Curriculum & Instruction

My friend Jay Mathews, the Washington Post’s longtime education reporter and columnist, has a spectacular history of identifying and profiling great teachers, including but not limited to Jaime Escalante, David Levin, Mike Feinberg, and Rafe Esquith. He is right to find and laud them. His latest tribute to Esquith and Esquith’s newest book, however, turns into another Common Core slam—and another example of idiotic professional development (inflicted, apparently, by some “presenter” on teachers during a “training” at Esquith’s school in Los Angeles). Ugh. Yuck. Sorry about that.

Praise the exception, but remember the rule
Without good policy, we end up with a series of workarounds intended to make a sluggish horse run faster.
Photo by Eduardo Amorim

But there’s an enormous underlying problem that Mathews understands full well, though he doesn’t mention it in this particular column: If American K–12 education contained three million Esquiths and Escalantes, we wouldn’t need Common Core or NCLB or KIPP or choice or value-added teacher evaluations or anything else. But it doesn’t. And it isn’t going to anytime soon. (For starters, as the NCTQ recently documented, even those with promise have miserable preparation programs inflicted upon them.) So we end up with a series of workarounds, must-dos, and compensatory arrangements intended to...

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High school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation: Of all youngsters in the land, it’s no secret that low-income and minority students have the longest odds of achieving this educational trifecta. One intervention geared toward evening those odds is the creation of Early College (EC) High Schools—academically rigorous schools that, in partnership with colleges, offer college-credit-bearing courses. There are presently 240 such schools in the U.S. (ten of them in Fordham’s home state of Ohio, and one of these in our home town of Dayton), primarily serving low-income and minority youths. But how well do they work? According to this study by the American Institutes for Research and SRI International, they’re doing quite well indeed. The authors exploit the lottery-based admissions of ten ECs to estimate their impact on high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation for three cohorts of ninth-graders (who enrolled in years 2005, 2006 and 2007). The study finds that 77 percent of students admitted into an EC had enrolled in college itself one year after high school, whereas 67 percent of non-EC students had done so. Moreover, 22 percent of EC students went on to earn a two- or four-year degree, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students—and 20 percent of EC students earned that degree by the time they graduated high school, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students. For low-income and minority youngsters, the schools’ impact was even greater: Minority EC students were twenty-nine times more likely...

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By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

I’ve known Kathleen Porter-Magee for a decade now. We’re both branches in the Checker-Finn ed-reformer-development tree. She was a young researcher for Fordham, and I was helping start the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (in which Checker was intimately involved). In the years since, I’ve had the wonderful fortune to work with Kathleen in a number of capacities and to see her evolve from a huge natural talent to one of the most important actors and commentators in our field.

Kathleen Porter Magee Thomas B Fordham Institute

For anyone who cares about Common Core, Kathleen’s blog Common Core Watch is absolutely a must-read. No one has been more thoughtful or prolific on the standards themselves and their implementation. When I’m about to write something about CCSS or the testing consortia, I go to KPM first. When the US Department of Education was putting together a technical review panel for the testing consortia, they too turned to KPM.

In hindsight, the last decade-plus has perfectly prepared Kathleen for this moment. She’s been a teacher and has led curriculum and PD for one of the nation’s finest CMOs and the schools of a large Catholic diocese. She’s also done wide-ranging research and writing on standards and much else.

But she’s...

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There are scads of misinformation being tossed about when it comes to the Common Core Academic Standards. There is so much that is being said and claimed that it is hard to know exactly where best to start the rebuttals. But one “tagline” being distributed widely by the anti-Common Core crowd in Ohio is especially galling because it is factually so wrong, yet pithy enough that critics share it widely anyway.

Ohioans Against the Common Core has been sending out emails with the following phrase in bold: “If Common Core was really about ‘the best standards,’ why did they adopt them before they were even written.”

Not sure who the “they” are being referred to in the tagline, but here is the timeline for the Common Core in Ohio.

Common Core draft K-12 standards were released in March 2010. Nearly 10,000 people and organizations responded to the draft standards. The final revised standards were released for mathematics and English language arts on June 2, 2010, with a majority of states adopting the standards in the subsequent months. The Ohio state board of education officially adopted the standards on June 18, 2010.

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Paul Bruno

Most people agree that a well-rounded science education must provide students with both content knowledge and facility with the practices of scientific inquiry. That is why both facts and skills should be clearly represented in the science standards adopted by states.

As the Fordham Institute demonstrated in its evaluation of the final draft of the Next Generation Science Standards, however, by giving “undue prominence” to scientific skills and practices, the NGSS ultimately underemphasize content knowledge. As a result, the NGSS are an inadequate guide for science teachers—like me—who need to know what is expected of our students and us.

What form, then, should practices take in science standards? There may be numerous ways of integrating practices into standards documents, but as a science teacher I appreciate in them at least two qualities.

First, clearly and specifically articulate the practices in which students should be able to engage.

This may seem obvious, but even the skills-heavy NGSS often fall short in this regard.

For example, the NGSS’s middle school “waves and electromagnetic radiation” standards require that students “[d]evelop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.” This does sound vaguely scientific, but since it is unclear what would make an adequate model—or even what is meant by “model” —this provides little practical guidance for teachers.

In contrast, consider California’s “Investigation and Experimentation” standards for sixth graders, which demand that students “[c]onstruct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the...

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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).

“When the law is on your side,” the saying goes, “argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table.”

Sandra Stotsky pounds the table
The Pioneer Institute is at it again. 

Writing for the Pioneer Institute’s blog, University of Arkansas professor Sandy Stotsky does a lot of table pounding in her latest post, subtly titled, “Why Do They Lie? And Why Do Others Believe Them?

The post is aimed at exposing Common Core supporters to be the charlatans she believes we are. Unfortunately, Stotsky’s piece is itself so riddled with misinformation and falsehoods that it ends up more effectively proving that her case against the Common Core is, at its core, substantively weak.

In between the name calling and cheap shots, Stotsky advances an argument that rests on three weak claims: 1) The Common Core are not internationally benchmarked, 2) they are really about curriculum and not about standards, and 3) the standards themselves aren’t rigorous.

First, Stotsky insists that the Common Core were not internationally benchmarked. Never mind that Fordham’s comprehensive study found that the CCSS math and ELA were a strong match to the best international assessments, including NAEP, TIMSS, PISA, and PIRLS. Or research conducted...

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GadflyNew York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”

The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s. (Blaine Amendments still exist in thirty-six other states.) Judge Lewis’s ruling marks the first time a tax-credit-scholarship program has been struck down on these grounds. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that tax-credit-scholarship money never reaches the state treasury and thus cannot be considered public. An appeal in the...

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Teacher Prep ReviewEight years ago, Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” was Billboard’s top song, Pluto was still a planet, and the National Council on Teacher Quality began work on its comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s 2,400 educator-preparation programs housed in 1,130 higher-education institutions. This Tuesday marked the culmination of that gargantuan effort (a partnership with U.S. News and World Report). Of the secondary programs evaluated at more than 600 higher-education institutions, just four—Ohio State, Lipscomb, Furhman, and Vanderbilt—received top honors (four stars); zero elementary programs earned the same accolades. Across both levels, 14 percent of programs were placed on a “Consumer Alert” list for earning zero stars. Appallingly, 64 percent of California’s seventy-one elementary programs earned the lowest rating. Why? In 1970, in an overwrought effort to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge, California “all but prohibited the traditional education degree,” requiring candidates to obtain subject degrees as undergraduates and limiting their pedagogical coursework to a maximum of one year—to disastrous results. NCTQ based its rankings on eighteen criteria in four main areas: rigor of candidate selection, quality of content-area preparation, amount of professional skills the program teaches, and the impact of a program’s graduates. Along with the overall rankings, NCTQ provides detailed data on how programs fare across each of its eighteen criteria, offering page after page of sobering analyses in an attempt to bring order to the “Wild West” of teacher-preparation programs....

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Defending Common Core on the Rod Arquette Show

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli argued the conservative case for the Common Core—and debunked some common anti–Common Core myths—yesterday on the Rod Arquette Show (KNRS-Salt Lake City). Among his points:

  • Common Core is conservative. The Fordham Institute, which has been reviewing standards for fifteen years, found these standards to be more rigorous than those in three-quarters of the states—including Utah. The standards are solid, conservative, and traditional, said Mike.
  • Accountability is conservative. Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk started the modern education-reform movement—and put accountability and standards at the forefront of the conservative, Republican education platform. Today, Republicans shouldn’t be fighting these high standards; they should make the Common Core (and accountability to parents and taxpayers) a mainstay of the reform agenda.

Mike notes that there are a lot of misconceptions out there—and jumps to correct the record:

  • Common Core was created by the federal government: False. Mike explained that the Common Core was created by governors and superintendents, but he did admit that conservatives should be angry at President Obama for overstepping his role and politicizing the Common Core.
  • Common Core will have students reading technical manuals: False, once again. The Common Core promotes the reading of rigorous texts—both fiction and non-fiction—from classic American literature to our founding documents. This isn’t about manuals; it’s about preparing
  • ...
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