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Community stakeholders in Cincinnati – including philanthropy, education, and more – have formed a coalition whose goal is to transform education outcomes for students in the Queen City by creating an ecosystem of high-performing schools accessible to all children.

The nascent non-profit organization is called The Cincinnati Schools Accelerator, and they are looking for a dynamic leader who believes in the mission of attracting and growing proven school models – regardless of type – and building the talent pipeline needed to fuel a local system of high-performing schools. 

To learn more about the Cincinnati Schools Accelerator organization and to apply for the CEO position, click here. Application deadline is March 25, 2015.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference for families in Cincinnati and Ohio Gadfly applauds the efforts.

For advocates of evidence-based urban education policy, a recent New York Times profile of New York City Schools’ Chancellor Carmen Fariña should offer serious cause for concern. That Fariña has worked to dismantle several of the promising Bloomberg-era education reforms is not the main offending issue. (The former is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected from the current administration.) As Robert Pondiscio has previously pointed out in this space, far more worrisome is Fariña’s apparent view of the proper role of research in education policy—one seemingly rooted in the bad old days when high-quality empirical research was dismissed or ignored.

Chancellor Fariña plainly nurtures none of the previous administration’s fondness for data, preferring a more “holistic” approach. Nor, for that matter, does she even require test scores to know which schools are performing well. The chancellor, perhaps with Spidey-sense, knows a good school when she sees it.

To be fair, I’m open to the claim that perhaps some of the Bloomberg reforms were too technocratic. And no one could have reasonably expected Chancellor Fariña to be an empirical data junkie. But her recent statements reveal a remarkable disdain for science’s role in formulating education policy. The following New York Times passage...

Not much education news out there today. And what there is appears to be an extended “more dollars”/“lower percentage” argument about school funding proposals between Democratic legislators and staffers working for the Republican governor. There is a chart and a graph.  Enjoy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
 

RESEARCH BITES: LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS AND SCIENCE

The chart below shows the 2013-14 proficiency rates for low-income African American students in Ohio. The achievement gap between low-income African American students and white students is most pronounced in science (45 percentage point gap) when compared to math (33 points) and reading (21 points). The data shown on this chart should give us reason to consider how we can dramatically improve the scientific knowledge of low-income African American students. (Worth noting is that the highest-wage jobs today are for college graduates in engineering and technological majors.) There are some instances of science and industry helping low-income, predominately minority schools (see here and here). More investments like these need to be made.

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  1. In case you missed it on Twitter, Chad testified in favor of HB2 in front of the House Education Committee yesterday, along with several other witnesses. You can find thorough coverage from Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch. Some good questions from legislators on the important subject of charter law reform. They are clearly engaged on the issue. Chad’s full written testimony is here, if you’re so inclined.
     
  2. We haven’t been talking too much about Common Core lately. To redress that imbalance, here is an interesting and detailed look at how teachers in high-flying Hudson Schools have implemented the standards. Probably a text-book example of the fact that no matter how “common” the standards might be, the implementation – and the implications for student success – is as local as the four walls of every individual classroom. (Hudson Hub Times)
     
  3. One of the reasons why the standards themselves have not been in the news as much lately is that much of the media focus has been on testing – the first statewide test-drive of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments is upon us. In the piece from Hudson above, teachers lament the long lag time in
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  • A recent cover story in the Economist called the highly educated “America’s new aristocracy.” Basically, education (and the greater earnings with which it is correlated) has become increasingly heritable. Educated, clever people tend to marry other such people and raise their kids to emulate that model. This is all well and good for those people, but it’s widening the income gap and leaving behind children born into educationally (and financially) impoverished homes. So what’s to be done? The article has some suggestions, such as early intervention. We have a bunch of ideas of our own. To be sure, it’s a very complicated problem with myriad causes. Nevertheless, it’s a nut we need to crack.
  • In a time of broad national attacks on testing, the George W. Bush Institute has published an important essay that shows how much achievement has increased in the age of NCLB testing. Beginning around the turn on the century, the federal government began tying annual tests to school accountability, complete with sanctions for inadequate performance. Since that time, significant achievement gains have been made in math and reading, especially among minority children at age nine; scores for white students in 2008 were
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Rural school districts are the oft-ignored middle child of our nation’s public schools, consistently snubbed in favor of their urban and suburban siblings. Through a survey of rural superintendents, this report by the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho One sheds much-needed light on the most pressing issues rural educators face—primarily rooted in educators’ struggle to deliver effective, cost-efficient education to students who live in isolated communities. Small rural districts are underfunded. Science, English, and foreign language instructors are in short supply because rural districts lack the incentives to attract them, causing faculty to teach classes that exceed their qualifications. The report’s most interesting recommendation is to increase rural technological connectivity through the implementation of blended learning, a hybrid teaching method that combines digital learning with traditional classroom instruction. This reduces the need for a large, specialized instructional staff by providing live video lectures from teachers elsewhere. Such an initiative would improve the quality of rural education and save districts money. Yet as promising as this all sounds, funding is also an issue here—a concern that the report could have addressed in further detail. Implementing successful blended curricula will require massive up-front injections of capital for things like new tech...

Citing insurmountable data challenges, the authors of Great Schools’ most recent evaluation of the School Improvement Grant Program argue that policymakers are left “without a clear and unambiguous picture of whether this major investment in turning around the nation’s lowest-performing schools worked as intended.” The view may be opaque, but what we can see isn’t pretty.

According to the report, between the 2009–2010 and 2012–2013 school years, SIG grantees at the elementary and middle school levels saw a cumulative increase in proficiency of only a few percentage points in most grades and subjects relative to comparison groups—a disappointing result, considering some schools saw funding increases of as much as 58 percent per student under the program. And while SIG’s restart and closure models were used so infrequently that little can be said about their effectiveness, the report indicates that there were no statistically significant differences between the rates of improvement at transformation and turnaround schools, a finding that suggests that it doesn’t much matter which one-size-fits-all improvement models the federal government prescribes—implementation is what counts.

Unfortunately, SIG’s implementation was deeply troubled, as the authors of the report document through approximately fifty interviews with superintendents, program directors, principals, and teachers....

For those who march to the drumbeat of “college for all,” an updated report from the William T. Grant Foundation ought to give pause. Back in 1988, the “forgotten half” were American youth who didn’t attend college and “were struggling in ‘the passage to adulthood.’” Released in near-tandem with the president’s free-community-college plan, this report depicts an honest view of community college, from “notoriously low completion rates” (a mere 20 percent of those who attend community college attain a bachelor’s degree within eight years of graduating high school, and almost half earn no credential at all) to calling remedial education “a vague euphemism that doesn’t help students understand their situation, make informed choices, or learn about alternative programs.” The forgotten half of today are “youth who do not complete college and find themselves shut out of good jobs in the era of college for all.” While past generations with “some college” enjoyed increased earnings, a changing economy means that’s no longer true. “The most alarming finding is that many youth who took society’s advice to attend college, sacrificing time and often incurring debts, have nothing to show for their efforts in terms of credentials, employment, or earnings,” note the authors....

  1. Editors in Cleveland have changed their tune a bit after living with the governor’s K-12 budget proposals for a week. They opine that the new formula still “makes some sense” as they understand it, but say that help for poorer districts “should not come at the expense of often struggling suburban districts that are just climbing out of the Great Recession.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Editors in Toledo are opining from the same hymnal as those in Cleveland re: the governor’s proposed funding formula changes. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Elyria Schools’ superintendent has spoken up in support of his “rock star” teacher, who as we told you yesterday is leaving teaching, citing standardized testing and Common Core as the reason. Paul Rigda says, “When you have great teachers, hard-working teachers, nationally board-certified teachers questioning the legitimacy of these tests, then there may be some problems.” He goes on to cite the state supe’s recent report on testing as a good place to start the high level conversations that he says need to happen. (NorthCoast Now)
     
  4. In blink-and-you-missed-it action, the House Education Committee yesterday recommended the “PARCC test safe harbor” HB 7 to the full House. There
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BOOK 'EM
Politico’s extensive investigation of publishing giant Pearson has unearthed the company’s questionable money-making practices at the expense of American students and taxpayers. For years, lax accountability measures have allowed Pearson to rake in the profits even when its programs and products failed. Schools and state legislatures are realizing the need to more closely scrutinize textbook companies before handing over their multi-million dollar reform dreams.

ALPHABET SOUP
Elsewhere in Pearson news, the Wall Street Journal chronicles the slow decline of the GED. Working in partnership with the nonprofit that administers the test, Pearson has dropped a huge sum developing a new, more complex assessment geared to today’s students and standards. But, as Fordham’s Chester Finn has argued, high school graduation exams shouldn't be set at the college-ready level. And neither should the GED. Not everyone who graduates from high school will—or should—go on to college.

GOOD CITIZENS
Indifferent social-studies pupils, beware! Utah may soon join its neighboring state of Arizona in requiring students to pass a citizenship test before graduating high school. Students would need to correctly pass seventy out of one hundred questions, a more difficult task than the six...

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