at competency frameworks.

KIPP’s framework has but four elements, consistent with the expert advice that less is more: student focus (what KIPP also calls “prove the possible”), drive results, build relationships, and manage people. Tellingly, the framework began with just the first two elements—in essence an almost maniacal focus on student achievement, which had been the founders’ secret to success. As KIPP sought to develop more school leaders, it recognized the crucial importance of working with the adults in...

Public school districts in the United States face a tough reality: Student needs are mounting and accountability demands are on the rise, but resources remain limited or are on the decline. In recent years, there has been great energy around how to do more with less through technology-supported instruction, class-size management, new staffing patterns, school closures, etc. But in the end, many districts have resorted to doing less with less, such as offering fewer electives, reducing administrator and support-staff positions, delaying maintenance, and postponing textbook adoptions.

But there is good news. There are practical, real-world opportunities for districts to realign resources and free up funds to support their strategic priorities. It is possible to do more with less, if you are spending money wisely. Many district leaders might defensively respond that they in fact have a multitude of ideas, but the budgeting process and political pushback make many options virtually impossible. The challenge is to find cases in which the political pushback is manageable and both the impact on student achievement and the financial benefit are significant. Fortunately, recent research shows that such scenarios do exist.

We at the District Management Council detailed the top ten opportunities for resource reallocation in our book Spending Money Wisely: Getting the Most from School District Budgets. Focusing on these achievable opportunities offers the potential to free up significant resources that can be used to improve a district’s performance and ultimately bring about what we all hope for:...

A few weeks ago, I bemoaned an Education Trust report positing that schools shouldn’t get A grades if they have significant achievement gaps, even if their students are making lots of progress. I guess I didn’t make a convincing case, particularly to the folks at 400 Maryland Avenue. As Anne Hyslop reported, the newly announced NCLB waiver guidelines now ask states for “a demonstration that a school may not receive the highest rating in the state’s accountability system if there are significant achievement or graduation rate gaps in the school that are not closing.” As Anne wrote, “this is almost verbatim from the recommendations” put forth by Ed Trust.

But is this a smart idea? Consider the case of Sawgrass Elementary School in Broward County, Florida. Let’s examine its stats (downloaded from this Florida Department of Education site). First look at the demographics, which show it to be a rare model of racial and socio-economic diversity:

  • 27 percent white
  • 28 percent black
  • 37 percent Hispanic
  • 6 percent Asian
  • 54 percent disadvantaged
  • 29 percent English language learners (ELL)

As for academic performance, Sawgrass has been making big gains in both math and reading, both overall and for its lowest-performing students. As for subgroups, let’s look at the percentage of students scoring at “satisfactory” or above on mathematics:

  • Its white students outperform the statewide white average by thirteen percentage points.
  • Its black students outperform the statewide black average
  • ...
  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis had a whole 30 minutes on the air on WHBC radio in Canton on Saturday morning, talking about the Common Core with host Joe Palmisano. Link is here. Common Core discussion begins at about the 38 minute mark, but stick around for the caller Q&A afterward too. Fascinating discussion. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, math teachers and administrators in Heath are uneasy about the uncertainty surrounding Common Core. Most seem optimistic that repeal won’t happen in Ohio, but just the possibility that years of work and $100,000 in materials and training could go for naught (and may have to be repeated twice more) is still disconcerting. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. We’ve all heard the stories of parents having difficulty helping their children with their “Common Core” math homework. Apocryphal or not – Common Core or not – math teachers in Newark really want to make sure that parents have all the tools they could want in order to help their elementary school students succeed. Thus, the Parent Math Academy was born. The online academy “teaches parents the concepts their children are learning in school, including new vocabulary words and an overview of any graphics or strategies the students might see.” Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. Journalists retrenched after the internet blowup over Ohio’s “5 of 8” rule last week, and spent the weekend digging in and trying to understand what the rule means in its present form, how it manifests itself in local practice,
  5. ...

BUSHWACKED
In a bout of unforeseen excitement at AEI, a routine guest lecture by controversial Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson turned to pandemonium when dozens of furious protesters bused down from the Gateway City to disrupt the talk. Over at Education Week, event organizer Rick Hess lambasted the activists as “rabble-rousers” and “enemies of free speech,” also apparently taking offense to their repeated use of train whistles.

BETTER LEARNING THROUGH VIDEO GAMES
A recent study has found that playing high-action video games may accelerate student learning. According to the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, students who played these games were faster at learning new sensory-motor skills than their non-gaming peers. As it turns out, high-action video games may enhance a student’s attention, perception, and ability to switch tasks and mentally rotate objects—skills that contribute heavily to a student’s ability to succeed in math and geometry.

IMPOSSIBLE DREAM?
When long-serving former Boston Mayor Tom Menino died last month, the occasion spawned countless panegyrics to the most powerful leader the city had ever known. Even while honoring his many accomplishments, however, supporters had to concede that his record on education failed to astound. Now his successor Marty Walsh is struggling to win the prize that eluded Menino during his two-decade tenure: a longer school day.

SHAME OF THE NATION
An article in today’s New York Times details the dilapidated state of Native American schools. School officials claim that the environment in which...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the second post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See here for the introductory post.]

Traditional principal preparation programs are notoriously non-selective. The new breed of program takes selectivity to the opposite extreme. Some have ratios of acceptances to inquiries or applications that rival competitive colleges—below 10 percent. For example, Building Excellent Schools (BES) receives upwards of 2,000 inquiries for between ten and twelve fellowships.

Every alternative program that we studied is looking first for intellectual capacity and leadership approach. Jane Shirley, executive director of Get Smart Schools (GSS), put it this way: “We’re looking for systemic thinkers. [Management expert] Peter Senge says that every system is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting. We want leaders who, when faced with a problem, understand it’s because whatever you’ve designed is supporting that particular problem—to understand the problem at the design level is the kind of creativity we are looking for.” GSS is preparing principals to lead autonomous schools, she emphasized, and “that is very different from leading schools in a bureaucracy.”

The University of Illinois is preparing principals to work in a bureaucracy, the Chicago Public Schools. But it has a similar emphasis. First, the program is embedded in a Ph.D. program, evidence of the kind of deep and creative thinking that it values. The program also demands that prospective leaders be capable of maintaining high expectations as a...

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis testified in the House Education Committee yesterday on HB 228. There are a number of provisions in the bill, including funding and kindergarten readiness, but Chad was testifying on the provision that would limit testing in Ohio to four hours per student per subject per year. He was against a quick fix with an arbitrary time limit. You can read his full testimony here. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. In other sausage-making news, HB 343 was stuffed like a lame-duck-flavored kielbasa in the House Education Committee yesterday. The possible remove of teacher pay schedule requirements from state law is getting the most play (check out the Plain Dealer’s coverage here – over 300 comments already! – and the Dispatch’s coverage here for a taste of that smoky link). The debate on this provision of the bill sounds eerily similar to that of the so-called “5 of 8 rule” from the state board of ed earlier in the week. But seriously, there was a lot more crammed into this bill than just pay schedules. That includes provisions on zero tolerance, safe harbor, third grade reading cut scores, and state report card changes. You can see a nice summary of everything in Gongwer Ohio.
     
  3. No matter how stuffed that HB 343 sausage is, it’s the teacher pay schedule removal provision that’s getting the most grilling. Here’s a guest commentary from a former Cincinnati-area district administrator opining that the schedule should not only remain, but
  4. ...

Draft Conference Agenda
Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Education for Upward Mobility
December 2, 2014
The Renaissance Hotel
999 9th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
 
8:00 – 8:45           Registration, breakfast and coffee available
8:45 – 9:00           Welcome and introductions, Michael J. Petrilli
9:00 – 10:15        Panel I: Escaping Poverty through Education, Work, and Personal Responsibility
 
About a third of the individuals who grow up in poverty in America climb the ladder to the middle class as adults. What do we know about their trajectory? How can we increase these numbers? What role does education play? Higher education? Industry certifications and other non-degree credentials? Military service? Apprenticeships? Following the “success sequence” (get a high school diploma, work full time, and wait until age 21 to marry and start a family)?
 
Presenters
Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution: “Education and the Success Sequence”
Andrew Kelly, American Enterprise Institute: “Big Payoff, Low Probability: Postsecondary Education and Economic Mobility in America”
...

NYC KIDS FLOOD PRE-K
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s full-day pre-K initiative is exceeding enrollment expectations. More than 53,000 children have signed up for the program, compared to about 20,000 attending full-day pre-kindergarten last year. The sharp rise in attendance is seen as a victory for the mayor, who has made expansion of pre-K programs a cornerstone of his education policy.

GOLD STANDARDS IN THE SILVER STATE
In part two of NPR’s terrific series on reading in the Common Core era, teachers in Washoe County, Nevada, discuss how the challenging standards demand more from both low and high achievers. The shift from simple comprehension questions to evidence-supported answers helps students at all levels of achievement stay engaged with the material.

IS IT SAFE?
The National Association of Secondary School Principals is working to address increasing security concerns accompanying a rise in technology and data storage in classrooms. Among its recommendations, the group suggests tougher encryption standards, development of statewide security plans, and district-level policies that determine what data can be collected and where...

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