Flying squirrels!

After a week’s hiatus, Mike and Rick catch up on the Romney-Ryan merger, creationism in voucher schools, and the ethics of school discipline. Daniela explains teachers’ views on merit pay.

Amber's Research Minute

Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession by Sarah Rosenber and Elena Silva with the FDR Group - Download the PDF

Better late than never. Jeremy Ayers and Isabel Owens of the Center for American Progress have now looked at the twenty-seven second-round waiver applications that states submitted to Secretary Duncan (as Ayers had done with the first round waivers in December 2011), seeking recurrent themes across three of the Department’s four priority areas: standards and assessments, accountability systems, and teaching and leadership. (“Duplication and burden” was not included as few states addressed it in their waiver applications.) Most importantly, they found that “the waiver process itself did not stimulate new innovations aside from accountability.” What’s more, even within this sphere, nine states opted to follow one of the Department’s prescribed options for accountability, and many others set similar goals, slightly tweaked—bringing into question the level of “innovation” that is actually occurring. (This is probably due to the feds’ tight leash on waivers at least as much to lack of imagination in the states.) CAP then uses its own policy priorities to rate the states’ applications and offer recommendations. Among them: The Department of Education should ask for more detail on aspects of state plans and should establish a clearinghouse to document and share tools, strategies, and lessons...

Winning the gold for gab

Mike and Rick ponder public perceptions of education spending and whether it’s Rick—not teachers—who needs a dress code. Amber explains why penalty pay works.

Amber's Research Minute

Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Steven D. Levitt, John List, and Sally Sadoff - Download the PDF

The testing-and-accountability movement can be proud of its accomplishments under No Child Left Behind, but the strategy has run out of steam. What we need now are breakthrough ideas on holding schools accountable—approaches that will encourage instructional excellence instead of curricular narrowing, cheating, and gaming.

NCLB waivers preclude much state innovation in measuring student achievement.

The Obama administration’s waivers to NCLB have freed schools from the infamous “Adequate Yearly Progress” metric that unfairly labeled too many as “failing.” But the waivers don’t go nearly far enough. They preclude much state innovation in measuring student achievement.

States may not, for example, use a race-neutral approach to identifying schools that are leaving disadvantaged students behind, as Florida would have liked. (In the Sunshine State’s own system, schools are docked if their lowest-performing students—whatever their race—don’t make significant gains in the course of the school year.) They can’t evaluate high schools by outcomes—like how many students go on to graduate from college—instead of by test scores. They can’t even use computer-adaptive tests, like those uses for graduate school admissions, because low-performing students would get assessed on content that is “below grade level.” (Of course, that’s the point of computer-adaptive technology—it can pinpoint...

Yesterday, Fordham hosted a fascinating conversation between two of the GOP’s leading ed-policy experts: Senator Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings. The pair of former U.S. education secretaries delved into the role of the feds in education, NCLB’s legacy and future, ESEA reauthorization, the Obama administration’s waiver program, and much more.

One highlight not to be missed came when Senator Alexander objected to the idea that the federal government must force states and districts into action and Ms. Spellings argued that depictions of Washington’s mandates are often overblown.

Ed Week’s invaluable Politics K-12 blog had a thorough wrap-up and you can watch the entire conversation below:

Ten Years After NCLB: Is the GOP Moving Forward, Backward, or Sideways on Education?

Ten Years After NCLB: Is the GOP Moving Forward, Backward, or Sideways on Education?





What a difference a decade makes. For all the debate around vouchers and student loans, perhaps the most striking element of Mitt Romney's education agenda is how much it differs from the approach of No Child Left Behind, the defining policy of the George W. Bush years. That does not mean, however, that other Republicans necessarily agree with it. The GOP stance on education, and particularly federal education policy, is clearly shifting. But in any clear direction? And for the better?

To examine those questions, the Fordham Institute will bring together two former GOP education secretaries to discuss the Republican Party's direction on this vital issue.

Sophomoric videos are our thing

Mike and Adam dissect StudentsFirst’s take on the Olympics and debate whether the parent trigger is overhyped. Amber wonders what Maryland and Delaware are doing right when it comes to education.

Amber's Research Minute

Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance - Download the PDF

A decade after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, the GOP stance on education, and particularly federal education policy, is clearly shifting. But in any clear direction? And for the better? To examine those questions, the Fordham Institute will bring together two former GOP education secretaries to debate the Republican Party’s direction on this vital issue. Join the conversation with Senator Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings at 9 a.m. EDT on July 26 by tuning into the live webcast.

Move to the head of the class

Mike and Rick reunite to talk social mobility, the NEA’s membership woes, and what sequestration would actually mean for schools. Amber explains where parents stand on digital learning.

Amber's Research Minute

Learning in the 21st Century: A 5 Year Retrospective on the Growth in Online Learning - Project Tomorrow

Since 2010, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) has issued two handfuls of reports on the reborn federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. These latest three (1) tackle the challenges related to SIG staffing requirements, (2) tackle the challenges related to increased learning time, and (3) profile the culture changes made in six SIG schools. The first and third reports are worth mentioning. In the first, surveyed state leaders explain that finding and keeping quality principals and teachers is difficult for SIG schools, especially those in rural areas. Yet just 21 percent broke the hiring mold and offered recruiting and appointment assistance to SIG schools and districts looking for qualified staffers. It’s unclear from the survey data how many states and districts are utilizing alternative recruitment pathways like New Leaders or Teach For America. Instead, some state officials interviewed called for the relaxation of SIG schools’ replacement mandates. Indeed, just 55 percent of those in states with schools undergoing the “transformation” model (where the school must replace the principal and implement other programmatic and structural reforms) felt that replacing the school’s leader was a key or “somewhat” key element in upping student achievement. (Of course, there are inherent flaws...