Flypaper

The Fordham Institute, among others, has long worried that the country’s focus on the “proficiency gap” is leading schools to ignore the “excellence gap”—the divide between white students and students of color at the highest levels of achievement. Now comes good news that this gap can in fact be narrowed. January’s issue of Gifted Child Quarterly features a 2016 longitudinal study by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius et al. that details the outcomes of Project Excite—a STEM enrichment program for “high-potential” black and Latino students in suburban Illinois.

This study addresses the general thrust of previous research that suggests black-white and Latino-white achievement gaps widen faster among high-achieving students, particularly in math and science. The authors indicate that these findings reflect the compounding nature of advantage and disadvantage. Think of compound interest: The further ahead you are, the faster you climb. Knowing this, Project Excite adopts an approach that financial advisors shout from the rooftops: Start early and invest consistently.

Between 2000 and 2013, researchers tracked the performances and outcomes of 361 Project Excite participants. Each cohort consists of third graders from five schools in a suburban Illinois school district. Acceptance into the program is based on math, non-verbal reasoning, reading skills, teacher...

Alex Medler

Focusing on specific challenges would improve today’s polarized fight over charter school oversight, in which name calling too often replaces the demanding work of understanding each other or solving shared problems. In previous rounds of charged conflict, I have found that shared work is the best remedy for ideological polarization.

Indeed, on the ground, the messy work of charter school policy and authorizing is rarely accomplished through strict adherence to ideology. Concepts and ideology considered without real-world applications tend to feel hollow. Most of the time, decisions are made by local people working to solve common problems. And whatever people choose, future work should stay messy and inclusive.

Consider recent debates about burdensome charter applications and overregulation. Two talking points have gotten plenty of air time: “We should get rid of five-hundred page charter applications”; and “We must reverse the reregulation of charters.” I nod in sympathy every time I hear them. But these notions also often lack detail and nuance. If, for example, a speaker intends them to mean we ought to reverse course on the past decades’ progress on authorizer rigor, students’ rights, or performance management, I stop nodding.

Instead, I believe that the charter application process could...

We are ruining America, notes dour New York Times columnist David Brooks, suddenly and considerably alarmed by a standard feature of American life, if not human nature—the tendency of the privileged and powerful to guard jealously every advantage they have been handed or earned. Brooks takes up his pen to offer a stinging rebuke: Members of the college-educated class, he writes, “have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.”

Brooks focuses his concern on the parenting style of privileged Americans, coining a brilliant neologism in the process, “pediacracy,” by which he means the determination of affluent parents to give their kids a leg up. “As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids,” he writes. Next come zoning laws that keep the poor and poorly educated out of well-off neighborhoods and excellent schools. Finally there’s access to elite colleges that cement the grip of top quintile families on the brass ring of their advantage.

Brooks, I think, confuses effects for causes. Mating, motherhood, and Middlebury are not the...

A recent report from the Brookings Institution explores the pros and cons of online education.

Online classes have the potential to bring otherwise unavailable educational opportunities to a broad range of students, tailoring courses’ content and pacing to each individual learner’s needs. For example, the report’s authors point to the latest “intelligent” tutoring systems, which can assess students’ weaknesses, diagnose why they are making these errors, and adjust the coursework accordingly.

Despite these promises, however, many of today’s online courses may be causing more harm than good, especially for low-performing students. This report reconfirms yet again what numerous studies have previously shown—that online schools consistently underperform the brick-and-mortar variety.

The Brookings report analyzes an online college, but many of its lessons apply to K–12 education, as well. Authors use data from DeVry University, a for-profit college at which every class is offered online and in-person. The average student takes two-thirds of her courses online, and online and in-person versions of a given classes are mostly identical, as “both follow the same syllabus and use the same textbook; class sizes are approximately the same; [and] both use the same assignments, quizzes, tests, and grading rubrics.”

The authors find that taking...

It’s no secret that “selfie-stick wielding, ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’-watching,” Millennials have gotten a bad rap. But has their stereotyped self-indulgence resulted in poor life outcomes? This new report from IES, Early Millennials: The Sophomore Class of 2002 a Decade Later, tracks a cohort of over 13,000 students who were high school sophomores in 2002. Over ten years, this cohort was surveyed three times about various life milestones, such as finishing school, starting a job, leaving home, getting married, and having children. Most respondents were twenty-six years old at the time of the last survey, in 2012.

Recall that this is the cohort that was just entering high school during the dot-com bubble of the late 90’s. They were sophomores during the September 11 terrorist attacks, and in their early twenties when the Great Recession hit in 2007. They also saw the cost of college increase exponentially during their entry into postsecondary education. The nearly three-hundred-page report is chock full of noteworthy findings. Here are a quick baker’s dozen:

  1. An astonishing 96 percent completed high school either through earning a diploma or through the GED or other equivalency;
  2. Eighty-four percent enrolled in postsecondary education; just one half had
  3. ...
Butch Trusty

Many education and philanthropic leaders in America’s cities understand the interdependencies between schools, talent, policy, and community engagement in transforming local education systems to meet the needs of more students and families. But few leaders have thought deeply about the true potential of focusing on multiple pathways for high-quality school-seat creation as a strategic approach to accelerating the growth and improvement of great public schools.

With great respect for the challenge and complexity involved in systems-level change, we at Education Cities have observed that, historically, leaders across the country have missed opportunities to reach their goals faster and more sustainably by not pursuing a variety of seat-creation paths.

To name this common problem and to hopefully encourage leaders to widen their view of what is possible, we wrote Pathways to Success: Providing More Children Access to Great Public Schools. In addition to describing six seat creation pathways we believe have the most likelihood for success, we also touched on the relative advantages and disadvantages of each, and made the case for the benefits associated with not emphasizing any one pathway too heavily.

The abridged version of the paper is straightforward. The basic pathways pursued by most cities include:

  • Replication:
  • ...
Austin Estes and Kate Kreamer

In the last few weeks, the first-round submissions of states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans have gotten a lot of attention from national organizations and the federal government. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group joined efforts to write Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans—Round 1, a review of how states addressed or prioritized career readiness.

Career Technical Education (CTE) can be a powerful platform for student success during and after high school, and in recent years states have made incredible investments in—and commitments to—expanding the quality of and access to CTE and career pathways. Moreover, many provisions within ESSA open the door for, if not flat out encourage, states to integrate CTE into their career readiness metrics.

Given this, in reading through each of the first seventeen plans that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, we were cautiously optimistic that career (and college) readiness would play a prominent role in states’ ESSA plans. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case:

  • Eleven out of the first seventeen submitted plans identified at least one measure of career readiness in their accountability systems.
  • ...
Michael R. Ford

In 1991, Milwaukee began a bold experiment in market-based education reform. Twenty-seven years later, the city’s education system is dramatically reformed, but the results of those reforms are something less than dramatic. Milwaukee’s NAEP scores trail other major cities, and the performance of Milwaukee schools on aggregate is unacceptably poor. What happened? Why has the birthplace of school vouchers not experienced the successes of other education reform hotbeds like Washington, D.C. and New Orleans? The failure of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to fully deliver on its promises can be attributed to certain program features, as well as the positions taken by voucher supporters and opponents over the life of the MPCP.

First, it was never clear exactly what the MPCP was supposed to be. The original voucher coalition was a clumsy alliance of free-market reformers, social justice warriors, urban Democrats, and suburban and rural Republicans. Though the coalition was successful at creating the program, the diverse supporters’ long-term goals were never aligned, creating ongoing tensions amongst supporters that pulled the program in different directions. To put it another way, it was impossible for the MPCP to succeed because there was no agreement as to what success would look...

Nelson Smith

Hold my beer.

Now, I’m all for vigorous debates about education policy, but when they start calling me and my friends the “new education establishment,” I gotta respond.

That is exactly what happened to my organization, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), in a recent Flypaper entry by Max Eden. Eden provided color commentary for a recent collection of essays published by the Center for Education Reform (CER). Both book and blog accuse NACSA of aiming to stifle charter schools with burdensome rules and bureaucracy (or as the book puts it “to coerce uniformity and therefore isomorphism in the charter sector”).

For those unfamiliar with this corner of the sector, NACSA, founded in 2000, works to grow charter schools by strengthening the still-young profession of charter school authorizing. The role is given cursory attention in many state laws, so NACSA has devoted much of its energies to defining, in broad consultation with the field, what sound authorizing looks like. Our Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing situate the work within three basic commitments: maintaining high standards, protecting charter school autonomy, and upholding student and public interests.

It bothers Eden, CER’s Jeanne Allen, and others...

Jeff Danielian

As often happens when I find myself working outside on my deck, in the dry warm heat of the summer, with thunderous fireworks flashing, I become nostalgic and reminiscent in my writing. With the classroom door closed for a bit and my mind free to think about education, I thought I would share my own story.

I am often asked, as I am sure many of you are, “How did you become a teacher?” My response is never quite the same, and depending on how much time I have to discuss my winding road to the classroom, the story revolves around a simple phrase uttered over and over by a past mentor, a geology professor who still resides in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It is a simple one, and I have it scribbled on a sheet of paper on the wall in my classroom: Education is not about information.

One lesson stands out for me. I will never forget looking down at an aerial view of the Grand Canyon through a pair of stereoscopic glasses. It is one of those moments that, upon reflection, strengthened my belief in the power of education.

Our professor gave a brief introduction to...

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