Additional Topics

April Fools' Day is just around the corner, but don’t let it distract you from Fordham’s serious takes on education this week. Here’s a brief rundown of what our bloggers were saying:

  • “Families and schools in Wisconsin should demand integrity and accuracy from the supposedly professional head of their education department,” argued Adam Emerson on Choice Words, criticizing the spin from the chief of the Department of Public Instruction on school vouchers.
  • “The appropriate reaction of Common Core supporters to the news that nearly three-fourths of teachers claim to be at least somewhat prepared to teach the new standards should be fear,” warned Kathleen Porter-Magee on Common Core Watch. “Because these results suggest that far too many teachers plan to make few, if any, changes to their instructional and curricular programs.”
  • “Alfie Kohn isn’t evil, as some social conservatives have implied,” wrote Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. “He’s right that what passes for education in too many of our
  • ...

Guest blogger John White is Louisiana superintendent of education. This post originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The Advocate has recently published several letters to the editor on public education. I have to say as an educator, I'm disappointed with the prevailing tone and content of those letters opposing change.

Here are some passages that illustrate a common thread:

"We, the public school teachers of East Baton Rouge schools, can't educate children who don't want to be educated. We can't educate children whose parents don't care and are not involved."

"…the state is going to require that very poor students take the ACT… The weaker of these students are not college-bound students who have no intention to attend college, yet he has to be compared and compete."

And one writer simply stated, "Poverty is a significant factor affecting academic scores," leaving it at that—as if that absolves us of any responsibility to educate the child.

I'm so disappointed in these comments for two reasons. First, they betray a mindset that forsakes the American dream. They show a sad belief among some that poverty is destiny in America, defying our core value that any child, no matter race, class, or creed, can be the adult he or she dreams of being. Yes, poverty matters. Yes, it impacts learning. And that fact should only embolden us to do everything we can to break the cycle of poverty so another generation of children does not...


March Madness couldn’t distract Fordham’s bloggers from the week’s important education news. A quick review:

To stay on top of all of Fordham’s commentary, subscribe to the Gadfly Daily’s combined RSS feed....


As was widely reported (see here, here, and here) Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday.

The Times called it a “coveted endorsement”—and indeed it is, no matter how much fun Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had at poor Eric Fehrnstrom’s expense. (For the record, that same day Fehrnstrom, a longtime Romney advisor, gave a televised interview in which he said “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign…. Everything changes [when he’s running against Obama]. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”)

Shake It, Start Over
Jeb Bush, who has been a tireless education reformer since the mid-nineties, is no Etch A Sketch.
Photo by Rex Sorgatz.

Jeb Bush, who has been a tireless education reformer since the mid-nineties, is no Etch A Sketch. And by coincidence I was lucky enough to spend some time with the popular two-term Florida governor (1999—2007) just last week as part Education Next’s “Conversation” series with important education reformers (see my conversations with John White, Whitney Tilson, and Chris Cerf). You can read a summary of what he accomplished in Florida here; examples include instituting an A—F school grading system, ending social promotion, rewarding school success with both...


Fordham’s bloggers weighed in on education stories from around the country this week; here’s a quick look at what had them buzzing:

  • California: On Common Core Watch, Kathleen wondered whether critics like California teacher of the year and education blogger Alan Lawrence Sitomer are justified in questioning CCSS architect David Coleman’s credentials because he lacks teaching experience. “Perhaps,” Kathleen suggests, “what we need right now in education is not fewer outsiders, but many, many more.”
  • Colorado: Terry Ryan profiled the trailblazing pay-for-performance teacher compensation plan pioneered by Colorado Springs’ Harrison School District 2 on the Ohio Gadfly Daily.
  • Florida: On Choice Words, Adam highlighted a promising bill in the Sunshine State that would blur the lines between home schooling and public schooling.
  • Louisiana: Board’s Eye View hosted a guest blog post from New School’s for New Orleans’ Neerav Kingsland, who explained the lessons education reformers can learn from Europe's transition away from communism.
  • Washington, D.C.: Mike argues on Flypaper that Representative George Miller’s ESEA reauthorization bills currently being considered in the nation’s capital are actually “conservative” because they would essentially keep NCLB the same.

Also, be sure to watch Kathleen’s interview on the sorry state of state science standards and listen to Checker’s discussion of vocational education on yesterday’s edition of The Bill Bennett Show. You can have all of Fordham’s commentary delivered right to your inbox by subscribing...


March (ESEA) Madness?

Mike and the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke step outside to debate the place of climate science in standards and whether John Kline’s ESEA proposals stand a chance, while Amber looks at the relative merits of a four-day school week.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week - Download the PDF

Forest above Crafnant
 Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest?
Photo by Stuart 

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest? That’s the spin a lot of people have given to last week’s massive trove of federal data on school discipline and sundry other topics. “Black students face more harsh discipline” headlined the New York Times. “Minority students face harsher punishments,” quoth the Associated Press. “An educational caste system” stormed the head of the country’s largest coalition of civil-rights groups.

The federal data (from 2009-10) cover a multitude of issues but what caught most eyes was the finding that black and Latino students are suspended or expelled from school in numbers greater than their shares of the overall pupil population. “The undeniable truth,” declared Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” Declaring that the new data paint “a very disturbing picture,” Assistant Secretary (for Civil Rights) Russlynn Ali proudly informed the media that her office has “launched 14 large-scale investigations into disparate discipline rates across...


The big news last week was the release
of data
by the U.S. Department of Education showing that, as the press
release stated,

Minority students across America face harsher discipline,
have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught
by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to the U.S. Department
of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The report, part of the annual Civil Rights Data Collection
(CRDC) survey, included data from 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the
nation’s students and found, among other things, that black male students “are
far more likely to be suspended than their peers.” In fact, it reported, though
black students make up 18 percent of the students in the sample, they accounted
for 35 percent of the students suspended once and 39 percent of the students

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.  But just as my district pays little attention
to the academic environment that these “bad” kids swim in, so too the ensuing national
melee over OCR data didn’t mention curricula and teachers.  Everyone wanted to talk about “discipline” practices,
school “safety” and “racism.” 

Wrote Jason Riley in the Wall
Street Journal

The Obama administration's sympathies are with the...

What follows is an
edited transcript of my remarks at a Century Foundation panel held on
The Future
of School Integration
, about a new book by the same name. The speakers included the book’s editor, Richard
Kahlenberg, as well as contributors Stephanie Aberger, Marco Basile, and Sheneka
Williams, and fellow commenter Derek Black of Howard University’s Law School.

There are three points I want to make today.

  • It’s important that those of us who support
    socio-economic integration don’t oversell the evidence, and I’m worried that in
    the book and in today’s comments we’re doing some of that.
  • We shouldn’t pit controlled choice against other
    forms of school choice, especially charter schools.
  • We need to think of controlled choice not just
    as a means of integrating schools; we need to think of diverse schools as a
    choice in and of themselves.

Let me take each of these points in turn.

On not overselling
the evidence

I think it’s a mistake to say, as Marco did, that we’ve
known since the Coleman Report that integrated schools do better. We know that
there’s a relationship. Rick goes into this in his book, looking at NAEP scores
and other evidence, and you can see that in schools with more integration,
students perform better—especially poor and minority students. But that does
not necessary prove that school integration “works.”

Those of...


blogger  Lisa Gibes is a research intern at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Should truant students be treated as criminals? Since the
1990s, states have been witnessing rising rates of truancy and tardiness at all
grade levels
. Tasked with getting students back in the
classroom, officials have tried everything from revoking driver’s licenses to
fining and arresting offenders (or their parents). While the point of these
laws is to promote good attendance, many argue that such policies are punitive
and disproportionately target minority students from high-poverty communities.
Something needs to be done to ensure students are in their desks where they
belong, but is slapping them with handcuffs and a $350 fine the solution?

Since the
1990s, states have been witnessing rising rates of truancy and tardiness at all grade levels.

For the past decade, Los
Angeles has been trying to fight truancy by enforcing
a daytime curfew, making it illegal for minors to be unaccompanied by an adult
during school hours. This law allows police officers to arrest offending
students and summon them to court where they face fines starting at $250. A
recent article
reports that an L.A. Community Rights Campaign got its hands on police reports
documenting 47,000 truancy tickets filed in the past five years. The majority
of the tickets were given to young Black and Latino males from high poverty