Flypaper

Karen Morse

In Growing Up Creative, author Teresa Amabile explains that fostering a creative environment helps children engage in abstract and analytical thinking, sharpen their visual-spatial acuity, and become more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking. Creative thinkers are more able to suspend judgment about people and circumstances and avoid gender stereotyping. They have high degrees of autonomy and demonstrate self-discipline in matters regarding work. They are able to delay gratification, tolerate ambiguity, and demonstrate high levels of self-control.

Creative learners are big-picture global thinkers with a willingness to take risks and strive for excellence. With your guidance, your gifted child can become a global thinker and make connections to real life experiences through the arts. This can lead to a lifetime of creative thinking, future problem solving.

“I’m painting a tiger pretending to be a lion,” exclaimed five-year-old Ben as he added a mane to his crude picture of a striped cat. Soon after that, he bounded off with a dry paintbrush-turned-sword and announced that he was Captain Hook pretending to be Peter Pan.

Children like Ben—who flow with unusual, humorous ideas—demonstrate creative thinking. Creativity requires original thought, which in turn requires clarity and a deep enough understanding of a concept that...

Just when they were starting to hit their stride, the new team at the Department of Education made a big unforced error this week. The good news is that it’s almost certain to be corrected, thanks to pressure from Capitol Hill.

The issue is the wonky but important feedback that Jason Botel, the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, provided Tuesday to three states regarding their ESSA plans. (Eventually the Department will provide feedback on every state’s plan, but these are the first.) Much of it is boring bureaucratic minutia—pointing out areas where Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico need to supply additional information in order to be compliant with the federal law. That’s fine and unexceptional.

However, Botel and company demanded changes to Delaware’s plan on grounds that several of its provisions are not allowed under ESSA. I think the DeVos team is misreading the law, the substantive issues, and the politics, especially after the Secretary has repeatedly promised to provide states wide latitude in implementing ESSA.

At issue are two aspects of Delaware’s proposal:

  1. Its long-term goals for boosting student achievement
  2. Its inclusion of student performance on Advanced Placement and
  3. ...

A new paper examines how schools failing to make “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind affected student attendance and behavior. Overall, it finds that the “accountability pressure” associated with No Child Left Behind encourages students to show up at school and to do so on time, but also leads to increases in misbehavior. Specifically, the authors estimate that being labelled as failing causes schools to post a 30−40 percent decline in reported absences, a 20–30 percent decline in reported tardies, and a 15–20 percent increase in reported suspensions in the following school year. As the authors note, it’s impossible to know to what extent these findings reflect changes in student behavior as opposed to changes in how that behavior is reported or addressed. But in their view, “the correct interpretation is probably some combination of both.”

Interestingly, while schools found ways to reduce absences and tardies for all performance subgroups, there were telling differences when it came to behavior, where the authors note “a u-shaped pattern—with only students at the bottom and the top of the test score distribution exhibiting notable increases in misbehavior.” Specifically, students in the lowest quartile of student performance exhibited larger increases than those...

A recent report from the Manhattan Institute seeks to demonstrate that “cream-skimming”—sorting students to favor smarter, harder-working pupils—is not the reason charter schools outperform traditional public schools on standardized tests. Author Marcus A. Winters points out that critics who use this argument ignore the fact that not all traditional public schools are open enrollment.

The report compares the English and math test scores of ninety-eight selective non-charter middle schools whose students have to pass entrance exams to be admitted, with those of seventy-three charter middle schools whose students are admitted by lottery and are often underprivileged minorities. All of the schools are located in New York City.

Winters reasons that if admitting students with better academic credentials does indeed result in higher test scores, traditional selective middle schools would fare significantly better than lottery-based charter schools. That is not, however, the case.

The report finds that the charter school students did better in math (38.3 percent proficient) than their peers at selective middle schools (34.7 percent proficient); but worse in English language arts (24.6 percent at charters compared to 32.2 percent at selective middle schools). Yet, when Winters adjusted for student demographics, the difference in ELA proficiency shrunk to a...

A recent study in the Social Science Research journal investigated teacher bias and its profound effects on student achievement. Many scholars have tackled this topic in various ways, but this study looks at subject-specific teacher bias, which manifests itself in terms of teacher perceptions and beliefs of student ability in math and English. It asks the question: How do math and English teacher perceptions of their students’ academic abilities vary by student race and ethnicity? Additionally, the study looks at teacher underestimations of student ability and its impact on students’ own expectations and achievement. Is there a significant causal-effect relationship between teachers’ low expectation of students and students’ own expectations and achievement? If so, do they vary by race or ethnicity of student?

The study uses data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002), a “nationally representative, longitudinal study of 10th graders in 2002 and 12th graders in 2004.” Selecting approximately twenty-six students from each high school, the study used a combined sample size of 12,500 students. To determine how teacher perceptions affected student outcomes, researchers used a propensity score matching method: For each student in the treatment group, there was a student in the control sample...

Eva Moskowitz is on a nice little roll. On Friday, the State Supreme Court handed her network of Success Academy charter schools a victory—and $720,000—ruling that New York City overstepped its authority trying to impose its pre-K contract on Success. On Monday, she was in Washington, D.C., to accept the Broad Prize, which goes each year to a charter school operator who demonstrates “outstanding academic outcomes among low-income students and students of color.” Success, with forty-one schools educating 14,000 mostly low-income New York City children, was nominated for the same award last year. The validation from her charter school peers is fortuitous timing for Moskowitz and Success Academy, which today unveils its “Ed Institute,” an online collection of free curriculum, tools, and training resources that are “the foundation of Success Academy’s school design.”

Attention must be paid. Moskowitz remains a deeply polarizing figure in education. But as the Broad honor suggests, whether enthusiastically or begrudgingly, one has to respect what she has brought to the families she serves. Success Academy students continue doing to state tests what Aaron Judge does to baseballs at Yankee Stadium, hitting them high, far, and with authority. The poorest performing Success Academy pushed 90% of...

One of the greatest and longest-lasting education accomplishments of the George W. Bush Administration, in which I was honored to serve, was the creation of the Institute of Education Sciences. Thanks to the vision, courage, and persistence of IES’s first director, Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, education research is no longer the laughingstock of the social sciences. Every week we find multiple studies published on important topics, employing rigorous methodologies, and yielding findings that can inform classroom practice. This is an enormous accomplishment. (Getting educators to follow the evidence is another matter.)

Still and all, we’re not nearly as far along when it comes to publishing rigorous research that is relevant to policymakers, especially state leaders and lawmakers, who make many of the big decisions when it comes to K–12 schooling.

It may be that IES, and the scholars that it funds, are doing the best they possibly can. As Rick Hess (among others) has long argued, many questions in policy and governance simply cannot be answered by evidence. We often turn to the healthcare system for inspiration when it comes to research, looking at randomized field trials of pharmaceuticals as a model for what we'd like to do with...

Matthew Ladner

The Fordham Institute has released an important new study on open enrollment in Ohio. Figure 1’s dark blue areas show districts not participating in open enrollment, and they just happen to be leafy suburban districts that are both higher income with predominantly white student bodies and near large urban districts with many students, who are neither of these things. Feel free to reference this the next time someone claims that public schools “take everyone.”

Figure 1. Ohio school districts by open-enrollment status: 2013–14 school year

Many moons ago, I wrote a study for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy about the interaction between charter schools and open enrollment in Michigan. I found a very clear pattern among some of the suburban districts whereby charter schools provided the incentive for early open enrollment participants to opt-in. After one district began taking open enrollment transfers and some additional charters opened, it created an incentive for additional nearby districts to opt in—they were now losing students to both charters and the opted-in district. Through this mechanism, the highly economically and racially segregated walled-off district system began to collapse.

Not every domino fell, however. I interviewed...

Jeremy Noonan

U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best High Schools Rankings are a source of great pride to some schools, and great consternation to others. Schools, in addition to earning a place on the publication’s hierarchical list, can also earn a “Bronze,” “Silver,” or “Gold” medal. Yet the way in which these honors are determined is puzzlingly problematic.

While a school’s math and reading proficiency rates, as determined by state exams, plus its graduation rates, can net the school a “Bronze” ranking, attaining a Silver or Gold ranking also requires a “College Readiness Index” (CRI) score at or above the median of all high schools rated, 75 percent of which is determined by “performance” on AP Exams. Performance, however, is not measured by a straightforward exam passage rate (i.e., the number of exams passed, out of the number of exams taken) or even by an average score, but by the percentage of all graduates who pass at least one AP exam.

A performance metric that calculates a success rate on a task that includes people who haven’t even attempted that task seems like an odd way of measuring success. Yet this same metric, sometimes called the Equity and Excellence (E&E) rate,...

Tough problems rarely have quick fixes. The racial achievement gap, which has plagued our nation for as long as achievement has been measured, and has grown worse in recent decades, is that type of problem. However, new research suggests that if the teachers of today can inspire more young people of color to be the teachers of tomorrow, we may be able to narrow that gap significantly.

A recent study by Seth Gershenson et al. found that black teachers, all else equal, have immensely positive long-term influence on black students. Somehow, having an elementary school teacher of the same race really helps students graduate from high school and go on to college. Unfortunately, only 7 percent of teachers in the U.S. are black, compared to 16 percent of the student body. Similarly, while 24 percent of American students are Hispanic, only 8 percent of teachers are. These underrepresentations perpetuate disadvantage.

In their conclusion, Gershenson and his team recommend that school administrators ensure black students get assigned to at least one black teacher. Yet that isn’t enough. The researchers used data from over 100,000 black students in North Carolina and Tennessee, and when assigned per standard procedure, two in...

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