Additional Topics

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights made headlines yesterday by releasing new data that showed, among other findings, that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be disciplined than white students. For an analysis of the news, watch Checker Finn's discussion with Jeffrey Brown and the University of California, Berkeley's Christopher Edley, Jr. on last night's PBS NewsHour. While Checker emphasized the value of collecting more data on this issue, he also cautioned that "it would be wrong to see a racist behind every tree in American education."

Watch Report: Minority Students Face Harsher Discipline on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour....


I cannot
improve upon George Will's eloquent
to James Q. Wilson, who died on Friday at the end of four score
years. As Will says, Wilson was the premier social scientist of the past half
century. He was a close friend and colleague of my own mentor, the late Daniel
P. Moynihan. (At Pat's funeral, it was Wilson's arm on which Liz M. leaned.)

(If you'd
like to read a second terrific tribute, read Pete

I never
actually took a course from Jim Wilson, but he was indisputably one of my most
influential teachers, whether over drinks at the Moynihans' or at any of a
hundred conferences or in the pages of his many books and innumerable articles,
very nearly every one of which was worth reading at the time and will endure
for a long time. These were not (like today's blog posts) "of the moment."
They were for the ages.

the two most formative journals of my life, Commentary
and The Public Interest, would not
have been the intellectual and policy powerhouses that they became—in many
lives and many places—without Wilson's frequent appearances in their pages.
(If you want to see an astounding oeuvre, check out
And that's just Commentary.)

His contributions to
America's vitality—and sanity—deserve to be celebrated. And his absence to be


Here’s a quick look around at what Fordham’s bloggers had to
say this week:

  • “Judges
    simply assume that poor performance implies inadequate funding, and that
    layering more money on top of failing systems will improve student
    outcomes,” wrote Stretching the School Dollar’s Chris Tessone in his analysis
    of a New Hampshire
    bill to limit the courts’ role in school funding decisions.
  • “Unlike
    many existing scholarship programs that award an attractive dollar tax
    credit for every dollar in contributions, Virginia would allow individuals
    and businesses to write off only 65 cents for every dollar they donate to
    a nonprofit scholarship organization,” noted Adam Emerson in his Choice
    Words critique
    of the Old Dominion State’s new tax credit scholarship program.
  • “The
    question is not whether student achievement data should be used
    as one of several measures of teacher effectiveness, but rather how those
    data should be used and who is ultimately in the driver’s seat,”
    argued Kathleen Porter-Magee in her Common Core Watch essay
    against “principal-proofing” schools.
  • “The
    idea behind gaming is to involve students in the learning process, which
    is probably teacher’s most difficult challenge,” explained Mike Lafferty
    on the Ohio Gadfly Daily, in his article
    on the use of computer games in math instruction.
  • “Would
    you rather
  • ...

Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver -

My heart hurts for the community of Chardon, in northeast
Ohio. I know people who live there, and they are in deep shock and pain over
Monday’s shooting at Chardon High School. I send my deepest condolences to
everyone impacted by these events. As both a professional observer of Buckeye
State public education and as a mom, two things stand out from Monday’s
tragedy. First, there has been a tremendous
here in Ohio
on anti-bullying
efforts. Many people initially assumed that bullying was the cause of Monday’s
shooting—an assumption that has been largely dispelled. The suspect told law
enforcement officials that he chose the victims randomly, and the prosecutor in
the case believes his story. We absolutely need to address bullying in (and out
of) school. But children, like all of us, can be deeply troubled and in need of
help, even when they are treated kindly by others. Second, it appears as if the
school, its staff, and its students did everything right when it came to
responding to the situation. It is a Fordham mantra that no school can be
everything to every student, but we all agree that all schools have a
major responsibility to keep students safe and sound when they are in their
charge. Emergency response drills and preparedness plans are important. Yes,
they take away from “time on task” and force us...


This special edition of the Harvard Business Review explains America’s unready
state for competing in the global marketplace. And it points an accusatory
finger at our education system. U.S.
public education—according to HBR authors—is “neither world class nor
reflective of the large sums spent on [it].” It’s also a system that struggles
to “produce employable workers.” In short, it’s broken. Luckily, there are
solutions. In her education-specific article (the only one in the bunch), the
Gates Foundation’s Stacey Childress (formerly an HBS professor) promotes the
use of technology to improve and personalize content delivery. Suggestions from
other contributors include calling on the business community and business
schools to invest locally in schools (a call recently echoed by
Governor Jindal
) and to increase the number of apprenticeship and
internship-type programs for high schoolers. At the higher-education level,
authors pushed for curricula better aligned with the needs of employers. Those
seeking a primer on U.S.
competitiveness may wish to have a look. And to supporters of career-readiness
efforts: This issue provides much fodder for a revamped approach to vocational
and technical education as well.

Special report: Reinventing America,” Harvard Business Review 90,
no. 3 (March 2012)....

Michael Casserly
Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools

Dear Gadfly,

In her critique of “The School Improvement Grant
Roll Out in America’s
Great City Schools
”, Daniela Fairchild badly mangles our findings, and then compounds
the error by drawing a conclusion that cannot be supported by any information
in the report.

Ms. Fairchild says that one learns from the report “that districts seem to be less
aggressive with their turnaround efforts post ARRA.” She bases this claim on
the assertion that the number of transformation schools, the most flexible of
the reform models, jumped from 24 percent to 74 percent, pre- to post ARRA.
Conversely, she indicates that the number of schools undergoing tougher reforms
plummeted. But the route she took to arrive at a “pre-ARRA” figure of 24
percent was to take the total number of schools that were implementing some
sort of turnaround strategy in the five years prior to ARRA, add the number of
schools that were closed for academic reasons during this time, subtract the
number of these schools that subsequently reopened, and then take the total
number of schools that had only removed the principal and divide it by this

Unfortunately, all of this
arithmetic does not result in a valid estimate of the number of schools
pursuing the transformation model prior to ARRA.  In terms of pre-ARRA turnaround efforts, we
only asked narrowly about the replacement of principals...


In another life, I was a crime writer. True crime. I’ve
interviewed 14-year-old murderers and 15-year-old rapists, written books about
college graduates who commit murder, about lowlife “woodchucks” who do the
same. And anyone who has ever sat in a kitchen with a mother whose 12-year-old daughter was stabbed to death or sat alone in a room trying to recreate
these gruesome scenes on paper—well, this is why I left the field and did not
look back.

But my heart goes out to the parents, family, and friends of
the victims of the Chardon,
Ohio, shooting
. And to school personnel at Chardon High School—this is when
you earn your angel wings.

Everyone is asking themselves, How can we know?

I know that educators all over the country are now huddling
with their school security officers and school counselors and social workers. They
are reviewing their building entry and lock-down procedures and reviewing the
student suspension files, to look again at the records of children who may have
been kicked out of school for carrying a weapon or threatening to harm someone
or—or what? Everyone is asking themselves, How can we know?

The answer is that we can’t. But what we might consider
trying, as the next few sorrowful days unfold, is resolving to get to know our
children, whether we are a parent, friend, or teacher. When we are able to look


Guest blogger Marc
is president and CEO of the National
Center on Education and the Economy
. In this post, he responds to Mike’s
recent argument
that Asian countries looking to find the source of U.S.
innovation should look outside American classrooms. A longer version can be read on the NCEE newsletter website.

Right after the first TIMSS results came out, a couple of us
from my organization went to Japan,
Singapore, and Hong Kong to find out what we could about how they had
beaten us so badly. But they were not gloating. With faces full of concern,
they said they were not so interested in their success on TIMSS because—and
they used exactly the words that Mike
—they did not have the Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses they needed to
drive their economy. They pumped me relentlessly to find out how we teach
innovation in our schools.

We laughed, and told them that we don't. We said that what
they were looking at was the product of a society that values the individual
much more than the group, whereas Asian cultures typically place much more
value on the group than the individual. The saying in Asia
is that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

We are a society full
of success stories in which young people push their elders aside on the way...

Here’s a quick look back, by the numbers, at the week’s commentary on the Gadfly
Daily blogs:

  • 9: From
    ages zero to eighteen, Americans spend only 9 percent of their lives in
    classrooms, making it more likely that their innovativeness is developed
    outside the classroom, Mike observed
    on Flypaper
  • 134: Adam
    writes on Choice Words
    that the Georgia House is right to challenge 134
    years of the status quo by trying to amend the state constitution to reinstate
    the state’s charter authorizing commission.
  • 1,050:
    A bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly would redefine the school year
    from 182 days to 1,050 hours of instruction in grades 7-12. Emmy writes on
    the Ohio Gadfly Daily that the proposal could increase
    flexibility and autonomy in the Buckeye State
    —if only it didn’t also
    require five-day weeks and longer summers.
  • 75,000:
    The United Federation of Teachers, which represents 75,000 of New York
    City’s educators, negotiated a deal to include “third-party, independent validation
    of teacher ratings”—a deal that is unlikely
    to do much more than sew seeds of dissent
    , writes Peter on Board’s Eye
  • 1,000,000:
    New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s decision to award $1
    million in funding to districts based on the high performance of
    special education students is admirably ambitious, argued Chris Tessone on
    Stretching the School Dollar, but the Garden
  • ...