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The Modern Science Edition

Mike and Dara tear themselves away from round-the-clock royal baby coverage to bring you commentary on ESEA renewal, the cost of PARCC’s tests, and special-education vouchers. Amber throws down OECD statistics.

Amber's Research Minute

Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, (OECD Publishing, 2013)

Paternalism has been a hallmark of Progressive reform movements for over one hundred years, and today’s school-reform movement is no different. Whether it’s Temperance and Prohibition or the effort to shutter popular but ineffective public schools, the principle is the same: Members of an “enlightened elite” believe that they must act to create and enforce rules that will be good for the huddled masses.

Petty Little Dictator Disorder
Finding the line between paternalism and Petty Little Dictator Disorder.

I say that as someone who often finds himself in favor of paternalistic policies. (Jay Greene would accuse me of having Petty Little Dictator Disorder.) I look upon the reign of Mayor Bloomberg, for instance, with considerable respect. I find it hard to argue with his public-health initiatives; Gotham, in my view, is clearly better off now that bars and restaurants are smoke free and donuts don’t contain trans-fats. Let them eat cake—but only if it doesn’t kill them!

I’ve been particularly taken, though, with the Bloomberg-Giuliani...

Few can deny that Washington and many a state capital are gridlocked today by political partisanship, posturing, and peevishness. Tons of problems aren’t getting solved or attended to because elected officials find themselves unable to reach common ground and have forgotten the art of compromise.

Congress
Washington and many a state capital are gridlocked today by political partisanship, posturing, and peevishness.
Photo by VinothChandar

The highest-visibility version of this takes the form of Republicans and Democrats glaring at each other. Sometimes, however, the main friction is within a party, mostly when strong-willed ideologues on either party’s fringe make trouble for its centrists. All this is exacerbated by the twenty-four-hour news cycle, by everybody’s ability to tweet or blog or otherwise scream in unfiltered fashion what’s on their mind, and by recent redistrictings of legislative and Congressional seats, as well as the proclivity of Americans nowadays to move into politically homogeneous communities. When either party locks up a district or Senate seat,...

The OECD has released its annual grab bag of international data from thirty-plus developed countries, overflowing with interesting factoids about participation in education, spending, class size, and more. To dive right in: 1) About 70 percent of all OECD students who enter post-secondary education graduate; in Japan, that number is about 90 percent, while Hungary and the U.S. flounder at 52 percent. 2) Between 2009 and 2010, public expenditures on educational institutions fell in one-third of OECD countries (surprise, surprise), including the U.S., Italy, Estonia, and Iceland. 3) Between 2000 and 2011, teacher salaries rose in almost all OECD countries (France and Japan were the exceptions), and then fell between 2009 and 2011. 4) Across all OECD countries, the average age at which mothers have their first child rose from twenty-four in 1970 to twenty-eight in 2009 (though the Duchess of Cambridge is skewing the numbers at age thirty-one). 5) Together, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. receive over half of all foreign students. 6) On average, OECD countries employ one teacher for every fourteen students in upper-secondary school (Portugal has the richest ratio, one teacher for every eight students, while Mexico breaks the scales...

At first blush, this AFT-commissioned survey (which was conducted by Hart Research Associates and determined that parents disapprove of current education-reform initiatives) is a head-scratcher. It “finds,” for example, that just 24 percent of parents support school choice—dramatically fewer than other recent polls report. The latest Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll, conducted in August 2012, found that 66 percent of Americans supported charters and 44 percent are warm to private school choice. And the 2012 PEPG/Education Next survey concurred: Sixty-two percent of Americans favor charter schools. So why the disconnect? Could that much have changed in a year? Unlikely. Instead, it’s more a question of semantics. The AFT’s poll asks parents to choose between “good public schools” that offer “safe conditions” and an “enriching curriculum” and private schools paid for “at the public expense.” The former—naturally—won the day. Other AFT questions are riddled with the same problem (see Terry Moe’s excellent book for more on how question framing pre-determines answers). Readers who want a more accurate overview of how Americans feel about school choice, education reform, and the K–12 system writ large: peruse the two surveys linked above or our own look at schools’ belt-tightening strategies from...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

It’s hard for me to overstate my level of respect for Howard Fuller. Early in my career, Howard was more legend than real person—someone I read and heard about. In Milwaukee, he was held in such esteem, longstanding rules were changed so he could become superintendent of schools. In that position he showed extraordinary compassion for disadvantaged families and enormous political courage by publicly supporting the city’s first-in-the-nation voucher program. After leaving that post, his dedicated himself to expanding the educational options available to low-income kids.

Howard Fuller

I got to know him in 2003. I was working for a coalition of organizations that supported charter schools, the Charter School Leadership Council, and I was housed in the offices of the Black Alliance for Education Options, which he chaired. On numerous memorable occasions I got to see firsthand his fervent but eloquent support for choice in schooling that made him famous. He was truly inspirational.

But I soon got to see...

The View Edition

Tanned and refreshed, Mike’s back in the saddle, this time joined by Fordham media relations and outreach manager Michelle Gininger to talk Common Core tests, Wisconsin’s Act 10, and school accountability in the Sunshine State. Amber digs into the statistics on child well-being.

Amber's Research Minute

America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 2013).

StudentsFirst has made a thoughtful contribution to the burgeoning literature on school governance with its new policy brief Change the Leadership, Change the Rules: Improving Schools and Districts through Mayoral and State Governance. In it, the group argues that school boards have been largely ineffective in urban areas and examines two main alternatives: mayoral control and state control—the latter preferably via the “recovery district” model. It’s a short and snappy synopsis.

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project has produced another worthy read: Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Education is organized around three theses: inequality is on the rise against a backdrop of low social mobility; the U.S. is experiencing a growing divide in educational investments and outcomes based on family income; and education and smart interventions can help—such as those outlined in Caroline Hoxby’s Expanding College Opportunities project and Ben Castleman’s Summer Melt study. While the facts themselves are not new, the report offers an accessible and logical assemblage. Dig in!

On Monday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder chose finance expert Jack Martin to succeed Roy Roberts as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Martin enters the ring with...

This dense yet eminently Tweetable report offers factoid after factoid to describe the state of child welfare in America—and, by default, the challenges facing education reformers and others. The compendium pulls from twenty-plus federal sources and highlights seven categories of child welfare, including education; health; economic circumstance; and family, social, and physical environments. In 2012, for example, 64 percent of children ages zero to seventeen lived with both parents. (Just 4 percent lived solely with their fathers—the same proportion as lived with no parents at all.) Two percent of eighth graders—and 9 percent of twelfth graders—reported smoking a cigarette daily. And 8 percent of youth from sixteen to nineteen are neither enrolled in school nor working. While the report is a belt-notch above 200 pages, the education section is digestible—if not groundbreaking: The authors report that reading to young children positively affects school success (happily, 83 percent of those ages three through five who weren’t yet enrolled in preschool were read to in the home at least three times per week). Hispanics continue to make strong gains in reading and math. But NAEP reading scores in general have improved little—save at the eighth-grade level. While not new, these are still notable...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Ethan Gray is the executive director of one of my very favorite organizations. CEE-Trust, an initiative of the extraordinary The Mind Trust, convenes and collaborates with reform-minded, city-based education groups, like foundations and advocacy organizations. The goal is to bring about transformational education change in America’s major urban areas.

Ethan Gray CEE-Trust

CEE-Trust’s explicit focus on cities is noteworthy; rather than focusing on state or federal policy—or even the district’s activities—it seeks to generate and support fundamental reform via an array of metropolitan leaders and a cross-sector approach. Its members are some of the most important and exciting groups in the business.

But CEE-Trust has been successful to date and holds such promise largely because of Ethan. He’s as sharp as they come, highly collegial, and remarkably entrepreneurial. Recognizing his great, budding talents, my colleagues Sara Mead and Andy Rotherham scooped him up early, and he’s been excelling ever since (see Sara’s recent...

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