Curriculum & Instruction

In 2002-2003, 1 million students participated in AP by taking at least one exam. Five years later, nearly 1.6 million did—a 50+ percent increase. But is growth all good? Might there be a downside? Are ill prepared students eroding the quality of the program? Perhaps harming the best and brightest? To find out, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute commissioned the Farkas Duffett Research Group to survey AP teachers in public high schools across the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the AP program remains very popular with its teachers. But there are signs that the move toward "open door" access to AP is starting to cause concern. Read the report to learn more.

An interview with Steve Farkas, President of the Farkas Duffett Research Group.
Fordham commissioned the FDR Group to research and write this report.

As Gov. Ted Strickland concludes his 12-city "Conversation on Education" tour to gather ideas for reforming public education in Ohio, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has put forth a report of five recommendations designed to keep improvements in the Buckeye State's public schools on track toward three critical goals: 1) maximizing the talents of every child; 2) producing graduates as good as any in the world; and 3) closing the persistent academic gaps that continue between rich and poor, and black and white and brown.

The five recommendations include:

  1. Creating world-class standards and stronger accountability mechanisms. 
  2. Ensure that funding is fairly allocated among all children and schools. 
  3. Recruit the best and brightest to lead schools and empower them to succeed. 
  4. Improve teacher quality. 
  5. Expand the quality of, and access to, a range of high-performing school options.

    The report offers relevant examples of the best practices and thinking from across the nation and world as well as within the state of Ohio. These recommendations were developed on the basis of the work over the past decade of many organizations, including Achieve, McKinsey & Co., the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Center on Education and the Economy, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Ohio's State Board of Education and Department of Education. ...

    The most exciting innovation in education policy in the last decade is the emergence of highly effective schools in our nation’s inner cities, schools where disadvantaged teens make enormous gains in academic achievement. n this book, David Whitman takes readers inside six of these secondary schools—many of them charter schools—and reveals the secret to their success: They are paternalistic.

    The schools teach teens how to act according to traditional, middle-class values, set and enforce exacting academic standards, and closely supervise student behavior. But unlike paternalistic institutions of the past, these schools are warm, caring places, where teachers and principals form paternal-like bonds with students. Though little explored to date, the new paternalistic schools are the most promising means yet for closing the nation's costly and shameful achievement gap.

    For review copies, please contact John Horton.

     

    Other materials

    Education Next Book Club

    George Will writes about American Indian Public Charter School

    George Will writes about Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

    David Brooks mentions the book

    Press release

    Fordham held a book talk for "Sweating the Small Stuff" on September 3, 2008. Watch the video here.

    "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism" book talk from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

    Excerpt of David Whitman's comments...

    This publication reports the results of the first two (of five) studies of a multifaceted research investigation of the state of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.

    Part 1: An Analysis of NAEP Data, authored by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, examines achievement trends for high-achieving students (defined, like low-achieving students, by their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) since the early 1990s and, in more detail, since 2000.

    Part 2: Results from a National Teacher Survey, authored by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of Farkas Duffett Research Group, reports on teachers' own views of how schools are serving high-achieving pupils in the NCLB era.

    Related Resources

    Slideshow presentation of the findings

    Mike discusses the report on Fordham Factor

    In A Nutshell brief of the report

    Tom Loveless responds to this review of the study.

     Video coverage of our panel event on the report:

    High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

    5:30 - Tom Loveless, Brookings Institution
    19:05 - Steve Farkas, Farkas Duffett Research Group
    33:25 - Josh Wyner, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
    41:15 - Ross Wiener, Education Trust
    48:30 - Question & Answer

    Download:
    ...

    Over at the "ELL Advocates" blog, whole language apologist Stephen Krashen makes a lame attempt to poke holes in Sol Stern's recent Fordham report, Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First. In particular, he takes issue with Stern's claim that the Golden State's adoption of whole language reading in 1987 led to California's disastrous, bottom of the barrel NAEP performance in 1992. Krashen is right about one point: The '92 NAEP was the first to break out results state-by-state, so it's impossible to know whether California's scores "plummeted," as Stern argues. But then Krashen goes on to make a fool of himself. First, he offers this stunning piece of revisionist history:

    Whole language, according to (urban) legend, was introduced by the 1987 Framework committee, which I was a member of. The 1987 Framework committee never mentioned whole language. We recommended that language arts be literature-based, hardly a revolutionary idea. Phonics was never forbidden.

    This is ridiculous; of course California adopted whole language reading in 1987. For the definitive history of this episode, see here. Then Krashen goes on to argue:

    Of great interest, and rarely noted, is that fact that California still ranks at the bottom of the US. NAEP scores released 2007 show that California is still in the basement, in a virtual tie for last place with Mississippi and Louisiana. Dumping whole language did not improve things.

    But if dumping whole language did not improve things, why...

    Liam Julian

    For the same reason I'm opposed to sex-ed class in schools, I'm opposed to clubs like this. A parent sends his students to a public school to receive a rigorous education in the core curriculum. Parents should not be forced to send their children to public schools that allow controversial subjects--unrelated to science, math, geography, etc.--to be a part of the school environment. Such subjects distract from what needs to be occurring in classrooms and often isn't: learning.

    UPDATE:

    Will Okun, who teaches school in Chicago, blogs at the New York Times:

    I do not understand why society and parents rely on our much criticized, overcrowded and under-funded schools to teach children about such important issues as abstinence and safe sex?

    The New York Times reports today that Idaho will set aside somewhere from $200,000 to $600,000 to fund a pilot program that will make chess education available to all second- and third-graders. The state will use a curriculum called First Move, which was developed by the Seattle-based nonprofit Foundation for Chess.

    Third-grade teacher Deborah McCoy has already started teaching chess in her classroom and is quite pleased with the results. "So many kids spend their time plugged into video games, iPods, television and so they are more isolated," she said. "They learn give and take in chess. There are courtesies that you follow. It has been really beneficial for them."

    You'd have to guess she's mostly right about the benefits, though one wonders if it's the state's place to be experimenting like this with curricula. Once you start offering funding for niche subjects you risk opening the floodgates to every other hobbyist-lobbyist in the state.

    Over at The Corner, Victor Davis Hanson wonders why Barack Obama is so worried about teaching students about oppression. He quotes a recent "news source":

    He said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history "because that's part of American history," as well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given enough attention.

    "I want us to have a broad-based history" taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression" around the world.

    Perhaps Senator Obama missed the news stories about a recent poll of high school students, asking them to name the "most famous" Americans in history, presidents excluded. Here's the list of the top ten, with the percentage who voted for each:

    1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%
    2. Rosa Parks: 60%
    3. Harriet Tubman: 44%
    4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%
    5. Benjamin Franklin: 29%
    6. Amelia Earhart: 25%
    7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%
    8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%
    9. Thomas Edison: 18%
    10. Albert Einstein: 16%

    Looks like schools are already doing a decent job teaching some of these "underrepresented" groups, after all....

    Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First, by Sol Stern, is an in-depth and alarming study of Reading First's betrayal.

    President Bush vowed he would "leave no child behind." The centerpiece of his education agenda was Reading First, a new federal program aimed at helping poor children acquire basic reading skills. Under the leadership of White House domestic policy chief Margaret Spellings (then LaMontagne) and with support from Congress, Reading First was to provide funding to primary-reading programs that were based on scientific research. Christopher Doherty became Reading First's new director. His job was to ensure that Reading First schools used only programs that work and shunned those that don't.

    Backlash and brouhaha followed. Aggrieved whole-language program proprietors complained bitterly that their wares couldn't be purchased with Reading First funds. They found a receptive ear in the Education Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a bastion of green eyeshade and Dragnet types who weren't the least bit interested in children learning to read. The OIG launched a witch hunt against Doherty, falsely claiming that he was improperly favoring particular publishers. Despite the lack of evidence and the fact that Doherty was acting with the full knowledge and support of Margaret Spellings, this conscientious and hard-working public servant was forced to resign. Then the administration turned its back on Reading First, allowing the program to be gutted and starved of funding.

    This report cites the real scandals of Reading First:

    • An influential "progressive" lawmaker, Rep. David Obey,
    • ...
    Jeff Kuhner

    Are we rearing a nation of ignorant students? This is the question posed in the latest report, Still at Risk, by Fordham's sister organization, Common Core. Its answer: yes, and we better start doing something about it. Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, one in four said Columbus sailed to the Americas some time after 1750, not in 1492, and-most shocking of all-nearly one in four did not know who Adolf Hitler was. It is an education tragedy that a quarter of U.S. teens have no clue about the most dangerous mass murderer of the 20th century, whose call for a new Aryan racial order resulted in 6 million Jews being thrown into gas ovens and nearly 50 million dead due to his plunging Europe and America into a destructive world war.

    The survey results, released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, demonstrate what Common Core says is the "stunning ignorance" of many teenagers when it comes to history and literature. The organization rightly blames President Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind, for impoverishing public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics. This means that other vital subjects, such as history and literature (as well as art, music, geography and civics)...

    Pages