A working paper released by the Hutchins Center this month argues that increased federal investment in educational research and development could narrow income-based achievement gaps, especially if those dollars are used to expand data-driven innovation and decentralize some of the policymaking process. In particular, the author identifies three policy areas the feds should target: school accountability, teacher performance, and undergraduate financial aid.

School accountability measures have had some success in narrowing the achievement gap, but they are not enough, argues the paper’s author, Sarah Turner. There is still an ample amount of inequality of opportunity owing to differences in family resources and circumstances. Families in the top income quartile are able to spend over six times as much on educational enrichment as those in the bottom quartile, giving them a clear advantage. Yet, according to Turner, the government can change this if it invests in high-quality assessments that states can tailor to local contexts to ensure the only schools available to the public are of sufficient caliber.

On the issue of teacher performance, value-added data clearly show that high-quality educators improve student achievement. Therefore, having more of them in low-income schools would also narrow achievement gaps. To help accomplish this,...

In this study, the authors estimate the “intergenerational income mobility rate” for every college in the United States, using data taken from the individual tax returns of over 30 million students who attended college between 1999 and 2013.

As defined by the authors, a college’s intergenerational mobility rate is the product of two factors: first, the fraction of enrolled students who come from households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution; and second, the fraction of those students whose subsequent earnings place them in the top income quintile.

In a society with perfect mobility, a child’s background would have no bearing on his or her future earnings, meaning exactly 4 percent of children would move from the bottom quintile to the top quintile (and every other quintile). However, in reality only 1.7 percent of U.S. kids actually manage this feat.

So what role do U.S. colleges play in promoting upward mobility? According to the authors, their analysis of the data yielded four main findings.

First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top one percent of the income distribution are seventy-seven times more likely to attend an Ivy League college...

It’s 2017, which means we’re in year six of the Common Core experiment. The big question that everyone wants the answer to is: “Is Common Core working?” Many states seem poised to move in a new direction, especially with a new administration in Washington, and research evidence could play an instrumental role in helping states make the decision of whether to keep the standards, revise them, or replace them altogether. (Of course, it might also be that policymakers’ views on the standards are impervious to evidence.)

To my knowledge, there are two existing studies that try to assess Common Core’s impact on student achievement, both by Tom Loveless. They compare state NAEP gains between Common Core adopting and non-adopting states or compare states based on an index of the quality of their implementation of the standards. Both studies find, in essence, no effects of the standards, and the media have covered these studies using that angle. The C-SAIL project, on which I am co-principal investigator, is also considering a related question (in our case, we are asking about the impact of college- and career-readiness standards in general, including, but not...

Chad Aldeman

If you care about teacher pay or teacher retention or, heaven forbid, teacher retirement, you should read Fordham’s new report, (No) Money in the Bank. Author Marty Lueken analyzed how long it takes teachers in the largest public school districts in the country to qualify for retirement benefits worth at least as much as their own contributions—a threshold known as the “crossover point.”

At first blush, this may seem like a low bar, but the results may surprise you. In the median city, teachers must stay for twenty-five years just to reach this minimum level of retirement savings.

To be clear, this is different from how retirement benefits accrue for most workers in defined contribution (DC) retirement plans like 401(k) or 403(b) plans, where workers are immediately entitled to their own contributions and interest. In those plans, there is no crossover point because a worker’s retirement account begins growing immediately and she never has to suffer long periods with negative savings rates.

Teachers are different. In fact, teachers have the most back-loaded retirement plans of any set of workers—meaning teachers have to wait longer to reach their crossover point than any other profession.

Consider that:

  • K–12 teachers are the
  • ...
Thomas W. Carroll

With a President who doesn’t fear the teachers unions and Republican control of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, the opportunity for school choice has never been stronger. A consensus is developing that the quickest and most effective route to a school-choice victory for all fifty states is a federal scholarship tax credit. This idea could be included in the major tax-reform overhaul expected this spring.

Indeed, a 2015 bill, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Representative Todd Rokita (R-Indiana), is an example of just such an approach. It proposes a federal tax credit for K–12 scholarships that is independent of state programs—much like federal tax credits for buying electric vehicles.

Some school-choice advocates have assumed that federal tax credits would be an “add on” to larger scholarships financed by state tax credit scholarships. That’s one way to do it. But there’s no reason a federal scholarship couldn’t stand on its own. And if it did, it would unlock school choice for children in every state in the land.

Here's how it could work. If you pay federal taxes and donate to any eligible, existing scholarship fund—for example, the Children's Scholarship Fund—you get to reduce your...

For years, intrepid number crunchers—finance experts, economists, and pension analysts among them—have been trying, with little success, to prompt state policymakers to take action on reforming public pensions for teachers. Their efforts have included jaw-dropping numbers (Liabilities total trillions of dollars!), catastrophic predictions (Districts will go bankrupt! Taxpayers will be on the hook for decades!), dire real-world consequences for both employees and students (Teachers will lose their jobs! Class sizes will balloon! Instruction will suffer!), and alarming appeals for equity (We’re denying new teachers a secure retirement!).

If only these warnings were exaggerated scare tactics. But they’re very real. Consider these examples from 2016 alone: Pennsylvania taxpayers paid over $4 billion to bail out the Keystone State’s teacher pension fund in the 2015–16 fiscal year, even as a major pension-reform bill failed to clear the state legislature. Detroit Public Schools owes the state of Michigan $138.5 million in back pension payments and is accruing what amounts to $33,560 per day in late fees and interest; just servicing this debt costs the district $1,394 per student. In Chicago, the dispute over not increasing teacher salaries because the funds were needed to pay for pensions became so...

Tomorrow marks the end of National School Choice Week 2017. This year’s seven days of celebration comprised more than 21,000 events held in all fifty states and attended by over 6 million people, as well as proclamations of official recognition from President Trump and upwards of six hundred mayors and county leaders.

To add to the commemoration of this important week, what follow are Fordham’s best choice-related publications, events, and articles from the past year.



Not long ago I saw a father and son at a coffee shop. The child was busy playing on a tablet and the father wore a t-shirt that read: “Hug a Millennial Today.” The shirt made me smile because Millennials—like myself—get a lot of bad press these days, with critics writing us off as a lazy, self-absorbed generation that can’t find our way out of mom and dad’s basement. What these detractors miss or ignore, however, is that the fifty-four million Americans who belong to this group not only have myriad redeeming qualities, but have also reinvented a number of our country’s institutions—such as the workplace—for the better. And as more of us have children, we’re primed to do the same for education.

Millennials now make up one-third of the American workforce, and surveys have shown that this generation values perks like flexible scheduling, telecommuting, and paid volunteer days at their jobs. Because of this, companies are responding by redesigning benefits packages to attract the best prospects. In other words, unlike previous generations that entered the adult world and blended in, Millennials are shifting older co-workers’ attitudes towards their own. This is probably because even Baby...

Shaun M. Dougherty

Despite the education community’s clear polarization over the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. secretary of education, there may be a silver lining in her confirmation—specifically, for those in the career and technical education (CTE) community.

CTE, formerly known as vocational education, is a rare area of bipartisan agreement. And the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Act—the largest source of federal funding dedicated to improving the quality of CTE programs in high schools across the U.S., and long overdue for reauthorization—could present a chance for legislators to find some common ground early in the Trump administration.

Democrats like the Perkins Act because it tends to promote inclusive education and provide promising career pathways for students, including those from less advantaged backgrounds. Republicans tend to like it because it frequently cultivates partnerships with small businesses and encourages the development of employable skills that ultimately drive economic growth.

For a Secretary DeVos, an advocate of school choice, the Perkins Act—and CTE in general—may prove particularly appealing in that the CTE delivery models in high schools increasingly integrate school choice options. Recent research, for instance, shows that high school CTE programs are now accessible through traditional public schools, part-time regional...

When I was a Senior Vice President at MTV, my job was to lead the network's efforts to use its “superpowers for good.” This meant to leverage the globe’s (then) most powerful youth media brand to mobilize tens of millions of young people to take action on the issues of most importance to their generation. We frequently debated whether our campaigns—like encouraging young adults to have safe sex—were actually helping them make better decisions or were normalizing bad behaviors. I concluded that the answer was both.

Now that I have spent seven years running Public Prep, a New York City-based network of single-gender public charter schools, I have an even greater appreciation for how a culture that divorces childbearing from marriage can shape young people's attitudes regarding family formation, and why the education reform movement must play a role in combating that culture.

16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and 30 Something Grandma are an actual trilogy of television shows, capturing the dysfunctional cycle of young women who get pregnant, become unprepared parents too early, typically get abandoned or under-supported by their equally unready male counterparts, and then witness their young children repeat the behavior less than twenty...