Flypaper

On Wednesday, November 23, President-elect Donald Trump named Betsy DeVos as his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education.

DeVos is a philanthropist based in Michigan, where she has chaired the Republican party and influenced many of the state’s education policy decisions, including the expansion of vouchers and the passage of Michigan’s charter school law in 1993. She has also served as the chairman of the board of the American Federation for Children, as well as a board member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Education Freedom Fund.

Here, in her own words, are some of Betsy DeVos’s thoughts on education:

1. On being picked for education secretary: “I am very excited to get to work and to talk about my thoughts and ideas on making American education great again. The status quo is not acceptable. I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. However, out of respect for the United States Senate, it is most appropriate for me to defer expounding on specifics until they begin their confirmation process.” 2016.

2. What we should strive for in American education: “I believe every child, no...

Editor's note: This article was first published on June 18, 2015. It was last updated on November 23, 2016, when President-elect Donald Trump named Betsy DeVos as his pick for education secretary. Read similar posts for her and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

President-elect Donald Trump addressed many of today’s biggest education policy issues while he was campaigning. But he’s also been talking about a number of these topics for more than a decade. For example, in The America We Deserve, published in 2000, he wrote about citizenship education, teachers unions, and school safety. And ten years later, in Think Like a Champion, he touched on American history and comprehensive education.

On Wednesday, November 23, President-elect Trump picked Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, a Michigan philanthropist and education activist who has chaired the state's Republican party and helped advance a number of education reforms, such as the expansion of private-school choice and the passage of Michigan’s charter school law.

In his own words, here are some of Donald Trump's thoughts on education, with recent quotes first:

1. School choice: “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to...

As of Thanksgiving 2016, nobody can forecast what the Trump administration will do—or even try to do—in K–12 education. Practically all he proposed during the campaign was a whopping new federal program to promote school choice. There was also loose talk about “cutting” the Department of Education and about the Common Core State Standards being “a total disaster.” It’s also no secret that, as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence was strongly pro-school choice and allergic to the Common Core (though the Hoosier State wound up with a close facsimile).

There’s not much more to go on today, save to note that Betsy DeVos, a highly accomplished, take-no-prisoners, school-choice advocate, is Trump’s pick for education secretary, and able individuals such as Gerard Robinson and Bill Evers are working on the education department’s “transition team.”

So let’s focus instead on some unsolicited advice to the President-elect as to what his administration’s policy priorities in this domain should (and shouldn’t) be.

Start, please, with the huge fact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its implications. When Congress passed and President Obama signed it in December 2015, almost fifteen years after George W. Bush proposed No Child Left Behind, the great...

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.

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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

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