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Over the past twenty years, opponents have charged charter schools with further Balkanizing America’s education system. Give parents a choice, the thinking goes, and many will choose homogenous environments for their children. And there’s certainly evidence that charters in some cities tend to be more racially isolated than traditional public schools.

Capital City Public Charter School
Capital City Public Charter School in Washinton, D.C., has achieved a nearly even racial and socioeconomic balance.

    But could charter schools actually be a solution to segregation—particularly as gentrification brings more white and middle-class families to our urban cores? A growing crop of social entrepreneurs thinks so. In cities across the country, educators and parents are starting charters expressly designed for diversity.

    Charter schools have certain advantages. As start-up schools, they can be strategic about locations, picking spots that are well positioned to draw students from different racial and socioeconomic groups. They can design academic programs that take diversity as a given and make the most of it. And they can be thoughtful about putting...

    A Chicago public school and public library will begin to share space on Thursday, breaking ground for a new “library-within-a-school” model that may be “copied and mimicked all across the city,” according to an enthusiastic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Windy City’s schools and libraries have both seen financial troubles in the last couple of years. Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has clarified that proliferation of this model would be about “reducing storefront and leased space” and possibly result in moving libraries, not closing libraries. Gadfly likes efficiency and books—so hat tip!

    The school-funding crisis in Philadelphia has reached the boiling point: After Superintendent William Hite issued an ultimatum stating that schools may not open in time if the district does not receive at least $50 million more in funding by Friday, August 16th, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that it would borrow the cash, apparently obviating that eventuality. Now that the district will be able to re-hire some laid-off staff members, the School Reform Commission—Philadelphia’s appointed school board—will vote on whether to suspend portions of state law to grant Hite the flexibility to re-hire for reasons other than seniority. The...

    Many complain, legitimately, that the ed-reform world has been overly focused on math and reading scores, to the detriment of other important—but not as easily assessed—student outcomes. This working paper out of the University of Arkansas aims to address this issue by exploring a potential new measure of non-cognitive ability: survey-item response rates. The authors use data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that tracks a nationally representative sample of young adults; respondents are born between 1980 and 1984 (making them between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-three now) and are surveyed annually on issues like employment, assets, and wages. When the analysts compared information collected in 1997 to the respondents’ highest educational outcomes as reported in 2010 or earlier, they find that the number of items either left blank or answered “I don’t know” is a significant predictor of educational attainment, even after controlling for many factors, including cognitive ability. The fewer the number of questions left unanswered, the greater the likelihood overall that the respondent had enrolled in college. (For example, a one-standard-deviation increase in response rates increased the amount of education received by .31 years, or 11 percent of a standard deviation.) The authors posit...

    By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

    Emily Barton is Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education, and she may be leading, alongside State Chief Keivn Huffman, the most intensive and impressive state-level Common Core implementation plan in the nation. As you’ll read below, the thoughtfulness and scope of this undertaking are remarkable.

    Emily Barton Tennessee

    As is Emily.

    A former classroom teacher and executive with Teach for America, she has accomplished one big professional thing after another with humility and grace. And she’s done it all so early in her career that she’d provoke crazy envy were she not so darned nice.

    Her colleagues speak glowingly of her, not just because she’s talented and friendly. Emily is so genuinely committed to the cause of improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged kids that she’s passionate, energetic, creative, and doggedly determined. Even if you fall on the opposite side of an issue, you can’t help but disagree agreeably with Emily—you know she’s honestly fighting firmly for her vision of...

    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

    Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

    Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

    “Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester...

    The Fordham Ohio staff thanks Terry Ryan for his time, energy, and commitment to serving the state of Ohio and its students for twelve years. In case you missed it, the articles linked below contain Terry’s parting thoughts as he leaves the Buckeye State for Idaho, the Gem State (not the “Potato State” as Gadfly suspected). They are food for thought as we at Fordham and other school reformers continue the good work that Terry has started.

    Ohio Gadfly Daily: 12 years; 12 lessons

    Dayton Daily News: “Roundtable Discussion: How Can We Make Our Schools More Effective?”

    * * *

    Terry’s contact information:

    Idaho Charter School Network

    815 W. Washington Street
    Lower Level Suite
    Boise, ID 83702

    Email: terry@idahocharterschoolnetwork.com

    Office: 208-906-1420

    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute today announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

    Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

    Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

    “Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester...

    The Kindle Print edition

    After pondering the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Mike and Dara deliberate New York’s lower test scores, A-to-F school-grading systems, and whether it really is schools versus nursing homes. Amber sees a red flag in Common Core implementation.

    Amber's Research Minute

    Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: An Overview of States’ Progress and Challenges by Diane Stark Rentner, (Center on Education Policy, August 2013).

    Following the Tony Bennett flap, the A-to-F school-grading systems that Bennett championed are themselves under the gun. Some have argued in favor of increasing the number of measures upon which schools are graded, reflecting the variety of grades that parents see their children bring home from school every year. But at what point will more information become too much information? For a great discussion, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show.

    After announcing its plans to withdraw from both Common Core–assessment consortia, Pennsylvania has clarified that it will in fact remain a member of both PARCC and Smarter Balanced—it just won’t be using either test. “Huh,” you say? The nominal difference means that the Keystone State will retain the right to “participate” in each group’s discussions.

    In a Washington Post op-ed, Robert Samuelson argued that the fiscal crisis facing state and local governments can be boiled down to the clash of two interests: schools versus nursing homes. Samuelson characterized the impending pension crisis as a “prolonged squeeze” from retirement commitments to public employees, while we call it the “big squeeze” in our series of reports on...

    By the Company it Keeps: Neerav Kingsland

    I met Neerav Kingsland in 2009. I was on my tenth trip to New Orleans post-Katrina, meeting with a foundation newly interested in supporting the local reform effort, and I wanted to spend a little time with New Schools for New Orleans, the organization leading much of the most promising work, to learn more about their efforts. Neerav and I spent a few hours together, and I walked away impressed beyond words.

    Neerav Kingsland New Schools for New Orleans

    I liked to think my ideas about systemic reform were advanced—heck, I was writing a book about it—but his ability to thoughtfully answer every question I could muster and precisely explain how big concepts were translating into practice demonstrated that he was the real leader in this business.

    In the years since, my admiration for Neerav has only grown. On reform philosophy, he’s my intellectual doppelganger; but he’s so much smarter, and his experience helping to bring our shared beliefs to life...

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