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The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to announce its decision in the biggest affirmative-action case in years: Fisher v. University of Texas. Before it does, let's consider two important findings about the real world of higher education.

Fisher v. University of Texas
The Supreme Court is set to decide in the biggest affirmative-action case in years.
Photo by Scott* on Flickr

The most recent one is a Brookings Institution study published this month showing that several long-standing federal programs intended to prepare low-income students for college don’t work. These programs send funds to colleges and universities, which run summer schools, counseling programs, and other initiatives to help disadvantaged high schoolers get ready for college. Despite the billion-dollar-a-year investment, they make no apparent difference.

The other finding was in the blockbuster research by Stanford's Caroline Hoxby and Harvard's Christopher Avery released in December. The study identified tens of thousands of qualified low-income students, 30 percent of them racial minorities, who aren’t even applying to elite...

The Academic and the Wonk

Can wonky Mike and data-loving Dara come to an agreement on Texas’s education reforms, Illinois’s rebuff of online learning, and a moratorium on Common Core–related stakes? Amber joins the number-cruncher brigade with a study on the effect of career and technical education on math achievement.

Amber's Research Minute

Balancing Career and Technicial Education with Academic Coursework: The Consequences for Mathematics Achievement in High School,” by Robert Bozick and Benjamin Dalton, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

In 1958, over 18,000 U.K. infants (including nearly 1,000 immigrants) joined the National Child Development Study—a longitudinal, population-representative survey. For this study, researchers tracked these youngsters through to age forty-two to determine whether childhood reading and math skills (at age seven) predicted adult socioeconomic success. The initial finding is a nothingburger: “Mathematics and reading ability both had substantial positive associations with adult [socioeconomic status].” But look a little closer! The correlations between adult SES and childhood reading and math know-how were greater than those between adult SES and one’s economic status at birth or one’s intelligence (as measured at age eleven). The methods are weedy but the message is clear and hopeful—socioeconomic status in childhood plays a role in students’ future level of success. But school-based knowledge matters more.

SOURCE: Stuart J. Ritchie and Timothy C. Bates, “Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status,” Psychological Science 24(5): (May 2013).

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

In the early 2000s, I knew Nelson Smith in passing. I would see him at meetings occasionally—he was the friendly, scholarly guy who seemed to just know a whole lot about all things education reform. Soon I would be fortunate enough to get to know him much better.

Tim Daly TNTP
Nelson Smith, charter school guru, as Gen. Lew Wallace in the Andersonville Trial, American Century Theater

I was part of a team turning the Charter School Leadership Council into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nelson was selected as the first President/CEO, and I worked for him for the next three years. Turned out he had experience as a charter school authorizer, at New American Schools, at the U.S. Department of Education, and much more. Oh, and he did know a whole lot about all things education reform.

But he was also just a great person to work with. We had fun building an organization...

Mike the Squish

Is Mike going soft on accountability? Are private schools doomed? And why on earth is anyone still majoring in journalism? We ask, you decide.

Amber's Research Minute

Voice of the Graduate by McKinsey & Company, May 2013

This article originally appeared on Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, where Mike Petrilli will be debating Deborah Meier through mid-June.

Confusion never stops 
Closing walls and ticking clocks 
Gonna come back and take you home 
I could not stop that you now know

Come out upon my seas 
Cursed missed opportunities 
Am I a part of the cure? 
Or am I part of the disease?

-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002

Folks on both sides: Are you part of the cure or the disease?
Is everything for which reformers fight actually making things worse?
Photo by ToniVC

Dear Deborah,

I am haunted by the title of your last post: “The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap.”

Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I...

Private education as we have known it is on its way out, at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. At the very least, it's headed for dramatic shrinkage, save for a handful of places and circumstances, to be replaced by a very different set of institutional, governance, financing, and education-delivery mechanisms.

The end of private education
Private education as we have known it is on its way out.
Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

Consider today's realities. Private K–12 enrollments are shrinking—by almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2010. Catholic schools are closing right and left. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for example, announced in January that forty-four of its 156 elementary schools will cease operations next month. (A few later won reprieves.) In addition, many independent schools (day schools and especially boarding schools) are having trouble filling their seats—at least, filling them with their customary clientele of tuition-paying American students. Traditional nonprofit private colleges are also challenged to fill their classroom seats and dorms, a...

Voice of the GraduateMcKinsey’s survey of 4,900 recent graduates of two- and four-year colleges is the latest contribution to a literature of dismal news on our nation’s latest crop of young professionals. These are the top five findings: First, nearly half of all graduates from four-year colleges said that they were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree; graduates with STEM majors, however, were more likely to report the opposite. Second, a little over a third of alums of both two- and four-year colleges had regrets, reporting that they would choose a different major if they could do it all over again. What’s more, students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the most likely to wish they’d majored in something else, while health majors were the least likely. Third, university quality didn’t seem to matter much: Forty-one percent of graduates from U.S. News’s top 100 universities responded that they were not employed in the field they had hoped to enter, while 48 percent of students from other institutions conveyed the...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Our first guest on By the Company It Keeps is Tim Daly, President of TNTP. I’m a huge fan of Tim and his organization. In addition to being a highly talented and endlessly affable guy, he’s helped lead TNTP into rarified air. It is as influential on policy and practice as any education-reform organization around.

Tim Daly TNTP

Tim was a guiding force behind the seminal publication The Widget Effect and played a major role in the production of other top-flight TNTP reports like The Irreplaceables and Leap Year.

Earlier in his career he was a TFA corps member (having taught in Baltimore) and helped establish and expand the New York City Teaching Fellows program. With TNTP CEO Ariela Rozman (another total star), he received the 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.

If future interviews turn out half as well as Tim’s, I’ll be thrilled. We learn a great deal, and the subject’s smarts, curiosity, and humility shine through....

Audit this, baby!

While discussing UFT pandering, Algebra 2 mandates, and Common Core consortia, Mike and Andy try very, very hard not to say the two magic words that rain down the wrath of the IRS (hint: they begin with T and P). Amber sorts through teacher sorting—but can she really do it in under a minute? Listen to find out!

Amber's Research Minute

Systematic Sorting: Teacher Characteristics and Class Assignments,” by Demetra Kalogrides, Susanna Loeb, and Tara Béteille, Sociology of Education 86(2): 103–123 (2013)

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