Flypaper

Jesse Lovejoy

Motivating students to pursue their educational passions and grow into the learners they are all inherently able to be is both a simple and complex equation. At its core, it’s about access, inspiration, articulating how educational concepts are relevant to their lives, and tapping into the well of curiosity that exists deep inside each child. One answer, to use a term familiar to many of us, is enrichment.

Removing students from their “normal” learning world and placing them into an environment with new texture and life—assuming there is a standards-aligned, rigorous and passionate approach to teaching—can truly open their eyes to new possibilities and views. If we strategically expose children to new experiences and environments, we can change their trajectories and interest levels significantly.

For the STEAM education program that we run at the San Francisco 49ers, our path to enrichment is paved using football and Levi’s Stadium to demystify and “cool-up” subjects like environmental sustainability, structural engineering, and physics. We leverage the power of the game, our players, and the most tech-savvy sports venue in the world to get kids to open up to the ideas that the subjects for which they may believe they have no aptitude...

As a two-term president and the de facto leader of the free world, Barack Obama has represented with his tenure a triumphant opus to the opportunity that makes the American experiment possible.

And as he has proudly identified himself as African-American, one of the many things he will be remembered for is how he sought to transcend the rules of race in our politics, attempting to shirk the iron cloak and repressive history of the treatment of blacks in this country, instead donning the garb of a new, hopeful brand of statesmanship.

When looking back at his meteoric rise, and his current role as, essentially, the leader of black America, it’s important to remember that both are the result of a dramatic life opportunity that ultimately made Obama the man he is today—an opportunity cruelly denied millions of African-American and Hispanic children even as they aspire to walk in Obama’s footsteps. That opportunity was access to a quality education. And it’s because of Obama’s education origin story that his education policies—particularly those addressing whether minority children would have school choice and the same educational opportunities he had—will be the most resonant of his presidency.

In America’s history, there has been...

An Overton Window is a metaphor for what is politically feasible at any given moment. It’s named for the late Joseph P. Overton of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who theorized that political ideas at any given moment fall along a line from unthinkable and radical to popular and policy. Ideas that were once politically radioactive can become feasible, desirable, and enacted as the window moves between poles, expands, or contracts. But the window is not static. The nineteenth century temperance movement begat Prohibition, which failed; banning alcohol is no longer politically feasible. Some form of legalized marijuana use is the law in more than half of U.S. states. A generation ago, that was well outside the moving Overton Window.

Education policy ideas run the gamut from maximum government control and oversight, to a free and unfettered education marketplace. Compulsory education exclusively in government-run schools (with private schools and homeschooling banned) would represent one currently unthinkable end of the spectrum; closing all those schools and privatizing education would be the other equally unthinkable end. Formerly radical ideas like charter schools, national standards, and abolishing teacher tenure would be in between these two poles and, depending on which way...

On the college football field, Ohio and Michigan are bitter rivals. But in the charter school world they share something in common: Both states’ charter sectors have been saddled with the unflattering label of the “wild west.” Recently, this characterization—generally meant to describe a state without proper accountability policies—has been used in critiques of Michigan native and charter supporter, Betsy DeVos, president-elect Trump’s appointee for secretary of education.

What’s clear is that this label and accompanying narrative are hard to shed, even though both states have significantly strengthened their charter laws. On these Gadfly pages, Daniel Quisenberry has described how Michigan is improving its charter sector. In a Fordham report released today, we show how Ohio’s era of stagecoaches and saloons is starting to give way to a more modernized charter sector.

In On the Right Track, we examine the early implementation of recently enacted charter reforms in our home state of Ohio. Bottom line: The Buckeye State’s reforms are being implemented with rigor and fidelity, bringing promising changes to one of the nation’s oldest, largest, and most notorious charter sectors.

In autumn 2015, Governor John Kasich and Ohio legislators passed a landmark, bipartisan...

Joanne Weiss

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution are hosting a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” This week we are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is the second of a two-part series by former Obama Administration official Joanne Weiss. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Competitive programs are particularly good vehicles for empowering those closest to the work to bring forward good ideas that are tailored to the needs and circumstances of particular places. And despite the handful of cities that are working today toward the principles outlined in my previous post, there is still much to be learned about designing successful choice policies—and it’s no secret that what succeeds in one place may be different in key details from what works somewhere else. A policy targeted at creating successful citywide or regional proof-points would significantly contribute to the field’s knowledge and evidence base.1 Competitions, when well designed and executed, can be strong mechanisms for seeding models and advancing learning because:

  • They identify the
  • ...

This new study examines the impact of math textbooks on student achievement in California; it was authored by Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, two alumni of Fordham’s and AEI’s Emerging Education Policy Scholars program.

They identified 240 unique textbooks across roughly 7,800 schools serving K–8 as of 2012–13, and selected a final sample of 1,878 schools that utilized one of four particularly popular books used in California from 2008–13 (with most entering use in the fall of 2008 or 2009). The books are enVisionMATH California, California Math, California Mathematics: Concepts, Skills, and Problem Solving, and California HSP Math. They merge curriculum adoption data with various school and district characteristics, census data (such as median household income), and achievement data (school average test scores on state math tests). Koedel and Polikoff selected the books for study because, among other criteria, they were adopted in enough schools serving K–8 to enable the requisite statistical power to evaluate them.

Most of the results are based on third-grade achievement with some evidence on grades four and five. The authors use multiple analytic techniques that match schools based on pre-adoption characteristics (size, student demographics, and prior achievement) and track achievement up to four years....

More than sixty years after Brown v. Board, traditional district schools are still more often than not havens of homogeneity. Static land use guidelines, assignment zones, feeder patterns, and transportation monopolies reinforce boundaries that functionally segregate schools and give rise to the adage that ZIP code means destiny for K–12 students. Asserting that student diversity is an object of increasing parental demand, at least among a certain subset of parents of school-age kids, the National Charter School Resource Center has issued a toolkit for charter school leaders looking to leverage their schools’ unique attributes and flexibilities to build diverse student communities not found in nearby district schools. The report cites a number of studies showing academic benefits of desegregated schools, especially for low-income and minority students. School quality is a strong selling point for any type of school, but this toolkit sets aside that discussion to focus on deliberately building a multi-cultural student body for its own sake. Bear that in mind as we go forward.

Building diversity is not easy, even in a flexibly run and technically borderless charter school. The toolkit provides “context about research and the legal and regulatory guidance” in four main areas...

When Trump named Betsy DeVos—a market-loving school reformer from Michigan—as his pick for Secretary of Education a few weeks back, some panicked. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association lashed out right away. But they’re the establishment.

To people who work in the barrio, who sit in school lunchrooms that buzz with a mixture of English and Spanish; who hear the hopes of immigrant parents with work-hardened hands and soft warm hearts, the prospect of serious change is thrilling. DeVos and Trump just might have the guts to bring it.

We care about school choice, which means giving parents the information and freedom to decide what’s best for their kids. It strikes us that Trump is a non-ideological leader, especially when it comes to this issue. He’s a man of business. He looks for results without the filter of some ideological construct. There’s a pragmatism there that is deeply American and that resonates with hard-working immigrants and their descendants.

It’s telling that a man who embraces healthy competition would endorse school choice and chose a Secretary to push it. It’s empowering to parents when the President-elect says to them, “I trust you with freedom. Here’s the information,...

Andy Smarick

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution hosted a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” This week we are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is an article by Andy Smarick, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Many education reformers are excited by President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to create a large-scale federal school choice program. However, others worry that Uncle Sam’s inevitably clumsy meddling in what has been a successful state-led movement would warp the policies, complicate the politics, and undermine the popularity of school choice. Yet there’s a way—based largely on the lessons of the highly successful federal Charter Schools Program (CSP)—for the Trump administration to boost school choice while empowering families and educators and respects state K–12 authority.

Over the past fifteen years, the most prominent (and polarizing) K–12 reforms have tended to be centralizing, standardizing initiatives led by the federal or state governments, such as federally prescribed school classifications and interventions, new statewide content standards and...

Joanne Weiss

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution are hosting a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” This week we are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is the first of a two-part series by former Obama Administration official Joanne Weiss. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The incoming Trump administration’s early policy announcements promise to spur renewed conversation on the meaning, goals, and mechanisms of school choice. For the past two decades, I have worked on issues related to choice with teachers and principals, charter school and district leaders, school board members, and city and state leaders. Based on all I have learned from them, I suggest a set of principles to ensure that policy aims are clear, guardrails support success, and implementation is coherent. I will also propose, in tomorrow’s post, a new competition—mounted by a large foundation, a city, a state, or the federal government—that’s designed to encourage locales to develop approaches to school choice that put families first.

School choice, in a variety...

Pages