A new Mathematica study examines whether principal evaluations are accurate predictors of principal effectiveness as measured by student achievement. Researchers have done some research on the validity of teacher evaluation measures, but principal measures are less studied.

The authors examine a principal evaluation measure called the “Framework for Leadership” (FLL), which was developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education as part of a mandated revision of the state’s principal evaluation process. Superintendents and other district supervisors use the tool to assess principals, and it includes twenty leadership practices grouped into four domains. These domains comprise practices that, when employed by principals, the state believes can raise student achievement. The four domains are strategic/cultural leadership, systems leadership, leadership for learning, and professional and community leadership (more on some of these later).

The study uses data from the pilot implementation of the FLL—which had no consequences for principals who participated—during the 2013–14 school year. The study focuses on 305 of the 517 principals in the pilot for whom the analysts had suitable administrative data. It included state test scores for all Pennsylvania students who were administered state math and reading tests from 2006–07 to 2013–14, in grades 3–8 and the eleventh grade....

Late July might be famous for potato chips and trips to the beach. But it’s also the time when America’s inequality, like the hot summer sun, is at its zenith, particularly for our children. Affluent kids are spending their days (and often their nights) at camp or traveling the world with their families, picking up knowledge, skills, and social connections that will help them thrive at school and beyond. Needless to say, these experiences are seldom accessible to their less affluent peers.

As Robert Putnam argued in his landmark book Our Kids—and again in his recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap—there is a growing class gulf in spending on children’s enrichment and extracurricular activities (things like sports, summer camps, piano lessons, and trips to the zoo). As the upper-middle class grows larger and richer, it is spending extraordinary sums to enhance its kids’ experience and education; meanwhile, other children must make do with far less. (Putnam got the data for his chart from this study.)

Source: Kornrich, S. & Furstenberg, F. (2013), Investing in children: changes in parental spending on children, 1972-2007

More critically, that...

Janette Boazman

We hear parents, teachers, and students use the word hope every day. But what exactly does it mean? When we read or hear the word, we might think of a positive outlook or desire, yet its true definition is nebulous. It implies that something will automatically or magically occur without effort. Even though having an optimistic outlook is important to overall well-being, a person with an unstructured and immeasurable concept of hope is prey to vague expectations—as if he is a passive bystander waiting for an outcome to come about.

What happens when it is instead viewed as an active construct? Studies have found that hope, when used in a proactive manner, can become a useful framework to help achieve goals and contribute to personal and psychological health.

Positive Psychology: A Strengths Approach

Historically, psychologists have approached the study of psychological well-being from a deficit perspective, focusing on treating and alleviating pathologies. Over time, they have taken an increasingly proactive and positive approach to the study and development of individuals and their happiness. Positive psychologists focus on developing personal strengths, fostering the growth of positive responses to adversity, and strengthening social and emotional foundations in patient’s lives. They study well-being, contentment, and...

Tim Kaine, the junior United States senator from Virginia, is the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, running alongside Hillary Clinton. The duo will face off in November against the Republication Party’s Donald Trump and Mike Pence and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Education issues are familiar to Kaine. He was the governor of Virginia before becoming a U.S. senator, and his wife, Anne Holton, has served as Virginia’s secretary of education. Here are some of his views:

1. The Every Student Succeeds Act: “I’m pleased to report that Congress passed a bipartisan education reform bill in December 2015 called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This bill replaces the long-expired and broken legislation known as No Child Left Behind. It will make changes that educators and families support, like decreasing the emphasis on standardized testing and giving states the flexibility to close achievement gaps.” July 2016.

2. Free college: “We will make college debt-free for everybody.” July 2016.

3. Importance of education: “Education was the key to everything we wanted to achieve as a state [when I was governor of Virginia], and it’s the key to everything we want to...

A report released last month by the DC Public Charter School Board looked at how far students must travel to attend charter schools in the nation’s capital. It breaks down data by students’ age, race, and at-risk-status, examining how travel distances differ for those who live within the city’s various wards.

We learn that, on average, D.C. charter students commute a remarkable 2.1 miles to school as the crow flies. Depending on the method of transportation, this could mean a forty-two-minute walk, an eight-minute Metrorail ride (not counting the commute between home, metro station, and school), or a ten-minute drive (in no traffic—a fanciful scenario in our nation’s capital). Yet the report also found much variance between student subgroups.

Those travelling to special education schools had the farthest to travel: an average of 3.1 miles, almost a mile more than those in standard pre-K or elementary schools (both averaged two miles), middle schools (2.2 miles), high schools (2.4 miles), and adult and alternative schools (2.1 miles). When disaggregated by race and ethnicity, Hispanic students have the shortest commute to school (1.7 miles). All others faced an average travel distance of 2.2 miles. At-risk students (i.e., those who are homeless, in...

In a new NBER study, analysts pool estimates from lottery-based studies of the effect of charter school attendance on student outcomes, rescaling as needed so that the estimates of those effects are comparable across studies. They end up with a sample of 113 schools drawn from studies of KIPP and SEED schools, as well as charters in Massachusetts, New York City, Boston, and more.

On average, they find that each year children are enrolled at these schools increases their math scores by .08 standard deviations and their ELA scores by .04 SD on average, yet there's wide variation as expected. They link impact data to school practices, inputs, and characteristics of fallback schools (the non-charter schools that lottery losers attended the following year). They find that schools that have adopted a “no-excuses” model—which typically includes extended instructional time, high expectations, and uniforms—are correlated with large gains in performance. But noting that such schools are also concentrated in urban areas with poor-performing schools, analysts determine that the gains are largely a function of the poor performance of fallback schools. Once they control for the performance of the fallbacks, intensive tutoring is the only no-excuses characteristic that is consistently associated with student...

At an EWA webinar last summer, I was asked to name the best thing that could happen to restore civic education as a priority for U.S. schools. My spontaneous two-word answer: “President Trump.” That was good for a cheap laugh back in the days when the Huffington Post relegated coverage of Trump’s campaign to its entertainment section. It’s not so funny in the sweltering and divisive summer of Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Nice, when we seem determined to push our tolerance for one another past the limits of human endurance.

Only the most rabidly partisan and deeply unserious among us is not a touch fearful, wondering what the hell is happening. The concern is especially deeply felt among those of us whose jobs require helping children to process the irrational actions of adults in a world that seems to inch closer to the edge every day. What will we tell the children?

Our opportunity—perhaps obligation is the better word—is to think long and hard once more about the civic mission of schools and restore a vision of schooling organized around an embrace of the civic ideals enshrined in the Constitution. A surprising and counterintuitive step in this process may be reclaiming and rehabilitating...

George Betts

Ensuring that highly able learners are recognized through systematic programming is of the highest importance. All teachers must be able to recognize a high-ability student who needs more depth and complexity in instruction or a referral for further assessment and services. Teachers in specialized programs for gifted learners, or those who coordinate gifted and talented programs, should be familiar with the theory, research, curriculum strategies, and educational practices necessary to sustain high-quality, classroom-based opportunities for advanced student learning.  

To help improve teaching for the nation’s estimated 3–5 million gifted and talented students, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has created national standards in gifted education programming and services, as well as teacher preparation.

Pre-K–12 Gifted Education Programming Standards

National programming standards assist school districts in examining the quality of their programs and services for gifted learners. Recognizing that the ongoing evaluation and re-tooling of a successful gifted program is an evolutionary process, “NAGC Pre-K–Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards: A Blueprint for Quality Gifted Education Programs” detail a framework that focuses on student outcomes rather than teacher practices. Districts use the program standards both as mileposts for improving programs and as rubrics for evaluation.  

The standards have been endorsed...

At the National Charter Schools Conference last month, Secretary of Education John King challenged U.S. charter operators to rethink their approach to discipline and “lead the way on professional reflection and growth.” Fordham has expressed some skepticism about the nationwide drive to loosen disciplinary practices, particularly in charters. But the secretary's comments were largely well-considered, so I decided to pick up the gauntlet he threw down.

Over the past week, I solicited contributions from voices on all sides of the discipline discussion. Their assignment: To react to Secretary King's remarks, but also to help reframe the terms of a policy debate that's proven fractious to the reform movement for years. The questions they raised are numerous and pressing: What are the adverse effects on students of being suspended from school? How about the impact of trying to learn in a classroom with a disruptive classmate who can't be removed? What level of autonomy should we try to preserve for charter schools—which were created, after all, to experiment with their own approaches to school culture?

See the full series here:

1. Paul Hill: Tradeoffs, not absolutes, on suspension and expulsion

2. Sarah Yatsko: Suspending belief

3. Carrie Irvin: Charter boards need to understand school...

For three decades, leaders of both major political parties have recognized the urgency of reforming and renewing American K–12 education, and major elements of the reform agenda have generally enjoyed bipartisan support: higher standards, better teachers, results-based accountability, and more choices (particularly via charter schools). That’s why forty-three states—red, blue, and purple—have passed charter laws, and nearly all have higher standards and better assessments than they did a decade ago. From A Nation at Risk (1983) to Charlottesville (1989) to NCLB (2002) to ESSA (2015), elected officials from both sides of the aisle have been able to work together in pursuit of important goals involving the future of the country and its children.

They haven’t always agreed—especially on which levels of government should do what, how many forms of school choice warrant public funding, how best to evaluate teachers, and so on—but I’m not talking about consensus on the details of policy and implementation. I’m referring to mutual acknowledgment of the acute problems of weak achievement, unequal opportunity, too many dropout factories, and too few terrific teachers. Republicans and Democrats have generally agreed that the need for reform is urgent, and their policy outlines have often included many of the...