Flypaper

Peter Greene, the author of the aptly named “Curmudgucation” blog, had a post the other day lambasting a classroom management system which, assuming he’s representing it accurately, rates kindergarteners’ behavior on a spectrum from “Democracy” and “Cooperation/Compliance” down to “Bullying” and “Bossing” and—the lowest level—”Anarchy.” The post was vintage Greene, who works in mockery and derision the way Matisse worked in oils.

In the midst of his takedown, however, came an observation that stopped me in my tracks: “Here's the thing to remember about discipline systems at school—every one of them codifies somebody's value system, sets in rules and regulations judgments like ‘being compliant is good’ or ‘a good student is one who questions authority,’” Greene wrote. “When a system codifies love of compliance (and can't distinguish between compliance and cooperation) and negative labeling of any sort of age-appropriate behavior (five year olds running! zounds!!), my eyebrows go up.”

Mine too, but not for the same reasons as Greene, one of the blogosphere’s staunchest defenders of traditional public schools. A thirty-five-year veteran teacher, he’s also a deeply informed and tireless critic of reform. So it’s no small irony that in shaking his fist at the education idiocy du jour...

Last month, The Economist ran a terrific combination feature and editorial on educational technology and how, properly deployed, it can transform the old Prussian model of schooling that most of the world has followed since the eighteenth century.

It seems that fascination with the potential of technology to improve education has been around at least since psychologist Sidney Pressey devised a “teaching machine” in 1928 that he expected to liberate students and teachers from “educational drudgery.” It “had a paper drum displaying multiple-choice questions. Pressing the right key moved the drum on,” with candy used to incentivize kids to keep going.

B.F. Skinner, the behavioral psychologist famous for “Skinner boxes,” created his own version of teaching machines in the 1950’s but, after a brief fad, everyone went back to the Prussian model.

Today, despite a rough start for full-time virtual schooling, we’re pumped about the potential of technology to boost education—excited by promising models of blended learning, thrilled by the soaring example of the Khan Academy, and encouraged by the big bucks (from Zuckerberg et al.) going into the personalizing of primary-secondary education.

That’s in the United States. The Economist astutely points out that technology can be...

Confronted with the paradox of a simultaneous rise in high school graduation and college remediation rates, researchers from The Alliance for Excellent Education examined diploma pathways across the country for evidence as to how well they match college or career expectations. They found that far too many students leave high school with diplomas that do not signal preparedness for what comes next.

The Alliance’s new report looked at all fifty states and the District of Columbia and found that there were 98 different pathways to diplomas for the Class of 2014. Slightly less than half were deemed sufficient to prepare students for college or careers (CCR diploma pathways). While college and career ready can be defined in a number of ways, the Alliance’s criteria for a CCR diploma are: 1) Any pathway that requires students to complete four years of grade-level ELA, three years of math through Algebra II or Integrated Math III; and 2) Any pathways promulgated by state institutions of higher education that fully align with admissions requirements into those institutions. All of their analyses follow from these requisites.

The most frequent reason for a rating of “non-CCR” for a diploma pathway was a mismatch between...

A new report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) evaluates recent charter school performance in Texas. The study compares the math and reading growth for charter students and their traditional public school peers in the Lone Star State from 2011–2015. The report also examines the effects of a 2014 Texas law ushering in stricter charter regulations. These results build on CREDO’s 2015 evaluation of Texas charters.

At the time of the study, Texas had 659 charters with available data on more than 280,000 students. Those pupils were matched to peers from nearby traditional public schools (TPS) based on race/ethnicity, grade level, prior academic achievement, free and reduced lunch eligibility, English proficiency, and special education designation. The study examined growth rather than proficiency, looking at the overall health of charter performance, in addition to how well the charter sector is affecting the performance of Texas’ most vulnerable student populations.

The results are positive, with charter school students seeing improvement in reading by .03 standard deviations (SD), which CREDO equates to an additional seventeen days of learning, when compared with their TPS peers. As for math, there were not significant differences between the scores of charter and TPS...

Terry Ryan

My Polish-born wife (whose father was used as forced labor by the Nazis) and I watched in horror. We saw American neo-Nazi’s and their allies from the KKK and other white hate groups recreate a scene out of the Nuremburg Rallies with their tiki torches and slick choreography on the campus of the University of Virginia. My wife asked me, “Do they know nothing about the history they are portraying and praising?”

The history of Nazis and their destruction of Europe was made real to me when I lived and worked in Poland in the early and mid-1990s as a teacher and education reformer. My mentor was the former Solidarity leader and Vice-Minister of Education Wiktor Kulerski. Wiktor’s father was a Polish statesman who served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was a member of the National Council of the Polish Republic, and the Secretary of the Presidium and Commission of Foreign Affairs. He served as personal secretary to Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, the Polish Prime Minister in exile in France and then England during the Second World War. Poland suffered under the horrors of Nazism longer than any other country and lost six million citizens; about 22 percent of its prewar population....

Andrew Lewis

Across our nation, hundreds of thousands of children are attending a public charter school that provides full time virtual learning for their students.

For many students, this virtual model works in providing an appropriate and meaningful option in public K–12 education. Some children, for example, suffer from conditions that prevent effective and efficient learning, whether physical or social, making this setting a valuable one. There are countless reasons that make a virtual setting a good fit for a student.

But far too many children across the nation are not succeeding in their virtual charter schools, and there are many reasons why. They include the belief that a full-time online setting is just not how any child should be educated, as well as observations that we have not done enough to support virtual education to make it meaningful. Yet the most profound reason virtual schools are failing is that online education is a square-peg-in-a-round-hole scenario; they’re simply inappropriate as public charter schools.

Federal law demands that charter schools must take all students. Charter schools cannot turn away a student so long as there is an opening for the child. If there are more applicants than there are spaces, there is a...

Accountability for schools of choice is a topic forever in the news—and in dispute. The latest combatant is none other than Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who made clear in a recent interview with the Associated Press that she favors letting the market work its will and trusting parents to judge whether a school is worth attending. In this context, she was referring specifically to private schools insofar as they participate in publicly financed voucher or tax-credit-scholarship programs. (Yes, yes, I understand the argument that if it’s done via tax credits it’s not actual public financing. But that begs the political and policy questions that dog such programs and those who want more of them.)

When it comes to charter schools, the Secretary acknowledged that authorizers play a role alongside parents, though she picked the dubious case of Michigan, her home state, to illustrate the point. The Wolverine State certainly has some top-notch authorizers, and they have indeed closed down some failing charter schools, yet the overall track record of Michigan charters is too spotty—at least in the eyes of those who value academic achievement and fiscal probity—to warrant citing it as a stellar example of quality control via...

Which teachers remain teaching in their original schools, who transfers to other schools, and who exits teaching altogether obviously has implications for the quality of the teaching workforce. A new study conducted by Tim Sass and Li Feng examines how teacher quality (as measured by value-added data) and teacher mobility are related.

Analysts utilize teacher quality and mobility data in Florida from the 2000–01 school year to 2003–04. Specifically, they use matched student-teacher panel data that includes math and reading teachers in grades 4–10, for whom they have current and prior-year student achievement data.

They find that, for both math and reading, the average quality of teachers who stay at their initial schools is higher than teachers who switch schools within their initial district, move to another district, or leave public school teaching altogether. Moreover, better-than-average and worse-than-average teachers (those in the top and bottom quartiles, respectively) both have a higher likelihood of leaving teaching compared to middling teachers. Analysts say this is consistent with “schools losing their best teachers to more attractive outside options and losing their worst teachers who may be better suited to other occupations.”

They also find that, as the share of peer teachers with more...

Spoiler Alert: If you’re looking for an objective review of this new paper from Chiefs for Change, you’re not going to get it from me. The idea advanced here—that content-rich, standards-aligned, and high-quality curricula may be the last, best, and truest arrow left in education reform’s quiver—is one that I’ve argued for years, and which E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has championed since shortly after the earth cooled. So what’s newsworthy here may be less what’s being said and more who’s saying it. Chiefs for Change is an organization comprised of district and state-level education leaders who collectively oversee schools systems attended by over 5 million kids in more than 10,000 schools. If some critical mass of those schools pursue the strategies recommend here, ensuring that “high-quality standards are matched with high-quality materials in a way that respects local control and supports strong student outcomes,” then a tipping point is near at hand.

Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing, Churchill is said to have quipped, after exhausting all other options. That may explain curriculum’s emergence as a serious reform lever. But it is no accident that curriculum has been largely an afterthought in efforts to...

The big news out of this year’s Education Next poll is the sharp decline in support for charter schools, even among Republicans, which is going to leave us wonks scratching our heads for months. But don’t miss the findings on what we used to call “standards-based reform.” Support for common standards has rebounded, with proponents outnumbering opponents three to one. And a strong plurality of Americans want states—and not the feds, and not local school boards—to set academic standards, determine whether a school is failing, and if so, determine how to fix it.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this is precisely where Congress landed two years ago when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. Lawmakers pushed key decisions to the states and, in some cases, to local communities. But there were limits. When it came to standards-setting and testing, the feds made it clear that states could not delegate their responsibilities. Uniform, statewide systems are still required, just as they have been for over twenty years.

Alas, someone needs to explain that to Arizona and New Hampshire. While both states deserve plaudits for innovative moves in recent...

Pages