Flypaper

Christopher Yaluma

A recent study examines how peer achievement and a classroom’s gender composition influence math achievement and student attendance rates.

The author, Ozkan Eren of Louisiana State University, uses data collected from a well-executed randomized experiment of middle and high school students in disadvantaged neighborhoods between 2010 and 2012. The sample included 5,320 students from eighty schools in twenty school districts.

There are three key findings: First, having a higher proportion of female peers in math classrooms improves the math test scores of female students, especially in less-advanced math courses, such as general high school math. A 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of female peers increases the average math test scores by 0.1 of a standard deviation. The gender effects on male students, however, are positive but insignificant. 

Second, regarding peer effects, having higher achieving peers has no significant effect on female math test scores, but does improve the marks of males in the bottom two-thirds of achievement: A 1.0 standard deviation increase in peer achievement increases boys’ math achievement by 0.4 of a standard deviation.

Finally, having a higher proportion of female peers in math classrooms decreases the probability of chronic absenteeism among male students, but has no...

It’s understandable that my friend Rick Hess would tell the Washington Post that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s approach to K–12 education has been all over the map, that “it feels like they have pivoted through a number of strategies over the last decade or two.” At first blush, he’s right. Once it was small schools, then Common Core, and now “school networks” are the Next Big Thing.

But that take on Gates is not quite right, or fair, because it misses what hasn’t changed, which is as important as what has. Namely, the conviction of Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as Warren Buffett, that education is still a sturdy path to opportunity for poor and minority children. In their words, “a great K–12 education and a college degree or job-training credential is a bridge to opportunity like no other when it comes to good jobs and career paths, and personal growth and fulfillment.”

This might sound banal, or even clichéd, but if you’ve been paying attention you know that these sentiments are no longer taken for granted. The populist uprising that is destabilizing democracies throughout the West is driven by a fear—on both left...

When Bill Gates speaks about priorities, people listen. When he omits speaking about what should be priorities, people listen even more.

During my one year as the Deputy Director of Postsecondary Success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, my colleagues and I often talked about the “Gates effect”—the extraordinary influence that the foundation’s goals and grants wield with policymakers, philanthropists, researchers, K–12 practitioners, and virtually every institution that is trying to improve outcomes for kids.

That's why it is important to read “Our Education Efforts Are Evolving,” a transparent and powerful essay by Bill Gates. He shares what he and his wife Melinda have learned since they and the Gates Foundation became involved in education reform in 2000, and delivers a five-pronged plan for the foundation’s future. Gates bemoans the fact that “schools are still falling short on the key metrics of a quality education,” and laments the persistence of the same disparities in achievement and postsecondary success for children of color and low-income students that motivated their action two decades ago.

The niggling question is why progress has been so meager despite the Gates Foundation’s billions of dollars of investment, as well as the enormous time and...

Janus, the two-faced Roman god from which the month of January draws its name, is associated with gates, transitions, and duality. Janus is best known, however, as the god of beginnings and endings (hence his placement at the start of the Roman calendar). So it’s hard not to see the irony of Janus v. AFSCME, a case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket whose resolution could signal the end of public-sector unions as we currently know them.

The case is the other shoe to Friedrichs v. California, which ended in a stalemate after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And when the result drops, everyone will be watching.

I wrote about these potentially catastrophic challenges to compulsory union dues last fall, but Rishawn Biddle at Dropout Nation and Nat Malkus at AEI have gone all in on the tea leaves.

Biddle notes that the American Federation of Teachers spent $44 million of its members’ money on lobbying activities and contributions. Those included $900,000 to The Atlantic, $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and $175,000 to the Center for American Progress, which released a hit job “report” on private school choice earlier in the year, complete with...

Remember how the Wizard of Oz, once the curtain was drawn back, turned out to be an insignificant little blowhard? What if “college education” in America, especially the kind that culminates in a bachelor’s degree, is headed toward a similar revelation?

Once upon a time, it was determined by the Great and the Good (as they say in England) that almost everyone needs a college education—and that the country needs for everyone to have a college education—and that it’s discriminatory and evil to deny anyone such an education. Whereupon we started slowly but surely to dilute what we mean by it.

That was inevitable in part because we weren’t able to fix our K–12 system to get everyone ready for what we formerly meant by college. When you declare that everyone—or almost everyone—should graduate from high school and enter college, you come smack up on the reality that tons of young Americans haven’t learned enough in twelve or thirteen years of school even to qualify for what we once meant by a high school diploma, much less college admission.

So at the high school end, we tried...

My daughter had two great privileges growing up: she attended a pair of first-rate private schools; and she played youth sports for many years at a competitive level. Here’s something I’ve said privately for years, but have been reluctant to say publicly: If I had it to do all over again and could provide only one of those two advantages—private school or competitive sports—I’d choose sports. And it wouldn’t be a difficult decision.

Given my perch as a teacher and education policy analyst this is, I suspect, a surprising admission. My reason for coming out of the sports dad closet is a piece written last week by Mark L. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute. “Why do American parents push their kids so hard when it comes to sports, but not so much when it comes to academics?” he asks.

Hand wringing over Americans’ obsession with sports at the expense of academics is a hardy perennial in education writing, social commentary, and even sketch comedy. Many parents “don’t push their children very hard when it comes to academics” Perry explains, because they “don’t necessarily believe in the connection between effort and academic achievement, and don’t believe...

One founding premise of the charter school initiative was that these new schools would be laboratories of innovation. Cutting red tape would free educators to test new approaches that, if successful, could be incorporated into the regular school-district environment.

In reality, however, what makes the highest-performing charters so effective is tireless staff and a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement, not curricular or pedagogical innovations.

Yet there’s a stir within several of the best charter school networks that deserves to inspire imitation in schools of all stripes. It’s not about technology or school culture, or even pedagogy. It’s the embrace of a broad, well-rounded, content-rich curriculum, starting in the early elementary grades. This approach to what’s taught to young children would constitute a sea change for U.S. elementary schools in general and charter schools in particular.

In the No Child Left Behind–Race to the Top era, reading and math scores determined a school’s accountability rating, and in English language arts classrooms, the mandate was “learn to read, and then read to learn.”

Many elementary educators are rediscovering that this approach, however logical-sounding and well-meaning, simply doesn’t work well with many children. A more evidence-based mantra would be, “learn a bit about...

The Council of Chief State School Officers launched the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) in 2013. Its purpose is to identify states with track records of innovative teacher preparation and support them in their efforts to implement aggressive and lasting improvements. The network’s first cohort comprised seven states: Connecticut, Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. In 2015, they were joined by eight more states: California, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

A new report examines the progress of those states, mainly in four key areas: stakeholder engagement; licensure reform; preparation program standards, evaluation, and approval; and the use of data to measure success.

In the realm of stakeholder engagement, participating states were required to outline how they would gain the “public and political will to support policy change.” Collaborations between stakeholder groups led several states to recognize the importance of clinical practice for new teachers. For instance, a working group made up of the Louisiana’s Department of Education, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Board of Regents collaborated to create a yearlong classroom residency for new teachers alongside an experienced mentor teacher, complemented by a competency-based curriculum.

Since states determine their own teacher...

As we’ve come to learn more about sleep and how it affects adolescents, school start times (SST) have become part of a national conversation. Several studies published in prestigious outlets such as the American Economic Journal and Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine indicate that later SST could be beneficial for students, as insufficient sleep is associated with poor academic performance, increased automobile crash mortality, obesity, and depression. And as more benefits of sleep have come to light, several medical organizations—such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine—have recommended that middle and high schools shouldn’t start until 8:30 a.m. However, understandable concerns about pushing back SST remain, largely regarding increased transportation costs and whether the shift might negatively affect after-school extracurricular activities and employment opportunities.  

Enter RAND Europe and the RAND Corporation, which conducted a recent study in which they aim to gauge whether the benefits of later SST are worth the costs. Throughout the process, they sought to address two questions: If there were universal shifts in SST to 8:30 a.m.—versus the U.S. average start time of 8:03 a.m.—what would the economic impact be? And would...

Reading
Education Week

A recent Special Report from Education Week, “Schools and the Future of Work,” takes a hard look at the skills “students need to succeed in the uncertain, intensely competitive workplace of the future.” Meanwhile, the reform group America Succeeds just published its own read on the issue, Age of Agility, which examines what the changing workplace means for businesses, employers, students, and schools.

To continue the conversation, we invited Jason Gaulden, one of the authors of Age of Agility, and Dan Scoggin, co-founder of Great Hearts charter schools, to share their perspectives on how schools can best prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world. Is it about gee-whiz technology and “twenty-first-century skills”? Or, counterintuitively, is the best preparation for the future an education that goes back more than 2,000 years?

Enjoy!

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America’s anachronistic education system
By Jason Gaulden

We’ve entered the “Age of Agility,” argues America Succeeds’ communications director, an exciting and unsettling time in our nation’s history during which workers and businesses will have to adapt...

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