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A Chicago public school and public library will begin to share space on Thursday, breaking ground for a new “library-within-a-school” model that may be “copied and mimicked all across the city,” according to an enthusiastic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Windy City’s schools and libraries have both seen financial troubles in the last couple of years. Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has clarified that proliferation of this model would be about “reducing storefront and leased space” and possibly result in moving libraries, not closing libraries. Gadfly likes efficiency and books—so hat tip!

The school-funding crisis in Philadelphia has reached the boiling point: After Superintendent William Hite issued an ultimatum stating that schools may not open in time if the district does not receive at least $50 million more in funding by Friday, August 16th, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that it would borrow the cash, apparently obviating that eventuality. Now that the district will be able to re-hire some laid-off staff members, the School Reform Commission—Philadelphia’s appointed school board—will vote on whether to suspend portions of state law to grant Hite the flexibility to re-hire for reasons other than seniority. The unions, naturally, are furious, but this appears to be the best possible outcome for students.

This week, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis asked the district’s Board of Education to stop approving new charter schools. The reason: Georgia’s Supreme Court has yet to decide whether Davis can withhold...

Many complain, legitimately, that the ed-reform world has been overly focused on math and reading scores, to the detriment of other important—but not as easily assessed—student outcomes. This working paper out of the University of Arkansas aims to address this issue by exploring a potential new measure of non-cognitive ability: survey-item response rates. The authors use data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that tracks a nationally representative sample of young adults; respondents are born between 1980 and 1984 (making them between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-three now) and are surveyed annually on issues like employment, assets, and wages. When the analysts compared information collected in 1997 to the respondents’ highest educational outcomes as reported in 2010 or earlier, they find that the number of items either left blank or answered “I don’t know” is a significant predictor of educational attainment, even after controlling for many factors, including cognitive ability. The fewer the number of questions left unanswered, the greater the likelihood overall that the respondent had enrolled in college. (For example, a one-standard-deviation increase in response rates increased the amount of education received by .31 years, or 11 percent of a standard deviation.) The authors posit that failure to respond to these questions could mean a loss of interest or lack of effort, which they contend is a valid measure of conscientiousness. While one might dispute this assertion—and while the inclusion of “don’t-know” responses in their count could be an issue, given that the respondent could...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Emily Barton is Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education, and she may be leading, alongside State Chief Keivn Huffman, the most intensive and impressive state-level Common Core implementation plan in the nation. As you’ll read below, the thoughtfulness and scope of this undertaking are remarkable.

Emily Barton Tennessee

As is Emily.

A former classroom teacher and executive with Teach for America, she has accomplished one big professional thing after another with humility and grace. And she’s done it all so early in her career that she’d provoke crazy envy were she not so darned nice.

Her colleagues speak glowingly of her, not just because she’s talented and friendly. Emily is so genuinely committed to the cause of improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged kids that she’s passionate, energetic, creative, and doggedly determined. Even if you fall on the opposite side of an issue, you can’t help but disagree agreeably with Emily—you know she’s honestly fighting firmly for her vision of the best interests of boys and girls.

If I were starting an organization, struggling with a knotty challenge, or besieged in a trench, I’d want Emily Barton around. Education reform is stronger because it keeps her company.

Ladies and gentlemen, Emily Barton.

Can you describe what Common Core implementation in...

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

“Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Ohio and Fordham—and the education-reform cause more broadly—have benefited hugely from his labors these past dozen years. We will miss him and wish him the very best in Idaho.”

“Terry can, however, be ‘succeeded,’ and in Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen-Upton, we have been fortunate to find...

The Fordham Ohio staff thanks Terry Ryan for his time, energy, and commitment to serving the state of Ohio and its students for twelve years. In case you missed it, the articles linked below contain Terry’s parting thoughts as he leaves the Buckeye State for Idaho, the Gem State (not the “Potato State” as Gadfly suspected). They are food for thought as we at Fordham and other school reformers continue the good work that Terry has started.

Ohio Gadfly Daily: 12 years; 12 lessons

Dayton Daily News: “Roundtable Discussion: How Can We Make Our Schools More Effective?”

* * *

Terry’s contact information:

Idaho Charter School Network

815 W. Washington Street
Lower Level Suite
Boise, ID 83702

Email: terry@idahocharterschoolnetwork.com

Office: 208-906-1420

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute today announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

“Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Ohio and Fordham—and the education-reform cause more broadly—have benefited hugely from his labors these past dozen years. We will miss him and wish him the very best in Idaho.”

“Terry can, however, be ‘succeeded,’ and in Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen-Upton, we have been fortunate to find...

The Kindle Print edition

After pondering the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Mike and Dara deliberate New York’s lower test scores, A-to-F school-grading systems, and whether it really is schools versus nursing homes. Amber sees a red flag in Common Core implementation.

Amber's Research Minute

Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: An Overview of States’ Progress and Challenges by Diane Stark Rentner, (Center on Education Policy, August 2013).

Following the Tony Bennett flap, the A-to-F school-grading systems that Bennett championed are themselves under the gun. Some have argued in favor of increasing the number of measures upon which schools are graded, reflecting the variety of grades that parents see their children bring home from school every year. But at what point will more information become too much information? For a great discussion, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show.

After announcing its plans to withdraw from both Common Core–assessment consortia, Pennsylvania has clarified that it will in fact remain a member of both PARCC and Smarter Balanced—it just won’t be using either test. “Huh,” you say? The nominal difference means that the Keystone State will retain the right to “participate” in each group’s discussions.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Robert Samuelson argued that the fiscal crisis facing state and local governments can be boiled down to the clash of two interests: schools versus nursing homes. Samuelson characterized the impending pension crisis as a “prolonged squeeze” from retirement commitments to public employees, while we call it the “big squeeze” in our series of reports on retirement costs of teachers....

By the Company it Keeps: Neerav Kingsland

I met Neerav Kingsland in 2009. I was on my tenth trip to New Orleans post-Katrina, meeting with a foundation newly interested in supporting the local reform effort, and I wanted to spend a little time with New Schools for New Orleans, the organization leading much of the most promising work, to learn more about their efforts. Neerav and I spent a few hours together, and I walked away impressed beyond words.

Neerav Kingsland New Schools for New Orleans

I liked to think my ideas about systemic reform were advanced—heck, I was writing a book about it—but his ability to thoughtfully answer every question I could muster and precisely explain how big concepts were translating into practice demonstrated that he was the real leader in this business.

In the years since, my admiration for Neerav has only grown. On reform philosophy, he’s my intellectual doppelganger; but he’s so much smarter, and his experience helping to bring our shared beliefs to life put him in a class of his own. I learn a great deal every time we’re together—from theoretical issues associated with governance or residential catchment zones to NSNO’s daily activities related to charter incubation and human capital

But his interests extend far beyond K–12 education. His twitter feed is a...

Just call me Bonnie

Daniela hosts Checker and Kathleen, the Bonnie and Clyde of education reform, for a dynamic discussion of Virginia’s religious-exemption law, whether the Common Core will weather PARCC defections, and what to think about Tony Bennett. Amber gives us a double-dose of instruction on remedial math.

Amber's Research Minute

A Double Dose of Algebra,” by Kalena Cortes, Takako Nomi, and Joshua Goodman, Education Next 13 (1)

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