BRIEFLY NOTED: Keeping poor parents in the dark

The other week, School Choice Ohio sued the Cincinnati and Springfield school districts for their failure to comply with a public-records request. School Choice Ohio works to inform eligible families about the state’s EdChoice (voucher) program—that is, it seeks to tell students who attend Ohio’s worst schools that they have the opportunity to escape. To do this, the organization asks for student directory information from the districts, who are required by law to comply. Cincinnati and Springfield have refused, perhaps because they don’t want families to know that they have other options. Imagine the ruckus that liberals would make if public agencies opted to not inform folks who are eligible for food stamps, subsidized housing, or ObamaCare. This is no different.

On May 22, the school board for the Dallas Independent School District endorsed Superintendent Mike Miles’s Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), which will revamp the district’s teacher evaluations and implement performance pay, effective in 2014–15. Under the new plan, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on performance, as gauged by observations; 35 percent will come from student data; and 15 percent will be drawn from student surveys. The plan mimics the one Miles put in place in Colorado Springs, with the support and enthusiasm of his teachers. While it’s true that Dallas has miles to go before it can sleep (sorry!), kudos to Miles and his school board for their bold leadership.

This week, NPR’s Morning Edition featured a two-part dive into the challenges surrounding Common Core implementation. In the first segment, reporter Cory Turner describes how tough it is to find high-quality curriculum that’s actually aligned to the new standards, a challenge made even more arduous by the “snake-oil-salesman” tactics employed by textbook publishers. The second segment turns to the strategies that schools and districts are using to find usable curriculum or build it from the ground up—and the misguided pull to just blame the standards for this problem (and many others).

Today’s “Room for Debate” feature in the Times addresses the questions of tracking and ability grouping. Fordham buddy Rick Hess makes a compelling argument that we should stop ignoring the needs of our best and brightest; economist Bruce Sacerdote offers empirical evidence that ability grouping is good for everyone. (Two other contributors disagree.) Gifted-education advocates: check it out!