It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

That about sums up the charter school movement’s reaction to the elections a fortnight ago. For those on the right, the Light of Donald Trump plus two-thirds of governors and state legislative chambers, Republicans all, will shine on the charter sector, ushering in an early spring of hope. As Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform told the Washington Post, “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for far-reaching education reform.”

On the left, however, a great Darkness has come upon the land. It’s not only dastardly Trump, but also those state-level zealots who will destroy “public education as we know it,” unleashing charters upon the people without nary a concern for quality, bringing a new winter of despair to the entire K–12 sector. As Robin Lake recently wrote: “Given the...

Russell Warne

Smart. Bright. Intelligent. These are the sort of words that people often use to describe gifted children. Although there are many types of giftedness, most states, teachers, and parents recognize intellectual giftedness as an important type of giftedness in children. Despite this widespread recognition, few people understand the psychological theory of intelligence.

To help remedy this, I wrote an article for Gifted Child Quarterly, “Five Reasons to Put the g Back into Giftedness: An Argument for Applying the Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory of Intelligence to Gifted Education Research and Practice,” that explains the mainstream theory of human intelligence, suggests why people should use the theory in gifted education, and cautions against potential misuses of it in that field. If you don’t want to read the entire scholarly article, you’re in luck! This blog post gives you a brief summary of my work.

What is Intelligence? One popular definition is “...a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, lean quickly and learn from experience.” Leading psychologists view intelligence as a general ability (labeled g) that sits atop a three-level hierarchy of mental abilities, as shown in the picture...

I have a crush on “Hamilton.” I've described the play as a miracle of civic education, a gratifying hand-off of America's national identity to a young, diverse generation, and wished for every school kid to see it. I've praised its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as a visionary genius. Let me pile the praise even higher: “Hamilton” is the most important artistic creation in any medium of its generation and perhaps decades. Particularly at this political, cultural, and social moment in our nation's history, “Hamilton” matters.

By now you are familiar with the Pence Affair. The Vice President-elect went to see the play Friday night and the cast couldn't resist the opportunity after the show to lecture Pence from the stage.

“We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir,” said Brandon Victor Dixon, who portrays Aaron Burr. “But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us, all of us. We truly thank you for sharing this show—this wonderful American...

The number of teacher aides in America continues to grow. They comprised only 1.7 percent of U.S. school-based staff in 1970, but forty years later, in 2010, that proportion reached nearly 12 percent. Yet we know precious little about their bearing on student performance. A new study by CALDER attempts to fill the vacuum. Analysts examine the impact of teaching assistants (TAs) on learner outcomes in North Carolina. The study also includes health care providers, but those data are less reliable, so this review does not include them.

Teaching assistants perform a variety of tasks that typically vary by state, district, school and even classroom. They include preparing classroom activities and clerical tasks, working with students in small groups, helping to assess student work, and managing student behavior.

North Carolina uses formulas to allocate positions, not dollars, to local districts, meaning that districts get a certain number of slots for teachers, principals, and support personnel based on student enrollment. There are no incentives to hire a new versus a veteran teacher, for instance, because the state will pay them according to their salary schedule. For teaching assistants, however, the state only provides a certain dollar amount per student to...

Italy has an achievement gap—one that may sound familiar to Americans. PISA scores show a marked gap between Italian students and those of other OECD countries in both math and reading. Digging into the data, Italian education officials found their own intra-country gap: Students in the wealthier north perform far better than students in the poorer south. As a result of all of this, starting in 2010, schools in Southern Italy were offered an opportunity to participate in an extended learning time program known as The Quality and Merit Project (abbreviated PQM in Italian). A new study published in the journal Economics of Education Review looks at PQM’s math and reading intervention, which consisted of additional teaching time after school in four of the poorest and lowest-performing regions in the country.

A couple of things to note: PQM intervention was focused not on improving PISA test scores, but on improving scores on the typical tests taken by students in lower secondary school (equivalent to grades six to eight in the U.S.). There is no enumeration of which/when/how many tests these students typically take and the researchers are not attempting to make a connection between the intervention and PISA...

Jeremy Noonan

In October, President Obama announced that the national high school graduation rate had reached an all-time high in 2015. Yet that same year, the percentage of high school seniors ready for college-level reading and math declined to 37 percent. In other words, as graduation rates rise, other metrics of student achievement are falling, raising questions about how schools are getting more students to graduate. One answer could be the widespread but questionable use of online credit recovery courses (OCRCs).

Students can enroll in OCRCs to earn credits in courses they’ve previously failed. They’re often administered by private companies that contract with school districts. National enrollment statistics are unavailable, but according to the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL), more than 75 percent of U.S. school districts use online learning for expanded course offerings and credit recovery. In Georgia, for instance, approximately 20,700 OCRCs were taken in 2016. And the Los Angeles Unified School District recently credited its highest ever graduation rate to the use of these courses.

One of the biggest red flags about this method of remediation is that passage rates don’t match achievement data. For example, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported...

Today, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is pleased to formally announce that we’re adding four new senior fellows to our team: Derrell Bradford, Jason Crye, Ian Rowe, and Erika Sanzi.

You may have spotted Derrell’s, Jason’s, and Erika’s work on Flypaper already, and you should expect to see each of them, plus Ian, writing regularly moving forward. All four bring talent, thoughtfulness, and a range of perspectives on education reform to inform our blog.


Derrell Bradford is the executive vice president of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and the executive director of its New York branch, NYCAN, with more than fourteen years working in education reform policy and advocacy. In his role, Derrell trains and recruits local leaders across the country to serve as executive directors of state CANs, advocacy fellows, and citizen advocates. He is also a member of the organization’s executive and leadership teams. He serves on several boards and leadership councils that focus on educational equity, including Success Academy Charter Schools, the Partnership for Education Justice, EdBuild, and the National Alliance of

I voted for Hillary Clinton. I wasn’t excited about it as so many other women, young and old, were. And the #ImWithHer movement didn’t resonate all that much with me because those who wrapped themselves in the hashtag and wore pantsuits to vote have never been willing to do the same for other women candidates, albeit conservative, who have faced the very same glass ceiling that women on the left have faced: Condi. Nikki.Carly.

My heart goes out to Mrs. Clinton. And her supporters. And all the little girls who were promised before they went to bed that they’d wake up to the first woman president. An ultimately misguided promise, indeed. But I shared their hope. The first woman president was certainly something that I, as a forty-three-year-old woman and mother, would celebrate. Hell, it’s about time.

Her concession speech moved and inspired me. Truth is, I’ve watched it a few times and each time, my eyes well up and the lump in my throat is big. Unfortunately, as a candidate, she didn’t move enough people the way she did in defeat. And despite her decision to apologize for the loss, she has nothing for which to apologize. If there...

In “Lost opportunity for charter schools,” Robert Pondiscio says education reformers should blame themselves for the failure of a ballot initiative this month to establish more charter schools in Massachusetts. The vote on “Question 2” wasn’t even close: 62 percent of voters were against it. That’s embarrassing. Only one other ballot question was answered more decisively: 77 percent of voters were against “extreme farm animal confinement.” No more eggs from cramped chickens.

But that’s another story.

Pondiscio explains that education reformers have been “too enamored of our own civil-rights-issue-of-our-time rhetoric to worry much about building a constituency among the middle class.” In other words, we’re out of touch.

I think Pondiscio is right: There are groups out there who aren’t hearing us. One such group, as he says, is middle class voters.

Another is Latinos.

According to the Pew Research Center, 729,000 Latinos live in Massachusetts, which is about 11 percent of the state’s population. Of those, 372,000 were eligible to vote in this month’s election: 8 percent of the electorate. This group is growing by the year.

Now, what would have happened if even half of Latino voters had supported Question 2? Charter schools would be...

Editor’s note: This article is part of the series The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom, which provides in-depth reviews of promising digital tools for English language arts classrooms.

As described in our prior post, Liquid Interactive’s Writelike is designed to strengthen a writer’s craft through analysis, writing exercises, and emulation of master authors. How does this design translate into strengths and weaknesses for the user?

What are Writelike’s most notable strengths?

Writelike’s greatest strength is the creative way in which it exposes students to numerous authentic literary excerpts and strong texts that they can read and emulate. The interactive exercises are fun and will likely keep students engaged, while helping to improve important writing skills such as writing in different styles, rearranging sentences into the correct order, and proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar (grammatical elements notably get more sophisticated treatment than in typical grammar texts: fragments are handled in a category amusingly entitled “four and a half types of sentences,” for example).

The activities themselves are also user-friendly. Exercises and drills allow users to check their answers instantly as they progress, and the site also offers ongoing assistance for students...