Flypaper

By Jonathan Plucker, Ph.D.

If you have any friends concerned with gifted education—or educational excellence in general—you saw them doing cartwheels last week, and for good reason: The final Every Student Succeeds Act accountability regulations were released, and language was added allowing for pro-excellence strategies to be used in states’ K–12 accountability systems (some ideas here and here). This is a huge improvement over No Child Left Behind, which incentivized states to design these systems in ways that gave no credit to schools and educators who moved students into advanced levels of achievement. Providing credit to schools that produce advanced learners has been widely suggested as a way to promote excellence in our schools and society at large, so this was unambiguously great news.

But we also received information last week that should temper the enthusiasm and reinforce the urgency for fostering educational excellence.

The 2015 results from the Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS) were released, and as one of the two major international, comparative assessments, the findings are eagerly anticipated every four years. TIMSS always tests grades 4 and 8, and this year they tested high school students in advanced math and science (which they last did in...

What do Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal and the NAACP’s charter school moratorium resolution have in common? Far more than you might think.

In A Modest Proposal, Swift suggests that poor children born to poor families—who were a tremendous financial burden on society and had little opportunity to become successful themselves—be rounded up and sold as food. He reckoned the children could be cooked many ways, that they would taste delicious, and that the sale price would more than cover the cost of actually rearing them.

Swift was a satirist; his disdain for the British crown and fierce loyalty to the Irish—his people —led him to write stinging and incisive commentary on the British Empire. Humor and absurdity have long played an important role in changing the political minds of the many.

Swift’s lesson in the face of cold imperialism is that an immodest proposal—indeed, an outrageous one—is no less so if it is offered clinically and in the flat, moderated tone of the oppressor. Indeed, the appearance of reason is often the finest window dressing for an unreasonable request.

Fast-forward to the present day, and a great deal of internet chatter would have you believe the NAACP’s adoption...

Elissa F. Brown, Ph.D.

Twelve teachers who work in some of the lowest-performing schools in New York City are now certified in gifted education thanks to a laudable inter-agency partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the New-York Historical Society (NYHS), and Hunter College’s (HC) Advanced Certificate Program in Gifted Education. The partnership was launched in 2016, and the selected teachers are called “The Hunter College, New-York Historical Society Gifted and Talented Scholars.

Each partner got something worthwhile out of the collaboration. The New York Department of Education’s impetus was to raise the bar of teaching in some of its lowest performing schools. It believed that certifying more teachers in gifted education and pairing them with supportive principals would lead to better grassroots, classroom-level implementation of best practices that would ripple organically throughout the city and benefit all students and professionals.

The New York Historical Society’s motivation was to have teachers more effectively utilize the museum within the classroom through the study of social studies—and use it more broadly to ensure that a cohort of teachers knew how to use museums to enhance K–12 education.

Hunter College sought to increase enrollment, maintain course integrity and outcome standards, and certify more teachers...

Ever since our president-elect nominated school choice champion Betsy DeVos to be education secretary, there’s been a vigorous debate amongst us education nerds about the proper way to think about school choice. It’s a civil war! Another divide in the reform movement!

Not so fast. Sure, there are disagreements on key policy design issues, but where we differ is dwarfed by our common cause. We don’t have a split as much as a spectrum—a range of views, all of which are worlds away from the position of our opponents in the teachers unions and other parts of the education establishment. (And yes, I say that as someone who has written about our own “schisms.”)

To test the proposition, give the following Buzzfeed-style quiz a try. Check all the boxes that apply to your personal views:

I support a parent’s right to choose the best school for their child, using public funds, as long as that school:

☐ Is overseen by an elected school board
☐ Submits to a financial audit on a regular basis
☐ Follows state class-size mandates
☐ Adheres to health, safety, and civil rights laws
☐ Teaches a curriculum aligned to...

Daniel L. Quisenberry

The announcement that Betsy DeVos would be the President-elect’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education has touched off more speculation than the College Football Playoffs. But at least in football, expert opinions are usually grounded in facts. For the incoming secretary, opinion and commentary have mostly taken place in a reality that is, as Einstein once said, “merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”  

Indicative of this trend is the falsehood that Michigan charters have no regulation, no oversight, and no accountability. Critics who employ this fiction often roll it into the fallacy that, because Betsy is influential in the state, those mistaken characteristics will soon be national objectives. This defective perception of Michigan tells you nothing of the potential DeVos agenda. To do so is to use the logic of Monty Python: If wood floats and a duck floats, a duck must be made of wood.

In truth, DeVos and the organizations she has supported have played a positive role in shaping Michigan’s charter sector—which is quite strong. Indeed, it took the bronze in a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools that looked at real outcomes of charter quality, growth, and innovation...

My respect and appreciation for the Foundation for Excellence in Education is almost boundless, particularly for founder/chairman Jeb Bush and CEO Patricia Levesque. Their “summit” last week in Washington was first rate and their policy advice for state leaders is nearly always sound.

But I (and my Fordham colleagues) must respectfully take issue with several elements of FEE’s “A–F School Accountability Playbook”—advice to states regarding school accountability under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

There’s much here that we agree with and that states would be well advised to do. Their recommendations for school participation in state testing and for reimagining school report cards are on the mark. So, too, their suggestions for measuring students’ academic growth, gauging the proficiency of ELL students, and using success (not just access or participation) in college-level courses such as AP as the “indicator of school quality or student success” at the high-school level. They’re also right to urge a uniform A-F-style accountability system for all the state’s schools and for singling out the lowest performers in that system for intervention.

All of their ESSA policy recommendations stem from eight principles set forth on the second page of the Playbook. Six of...

Neyda Mendez

After spending my elementary and middle school years in public schools, I stumbled upon a private school called Don Bosco Cristo Rey, part of the Cristo Rey Network of thirty schools that serve students in urban areas. At first, I was hesitant to even apply. I had spent my whole life in public schools. My friends were there, I knew how everything functioned, and going to a private school meant I had to put a lot more effort into my work. They were already getting students ready for college, and I didn’t think my middle school had prepared me for that.

After much thought, however, I ended up applying and getting accepted. From the start, I could see significant differences. The school was all about its four pillars: faith, future, family, and fun. I immediately felt at home. 

Two of my favorite things about Don Bosco are that it has small classes and comprises only four hundred students, compared to the 2,300 that go to the nearest public high school. These smaller quantities make interruptions less frequent and learning a lot more productive. Getting assistance on classwork and homework comes trouble-free. The small amount of students makes the school easy...

By Dr. Clar M. Baldus and Dr. Hope E. Wilson

Five-year old Carlo absorbs every Weather Channel special on tornados and then draws his own, very accurate scenarios. Gillian never holds still and naturally creates her own choreography, even when entering a room. Izzy makes up elaborate stories. Music seems like a second language for John.

You may have seen similar signs that your child is gifted in the arts. However, for many children, their artistic gifts may not be apparent until opportunity or exposure provides a spark. That’s why it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the many ways they can ignite sparks, nurture artistic talents, and provide opportunities for gifted children to explore the arts.

Opportunity

In some schools, the arts may be viewed as less important or eliminated altogether. While the recent inclusion of the arts education in the Every Student Succeeds Act is encouraging, it’s important for parents and families to support the exploration and develop of artistic talent outside of schools.

In many communities, opportunities outside of school abound. Local art museums, galleries, and university arts programs often provide summer and year-round classes, access to professional artists and mentors, and links to other interesting programs. Children can also find inspiration by...

No one could pin down what Donald Trump thought about education during this year’s campaign. That’s all changed with the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. In DeVos, Trump has selected a wily and battle-tested reformer, someone with clear policy goals who knows how to win a fight and make reform happen. She deserves our support.

Yet while some are celebrating, a gaggle of naysayers is spoiling the party.

The anti-school choice crowd, of course, opposes DeVos. In Florida, some teachers are already planning protests to decry DeVos’s nomination. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have condemned the choice, too.

We might expect criticism from teacher’s unions and other anti-school choice groups, but not from fellow education reformers. And yet some of them have been quick to join the chorus.

Some reject DeVos merely because she is willing to join the Trump cabinet. According to them, anyone who supports Trump is a misogynist and bigot.

That’s simplistic and unfair.

It’s also unproductive: who knows what good DeVos might do from a cabinet position?

Michelle Rhee said it best in a statement after her much-publicized meeting with Trump: “Our job as...

No group was more appalled by Donald Trump’s daily bullying of opponents and critics than Democrats. While scads of Independents and Republicans were troubled and even spoke out about Trump’s cruelty-laden rhetoric, Democrats were essentially united in their conviction that Donald Trump was evil incarnate. And had no chance of winning.

Then he won.

Now, the very same people who rightfully couldn’t abide the bullying have taken to using a much-watered-down version of the same tactic in the election’s aftermath—publicly shaming anyone in their own party who even considers working for the Trump administration.

Democrats for Education Reform is an organization I have always respected and admired. The same goes for their CEO, Shavar Jeffries. He is a bold champion for kids even when it means standing up to the most powerful and vocal members of his own party. I tip my hat to him and to the work his organization is trying to do. God knows he’s got an uphill climb in a party in which union money and influence are unmatched.

But Jeffries’s recent official statement on behalf of DFER, in my view, resorted to shaming any Democrat who would consider accepting the appointment of...

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