Additional Topics

It’s all French to me

Rick and Mike pick apart an egregious example of Continental Achievement-Gap mania and take on differing proficiency goals based on student race and ethnicity. Amber asks if we’d be better off spending our edu-dollars in very different ways.

Amber's Research Minute

How Do Public Investments in Children Vary with Age? A Kids' Share Analysis of Expenditures in 2008 and 2011 by Age Group by The Urban Institute - Download PDF

A recent article in The Atlantic hit close to home, and it’s worth a little meditation from those of us who trade in the world of ideas, particularly in the online marketplace.

When we share, it’s actually self-serving.

The Selfish Meme reports on recent research that suggests that humans get a “neurochemical reward from sharing information, and a significantly bigger reward from disclosing their own thoughts and feelings than from reporting someone else’s.”

The part of the brain long known to respond to food, sex, and money also lights up when we, well, talk about ourselves and our views on the world.

The troubling paradox, of course, is that when we share (ostensibly a magnanimous act), it’s actually self-serving. I think I’m helping you, but I’m actually the one benefiting.

Interestingly, we talk about ourselves more when on online—via Facebook or Twitter, for example—than when we’re face-to-face. As one researcher pointed out, when we’re with someone, we can receive social cues (eye rolling, ending eye contact) telling us to cut it out, stop focusing on ourselves. But when you’re on a computer program that allows you to be on “transmit” instead of “receive,” you can publicly look inward with impunity.

The article ends with another unexpected paradox, that this mirror-gazing behavior might actually have both social and evolutionary utility. Yes, demonstrating naked self-fascination is personally pleasurable, but it also helps strengthen interpersonal bonds and enables others to learn information they might not come across otherwise.


Two Fordham Institute authors have new books out this fall and a pair of recent articles provided previews of these page-turners.

The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent’s Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools

Diverse Schools Dilemma

Should middle-class families “flee to the homogenous suburbs for excellent schools or stay urban for diverse but often struggling schools?” That’s the “Diverse Schools Dilemma” at the heart of Mike Petrilli’s new book, profiled in today’s Washington Post. Mike argues that gentrification provides a unique opportunity to integrate America’s inner-city schools as families that once might have moved to the suburbs look to stay in the city when their children reach school-age. The article describes how Mike’s expertise as an education analyst and personal experience as a D.C.-area parent led him to grapple with the dilemma through the book, now available on Amazon.

Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools

Exam Schools

The Wall Street Journal reviewed Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica Hockett’s introduction to America’s “exam schools,” the 165 academically selective public high schools that enroll more than 100,000 of...

1984 in 2012?

Aaron Churchill drops by to explain Ohio’s attendance foibles and debate the merits of another kind of student tracking. Amber asks if super sub-groups are all that super.

Amber's Research Minute

Shining a Light or Fumbling in the Dark? The Effects of NCLB’s Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Student Achievement by Douglas Lee Lauen & S. Michael Gaddis for EEPA

Hi, my name is Andy. It’s been a while, so please allow me to introduce myself. I’ve got a feeling that with the proliferation of bloggers and tweeters since my departure, a quick recap is in order.

He's back...

When we first met, I was a relatively recently married young guy with no kids, living a quiet, happy life near Annapolis, Maryland. I used to do a little education policy stuff here and there. Then I took a break, and did a bit of thinking and research for a couple organizations, including here at TBFI. Spent lots of time at coffee shops with a laptop and headphones.

I also had this small side project that took a little time and is finally about to bear some fruit.

Then I went away for a couple years. Now I’m back on the scene, crispy and clean.

So, if you don’t mind, allow me to reintroduce myself.

I’m now a thirty-six-year-old father of three, including a two-year old and four-month-old twins. I have a minivan. I wash a lot of bottles. I am told by a little voice at my knee every time a truck drives by. Or the mailman. I’m also excellent at reading books...


After Board’s Eye View bid adieu last week, rumors have been swirling about who might be buzzing around Fordham’s blogs next. Well, the wait is almost over: On Monday, Gadfly’s latest blogger will debut (again?). A few hints about the mystery man's identity:

  • He’s a self-described sucker for charter schools, scatter plots, Google docs, and good Race to the Top analysis
  • No one does the education news roundup better
  • Who introduced the “nuclear option” to federal-education policy?

Give up? Come back Monday to find out.

The Fall Classic

Mike and Dara analyze the NAACP’s definition of discrimination and grapple with the unpleasant reality that Ohio’s online schools mostly suck. Amber looks at what it takes to exit high school these days.

Amber's Research Minute

Center on Education Policy, State High School Exit Exams: A Policy in Transition (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, September 2012)



Many of today’s parents yearn to live in or near the lively, culturally vibrant heart of the city—in diverse, walkable neighborhoods full of music and theater, accessible to museums and stores, awash in ethnic eateries, and radiating a true sense of community. This is a major shift from recent generations that saw middle class families trading urban centers for suburbs with lawns, malls, parks, and good schools.

But good schools still matter. And standing in the way of many parents’ urban aspirations is the question: Will the public schools in the city provide a strong education for my kids?

To be sure, lots of parents favor sending their sons and daughters to diverse schools with children from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. But can such schools successfully meet the educational needs of all those different kids? How do middle class children fare in these environments? Is there enough challenge and stimulation in schools that also struggle to help poor and immigrant children reach basic standards? Is there too much focus on test scores? And why is it so hard to find diverse public schools with a progressive, child-centered approach to education?

These quandaries and more are addressed in this groundbreaking book by Michael J. Petrilli, one of America’s most trusted education experts and a father who himself is struggling with the Diverse Schools Dilemma.

The book is now available for purchase from Amazon, in print or as an...

The laugh factory

Mike and Rick wonder if there’s still room for ed reformers in the Democratic Party after Chicago. Amber analyzes why American students continue to struggle with the SAT. And Rick makes a few jokes at Karen Lewis’s expense.

Amber's Research Minute

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 - The College Board Download PDF

Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project routinely presents—and laments—stark numbers on segregation (both racial and socioeconomic) in U.S. classrooms; this latest report is no different. It shows that racial segregation is on the rise, even in the face of the shifting demographics of America’s schools (white students’ “market share” of public school enrollment dropped 25 percent over the past thirty years): Fifteen percent of black students and 14 percent of Latino students attend schools that are less than 1 percent white (and 74 and 80 percent, respectively, attend majority non-white schools). Further, while the typical white student attends a school that is about one-third low income; the typical black student’s school is about two-thirds low income. But what is the role of schools and school systems in arresting or reversing such trends, which have so much to do with housing policy, income, neighborhood demographics, ethnic preferences, and parental choice? Orfield has his own answers, of course: paternalistic policy recommendations that include expanding magnet schools, reversing Supreme Court decisions, and constructing civil-rights policies for charter schools. But forcibly creating diverse schools is as logistically taxing as it is politically unpalatable. Instead of top-down mandates, Orfield and co. might better consider a “controlled choice” approach to diverse schools—treating them as one component of a larger school-choice movement that allows parents to choose a high-performing charter or district-run STEM school, just as much as a diverse classroom.