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Private Schools, Public Vouchers - School Leaders Panel

Private Schools, Public Vouchers - School Leaders Panel

State-funded voucher programs have stoked political controversy, culture clashes, and pitched court battles. In Ohio, vouchers (aka "scholarships") enable students without access to a good public school--or limited means--to attend a private school. Research has consistently shown that voucher programs benefit the kids who participate: higher achievement, higher odds of graduating high school, and a greater likelihood of attending college.
But what do we know about the private schools that educate voucher students? How has school life changed? Can they uphold their distinctive mission, values, and culture--even as they participate in a state-run program? Very little is known.
In Fordham's latest research venture, we sought to understand what happens in schools that take voucher students. We enlisted veteran journalist and former Dayton Daily News editorial-page editor Ellen Belcher who visited five private schools across the Buckeye State. The findings of our research will be released in a groundbreaking report Pluck and Tenacity: How five private schools in Ohio have adapted to vouchers.
Please join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Ellen Belcher, four private-school leaders (including a newly-confirmed principal from Toledo), and education-policy experts to discuss the fascinating findings of this new report and their policy implications.
Ellen Belcher - Lead Investigator, Journalist and former editor, Dayton Daily News
Karyn Hecker - Principal, Immaculate Conception School, Dayton
Monica Lawson - Admissions Director, St. Martin de Porres High School, Cleveland
Deb O'Shea - Principal, St. Patrick of Heatherdowns School, Toledo
Mike Pecchia - President, Youngstown Christian School
Chad Aldis - Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Big changes are on the way for College Board’s SAT college-admission test. The headlines announce that the timed essay will be revamped and become optional, that the scoring scale will return to 1600, and that the test will no longer focus so heavily on “obscure” words (when’s the last time you used “punctilious” in a sentence?). And in an attempt to reduce the power of the test-preparation industry (which some argue has led college-admissions tests to be unequal and unjust), College Board will offer free online test preparation in partnership with the Khan Academy.

On Tuesday, President Obama released his budget request, the theme of which was “equity”: it features a $300 million Race to the Top program aimed at educational equity and a Preschool for All initiative. Conspicuously absent was any funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship, which was found by the U.S. Department of Education itself to be “highly effective in promoting educational attainment for low-income African Americans.” The president’s budget proposal is simply a proposal, and these ideas will not necessarily see the light of day. (Common Core would...

The K–12 education world brims with debates and dichotomies that get us into all manner of needless quarrels and cul-de-sacs, thus messing up every reform initiative and retarding progress. In every case, both sides are certain that they speak the whole truth; convinced that opposing views are misguided, perhaps even evil; and insistent that changes the system needs will go awry unless their side prevails.

These philosophical tug-of-wars lead to paralysis akin to what we witness today in Congress and many legislatures. Of them we ask, “Why can’t you compromise, split the difference, make a deal, take the best of both positions, and get something done?”

The ten education dichotomies outlined below should be seen in similar light: neither side owns the truth—and what would do kids the greatest good is an intelligent middle ground that melds the best of both views.

Skills vs. Knowledge

Back in 1987, in What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?, Diane Ravitch and I tackled a pair of overlapping “false dichotomies”: skills vs. content and concepts vs. facts. They were prevalent in the education profession then and remain front and center today—indeed, are highlighted by the challenges of implementing (and assessing) the Common Core State Standards,...

The Obama administration has just released its 2015 budget proposal. Here are its most notable K-12 edu-features.

  • It leads with the “Preschool for All” initiative, a significant investment in pre-K. It’s worth noting that this is at the front of the request. Pre-K is popular, and the administration is seizing on it. The budget also discusses an “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative,” which would cut across several departments; some of these resources would be applicable to this pre-K initiative.
  • The budget reflects the growing use of the term “equity” in the K–12 debate with the new Race to the Top “Equity and Opportunity” program, which is designed to help close the achievement gap. It’s relatively small ($300m) compared to previous RTT programs, and it’s not totally clear how it would work. It appears that the administration wants to “leverage” existing programs, and it too will be supplemented by the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” This does, however, continue the RTT brand and is an indication that the administration wanted to show that it listened to the Equity and Excellence Commission.
  • The administration promotes its “most mature” programs: RTT, i3, SIG, TIF, and Promise Neighborhoods. They don’t mention, however, that
  • ...
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer published five op-eds on the Common Core. Chad Aldis argued that the Common Core is the “right thing to do for Ohio schoolchildren.” Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, was also on point: “Are the new standards good for our students? — my answer and that of most of our teachers is a resounding ‘yes.’”
  • In a cost-saving measure, Columbus City Schools rolled out plans to close seven schools. A boisterous public meeting at East High School drew protests, tears, and pleas to save the schools. We wonder, however, where the outrage was when these very schools received low ratings over the past several years.
  • AP versus dual enrollment takes center stage in Northwest Ohio: Lima High School, Lima Central Catholic, and Memorial High School in St. Mary’s have scrapped their AP courses in favor of dual enrollment, a program whereby high-school students take a college-level course certified by a local college or university.

“How did we ever lose our way on vocational education? Why did we put it down? Why did we not understand its value?” – Ohio Governor John Kasich, State of the State, February 24, 2014.

As Ohio’s governor rightly remarks, vocational education and the students who participate in it have been second-class citizens for too long. I know that from my own experience attending a Western Pennsylvania high school during the late 1990s, where—permit me to be blunt—our school’s “vo-tech kids” were generally put down, disparaged, and ostracized by other students.

Don’t just take my word for it, however. Surveys call attention to the negative perception of vocational education (a.k.a., “career-and-technical education” or CTE). A study in 2000 found that the “underlying theme” voiced by those in vocational education was the need to “change the perception that CTE offers an inferior curriculum, appropriate only for those students who cannot meet the demands of a college-preparatory program.” Similarly, research for the Nebraska Department of Education in 2010 concluded, “Substantial proportions of Nebraskans believe that CTE students are not respected as students who take more traditional academic courses.”

Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy casts...

Last week, in response to a tumultuous debate over the Common Core State Standards, the Indiana Department of Education released the first public draft of its new K–12 expectations for English language arts and math. And according to standards expect Kathleen Porter-Magee, not only are the new ELA standards less specific, less coherent, and harder to navigate than the Common Core—but they’re inferior to the state’s old standards, too!

Experimental research out of Stanford confirms that the language gap between rich and poor kids emerges early, with significant differences between high-SES and low-SES infants in both vocabulary and real-time language processing efficiency already evident age 18 months old. But they also discovered that a parent-education intervention—in which low-income, Spanish-speaking mothers were taught to speak more frequently to their children—had great preliminary results. The lesson for policymakers: targeted interventions like these might have a much bigger impact than “universal” preschool.

And now, an international perspective: one of the UK’s biggest chains of academies (analogous to charter schools) is set to have control of ten of its schools taken away by the state due to academic performance. The academy provider had faced criticism last...

Japanese classroom by Angie Harms

Rationalizing America’s lackluster academic performance is something of a cottage industry. One of the most popular ways people explain away our low test scores is to claim that they don’t matter much anyway. “Let others have the higher test scores. I prefer to bet on the creative, can-do spirit of the American people,” says Diane Ravitch. Or there’s Alfie Kohn’s take: self-disciplined students are “likely conflicted, unhappy, and perhaps less likely to succeed (at least by meaningful criteria) at whatever they’re doing.”

But what if these rationalizations are questionable? Or worse, what if they’re simply bunk? What if super hardworking students in, say, South Korea and Japan are scoring worlds better than us on international tests and are more innovative and happy?

In a sobering twist, that might be the case.

Bloomberg News recently published its 2014 list of the most innovative countries in the world. Seven weighted factors go into the metric.* Here are the top five nations, along with their scores:

  1. South Korea (score: 92.10)
  2. ...

Dara and the Following

Dara’s taste in TV shows is questionable, but her ed-policy knowledge is not. She and Michelle dish on Common Core implementation, student-data privacy, and marketing in schools. Amber gets pensive about pensions.

Amber's Research Minute

Missouri Charter Schools and Teacher Pension Plans: How Well Do Existing Pension Plans Serve Charter and Urban Teachers? by Cory Koedel, Shawn Ni, Michael Podgursky, and P. Brett Xiang, (Kansas City, MO: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, February 2014).

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansAncient Asian Cultures; the early American civilizations; Ancient Greece; Native American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery; Colonial America and the Revolutionary War; the American founders;  movie adaptations of classic children’s books; and American folk heroes.

If you’ve got little kids, you won’t take much convincing that reptiles are just plain cool. Alligators! Crocodiles! Snakes! And cute turtles, to boot! Not only are these animals an important part of our biological heritage (been in touch with your reptilian brain lately?), but they are also major players in our cultural heritage, from the Garden of Eden to Aesop’s fables and classic children’s literature. So enjoy these videos with your kids, which help our reptile cousins come alive. (Note: videos about dinosaurs are available here.)

The Best Streaming Videos on Reptiles

1. Nature Adventures: Behind the Scenes at Reptile Gardens