The summer edition of the first-rate Education Finance and Policy Journal examines whether principals really think that all teachers are effective, especially since we know from prior studies that upwards of 98 percent receive positive evaluations. Supplementing 2012 administrative data from Miami-Dade, the fourth largest district in the U.S., Jason Grissom and Susanna Loeb ask roughly one hundred principals to rate a random handful of their teachers on different dimensions of practice. Importantly, they let the principals know that these are low-stakes ratings, in that only researchers would know the scores that they gave. The hypothesis was that without any stakes attached they might give more candid appraisals. These ratings were later compared to the high-stakes, summative personnel ratings (i.e., the Instructional Performance Evaluation and Growth System, or IPEGS) that principals gave those same teachers a few weeks later.

Analysts found that both sets of evaluations were quite positive, but the low-stakes evaluations tended to be more negative. Indeed, many teachers who were rated “ineffective” on the low stakes measures received “effective” or “highly effective” ratings on the high-stakes measures. Still, even though the official ratings skewed to the high side, teachers receiving the highest of the...

A new analysis from David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik, part of the “Evidence Speaks” series from Brookings, indicates that variation in educational practices between individual schools explains a large amount of the socioeconomic achievement gap. In short, school quality varies, and it matters for every student.

Using a specially created data set from the Florida Departments of Education and Health, Figlio and Karbownik were able to match each child’s school record with his or her birth certificate data, which includes parental education, family structure, and poverty status. Based on a child’s socioeconomic status (SES) at birth, they grouped children into SES quartiles. Then, they examined academic gaps between low- and high-SES students at three points in time: kindergarten entry (using existing readiness data), the end of third grade (the point at which most students in Florida are first formally assessed), and the end of fifth grade. The study included 568 elementary schools across the state with a substantive distribution of students in all four socioeconomic quartiles, excluding schools that were practically all low- or high-SES (about one quarter of the elementary schools in the state).

In line with prior research, achievement gaps were observed between high- and low-SES pupils....

Michelle Pearson

It’s almost the end of the summer and I realize that the professional development I have been in has been pretty fantastic, and pretty awful. I spent a good amount of time discussing about how we teachers can perfect our craft reaching at-risk students—a great goal. The difficulty is that defining an at-risk student can be hard.

We talked a lot about “those in poverty, those with gender issues, those with disabilities, and diverse students who struggle to have a voice and be accepted.” This makes sense. Yet not once this summer did I hear gifted and talented students mentioned as being at risk. Not once.

On some level, I get it. It took me nineteen years to fully understand that I had a gifted student in my own house who was at risk. But at 1:30 a.m., my son admitted he wanted to drop out of school.

After picking myself up off the floor, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what my husband and I could have done differently. After all, I teach gifted and talented kids. I differentiate my instruction. I work to meet their...

Russell T. Warne

More than sixty years ago, Lewis Terman said, “It seems that the schools are more opposed to acceleration now than they were thirty years ago. The lockstep seems to have become more and more the fashion, notwithstanding the fact that practically everyone who has investigated the subject is against it.” Terman’s words reflect today’s disconnect between research on and practice of academic acceleration.

Gifted education experts have been advocates of academic acceleration for decades. It is a strategy that works. Early pioneers in the field promoted grade-skipping and early college entrance. Contemporary scholars study a variety of academic acceleration, ranging from widespread interventions like Advanced Placement classes to less common procedures such as allowing a child to advance through a year of curriculum in just one semester.

Many studies have shown benefits during childhood for accelerated individuals, but few studies have examined outcomes of acceleration in adulthood. Two recent studies compared adult income for accelerated and similar non-accelerated individuals. The first study used the Terman dataset, a famous study that collected data on over 1,500 gifted children over the course of seven decades. The second study used more modern data from five U.S. federal government studies, ranging from...

Baltimore, also known as Charm City for those who grew up there, is my hometown. When I was a kid, Mayor Kurt Schmoke used his inaugural address to declare that education was one of his top priorities: “It would make me the proudest if one day it could simply be said that this is a city that reads.”

Thirty years of strife and lackluster education have, instead—in my mind as well as the minds of many others—given Baltimore a very different name that’s impossible to shake: “The City That Burned.”

So it strikes me as surreal that at its national convention in Charm City, a place where the fight for black opportunity may burn hottest, the NAACP issued its latest set of cold edicts to kill America’s—and Baltimore’s—charter schools. It’s offered a set of black-and-white notions, which would end the concept of chartering as we know it, in a town now infamous for the name Gray. You’d have to look the other way to miss the irony.

I participated in a debate on the organization’s charter school moratorium hosted by the NYC Bar Association just a few weeks ago. The NAACP board member, a former Goldman Sachs executive, participating in...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) grants states more authority over their school accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—meaning that states now have a greater opportunity to design improved school ratings. In Fordham’s new report, Rating the Ratings: Analyzing the First 17 ESSA Accountability Plans, we examine whether states are making the most of the moment.

In our view, three of the most important improvements that states can make are to ensure that their accountability systems:

  1. Assign annual ratings to schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators, and the public;
  2. Encourage schools to focus on all students, not just their low performers; and
  3. Fairly measure and judge all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Based on these three objectives, we rate states’ planned accountability systems using the most recent publicly available information. States can earn grades of strong, medium, or weak in each.

Table 1 shows the results for the seventeen plans that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, sixteen of which have enough information for us to rate.

Table 1. Results for states that have submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education

I am 200 percent in favor of personalized learning, defined as enabling every child to move through the prescribed curriculum at his or her own speed, progressing on the basis of individual mastery of important skills and knowledge rather than in lockstep according to age, grade level, and end-of-year assessments. (I’m 200 percent opposed to the “let everyone learn whatever they want to whenever they want to learn it” version.)

There is nothing beneficial to kids about declaring that every ten-year-old belongs in something called “fifth grade” and that all will proceed to “sixth grade” when they get a year older, get passing marks from their teachers, and perform acceptably on “grade-level” tests at year’s end.

That’s not how it worked in the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear, and it’s oblivious to the many ways that children differ from each other, the ways their modes and rates of learning differ, how widely their starting achievement levels differ, and how their interests, brains, and outside circumstances often cause them to learn different subjects at unequal speeds—and to move faster and slower, deeper or shallower, at different points in their lives, even at different points within a “school year.”

Yet we’ve organized conventional...

“It was one of the most powerful visits I’ve ever taken,” said Sheila Briggs, an assistant state superintendent with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. She was describing a visit last fall to Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School, a low-income school in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, about thirty miles northwest of New Orleans. “The ability to hear what the state education agency was doing and then go into classrooms and see direct evidence was phenomenal,” Briggs gushed. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.”

Officials of state education agencies are not known for hyperbole. Maintaining data systems, drafting rules and regulations, and monitoring compliance are not the stuff of breathless raves—especially in Louisiana, whose education system has long ranked near the bottom nationwide on measures of student achievement and high-school graduation rates. Yet in the last year, education leaders from across the country have beaten a path to the Pelican State to see what they might learn from education superintendent John White, assistant superintendent of academics Rebecca Kockler, and their colleagues. Together, this team has quietly engineered a system of curriculum-driven reforms that have prompted Louisiana’s public school teachers to change the quality of their instruction in measurable...

By Peter Cunningham

One of the oldest tricks in politics is to project your own flaws onto your opponents. Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten put this age-old tactic to use in a speech to her members last week, accusing the school choice movement of one of the most enduring shortcomings of the traditional public school system: segregation.

No institution in America has done more to perpetuate segregation than public schools. Until 1954, segregated schools were legal in America, and it was the standard practice in much of the South.

Less recognized, but equally pernicious, is the structural segregation all across America, where zoned school systems maintain racial and economic segregation. Some parents of color have been jailed for trying to enroll their children in schools where they don’t live.

Today, one of America’s most segregated school systems is in New York City, where Randi Weingarten once ran the teachers union. As a recent fight on the Upper West Side of Manhattan shows, even white progressive parents resist integration.

School systems across America and the colleges and universities that prepare teachers have also done a terrible job recruiting people of color into the teaching profession and an even worse job keeping the few they...

New findings from an upcoming study from Michael Hurwitz of the College Board and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia show that, while high school grades have been rising for decades, SAT scores have continued to fall. It’s not that achievement is strengthening; it’s that grades are inflating, particularly among high schools enrolling our most advantaged students.

The study was born of (1) variation between high schools on the awarding of grades and a suspicion that students are not making the kind of gains that their GPAs suggest; (2) a general increase in A’s, which makes it harder to identify high achievers; and (2) how this complicates colleges’ admissions decisions.

The authors sought to document trends in grade inflation and the suppression of GPA-based class rank information over the past two decades. They examined high school GPAs among SAT test takers reported on the College Board’s Student Data Questionnaire, as well as descriptive data from three federal surveys: the National Educational Longitudinal Survey of 1988, the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002, and the High School Longitudinal Survey of 2009. They also looked at the high school class ranks of incoming freshmen, as reported by colleges through the Annual Survey...