Last October, we lamented New York City’s neglect of high-ability students, particularly in its low-income neighborhoods. Since then, the district and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have taken steps to mitigate the problem.

Unfortunately, their efforts fall way short.

We surfaced multiple problems in Gotham’s approach to gifted-and-talented education, beginning with the once-a-year entrance exams that determine admission to the city’s skimpy and badly distributed supply of such opportunities for primary and middle school students.

Scored with a single citywide cutoff level, it’s a disaster for poor kids. In parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for example, just 14 percent of test-takers passed the January 2016 test. In parts of the South Bronx, it was 15 percent. Yet on Manhattan’s Upper East and West Sides, a whopping 46 percent reached the threshold.

These wealth-correlated pass rates mirror the city’s supply of gifted-education opportunities. Four of the poorest of Gotham’s thirty-two school districts have no gifted program to speak of, and many others have too few and do little to get the word out about those they’ve got.

This summer, Fariña and company launched an experimental program to make these programs more inclusive by targeting ill-served neighborhoods, such as those mentioned above and...

By Jonathan Plucker, Matthew Makel, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, Michael Matthews, and Scott Peters

Nearly all aspects of America’s schools are built upon age-based grade levels and corresponding grade-level expectations: standards, instruction, curriculum, and assessment, among others. This reinforces the implicit message that performing on grade level is the primary purpose of schooling. Yet it also ignores an important question: How many students already perform one or more years above grade level on their first day of school?

The answer to this question has profound implications for American education policy and for the organization of schools. If a mere 2 percent of students perform above grade level, for example, the present obsession with grade-level proficiency might make sense. But what if it were a far larger proportion? If one in every five students has surpassed that criterion before the school year even starts, policymakers would need to re-think the merits of an age-based, grade-level focus.

In a recent policy brief, four colleagues addressed this question and found that very large percentages of students (between 15 percent and 45 percent) are performing above grade level—and that these percentages represent staggeringly large numbers of students. In California alone, for example, this group comprises more than 1.4 million pupils.

To reach these conclusions, we examined five...

In a searing exposé, reminiscent of Upton Sinclair and the heyday of journalistic muckraking, the Houston Chronicle has assembled persuasive evidence that Texas has placed a de facto cap of 8.5 percent on the number of kids who can be placed in special education. Assuming it’s true—state officials seemed to waffle, fiddle, and redefine when asked tough questions by the reporter—this would go a long way toward explaining why the Lone Star State has for years had a rate of special-ed placements below just about everyplace else in the union, and far below a handful of jurisdictions (such as Massachusetts) that are pushing 20 percent. The national figure is about 13 percent, but the state-to-state variability is wide—although Texas, along with California and a handful of others, has long been a low-end outlier.

The protestations, lamentations, and handwringing that swiftly followed were to be expected—Matt Ladner weighed in (on Jay Greene’s blog) within hours, for example, terming Texas “nothing short of disgraceful” and urging that it try Florida-style special-ed vouchers—and the feds will surely look into whether Texas has violated the Individuals...

Dr. Sal Mendaglio

Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from the Summer 2016 issue of Parenting for High Potential.

Parents of gifted children are often concerned about their children’s anxiety, and with good reason. Research indicates that 12% to 20% of all children experience anxiety severe enough to refer them for treatment, and approximately 3% to 5% of all children are diagnosed with a variety of anxiety disorders.

Regrettably, children do not always express their anxiety in the form of “Mom, I am anxious,” or “Dad, I am afraid.” Their expression of anxiety—or lack of expression—depends largely on the child’s makeup, and is often expressed in different ways. Some children cry or behave aggressively, while others withdraw from the situation.

Though research on anxiety does not indicate the number of gifted children included in studies, it’s reasonable to assume that representative samples include children who are gifted. While the experience of anxiety is disturbing enough, if untreated, anxiety can cause serious consequences such as academic underachievement, substance abuse, and increased risk of other psychiatric disorders.

Sources of Anxiety in Children

Researchers have identified several general sources of anxiety in children. These sources include genetics, child temperament, parent-child early attachment, parental...

I respect Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, am glad to be a long-time citizen of his state, agree with most of his policies and priorities, and appreciate his appointing me to the State Board of Education. But in all seriousness, and as many others have already noted, he shouldn’t monkey with school calendars.

I understand that state attorney general Brian Frosh (until recently my neighbor) is examining the question of whether the Governor’s executive order is binding. I have no view on that, except that I would hate for the whole matter to become a political football. To me, it’s a solemn issue of sound education policy.  

Viewed that way, I see two main reasons why requiring (almost) all Maryland public schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15 is misguided.

First, setting calendars that work for particular communities is a quintessential element of “local control.” Maryland leaves many matters to localities that I believe would be better decided for the state as a whole, but this one—like personnel decisions, instructional methods, and school closings (and openings)—is one that’s best decided close to home and adjusted to local circumstances. All sorts of variables bear on...

A report recently released by the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution delves into the complex process behind designing and scoring cognitive assessments. Author Brian Jacobs illuminates the difficult choices developers face when creating tests—and how those choices impact test results.

Understanding exam scores should be a simple enough task. A student is given a test, he answers a percentage of questions correctly, and he receives a score based on that percentage. Yet for modern cognitive assessments (think SAT, SBAC, and PARCC), the design and scoring processes are much more complicated.

Instead of simple fractions, these tests use complex statistical models to measure and score student achievement. These models—and other elements, such as test length—alter the distribution (or the spread) of reported test scores. Therefore, when creating a test, designers are responsible for making decisions regarding test length and scoring models that impact exam results and consequently affect future education policy.

Test designers can choose from a variety of statistical models to create a scoring system for a cognitive assessment. Each model distributes test scores in a different way, but the purpose behind each is the same: reduce the margin of error and provide a more accurate representation of...

This new study, the product of a partnership between District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and researchers at New York University and the University of Maryland (including Dr. June Ahn, author of our recent report Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio's Virtual Charter Schools), examines how students’ use of educational software affects their achievement.

In 2012, DCPS began to implement a web-based mathematics program called “First in Math” (FIM) for students in grades K–8. The initiative consisted of games centered on basic computational skills and concepts like fractions or decimals. The authors examine student-level usage data, including how much time students spent on the FIM system, which modules they completed, and what achievements (like points, collecting “badges,” or unlocking bonus games) they earned at various points in the school year. That information was combined with student-level data, such as gender, English language learner status, special education status, race, grade level, and achievement on the mathematics component of the DC-Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS). The final sample included approximately 9,200 students in Grades 4–8 during the 2012–13 school year.

The analysis reveals some intriguing findings. Time spent using FIM had a small but significant positive relationship with performance on standardized mathematics assessments, even...

A new Mathematica study revisits the effects of pay-for-performance on educators. It evaluates the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which was established by Congress in 2006 and provides grants to support performance-based compensation for teachers and principals in high-need schools.

The TIF program has four components: measuring teacher and principal effectiveness using both student growth and classroom observations; offering bonuses based on effectiveness; enhancing pay for taking on additional roles or responsibilities; and providing professional development to help educators understand the pay-for-performance system.

From 2006 to 2012, the United States Department of Education awarded $1.8 billion to support 131 TIF grants. Mathematica’s study examines implementation of all sixty-two 2010 TIF grantees during the 2013–14 school year (for most of the grantees, this was three years into implementation).

It also separately reports impacts for a ten-district subset of 2010 grantees that participated in a random assignment study. Treatment schools were meant to all four TIF program components; they also received guidance on how to structure the bonuses, including admonitions that the bonuses should be substantial, differentiated, and challenging to earn. Control schools didn’t receive this guidance and were instead meant to implement every component except for the performance bonuses (they did receive...

Editor’s note: This article is part of the series The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom that provides in-depth reviews of several promising digital tools for English language arts classrooms.

Many years after the adoption of new academic standards in most states, frustrated teachers and administrators across the country still decry the dearth of Common Core-aligned curricular materials. One survey conducted by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) in 2014 found that 90 percent of surveyed districts reported having major or minor problems finding such resources. More recent studies conducted by Morgan Polikoff and Bill Schmidt also conclude that the majority of textbooks marketed as being aligned with Common Core actually have “substantial alignment problems.”

In response to this persistent lack of high-quality, standards-aligned materials, organizations such as EdReports and agencies like the Louisiana Department of Education have begun providing educators with free, independent reviews of curricular resources. Other groups have developed rubrics and evaluation tools intended to help state, district, and school leaders vet the quality and alignment of textbooks, units, and lesson plans (including EQuIPIMET, and Student Achievement Partners’ “Publishers’ Criteria”). Even Amazon has entered the curricular stage, recently announcing the launch of a ...

School failure is no longer the United States’ most pressing educational problem—mediocrity is. Both Trump and Clinton could do a lot of good by changing the tone of the education reform debate—and backing it up with a few discrete changes in policy. Specifically, they could shift the conversation from “failure” and focus it instead on “excellence.”

This is particularly the case for Trump, who found himself in hot water recently for saying to African Americans, “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.” Understandably, much of the black community took offense to his inaccurate assertions on poverty and employment. But his claim about schools is problematic too.

For sure, we’re used to hearing that, and some of us are used to saying it. Indeed, many schools serving African Americans (and Latinos and low-income students) haven’t been very good. Some are still failing. But the truth is that they have gotten better over the past two decades—a lot better. The typical African American fourth grader is reading and doing math two grade levels ahead of where the previous generation was back in the 1990s. That’s enormous progress.