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British author and director of research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, Gabriel Sahlgren brings us back to Economics 101 with the contention that there is one root cause of all problems afflicting education today: a lack of proper incentives for quality. He argues that the strongest system would be built on a functioning, choice-heavy education market. From there, his argument proceeds rationally: Readers are treated to a thorough explanation underpinning school choice as it relates to competition and quality. Sahlgren evaluates an impressive body of research, covering studies that are cross national (such as Hensvik’s 2012 finding that school competition eventually leads better-qualified individuals to become teachers), large scale, and small scale. And he uses all of this to arrive at his ideal education market, which includes, among other things, vouchers, closures of failing schools, for-profit schools, and better information and accountability systems. From 10,000 feet, much of this seems like old news. But as one parachutes into the grass below, Sahlgren proves himself to be a refreshingly realistic proponent of market-based education reform. He acknowledges the meager gains that many choice programs have produced (which he attributes to programs borne of political compromise and ideology) and...

The exchanges stemming from Mike Petrilli's recent op-ed and concerns about school-grading systems appear to reflect some confusion about poverty, performance, proficiency, and growth.  Much of the prevailing discourse seems more focused on finding someone (or something) to blame rather than marshaling a consensus for change.

The inconvenient truth I describe below is that when we benchmark academic growth rates, the best velocity is often not adequate to catch kids up to college and career readiness within a reasonable time. It is why next-generation delivery models that fundamentally change the use of time are so important and why getting kids off to a better start is essential. It is also why next-generation accountability systems that use multiple measures to create a balanced body of fair and useful evidence are needed.

Poverty and Proficiency

First, let me be clear: Poverty matters. It impacts children’s starting point in terms of early learning. This is why proficiency is correlated with poverty. Proficiency is a performance standard; it is a destination, a mile marker of attainment in the context of a content standard. It is one of several important indicators of "performance" and it is a lagging indicator. It does not imply academic effectiveness. Policy makers and pundits do a disservice...

We don’t need Elon Musk to get you across the ed-reform world in 30 minutes or less

Mike welcomes Rick Hess back to the show by threatening to shoot him through a tube from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They chat proficiency rates, whether the Common Core is Jeb Bush’s RomneyCare, and Philly’s school-budget woes. Amber approaches non-cognitive ability in a creative new way.

Amber's Research Minute

Don’t Know? Or Don’t Care? Predicting Educational Attainment Using Survey Item Response Rates and Coding Speed Tests as Measures of Conscientiousness by Colin Hitt and Julie R. Trivitt, EDRE Working Paper No. 2013-05 (August 2013)

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...

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