“Structural” education reformers—the kind who worry about school governance, choice, standards, accountability, ESSA, universal pre-K, graduation rates, collective bargaining, etc.—have long been faulted by “inside the classroom” educators for neglecting pedagogy and curriculum. When Hoover’s Koret Task Force was active, for example, Don Hirsch and (the former) Diane Ravitch regularly noted that fellow members such as Paul Hill, Paul Peterson, Rick Hanushek, and myself were obsessed with policy and structure and all but oblivious to what really matters in the education of children, namely what and how they are taught.

I was only 90 percent guilty, as I’ve been a Hirsch fan since the early 80’s, an admirer of his Core Knowledge curriculum and—more recently—a board member of his foundation. Diane and I co-authored a book in 1987 (What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?) that was primarily a plea for greater content knowledge, and I co-authored a 1999 book with Bill Bennett and John Cribb (The Educated Child) that brimmed with Core Knowledge-style content, as well as skills. In other words, I’m a true believer in the centrality of a first-rate, content-rich curriculum—and it’s topmost in what I look for as I help our kids navigate their kids’ schooling options.


Kevin Teasley

American high schools don't seem to be working in the real world. As a dad, I'm part of the problem. I remember what it was like when I went to high school, and now that I have kids in high school, I'm looking for something that resembles what I experienced. I’m guessing I’m not alone. But this approach is actually misguided.

The world has changed so much over the past thirty-six years. Fax machines have come and gone. The internet has exploded. And we are now on seventh series of the iPhone. Nonetheless, most high schools look nearly the same as when I graduated in 1981. Sure, they dress themselves up with Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and honors classes, as well as STEM and dual credit college courses, but most of them still look and operate mostly the same.

Things need to change.

Most urgently, from what I can see, we need to change our approach to dual credit. Many high schools say they offer it, and they do. But they often don’t push it. And its rarely done in a way that will produce the results we want.

Many schools offer “dual credit-lite.” They have dual credit classes on...

This study uses data from the New York City School Survey to explore the relationship between school discipline policy under the Bloomberg and De Blasio administrations and students’ and teachers’ perceptions of school climate.

According to the author, between 2011–12 and 2015–16, the number of suspensions in New York City Schools declined by almost fifty percent, thanks in part to two major discipline reforms: one at the beginning of the 2012–13 school year (under Bloomberg) and one in the middle of the 2014–15 school year (under de Blasio). In the first wave of reform, the Bloomberg administration revised the discipline code so students could no longer be suspended for first-time, low-level offenses. In the second wave, the de Blasio reform went further by requiring that principals obtain written approval from the city Department of Education Office of Safety and Youth Development to suspend a student for “uncooperative/noncompliant” or “disorderly” behavior.

Interestingly, although perceptions of school climate were relatively unchanged during the Bloomberg reforms, they deteriorated sharply as the de Blasio reforms were being implemented, raising the possibility that the later reforms undermined schools’ ability to maintain order. For example, between 2013–14 and 2015–16, three times as many schools reported increases...

A new report from the Ohio Education Research Center adds to a growing collection of research on individualized, in-school tutoring that has found impressive results,

The recent addition examines a tutoring intervention developed by Ohio’s Youngstown City Schools and Youngstown State University to help more students meet the test-based promotion requirements of the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

Called Project PASS, the initiative enlisted almost 300 undergraduate students who weekly tutored second and third graders outside of regular instructional time. Each undergrad committed thirty hours per semester and received course credit and a small monetary award in return. The tutors received training and used a variety of reading strategies. The evaluation includes about 300 students who participated in one or more semesters of PASS from spring 2015 (second grade) to spring 2016 (third grade). The evaluation was not experimental, and the selection of students into PASS limits the ability to draw causal inferences, as the authors note. Nevertheless, the researchers were able to match participants and non-participants based on demographic and prior achievement data (using a second grade diagnostic test given before program launch) to compare test score outcomes.

The results indicate that the tutoring increased...

Of the many school-based factors that impact student learning, evidence is clear that teacher quality matters most. Countless studies show that students assigned to high-performing teachers see notably bigger gains in achievement than their peers with less effective teachers, and that students benefit when low-performing teachers exit the classroom.

Despite this reality, dismissing chronically low-performing teachers from the classroom remains far too hard (and removing low-performing veteran teachers is harder still). As my colleague David Griffith and I found a few months ago when evaluating teacher dismissal policies in twenty-five diverse districts, significant barriers remain in place in every district we examined.

Yet there are a few bright spots in the dismal dismissal landscape, and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is one such place.

DCPS scored six out of a possible ten points in our study, meaning that the process for dismissing an ineffective veteran teacher in DCPS is significantly easier than in most districts. (Only three of the other districts we studied make it easier to release ineffective teachers: Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Burlington School District, and Mesa Public Schools.)

In particular, the nation’s capital has four policies worthy of praise:

First, the...

I don’t know Nikole Hannah-Jones, but I know her writing and I like it a great deal. Not just the topical nature of it all but the sincerity of approach; her musings about school integration and public education are powerful, and she manages to howitzer the inherent injustice built into the nature of government without writing screeds.

Her latest piece, “Have we lost sight of the promise of public schools?” is, however, the dancing of La La Land in a world filled with Moonlight’s hardscrabble reality. It misses critical questions about the nature of public institutions as they pertain to those who are disenfranchised by said systems—and it presupposes a beneficence in collaboration through “public” means that is itself problematic given the country’s history.

At the root of this is the structure of the public schools themselves, because they were never truly open to all—nor were they meant to be. I chafe when the pronoun “our” is used to describe “our public school” system because there have only been “our” public schools in America when the children of the people having the conversation actually attend the same school. When that is not the case, the proper...

To celebrate April Fools' Day over the weekend, we compiled a half-dozen of Fordham's funniest videos. Spanning seven years, these productions include office-wide dance numbers, inebriated executives, reenactments, a dream sequence, and a whole lot of parodies. We hope you enjoy watching them as much as we enjoyed making them.

A Wonk's Dream
Mike Petrilli lives every reformer's fantasy
March 31, 2017

The Hammered History of the Federal Role in Education
A tipsy trip from 1789 to 2016
April 1, 2016

Schoolhouse of Cards
Hunt or be hunted, Mr. Secretary
April 1, 2014

The Gadfly (What Does Gadfly Say?)
A perfect pitch to a fortunate funder
December 20, 2013

Lunchtime in America
Fordham's rejected Super Bowl XLVI commercial
April 1, 2012

Fordham Dancetitute
The organization heads in a new direction
March 29, 2011...

Indigo August

Charter schools are usually associated with conservative politics. But this perception belies the reality that there are hundreds of “progressive” charters in dozens of states. Among the oldest and most prestigious of these is Bernie Sanders High School in Portland, OR.

Nestled snugly between a Starbucks and an Urban Outfitters at the corner of 23rd St. and Cesar Chavez Blvd, Sanders High caters to “the jaded and the unimpressed.” Like most charters, it has a strict uniform policy. (All students wear flannel tops and acid-washed jeans.) But the curriculum at Sanders is anything but conventional. The economics textbook avoids the topic of comparative advantage. The health textbook is a 351-page ode to single-payer. And units 1–5 of the civics curriculum deal with strategies for changing the Democratic Platform, while units 6–10 are a page-by-page examination of Howard Zinn’s A People's History of the United States.

Thanks to a curious loophole in Oregon law, students at Sanders forego traditional standardized tests in favor of an ever evolving “purity test,” which no student has ever passed. Former students attribute the test’s difficulty to its general tediousness, and to the fact that...

Michael J. Petrilli

Secretary DeVos can be explained and forgiven—especially in these wee early days of her tenure—for bringing many of her public statements back to the theme of school choice. After all, that was President Trump’s one big education idea on the campaign trail, and the public-policy cause to which DeVos has dedicated her life.

And yet.

There’s a saying that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Team DeVos loves the hammer called school choice. (I do, too!) But they could use a few more tools in their toolbox, lest they cause some serious damage to the construction project we call school reform. Secretary DeVos: May I offer you a screwdriver?

The trouble started with her White House comments to presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These postsecondary institutions were “pioneers for school choice,” she said in prepared remarks. “Tone deaf,” Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) tweeted. “HBCUs weren’t ‘more options’ for black students. For many years they were the only options.” The DeVos team soon walked it back.

But, it didn’t stop there. A week later, when speaking to the Military Child Education Coalition, she...

Papillon Xanadu

A restorative justice session has healed the wounds left by the DeVos confirmation battle, according to a joint statement written by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.

The closed-door meeting took place Friday, as the warm afternoon light filled the committee hearing room, inoculating the atmosphere with a sense of peace.

Congressional staffers reported that Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) initiated the session using a rarely-used committee rule on community health. All committee members were present, and special guest Dawn Jyoti, a guidance counselor from nearby Swanson Middle School, facilitated, according to committee aides in attendance.

“They began with an icebreaker called ‘A Big Wind Blows,’ which, I assure you, was not intended as a comment on anyone’s verbosity,” said one aide. Senators also held a candle-lighting ceremony, and participated in a rose-bud-thorn reflection activity. When pressed for more details, the aide stated, “I am not comfortable sharing more about what was said. People got really personal really fast. I do not want to violate the sanctity of their experience.” The aide did note that the...