Additional Topics

Crayons versus Tablets?

In this week’s podcast, Michelle defends Toni Morrison, Mike laughs social-emotional learning out of the room, and both consider the possibilities of the “tablet revolution.” Dara takes us all on a field trip.

Amber's Research Minute

The Educational Value of Field Trips,” by Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida, and Daniel H. Bowen, Education Next 14 (1).

This study reports on the first large-scale, randomized-control trial measuring the educational value of field trips. In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Arkansas and, because of the high demand for tours, the authors were able to randomly select student groups to go. They matched participating groups with control groups based on similar grade level and demographics. In total, almost 11,000 students in grades K–12 at 123 schools were involved. About half of the students took a field trip to the art museum. They received a one-hour tour in which they viewed and discussed about five paintings. (Some had additional time in the museum.) Several weeks later, the authors gave a quiz to both the participating and control groups. Even after such a modest exposure to art, the results were pretty staggering: First, participating students were able to recall a great deal of information from their tour, showing that exposure to art and culture can be an important tool to relay content information to students. Second, participants demonstrated a greater ability to think critically about art—the authors showed students a painting they had never seen before and asked them to write about it. Third, they showed greater historical empathy and tolerance (measured by asking the child questions about whether he or she imagines what life was like in the past or tries to imagine what a figure in a painting is thinking) than the control group, concepts not necessarily related to art alone. Finally, participating students were more likely to use a free coupon to bring their families to the museum. It’s important to note that all of these effects—critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and interest in art museums—were much greater for students in rural schools, students in high-poverty schools, minority students, and young students. Advantaged...

Education Next

It’s not exactly news that America’s education system is mediocre and expensive in international comparison. What’s less well known is that our schools’ ineffectiveness and inefficiency could have big implications for the country’s economic growth in decades to come. In a new book from the Brookings Institution Press, three of the world’s leading education scholars explain that nothing short of America’s prosperity is at risk due to our educational underperformance.

In today’s Education Next book club, Mike Petrilli speaks with all three authors—Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann—about the evidence they bring to bear in Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School.

Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog. Check out the Education Gadfly Weekly for a short review of the book.

Note: This post is part of our Netflix Academy series. See background, and links to other educational videos worth streaming, here.

Constitution Day is Tuesday, which is an excellent opportunity to teach children about our nation’s founding (a subject required for study by the Common Core state standards).

That gave me an excuse to dig into the Netflix and Amazon archives to find videos that might be available that could help elementary school children learn about our founders, the Revolutionary War, and the big ideas of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there’s not much. Most of what’s online is a better fit for older students—probably middle schoolers—such as several of Ken Burns’ excellent documentaries.

But thanks to the wonderful animated shows Liberty’s Kids and the classic Schoolhouse Rock!, all is not lost.

As always, if I’ve missed something good that’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime, please let me know in the comments section below.

Best videos on George Washington and the American founders available for streaming

1. Liberty's Kids

Liberty's Kids

Aimed at seven- through twelve-year-olds, the series introduces kids to the American revolution through the eyes of two teenaged apprentice reporters—one from England and one from America—who experience firsthand the conflicts and events that shaped America. Famous names such as Walter Cronkite, Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, and more lend their voices to bring history to life for kids and help them learn not only about the history, but also about the different perspectives people might have had at that pivotal time.

Length: Forty 30-minute episodes


Sue, baby, sue!

Mike tries to goad an unflappable Michael Brickman into a fight on New York’s mayoral election, whether school choice is the only path to reform, and whether Arne Duncan is bullying California. Dara does the math on math teachers from TFA and Teaching Fellows.

Amber's Research Minute

The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows Programs by Melissa A. Clark, et al., (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, September 2013).

I liked Preston Smith from the very start.

We talked about sports and music, teased each other like high school friends, and bonded over stories of our young kids and smart, loving wives. We also shared a hardscrabble past and a set of small shoulder chips that produced in both of us a forward-leaning posture and an abiding passion for education reform.

But there’s so much more to Preston, the CEO and co-founder of Rocketship Education, maybe the hottest CMO in America. He made it out of a tough neighborhood, attended and excelled at a top-flight university, joined Teach For America, won awards for his extraordinary teaching, served as a founding principal in his early twenties, and then started the first Rocketship school—turning both into the highest performing schools in San Jose, CA.

He worked his way up through the organization, and when CEO John Danner resigned in early 2013, Preston, at only 33, took the organization’s helm and was charged with overseeing both its existing eight schools and audacious national growth plans.

I was lucky enough to be part of a two-year professional development program with Preston. I’ve been witness to everything from his thoughtful interpretation and explanation of complex texts, to his hilarious participation in late-night parlor games, to his fired-up commitment to organizing low-income families. And despite his laundry list of strengths, he shows great modesty (my recollection in the last question is far from the truth—a set-up for Preston to lay into me—but rather than taking the bait, he demurs).

He’s a big-hearted and deeply dedicated educator and friend. But he also keeps it real—always. No matter what the subject or who’s around, if Preston hears platitudes or sees...

If you missed “A Back-To-School Conversation About Education” on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show with education secretary Arne Duncan and a panel of experts (including our own Mike Petrilli), here are the key takeaways:

  • Arne Duncan slams U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of U.S. colleges and talks up the Administration’s alternative;
  • Our Twitter klout score is nothing compared to Arne Duncan’s, something I was reminded of when guest host Susan Page asked about Duncan’s Tweet-heard-round-the-world on letting high school kids sleep later;
  • It’s possible Duncan overslept himself, since he was “not familiar” with the DOJ’s lawsuit against the Louisiana voucher program (yeah, right);
  • It’s bipartisan love when Duncan gives a shout out to Mike’s work on diversity in education and Mike is said to be more positive on Duncan than the liberal panelist (Richard Rothstein)
  • Mike gives his view on Common Core: the Feds should stay out, it’s state-led, and content is back, baby!

Listen to the recording here.

Behind the rise of Bill de Blasio in the race for New York City Mayor is his proposal to raise taxes (mainly on the rich) to pay for universal pre-K throughout the city. More schools for toddlers is always a winning campaign promise and, as de Blasio is right to assert, states and cities need to do better at preparing their youngest and most at-risk children to succeed in school. Pre-K today in New York, as in most places, is a fragmented potpourri of private and public programs—some very good, others not so much. For every Abbott Preschool Program, there is a Head Start center that does little to help children once they matriculate into elementary school. (I was once a student teacher at a Head Start site in New Orleans and saw both sides of the coin.)

Bill de Blasio photo from Wikipedia

If the goal of de Blasio is to close the achievement gap, stymieing the gap in a child’s formative years is much more rational strategy than waiting to combat the gap once it exists. For this reason, pre-K programs offer a great return on investment—if structured around improving cognitive functions, supplying essential knowledge and skills, and targeting the youngsters who are least likely to acquire those things at home. But that’s not exactly what de Blasio is proposing.

De Blasio proposes expanding access in the city by adding 48,000 slots for children via $340 million in additional revenue through his tax increase. Unfortunately, there exists little to no proof that there is either a demand for these placements or enough quality pre-K programs already in existence to handle these new students. And by...

I love the dinosaur stage. Love, love, love. And when your child is ready to graduate from Dinosaur Train and take in some lifelike depictions of prehistoric monsters, this is where to start.

Challenge their children or watch them depart