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It is one of the more remarkable press releases you’ll see.

It’s from the Department. And it's about SIG.

First, the background.

At SIG’s onset, I went on the record predicting it would end as a monumental, possibly historic, waste of precious resources—investing billions of dollars in dysfunctional schools embedded in dysfunctional districts against the clear lessons of decades of research and experience. SIG was surely the morbid apotheosis of the turnaround craze.

So, of course, I’ve been yearning for real data showing how the program is doing. But I’m not the only one. Many others, far less rabid than I, have been pestering the Department for SIG student achievement data.

Late last year, the Department famously partook in the fine Beltway tradition of “Friday-night trash-dumping,” releasing a smidge of really bad news about SIG’s progress on the Friday before Thanksgiving Week. It showed that about 40 percent of participating schools had actually gotten worse. As for the rest, we were told nebulously that they made either “single-digit” or “double-digit” gains.

No school level results; just aggregate numbers in the form of a bar chart.

And old numbers at that!...

Big Ideas Edition

With Mike beaching it in an undisclosed location, Dara and Daniela take on some big topics: If affirmative action were to end, how could colleges maintain diversity? Do teachers need convincing to use technology? All things considered, is college worth it? Amber charts a course to charter quality.

Amber's Research Minute

National Charter School Study 2013,” by Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Stanford, CA: Center for Research on Education Outcomes, June 2013).

A week catching up on education challenges and reforms in England made clear that the U.S. and its “mother country” continue to track—and copy and study and refine—each other’s programs and policies, much as they have done at least since Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s education teams realized how much they had in common. But the differences remain profound, too.

Similarities and differences between UK and US education reform
The U.S. and the U.K. continue to track, copy, study, and refine each other's programs and policies. But the differences remain profound, too.

Let’s start with nine notable similarities.

1. Both nations are engaged in major pushes to overhaul their standards, assessment, and accountability systems. Mediocre PISA and TIMSS results plus persistent domestic achievement gaps have caught the eyes of policymakers and education leaders on both sides of the pond, as it’s become clear that yesterday’s so-so expectations just aren’t good enough and that today’s testing-and-accountability regimes do not produce nearly enough world-class, college-ready graduates....

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due...

The more things change, the more they stay the same—at least for seventeen-year-old achievement. According to the latest Long-Term Trend (LTT) NAEP report (released today), scores for youngsters in this age group have scarcely budged since the test was first administered in the 1970s. (Recall that the LTT report differs from the “main NAEP”: The former, given every four years, utilizes a similar battery of questions to test reading and math so that results are comparable longitudinally; the latter determines proficiency across a host of subjects, employing periodically updated frameworks and exams, hence with little potential for long-term tracking.) But there’s growth among younger pupils: Average scores for nine and thirteen year olds rose since the 1970s in both reading and math, sometimes substantially—from an eight-point gain (on a 500-point scale) for thirteen-year-old reading scores to a whopping twenty-five point gain for nine-year-old math scores. And most race- and gender-based achievement gaps narrowed—in some cases dramatically. The white-black reading gap at age nine, for example, decreased by twenty-one points; the seventeen-year-old white-Hispanic math gap shrank by thirteen points; and the female-male nine-year-old reading gap lowered by seven points. While some satisfaction should be taken from these gains by minority...

The missed opportunity in the education of gifted students runs up and down the system, including into and beyond the college gate. Last December, Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery showed that there are far more high-achieving, low-income students than previously thought—but that these young people, unaware of their options, often do not even apply to selective colleges. Now, Hoxby and Sarah Turner report on a well-crafted intervention aimed at closing the information gap. It’s called the Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project. After sending and emailing customized informational packets (which consisted of college-specific information and application fee waivers, alongside guidance on how to apply to selective colleges, on the net cost of college, and on colleges’ varying graduation rates—all at $6 a pop) to high-achieving seniors (10,000 of them in 2010–11, with a control group of 2,500, and 15,000 in 2011–12, with a control group of 3,000), the authors saw positive results: Compared to the control group, recipient students were 20 percent more likely to apply to public and private schools with similarly high-achieving students. And in this Hamilton Project paper, the authors outline ways to bring this initiative to scale: First, in order to scale up the number of...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Marc Porter Magee came to public fame as COO of arguably the most successful state-based education-reform advocacy organization of recent times, ConnCAN. Thanks to Marc’s leadership of its research and communications operations, that group was able to cause a major ruckus in an edu-complacent state with a huge achievement gap. Not only did Connecticut start talking differently about reform, it ultimately changed a number of its policies in big ways.

Marc Porter Magee 50CAN

Marc soon had the brilliant idea of trying to scale ConnCAN’s success using the same mindset as the leaders of the first highly successful charter schools: We have one great entity, so let’s see if we can replicate its model to reach an even larger audience. The result was 50CAN, a nonprofit research-and-advocacy organization with a growing number of highly effective state affiliates modeled on ConnCAN.

Marc serves as 50CAN’s founder and president. Strike up a conversation with him and you’ll quickly see how he’s...

In which Terry celebrates cheating (sort of)

Terry livens up the airwaves, bantering with Mike about NCTQ’s blockbuster report, the Blaine Amendment, and Philly’s budget woes. Amber waltzes through the dance of the lemons.

Amber's Research Minute

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency,” by Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel Nakashima, NBER Working Paper No. 19108 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2013).

The following is Mike’s final entry in Deborah Meier’s Bridging Differences blog—for now.

How poverty is like global warming
Poverty is a lot like global warming.

Dear Deborah,

It's been a real joy to join you in dialogue these past six weeks. I very much appreciate the opportunity and hope we can continue the discussion in other forums in the months ahead. (Well, maybe after the summer break!)

Let me use my last correspondence to introduce one new idea and summarize some of the others we've explored—to determine just how far we've come in bridging our differences.

The new idea is this: Poverty is a lot like global warming.

As a Whole Foods Republican, I acknowledge that global warming is real, that it's a major threat, and that it's caused (at least in part) by human activity. Here the science is overwhelming.

But unlike most progressives, I'm not yet convinced that we know how to stop it. Will curtailing...

There are a number of laudable statistics found in this year’s Diplomas Count: At 75 percent, the U.S. graduation rate in 2010 hit its highest point since 1973—the most recent year for which data are available—marking an 8 percentage point boost from ten years earlier. Further, Hispanics boasted a 16 percentage-point rate improvement; African Americans, a 13 percentage-point bump, which halved the white-Hispanic graduation-rate gap and cut the white–African American gap by 30 percent during that same time period. Yet this year’s report focuses on a depressing corollary point: We’re failing our youth who have already dropped out. Currently, 1.8 million young adults, or 6.5 percent of those aged sixteen to twenty-one, are neither enrolled in school nor have they received their diploma. And we have no comprehensive public-policy strategy to bring these youth back to school or get them college- or career-ready. Still, the report profiles a handful of dropout-recovery programs—run by districts, CMOs, or nonprofits—that are working to reengage would-be students. It’s tough stuff: One Boston-based nonprofit brought 501 of the 867 students it contacted back to the classroom in 2011–12, for example. Among them, fewer than 100 graduated at the end of the...

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