Flypaper

One important question about school discipline is whether it helps or harms those being disciplined. But a second, equally important question is whether a push to reduce the number of suspensions is harmful to the rule-abiding majority.

Fordham’s newest study, The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform: Evidence from Philadelphia, examines outcomes in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), which made dramatic changes to its code of conduct during the 2012–13 school year. Specifically, it instituted a new ban on out-of-school suspensions (OSS) for low-level “conduct” offenses—such as profanity or failure to follow classroom rules—and reduced the length of OSS for more serious infractions. To gauge the impacts of these changes, Matthew Steinberg (University of Pennsylvania) and Johanna Lacoe (Mathematica) examined data before and after they were implemented, and penned two scholarly papers: one that focuses on the district-level effects of the change in discipline policy, and a second that explores patterns of attendance and achievement at the school, grade, and individual levels.

Here we combine those papers and synthesize their key findings for a lay audience, which include:

  • Changes in district policy had no long-term impact on the number of low-level “conduct” suspensions, and most schools
  • ...

Last week, an NPR affiliate threw super-cooled water on D.C.’s Ballou High School’s so-called success in graduating 64 percent of its seniors and earning every senior, regardless of whether they graduated, college acceptance. Turns out that, although 164 students were granted diplomas, more than half of those who walked across the graduation stage tallied at least sixty days of unexcused school absences, and one cap-and-gown wearer recorded more than 150.

As shocking as these seat-time revelations are, they merely add to other signs of academic struggle at Ballou. Last year, for example, only 9 percent of the school’s pupils passed the English language arts portion of D.C.’s annual standardized test. None passed the math portion.

Perhaps even worse, considering that all of these young people may now be college-bound, are the school’s woeful SAT scores. Last year, the average total score was 782 out of 1600, which falls into the 11th percentile nationwide, and 8th percentile among SAT users. That score represents the sum of the exam’s two “objective” parts—essentially reading and math—and Ballou’s scores were equally low in both, earning a 382 and 381, respectively. Neither is remotely close to...

The House and Senate have now passed versions of a bill that will overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in decades. The GOP will soon iron out differences between the two bills in a conference committee, and then the final legislation will head to President Trump's desk for approval. Regarding education policy, one of the areas that has kicked up the most dust is the expansion of tax-advantaged 529 college savings plans, which will allow families to use the savings for K-12 expenses and not just higher education. Provisions for this expansion are found in both versions of the bills.

Some believe that this expansion ought to be celebrated because it will allow more families to consider more choices when it comes to which school their child can attend. Others, however, worry the change uses scarce political and financial resources to advantage families with enough money to save for private school. Perhaps, they argue, we should instead invest in ways to give poor and working-class families more options.

To explore the issue in more depth, we’ve featured opposing perspectives from a trio of experts. Praising the 529 expansion is Peter Murphy, the Vice President for Policy at...

Like pumpkin-spice lattes during autumn, ways of getting college credit during high school (CCHS) are big business nowadays, whether one is looking at such tried-and-true vehicles as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate or fast-growing newcomers like dual credit, dual enrollment, early-college high schools and P-tech schools. As with any growth industry, however, all sorts of issues have arisen in this realm, important ones involving comparability, quality control, transferability of credit, equitable access, and program accountability.

To tackle these, the College Board convened a “working group” of eighteen individuals drawn from many parts of the CCHS galaxy and elsewhere in K–12 and postsecondary education, and that group’s new report is a welcome contribution to a complicated field.

Yes, the College Board has a large horse in this rodeo—the AP program being a major revenue source for them, as well as a long-standing symbol of educational rigor—but they were scrupulous in bringing diverse views together and seeking consensus where it could be found among oft-competing entities, strong-minded individuals, and rival approaches affecting millions of kids each year (although the dual-credit numbers are woefully out of date).

The result is eight sound guiding principles organized under four important questions about rigor,...

Maryann Woods-Murphy

I am a gifted and talented specialist for a school district in New Jersey. It is my job to make sure that students receive the proper level of acceleration and enrichment in elementary school.

But every single day, I fail at my job.

I pull students out for challenging lessons or guide them through academic competitions and enrichment experiences, but it is not enough.

They seek me out, even in crowded hallways. “I’m studying botany now,” said one fifth-grader as he lugged his backpack to class, making sure to keep in a straight line. “I’ll let you know how it goes.” I remind him that he can check in on our Google classroom to get feedback on his project and I feel confident that his classroom teacher will be interested in listening to his ideas.

The teachers I work with are magicians at differentiating instruction, creating online folders and spaces for students to go when they are finished early with their regularly scheduled work. Still, they too admit that they can never do enough for their gifted, talented, and advanced learners.

In recent years, the need for extreme differentiation has become even greater, as knowledgeable parents load their children’s...

Andrew Tripodo

How can schools encourage responsible and engaged citizenship? This question has moved from ever-relevant to deeply urgent by a political climate defined by coarsened discourse, sharp polarization, and profound distrust.

While many educators are justifiably demoralized by our current situation, some choose to be hopeful. Richard Kahlenberg and Clifford Janey spoke for many in education when they asked in The Atlantic if 2016's crazed election cycle might represent a "Sputnik moment" for civic education: Just as the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957 drove an urgent and renewed national commitment to science and math education, perhaps concern about our contentious political discourse and decayed common knowledge base will do the same for civic education today. Forty years ago, all eyes were on the stars, and educators leveraged the public attention to improve science and math education. Today, all eyes are on Washington, and by extension on our schools: Could civic education undergo a similar transformation?

A promising sign comes from Louise Dubé, executive director of iCivics, an educational content provider. In a recent phone conversation, she told us that the explosion of interest in her organization's civic education tools and online games during the election...

A study conducted by two University of Virginia professors examines the effects of universal preschool in Florida on grade retention in the early elementary grades. Expanding state-supported preschool programs has been a big push nationally. In fact, the percentage of four-year-olds participating in such programs has more than doubled from 14 to 32 percent between 2002 and 2016.

In 2005, Florida introduced the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK), a free universal preschool initiative, and as of 2015 the program serves more than three quarters of four-year-olds in the state. Overall, the program has been criticized for low funding levels and not meeting key indicators for quality (as deemed by the National Institute for Early Education Research)—but until now there’s been little to no empirical research examining the program’s impact.

Analysts study whether VPK led to drops in the likelihood that children would be retained between kindergarten and third grade. They track eight cohorts of students, totaling 1.5 million, who enrolled in kindergarten for the first time between fall 2002 and fall 2009. The first four cohorts did not have access to VPK when they were four-year olds; the later four cohorts did. The cohorts are followed through their enrollment in...

The August release of the latest Education Next poll set the education-reform field ablaze, for it showed a sizable and worrying decline in support for charter schools. We wonks weighed in with our best guesses about what might explain this unexpected trend. Among the factors raised: the overall political environment as we passed from the Obama Era to the Age of Trump, which might chill support for charters on the left; charter scandals and lackluster performance, at least in some states; and the movement’s own obsession with ultra-progressive causes, which might impede support on the right. If only we could improve charter quality, some advocates claimed, we’d see our poll numbers turn around. Or perhaps, others wondered, we need to widen the base of charter support by expanding charters into the affluent suburbs.

Plausible speculations all, but speculations nonetheless.

Now, however, we have a bit more data to inform our analyses. A major education policy organization—a credible source that has asked to remain confidential—gave me access to survey results from a 1,000 person national poll with 300-person “supplements” in a dozen states. The data come from summer 2017, and it happens that the pollsters...

Those who know Fordham know that we have a long history of reviewing state standards. In fact, our very first publication twenty years ago was a review of state English standards conducted by Sandra Stotsky. But when the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and adopted by forty-five states in 2010, we imagined our days of reviewing fifty different sets of state standards were over. Seven years later, however, many states have made changes to the CCSS—or dropped them entirely. But are these changes an improvement or step back from the Common Core? And how different are these revised standards from the CCSS, really? 

In a report released earlier this month, Achieve takes an initial look at English language arts (ELA) and mathematics standards in twenty-four states that originally adopted the Common Core but have since made revisions, large and small. The report’s findings for ELA standards are overwhelmingly positive. They “almost universally reflect the key elements research has identified as necessary foundations for college and career readiness.” ELA reviewers evaluated standards against seven high level indicators including how well they address foundational reading and writing skills, grammar and convention skills, and reading standards for literary and informational texts....

The preferences, opinions, and predilections of millennials—currently the largest generation in America—have already reshaped American office culture, news consumption, and taxi-hailing. But what (if anything) do their opinions portend for education and ed reform? To explore the millennial perspective on education, Fordham hosted “Millennials in Ed Reform,” using recent research from Echelon Insights and the Walton Family Foundation as a jumping off point. Joining Fordham’s Director of External Relations Alyssa Schwenk in conversation were Kristen Soltis Anderson, co-founder of Echelon Insights and author of the report; Lea Crusey, founder of Allies for Educational Equity; Mendell Grinter, executive director of the Campaign for School Equity; and David Murray, teacher and District 1 school board member in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Diving into Echelon’s survey data, Soltis Anderson pointed out several key points about millennials’ opinions on education. First and foremost, millennials view education as the most important tool for getting ahead in life. They generally have a favorable opinion of the education they received, but have a more lukewarm view of the country’s current education system. By a three-to-one margin, millennials argue that sweeping changes are needed. And, looking at the overall picture, Soltis Anderson said this generation is frustrated...

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