Additional Topics

This year, readers beat a trail to our blogs for Common Core content; six out of ten of Fordham’s top ten blog posts in 2013 were from Common Core Watch, moderated by Kathleen Porter-Magee. These included posts on real lessons we can learn from Finland, calling out Pearson’s conflicts of interest in New York, four fundamental misunderstandings associated with the anti-testing movement, the case for why conservatives should support the Common Core, the false promise of leveled literacy programs, and why criticisms of the Common Core mathematics standards don’t add up.

Mike Petrilli’s point-by-point rebuttal of an anti–Common Core Wall Street Journal op-ed also made the cut, as did Andy Smarick’s controversial interview with former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard and a roundtable reaction to the Tony Bennett flap. But the number-one spot went to none of these contentious education-policy topics; instead, the Fordham Institute’s most read blog entry was a list of Mike Petrilli’s top-ten television shows for young children. Go figure.

The following, for your enjoyment, are our ten most read blog posts of 2013. Happy holidays...

Happy holidays from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute!

For more Gadfly shenanigans…

To learn more about what the Gadfly really says, check out the most recent issue of the Education Gadfly Weekly. And have a happy New Year!...

The Gadfly (What Does Gadfly Say?)

What Does Gadfly Say?

Mike makes a funding pitch to Eli Broad.

From NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s pledge to provide universal preschool to bipartisan legislation proposing federally funded preschool grants, we have witnessed in 2013 new momentum toward expanding access to early-childhood programs. Yet this evaluation of Tennessee’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program (TN-VPK)—the second in a series conducted by Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute and the Tennessee Department of Education—may cause some second thoughts. TN-VPK is a full-day, one-year, voluntary preschool program aimed at improving the school readiness of the state’s most disadvantaged four-year-olds. The initial evaluation found that the program succeeds in that mission: by the end of the preschool year, participating students made significant cognitive achievement gains when compared to eligible students who applied to TN-VPK but were not accepted (due to space limitations). The new study, however, which sought to evaluate the program’s long-term effects in both cognitive and non-cognitive domains, found that achievement gains made in preschool essentially disappeared when measured at the end of Kindergarten and again at the end of first grade. Though surely disappointing, these findings accord with many earlier studies of preschool effects (most conspicuously a raft of HeadStart evaluations), most of which indicate that cognitive gains made by disadvantaged preschool...

Earlier this week, the New York Times featured an editorial on gifted education, noting that even our best students were in the middle of the pack in the recent PISA results. (Mike Petrilli pointed this out two weeks earlier.) The Times went on to discuss how our younger students generally fare better on global tests than our older students, indicative of our failure to nurture high flyers as they progress in education, and made four recommendations for improving gifted education: increasing government funding, expanding accelerated learning (including the possibility of online and video learning in rural areas), early college admission, and psychological coaching (citing research that suggests gifted kids should receive mentorship in order to learn how to handle stress, setbacks, and criticism). Stay tuned for additional lessons on how our international peers educate their high-ability youngsters.

Large school districts in California worry that they will lose out on state funding because of a new rule about verifying students’ poverty status. Part of California’s revamped school-funding system significantly weighted by income, this particular rule requires parents to turn in documentation on their own income status that...

Anyone with even a passing interest in science fiction, or in the latest advances out of Silicon Valley, surely gets a kick thinking about Google’s self-driving cars, now under development and ready for road testing. Imagine: you could spend even more of your day staring at a screen or writing with your thumbs if you didn’t have to pay attention to traffic during your commute to work!

But amid all the buzz and brouhaha, an important point has gone unmade: while auto-piloted autos will surely make life more convenient for many adults, they will be nothing short of revolutionary for adolescents (and their parents). They will change the teen (and tween) years as we know them.

Why is that? Here’s a basic fact: most adolescents are ready for independent mobility well before they are qualified to operate a car. Those lucky to live in a city already know this. Many parents let their twelve-year-olds ride a train or city bus or a bike to school or a friend’s house; some even let their ten-year-olds do so. But of course these kids can’t drive the family car. But soon they will.

Well, not “drive.” But sit in the back as a robot takes...

Today, NAEP TUDA results are released.

Actually, I should say the results are being packaged.

I’m disappointed in the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), entities that typically—and admirably—go about their work in a just-the-facts-ma’am fashion.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case here.

There’s an uncomfortable cheerleading quality to the materials being released. They have the effect of whitewashing the real story here—that today is a day to be sad for millions of disadvantaged kids. It is not a day for celebration.

In short, NAGB and NCES have gone out of their way to emphasize the gains that urban districts have made. They have titled two glossy productions, “Progress Over A Decade.” They show how urban district averages are getting closer to those of the nation as a whole. The release package even includes a cheerful statement and press release from the national organization whose job is to advocate for big urban districts.

Not a single voice dissenting from this roseate narrative is included.  

But the data-rich spreadsheets (downloadable from the website) tell the other side of...

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansancient Asian culturesancient Greece; the Maya, Inca, and AztecNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery; the American founders;  movie adaptations of classic children’s books; and American folk heroes. Thanks to research interns Melissa Reynolds and Singer Crawford for their help in compiling these lists.

When people say that it’s not “developmentally appropriate” to teach young children about “academic” subjects like history, I like to point to ancient Egypt. Is there any topic, besides dinosaurs, that can better capture the imagination of a five-year-old than a civilization with pyramids, child kings, and a secret code? Not to mention the great adventure stories one can tell about discovering King Tut’s tomb and other treasures? Maybe I’m biased—I was eight when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, and turned me into a wanna-be archeologist—but ancient Egypt is a whole lot of fun. These videos provide a solid introduction. Enjoy!...

I can’t tell you how much I like the annual charter school “market-share” report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. It’s my favorite annual publication. They document how chartering has grown over the last year in major cities and show fascinating facts like which cities have the largest charter market shares, which cities’ market shares are growing fastest, and more. So much here to explore, but the biggest eye-popper is that we now have two cities in which charters are the majority school sector—NOLA and Detroit. Andy Eduwonk hosted a conference on charters in Charlottesville, VA, in 2003, and several pre-read papers contemplated a day far into the future when a city might have 10 percent of their kids attending charters. Today, there are 135 such cities. And in 32 cities, 20 percent of public school kids are in charters. The Urban School System of the Future is coming.

Bain & Company has an interesting paper out on districts’ pitiful performance in preparing principals. Big headline: A majority of schools fail to systematically develop their high-quality teachers into high-potential leaders (some districts and a number of CMOs are much better,...

Long before the Common Core State Standards were on anyone’s radar, the “reading wars” raged furiously. They began as a fight about the best way to teach children how to read in the early grades, and the camps were divided between advocates of “whole language” and “phonics.” Today, the battles continue, though the issues have grown increasingly complicated and their implications extend well beyond the early grades and the phonics/whole-language divide.

Recent debates over reading instruction in the Common Core era have included skirmishes among three helpful—and ultimately complementary—approaches: “close reading,” “knowledge first,” and “skills and strategies.” All three of these are miles better than a fourth (but increasingly popular) approach: “just right texts.”

Let’s examine them.

Close Reading

One flashpoint in the reading debate emerged in 2011, after a lead author of the Common Core ELA standards, David Coleman, challenged teachers with a new vision for reading instruction. It entailed ratcheting up the complexity of texts that students read—something the Common Core explicitly demands—and encouraging students to plunge directly into the text itself, rather than spending time pre-teaching background content and vocabulary (an approach about which the standards themselves are silent). This version of close reading focuses on three things: (1) selecting appropriately complex texts that are worthy of close reading and analysis, (2) sequencing texts thoughtfully, with an eye toward building student content knowledge and vocabulary, and (3) guiding students through the text carefully with thoughtfully developed, text-dependent questions that encourage readers to return to the author’s words (rather than their own experiences and opinions) for analysis and answers. And it largely eschews pre-reading activities—such as those that give students information about the author, about when the piece was written, and about relevant historical facts that might help the reader better understand the story or essay they’re about to read.

Coleman’s approach set off a firestorm among educators. Some teachers were angered, not by his pedagogical vision per se but by the fact that the author of the standards seemed to be telling them how to teach, even when the standards themselves are agnostic about pedagogy. Others rejected the view that pre-reading is a waste of time, contending instead that pre-reading activities are essential to helping disadvantaged students access the kinds of complex texts that the Common Core demands.

When this debate first emerged, now nearly two years ago, the discussion was heated, but purposeful and productive. Teachers and ELA experts weighed in, cited research, acknowledged where Coleman was right, and pushed back where they thought he’d gone too far. Tim Shanahan—a widely respected researcher and ELA expert—had a particularly interesting series of posts dealing directly with the issue of pre-reading and offering a vision for pre-reading that even Coleman acknowledged made sense.

That debate was revived last month when Student Achievement Partners, an organization cofounded by Coleman, re-released an exemplar unit on teaching the Gettysburg Address (a big deal, considering that we’re observing its 150th anniversary). These lessons again put front and center the approach to close reading that starts the text cold rather than warmed by prior knowledge. Specifically, the introduction explains,

The idea here is to plunge students into an independent encounter with this short text. Refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset…This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend Lincoln’s address.

Of course, the rest of the lesson makes clear that this vision of close reading is anything but content-free. On the contrary, this approach encourages students to dive first into the text, but then to incorporate knowledge and vocabulary systematically into the analysis as the unit unfolds.

More than that, Coleman himself has sought to bridge the divide, acknowledging that pre-reading could be useful, if targeted and brief. But, still, the focus should be on the close, careful reading of text.

Knowledge First

Perhaps the most significant pushback against the Gettysburg Address lesson—both when it first emerged in 2011 and again last month—is the impossibility (and, in many eyes, the undesirability) of separating background knowledge from reading. As Tim Shanahan wrote in a post on this blog a few days ago, “you can’t stop readers from using what they know, nor would you want to.”

Even more critically, the vision for close reading outlined by Coleman in 2011 and restated by SAP in November seems to be at odds with the approach to reading instruction propounded by E. D. Hirsch Jr. and his colleagues at the Core Knowledge Foundation. Their arguments are nuanced and well worth reading, but they can be summarized as, “Teaching content is teaching reading.”

In short, Hirsch & Co. believe—and cite ample cognitive-psychology research to demonstrate—that it’s impossible to separate knowledge from comprehension, and therefore, once past the “decoding” stage of reading instruction, the best way to improve comprehension is by teaching a coherent, content-rich curriculum. (Hirsch is so committed to this idea that he developed precisely that kind of curriculum, the Core Knowledge sequence, which now guides teaching and learning in hundreds of elementary schools across the country.)

Hirsch has long lamented the disconnect between elementary-school reading programs and the content that students need to become proficient readers.

He’s not wrong: the most popular elementary reading programs are largely content-free. Basals, for instance, which are used as reading textbooks in many elementary classrooms, generally include short, decontextualized fiction and nonfiction texts for students to read. There is no coherent sequence of content; no emphasis on building knowledge to drive comprehension. (It’s no doubt because of the resulting knowledge deficit that many teachers rely on pre-reading to “backfill” students’ knowledge before they dive into a text.)

Is there, then, a great divide between advocates of “close reading” and those who insist on “knowledge first”? I think not. Indeed, the Common Core standards themselves—endorsed in full, of course, by both Coleman and SAP—are unambiguous in their demand that content be taught as part of literacy. On page 6, the standards explicitly call for educators to pair them with a “content-rich curriculum.” And on page 33, the standards devote an entire page to guidance describing “how to build knowledge systematically in English Language Arts in K–5.” Specifically, educators are told,

At a curricular or instructional level, texts—within and across grade levels—need to be selected around topics or themes that systematically develop the knowledge base of students.

It is reasonable to assume, then, that the vision for “close reading” in grades 6–12 does not assume that students have no knowledge; rather, it assumes that the knowledge they bring comes not from pre-reading, per se, but from mastery of the K–5 content-rich curriculum that the standards themselves call for.

Skills and Strategies

But, of course, not everyone agrees with Hirsch and Coleman about the preeminence of knowledge. Some educators view that as a rejection of important reading skills and strategies. Indeed, in a blog post published in October, the respected author and educator Grant Wiggins took blunt issue with Hirsch’s “knowledge-first” rhetoric. “Over the years,” Wiggins explained, “I have grown increasingly tired of Hirsch’s one-note samba about reading.”

It’s evident that Wiggins is referring to Hirsch’s frequent rejection of “soul-deadening exercises like ‘finding the main idea’ and ‘questioning the author.’” Yet Wiggins rightly underscores research that points to the efficacy of brief, focused, and suitably timed instruction in a handful of important reading skills, including both identifying the main idea and teasing out authors’ purposes. He cites, for instance, cognitive scientist Dan Willingham, who has written,

The evidence suggests that teaching a combination of reading comprehension techniques is the most effective. When students use them appropriately, they assist in recall, question answering, question generation, and summarization of texts. When used in combination, these techniques can improve results in standardized comprehension tests.

Wiggins goes further, noting that “students are consistently terrible at identifying main idea and author purpose.” His own analysis of the data revealed that

on average, students only get such questions correct 50% of the time, in my review of released standardized tests. The results reveal over and over again that students cannot identify the key assumptions and conclusions – the main ideas that shape the text. They have great difficulty distinguishing key facts in the text from the (inferred) idea; they are too literal in their reading. 

Note, though, that Wiggins also acknowledges the importance of knowledge to reading comprehension. But unlike Hirsch, Wiggins doesn’t believe that the problem is a failure to teach content. Instead, he believes that teachers don’t effectively teach the strategies and skills that students need to transfer their knowledge—that is, to use stored knowledge and apply it to later learning, to analysis, and so on.

In short, Wiggins acknowledges that students need content, but he believes that content alone isn’t going to get the job done, that teachers need to deftly weave instruction in content and skills in order to push their comprehension and learning. “It’s well past time to focus on learning, not teaching,” Wiggins explains, “because regardless of one’s ideology the one undeniable fact that Hirsch and I can probably agree on is that students leave school with far less than they were taught, whether it is knowledge of the Algonquins (a piece of content in Hirsch’s core curriculum) or main idea.”

Does that mean that, despite all the heat of this apparent firestorm, there’s ultimately nothing incompatible between the “skills-and-strategies” approach described by Wiggins and either the “knowledge-first” or “close-reading” approaches emphasized above? I think so. In my view, all three could be thoughtfully and purposefully woven together to maximize students’ knowledge, build their vocabulary, and deepen their ability to read, understand, and analyze sufficiently complex texts—in other words, to become sophisticated, effective readers of things worth reading.

Just Right Books

Unfortunately, when we watch leaders like Coleman, Hirsch, and Wiggins quarrel over what are essentially (and, I would say, optimally) complementary approaches to reading instruction, we risk losing sight of a truly dismal vision of reading instruction that prioritizes neither content nor complexity. That is the “just-right-books” approach.

That approach is embodied by a suite of programs and resources published and sold by Heinnemann, Inc. They include the Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) Leveled Literacy Intervention program, Lucy Calkins’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop, and the related books and professional development series produced and distributed by Heinnemann.

Not only is this approach widely used by U.S. educators (for ages it was required by the New York City Department of Education and is still widely used today in Gotham schools), but it is perhaps the most egregious example of a content-free, text-neutral, skills-focused version of reading instruction. Students in such classrooms don’t even have the benefit of reading shared or thoughtfully sequenced texts, let alone a thoughtful, coherent knowledge base.

The TC Reading Workshop is built on the idea that reading comprehension will improve if we use targeted assessments, like F&P, to figure out each pupil’s “instructional” reading level, then outfit them with texts that are “just right”—i.e. pitched at their present reading levels. (This approach devotes much time to gauging those levels in search of the “zone of proximal development”—the level that challenges the student just enough without frustrating her.) Instruction then focuses not on the text per se but rather on teaching comprehension skills and strategies that will help students understand the book they’ve chosen and (presumably) help propel them into increasingly complex texts.

Despite the popularity of this approach, the evidence against its potential and efficacy is large. Tim Shanahan has, for instance, written extensively on how difficult it is to “level” a text with the precision that the TCWRW demands. Others, including cognitive scientist Dan Willingham, Robert Pondiscio, and Hirsch himself, have provided extensive evidence as to the impossibility of narrowly defining a student’s reading level, since reading comprehension depends not only on word choice and sentence complexity but also on the knowledge and vocabulary that the student already possesses and now brings to his reading. A student who loves sports but knows less about science might be a “level q” if reading about baseball, for example, but just a “level b” when reading about the rain forest. And research from a pilot study has shown that schools that follow the Core Knowledge program dramatically outperformed those that deployed the Reading and Writing workshop.

Therefore, when Hirsch complains about an excessive—perhaps, in some places, myopic—focus on reading skills and strategies, it’s reasonable to assume that he hopes to draw a bright line between a content-rich curriculum, like his own Core Knowledge sequence, and programs like the Reading Workshop, which value skills and strategies above all else.

The Path Forward

In the end, the decision over which instructional strategies best drive reading comprehension—in particular, which close the vexing word gaps in the early years and then lay the foundation for the kinds of reading and analysis that students will need to do in later years of schooling—is complicated. True, content is not the only thing that matters. Wiggins and Willingham are right that instruction in reading skills and strategies has its place as well. And if we do a more effective job of balancing coherent content with targeted skills instruction, then the vision for close reading in secondary schools defined by Coleman and Student Achievement Partners would no doubt be well within our grasp, too.

A version of this post appeared on the Common Core Watch blog on December 10, 2013.

Mayor Bloomberg is justifiably proud of the big gains New York City made in boosting the high-school graduation rate on his watch, with about two-thirds of students now graduating in four years, up from half a decade ago. This appears to be the result of a whirlwind of creative efforts, including expanding educational options for teenagers via the creation of hundreds of brand-new high schools.

Yet Mayor Mike’s good work for big kids is matched by lackluster results for the city’s younger students. Eighth-grade reading scores, for instance, barely budged from 2003 to 2011, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2013 scores are due out next week).

Perhaps this is one reason that de Blasio wants to expand the city’s pre-K offerings. In theory, giving low-income students a head start at age four will help them become better readers and better learners.

But de Blasio needs to come to grips with a simple truth: Any gains provided by a massive new investment in preschool will quickly fade away if he doesn’t also tackle New York City’s mediocre elementary schools.

What makes them mediocre? It’s the curriculum, stupid — or the lack thereof. When Bloomberg and Joel Klein exploded on the scene in the early 2000s, they were famously agnostic about what kids actually learn in the classroom day to day. To Klein’s credit, he eventually came to see the errors of his ways, and in his last years as chancellor he embraced the Core Knowledge program—a coherent, content-rich curriculum that is a model for what kids in New York, and nationwide, need if they are going to become strong readers.

What’s so special about content knowledge? As scholar and Core Knowledge creator E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has argued for thirty years—and as more recent cognitive science has confirmed—knowledge is the building block of literacy. Once students learn to “decode” the English language, their ability to comprehend what they read is all about what they know.

Weak readers who know a lot about baseball, for instance, demonstrate a high reading ability when reading about baseball. But those very same students can look like terrible readers if they are working through a passage on, say, the Civil War that they know nothing about.

The job of elementary schools, then, should be to systematically build students’ content knowledge in important areas like history, geography, civics, science, art, music, and literature. Yet most elementary schools (nationwide—not just in New York) are content-free wastelands.

Thankfully, Gotham is better positioned for an elementary school overhaul than most cities. In part, that’s because the state of New York, under Commissioner John King, has developed a wonderful, content-rich curriculum, aligned with the new Common Core standards, for grades K–12. (The Core Knowledge Foundation developed the K–2 piece of the English language arts curriculum.)

Furthermore, Bloomberg’s Department of Education has listed Core Knowledge as one of the model curricula for New York City teachers to consider as they transition to the new standards.

De Blasio should go even further. If he wants to be bold, he might urge all city elementary schools to adopt Core Knowledge.

He should also use its preschool sequence for his new pre-K initiative. He should purchase millions of new, content-rich books for the city’s grade schools.

And he should invest in thoughtful, aggressive training for all of the city’s pre-K and elementary school teachers.

Mayor Mike’s approach led to big gains for New York’s high-school system. De Blasio should be wise enough to leave those parts of the reform agenda in place while he works to construct a sturdy educational foundation for the city’s youngest children.

This piece originally appeared in the New York Daily News.

“In the absence of this long-awaited home, there was only school….For children like Dasani, school is not just a place to cultivate a hungry mind. It is a refuge.” These words, which appear in Andrea Elliott’s five-part New York Times report, will strike a chord with anyone who spends their days trying to help poor children climb the ladder to opportunity. While the series is essentially about poverty and homelessness in the modern world, it is also the story of the power that the right schools, teachers, and principals have to help break the cycle—at least for one preteen girl.

According to data released this week by the Ohio Department of Education, the Buckeye State this year saw the largest increase in school-voucher-usage in the state’s history: Ohio families tapped more than 31,000 vouchers for their children to attend a private K–12 school, at least 4,600 more vouchers than were used the previous year. A little perspective: If the kids using vouchers made up a school district, it would be the state’s fourth largest.

Behavioral psychology tells us that to gain traction on our problems, we should separate and categorize their individual parts. We tend to do this in education reform, too, identifying and tackling discrete challenges, one at a time (think: teacher evaluations, funding formulas, governance). But according to a new book by business and education professors Ian Mitroff, Lindan Hill, and Can Alpaslan, that way of thinking might actually exacerbate the problem. The authors examine the ways that educators, union leaders, and reformers have approached the interconnected problems that make up “The Education Mess,” as they dub it (income inequality, poverty, hunger, poor health, the achievement gap, etc.). They apply the Jungian systems framework, viewing education as a system of interconnected problems rather than a machine with independent parts. Their critique of Indiana’s education reform overhaul in 2012 demonstrates this perfectly: Mitroff et al. worry that the largely structural changes made by the state will not be systemic enough to support sustainable growth. Their favorite example of systems thinking done right, however, is the Harlem Children’s Zone, which they cite frequently throughout the book. And while we at Fordham are a little skeptical about the scalability of efforts like HCZ, this book offered a unique lens by which to view The Education Mess. And if it takes a village to raise a child, it surely takes a village to improve education.

SOURCE: Ian Mitroff, Lindan B. Hill, and Can M. Alpaslan, Rethinking the Education Mess: A Systems Approach to Education Reform (New York, NY: Palgrave Pivot, October 2013).

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a message for teacher-preparation programs: Your graduates need to know how to manage their classrooms effectively. Every classroom teacher knows that, in the words of the authors, “the most brilliantly crafted lesson can fall on deaf ears” if a productive classroom environment has not been established. And our current system's expectation that teachers just “sink or swim” in classroom management is unacceptable. After reviewing 150 previous studies, NCTQ found five common themes regarding what every aspiring teacher should master before taking responsibility for his own classroom: how to set clear rules, how to develop routines and establish structure so students know what to expect, how to reward students who are doing the right thing, how to punish those who are not, and how to make sure students are too engaged in learning to act out. The authors then assessed 122 teacher-preparation programs in thirty-three states to determine whether such research is informing what the programs are actually doing. They found that, even though teacher-prep programs overemphasized theory to the detriment of practical skills, all but a handful did cover classroom management in some form. The problem lies in just how much classroom management is still being deemphasized. On average, programs studied required about ten to fifteen courses prior to student teaching, but time spent on classroom management added up to only about eight class periods. As one might imagine, that is not near enough time to cover all of the material that is important, so roughly half of the topics were simply ignored. This latest research from NCTQ aligns well with prior Fordham work and underscores the degree to which many teachers are being ill prepared to survive in the choppy waters they will face in many of our nation’s schools.

SOURCE: Julie Greenberg, Hannah Putman, and Kate Walsh, Training our future teachers: Classroom management (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, December 2013).

According to the newest assessment from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools regarding the charter sector’s share of the public school market, the number of school districts where at least 20 percent of students attend charters has increased about 350 percent since 2005. In thirty-two districts, at least one in five public school students is enrolled in a charter. In New Orleans and Detroit (and very soon, Washington, D.C.), the majority of public school pupils are charter students. The good news is that the top-ten cities in terms of charter market share include some of the nation’s highest-performing charter sectors (New Orleans, D.C., and Indianapolis). The bad news is that some of the worst performers turn up on that list, too (namely, Philadelphia and three districts in Ohio, a state whose laggard charter performance has been well documented by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes and my colleagues at the Fordham Institute). When announcing this growth, NAPCS chief executive Nina Rees protested that nearly one million students are on charter waiting lists. Her lament is justified. But quantity and quality still aren’t matching up the way they should in this growing movement.

SOURCE: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities, Eighth Annual Edition (Washington, D.C.: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, December 2013).

Mike offers up stellar parenting advice after he and Brickman take on homelessness, making pre-K worth the bucks, and the idea of the student-data backpack. Amber shares the knowledge on charter market share.

Does three times four equal eleven? Will "fuzzy math" leave our students two years behind other countries? Will literature vanish from the English class? Is gifted-and-talented education dying? A barrel of rumors and myths about curriculum has made its way into discussions of the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. Experts will tackle these fears and claims at Fordham on October 23, 2013. Hear from Jason Zimba on math myths, Tim Shanahan on the texts that teachers may assign, and a panel of practicing K--12 educators for an early look at Common Core implementation in their states and districts.
Common Core math myths: A conversation with Jason Zimba
Are teachers assigning Common Core aligned texts? A conversation with Tim Shanahan
An early look at Common Core implementation: A panel discussion
Moderated by Michael Petrilli