While everyone is fixated on the Rio Olympics and the impressive start that U.S. athletes have made there, it’s worth a brief detour to the results of another summer competition—this one in Hong Kong—in which the American team dominated: the International Math Olympiad (IMO) for high-school students.

More than one hundred countries fielded teams at this year’s fifty-seventh annual competition, including most of those whose students surpass American teens when PISA and TIMSS assess math prowess. And yes, it’s true that Korea, China, and Singapore placed second, third, and fourth in this year’s IMO. But the six Olympians who represented the United States won gold. Nor was this a fluke. The American team came in first last year, too. In fact, with a single exception, it has placed in the IMO’s top five every year since 2000.

Selection for the U.S. team is, in its way, as rigorous as that for the Olympics, and it is conducted through a series of assessments and competitions organized by the Mathematics Association of America.

The six kids who represented the United States in Hong Kong last month are an interesting bunch: Five of them appear to be Asian-Americans, and four attend selective-admission high schools (three...

Keri Guilbault

Editor's note: This blog was first published as a letter to the editor in the Washington Post on August 7, 2016.

A profound injustice occurs when our schools fail to meet the needs of our most advanced students—and, in some cases, actively work against these learners and their parents—as Jay Mathews noted in his August 1 column, “She is a gifted young student, so why did educators doubt her ability?

Caitlyn Singam and her family had to overcome the obstinacy of teachers and administrators in Montgomery County who doubted Caitlyn’s brilliance and erected roadblocks to her being appropriately served. Unfortunately, gifted learners often suffer similar slights and all-out neglect, even in well-regarded districts like Montgomery County.

Under last year’s rewrite of No Child Left Behind, federal law explicitly authorizes school districts to use Title I funds to identify and serve gifted students and Title II funds to train teachers in working with such students. The law also enhances reporting on the progress of gifted students, and it supports research on identifying and serving gifted children from underrepresented populations in gifted education programs.

None of these provisions offers a panacea for decades of neglect and mistreatment, but they move us in...

No, I’m not referring to the Golden State’s rich palette of ethnic and other minority (and majority) groups, nor to its desire that they’ll live, work, and go to school in harmony, like Monet’s Water Lilies or Matisse’s Fauve masterpieces. I’m on the case of California’s nutty new color-coded approach to school accountability and school report cards. Not only is it manifestly discriminatory against color-blind people like me; it’s overall baffling and unhelpful to just about everyone who might ever want to make use of it.

We all know that the Every Student Succeeds Act gives states much wider leeway than they had under NCLB to craft school accountability arrangements that suit them. Just about every state is frantically working to get its Title I plan to Washington by the March 2017 deadline, and battles are raging over the Education Department’s interpretation (via draft regulations) of several key pieces of the new law.

One of those battles is about whether the feds should require states to issue a single “summative” rating, such as an A-to-F grade, for every public school. There are plenty of reasons why that’s a bad idea. Would you not, for example, know more about a school...

Jill Stein is the Green Party’s presumptive nominee for president in the 2016 election. She and Ajamu Baraka will face off in November against the Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, the Republican Party’s Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Here’s what she’s said about education:

1. Common Core: “Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.” August 2016.

2. Charter schools: “Public education is another example where there has been a complete scam [regarding privatization]—charter schools are not better than public schools—and in many cases they are far worse. They cherry-pick their students so they can show better test scores. The treasure of our public schools system has been assaulted by the process of privatization.” July 2015.

3. U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr.: “President Obama’s choice for Education Secretary has earned a failing grade from parents, students, teachers, and education advocates across the nation….King’s corporate education agenda has given Wall Street A+ profits, but has robbed our children of the quality education they need and deserve.” March 2016.


Catherine Worth

During my tenure as a teacher, I would inevitably listen to at least one of my colleagues explain their decision to leave the classroom at the end of each school year. When explaining their choice to throw in the towel, novice and veteran teachers alike would cite reasons along the lines of “This work is just too hard” or “I’m burned out and can’t do it anymore.” These teachers became part of a statistic we hear about often—the teacher turnover rate. Eventually, I joined them myself. Yet if my three years of teaching in a high-performing, majority-minority, urban charter school taught me anything, it’s that this revolving door can be a positive thing for schools and their students.

Teacher turnover is a buzzy concept typically used in conversations regarding school effectiveness and the issues plaguing urban schools. The 2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey to the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), commissioned by the National Center for Education and Statistics (NCES), found that 15.7 percent of public school teachers either moved schools or left the profession between 2011–12 and 2012–13. In charter schools, this number is slightly higher at 18.4 percent. Despite this meager difference, charter schools typically receive the most flack when...

Gisèle Huff

After almost eighteen years in the field of education, I have become convinced of the need to transform the way our children learn so that they can confront the unknowable challenges of the twenty-first century. I applaud any effort aimed at changing the mindset of those involved in the education system so that they can leave behind the traditional twentieth-century paradigm, which was (and in most places still is) an industrial model. Today’s enthusiasm for project-based learning (PBL) fits into the paradigm-shifting category, helpfully emphasizing that we learn best by doing. As a complete educational philosophy or strategy, however, it falls short on many fronts.

At some level, doing must be based on knowing. Yet in almost every PBL model that I’ve observed—Summit Public Schools being the main exception—little or nothing is said about the acquisition of knowledge. Instead, these models emphasize the completion of the project, and whatever knowledge students may actually acquire seems incidental and not clearly assessed. Of course, it’s true that knowledge alone is insufficient for today’s economy. Skills and dispositions must be developed in the learner for content to be relevant and engaging. But it is that “content” (a.k.a. knowledge) that students must master in order...

The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) has produced a “toolkit” to provide charter schools with alternative systems of discipline that—the authors claim—will foster positive school environments.

The report begins by reviewing more punitive disciplinary practices (e.g., suspension and expulsion) and noting that they are correlated with poor student outcomes. (They make no claim of causality.) They then assert that charters have higher rates of out-of-school suspensions than traditional public schools (a somewhat misleading claim; more on that below) and that these punishments are disproportionately felt by students of color, those with disabilities, and those identifying as LGBTQ.

The toolkit goes on to outline five rather self-evident “enabling factors” for charter schools undertaking discipline reform, such as a deep dive into behavior data to target areas for improvement and the development of alternative discipline models based on schools’ needs. It also describes some non-traditional systems of discipline—such as restorative practices (relationship building), structural interventions, “emotional literacy,” and culturally-responsive approaches—and provides sample practices and evidence of prior implementation.

The toolkit identifies possible benefits of discipline models that forego exclusionary practices, but it doesn’t begin to present a comprehensive picture of today’s policy discussions regarding charter school discipline. For example, Fordham President...

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously quipped, but they are not entitled to their own facts. This idea animates "The Learning Landscape," a new, accessible, and engaging effort by Bellwether Education Partners to ground contemporary education debates in, well, facts.

A robust document, it’s divided into six “chapters” on student achievement; accountability, standards, and assessment; school finance; teacher effectiveness; charter schools; and philanthropy in K–12 education. Data on these topics can be found elsewhere, of course. Where this report shines is in offering critical context behind current debates, and doing so in an admirably even-handed fashion. For example, the section on charter schools tracks the sector’s growth and student demographics and offers state-by-state data on charter school adoption and market share (among many other topics). But it also takes a clear-eyed look at for-profit operators, the mixed performance of charters, and other thorny issues weighing on charter effectiveness. (Online charters are a hot-button topic that could have used more discussion). Sidebars on “Why Some Charters Fail” and case studies on issues facing individual cities lend the report heft and authority, along with discussions on authorizing, accountability, and funding. In similar fashion, the chapter on standards and...

In recent years, more and more districts have encouraged students to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses because they’re more challenging and can earn them college credit. And according to the College Board, this encouragement has translated to more course taking: “Over the past decade, the number of students who graduate from high school having taken rigorous AP courses has nearly doubled, and the number of low-income students taking AP has more than quadrupled.”

Enter a new study that examines what role grade-weighting AP courses might have played in this uptick in participation (for example, a district might assign 5.0 grade points for an A in an AP course but 4.0 grade points in a regular class).

The authors conducted a survey of over nine hundred traditional public high schools in Texas, inquiring whether they had weighting systems for AP courses; if so, when they began; and what changes have occurred in their systems since then. Twenty-eight schools that had increased their weights made up the “treatment group,” including rural, urban, and suburban schools scattered around the Lone Star State. The control group was drawn from traditional public schools with school-level data available before any weight changes occurred. It was then...

Dear Mark and Priscilla,

Please allow an aging education reformer to offer some unsolicited advice regarding the work of the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Almost twenty years ago, I wrote a long public letter to Bill Gates that drew lessons from earlier philanthropic efforts in K–12 education—including many billions of dollars wasted by the likes of Ford, Rockefeller, and Annenberg. In it, I offered suggestions for the most useful work that the then-new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation might do in this realm, particularly by advancing the (also new) concept of charter schools.

In fact, Gates has done—and continues to do—good work in the charter sector. Much of what his foundation has undertaken in the K–12 realm, however, has fallen prey to the classic temptation to try to reform school districts. You—Mark—apparently succumbed to that same temptation when you committed $100 million to the renewal of public education in Newark, by way of both district and charter schools. Smart fellow that you are, you’ve acknowledged that the charter part of this generous gift has done some good (whereas the district part, not so much). You’ve probably read Dale Russakoff’s provocative book about what went wrong in Newark; she notes that you...