Additional Topics

Plenty of folks in the education business seek the limelight. Not all deserve it—at least, not for doing good. But some individuals and groups that do great good for kids, teachers, and schools prefer to do so quietly, even invisibly. And two such entities are merging as Gene Wilhoit—previously of the Council of Chief State School Officers and, arguably, the most important force behind the Common Core standards—joins Sue Pimentel and Jason Zimba’s crackerjack (but small and quiet) team at Student Achievement Partners, which might be the most valuable enterprise in the land when it comes to defending, improving, explaining, and implementing the Common Core. Neither Wilhoit nor SAP is a glutton for publicity—but the work they’ve done, and continue to do, deserves respect and gratitude.

Earlier this week, Ohio Governor John Kasich unveiled his education reform plan. Among its many features are an expansion of private school vouchers and Ohio’s first-ever charter school facility funding. Perhaps most promising, the governor proposed a $300-million Innovation Fund to kick-start projects aimed at reshaping how schools deploy technology and human resources. In a town-hall meeting, Fordham's Terry Ryan told the governor and a rapt audience that the Innovation Fund is "very exciting...There's a lot of untapped energy out in the field that's waiting to take charge and take control of the opportunities."

As school districts begin to come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to maintain their current spending levels, Stanford scholar Eric A....

We are hosting regional conversations in Cincinnati and Dayton about student mobility and our report, Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. Both events will feature a presentation of the report findings from Community Research Partners and a panel discussion among local education and community leaders about the impact of mobility and what might be done about. Please join us!


Tuesday, February 26 12:00pm to 1:30pm

United Way on Reading Road



Tuesday, February 26 7:30am to 9:00 am

Dayton Racquet Club


Are you a Columbus-area parent that wants to live in or near a culturally vibrant neighborhood, and send your child to a school that serves a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds? But you find yourself wondering, Will the public schools in the city provide a strong education for my kid?

If you are looking for the best school for your child and finding it hard to navigate all the options, join us as author, father, and education policy expert (and Fordham Executive Vice President) Michael J. Petrilli details his family’s journey.

Columbus International High School

Tuesday, February 26 · 5:30pm to 7:00 pm

Click here to RSVP 

Switching it up

In a surprise twist, Dara Zeehandelaar hosts Fordham president Checker Finn on this week’s Gadfly Show. They discuss Tom Harkin’s retirement, wheelchair basketball, and the flap over the MAP. Amber intervenes with a word on late interventions.

Amber's Research Minute

Late Interventions Matter Too: The Case of College Coaching in New Hampshire by Scott Carell and Bruce Sacerdote (National Bureau of Education Research, Dartmouth College, University of California Davis, July 2012).

School closures
School closures are traumatic.
Photo by Thomas Hawk

Secretary Duncan and his team were mobbed the other day by agitated parents and kids protesting the closing of public schools around the land. Though Uncle Sam has no real control over this, it's true that Duncan came to Washington promising to close (or overhaul) a thousand schools a year and, more recently, has been pressing for radical action in the lowest-performing 5 percent—i.e., about 5000 schools. Actual data in this realm are scarce, but NCES reports roughly a thousand closings a year among “regular” public schools (meaning that, in one sense, Duncan's promise is being kept, though not by him), as well as who knows how many charter and private schools that bite the dust. But even if the total is closer to 2000, in a country with 100,000 schools that's just 2 percent a year. Moreover, schools keep opening, too, hundreds of them every year in every sector.

Nobody likes to close schools. Secretary Duncan remarked to the crowd, “I don't know any educator who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to close schools.’” And it’s self-evident that nobody likes to have his or her own school closed. It's traumatic for families, teachers, students, neighborhoods, communities, even entire villages and towns.

But there are three big reasons why schools close and will continue to close—while others open.

First and most obviously, big demographic shifts....

Fourth-quarter drives—even the most impressive—are often not enough to alter game outcomes. So it is with educational interventions: Getting students on track by third grade (and keeping them there) yields greater long-term results than high school interventions. However, this paper from two Dartmouth and UC Davis professors argues that certain late-game pushes can help college-going and college-persistence rates for some K–12 pupils. Analysts targeted “college-ready” high school seniors in twelve large New Hampshire high schools who had shown interest in college but had made little to no progress on their applications (guidance counselors helped ID these students). They randomly assigned about half of these students to receive targeted college coaching, meaning college-application mentoring from a Dartmouth student, money to cover application fees and ACT/SAT exams, and a $100 bonus if they completed the application and filing process. The authors found no statistically significant impact from the program for men but did find one for women: Young women who completed the treatment were 24 percent likelier to enroll in college than their control-group peers. Even those who received only part of the treatment saw a bump in college attendance. And this positive effect appeared greater for large, resource-challenged high schools with comparatively low baseline college-going rates. Further, when analysts examined persistence in four-year college—defined as attending three or more semesters or being enrolled for two years—the treatment effect was also 12 percentage points higher than the control group of women. (Analysts speculate that this gendered success story may be because...

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is regarded as perhaps the most powerful lawmaker in U.S. education policy, will not seek re-election in 2014. While he was an impediment to change—making this good news for reformers—the word on the grapevine about his possible successor is troubling. Namely, there is talk that if Sen. Patty Murray does not take on the role due to her role on the Senate Budget Committee, the next name on the list is—Sen. Bernie Sanders? We shudder to think.

Last week, the Education Department—with nary a nod to Congress or public debate—declared what Mike Petrilli dubbed a “right to wheelchair basketball” via its new “guidance” on the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. While few oppose the desirability of making reasonable accommodations for the disabled in school sports, the guidance, as pointed out by Politics K–12, “goes farther and says that if reasonable accommodations can’t be made, students with disabilities ‘should still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular activities,’” thus turning “guidance” into a fully fledged unfunded mandate. For more on this debate, check out Mike’s appearance on NPR’s “On Point” show.

In its latest foray into the study of charter-school quality, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has a major new study out, reporting that schools’ long-term success can be predicted by how they performed in their first year. Schools that start the game swinging will generally continue to do well, while those...

In the mid-1990s—channeling Pygmalion—the Department of Housing and Urban Development provided 4,600 low-income families  with housing vouchers and relocation counseling to move them into lower-poverty neighborhoods. According to this new analysis in Cityscape, this Moving to Opportunity (MTO) initiative was “disappointing” as regards education: It did very little to improve student achievement and related schooling outcomes (such as attendance and graduation rates). This was true across all age cohorts, including children six and younger. The one statistically significant effect of the program was an increase in “health awareness” among female participants. Why such a flop? The analysts found that the socioeconomic makeup of the schools to which the program moved children was still very similar to the schools in their old neighborhood; for example, youth in the study moved into schools with a free-or-reduced-price-lunch rate only 10 percentage points lower than those of the schools they exited. And they were unable to ensure that the quality of the schools was any better. As this report makes painstakingly clear, social engineering is no antidote for the opportunity gap. Instead, we might think about opening stronger educational options for students, no matter their zip code, and giving parents the options to choose their child’s academic setting.

A version of this review originally appeared on Fordham’s Flypaper blog.

SOURCE: Lisa A Gennetian, Matthew Sciandra, Lisa Sanbonmatsu, et al., “The Long-Term Effects of Moving to Opportunity on Youth Outcomes (Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Volume 14, Number...

The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Program (MTO), the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s twenty-year attempt at a real-life Pygmalion, has failed. The department experimentally relocated low-income families and children out of poverty-stricken areas and into ones populated by the middle class. Unfortunately, these children did not achieve better schooling results. As said by the journal Cityscape, “MTO’s effects on achievement and related schooling outcomes were disappointing, particularly among the youngest cohort of children.” The results, while disappointing, are no big shocker. This program takes an approach that is far too hands-off for comfort. Imagine Pygmalion’s Mr. Higgins asking Eliza Doolittle to come live in his house but neglecting to provide her with lessons in grammar or etiquette.

MTO provided 4,600 families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York with housing vouchers and additional housing counseling to help them move out of impoverished neighborhoods. The goal of the program is to help these families “choose modestly priced private housing in neighborhoods that can offer ample educational, employment, and social opportunities.” But there is no guarantee that the schools in the new neighborhood will be much better or more affluent than the ones in the school districts they left. The Cityscape analysis found that the socioeconomic makeup of the schools to which the program moved children was still very similar to the schools in their old neighborhood; for example, youth in the control group, on average, attended schools that were around 90 percent minority enrollment, while youth...

Inaugurations and graduations

Mike and Kathleen are skeptical about the President’s education agenda and newly released high school graduation rate data. Amber thinks about low-income high-flyers.

Amber's Research Minute

The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery, The National Bureau of Economic Research