Flypaper

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.

That’s...

Joy M. Scott-Carrol, PhD

At one point in my childhood, I was one of the top five children in my elementary school class. At another point, I was an underachiever. I was a high-achieving child during a time where gifted education programs had yet to be implemented in our neighborhood public schools or clearly defined by educators. Teacher education programs back then were not designed to train teachers on identifying high potential or gifted children by the characteristics they exhibit in classrooms. Likewise, unless parents were exceptionally intuitive or highly educated, they too were uninformed on how to identify and advocate for their gifted children. The result was that I was sometimes reprimanded and, therefore, discouraged from expressing my intelligence and creativity. Rather than being shown how to channel my energy into something productive, I was shut down and told to be quiet.

I still have my second grade report card, on which my teacher wrote, “Joy(ce) talks too much.” I am sure it was not her intention, but my teacher caused long-term damage to my self-esteem and willingness to speak up. Through college, I was hesitant to contribute to classroom discussions even though I had much to add. In hindsight, it was not...

Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act opens the door to new approaches, the education policy community is rightfully interested in helping states overhaul their school accountability systems. I co-authored Fordham’s contribution to the cause, High Stakes for High Achievers, which looks at ways that these systems can signal to schools that all students (including high-flying ones) matter. We weigh in on the use of proficiency rates (avoid!), growth models (yes!), and other mechanisms for making low-income high achievers more visible. Other groups are making proposals about the “other indicators of student success or school quality” allowed by ESSA (i.e., indicators other than test scores); debates are raging about whether states must issue “summative” ratings for schools or use a “dashboard” of data instead.

These discussions are all well and good, but they assume that school report cards and ratings still matter—that parents, taxpayers, real estate agents, and others will see them and respond in ways that will put heat on our system to improve.

We might want to question that assumption. Because if school report cards continue to serve as a lever for reform, people need to be able to find them, and understand them. That...

Editor's note: This article was first published on June 18, 2015. It was last updated on September 12, 2016, to include new statements. Read similar posts for Trump's running mate Mike Pence, the Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson and William Weld, and the Green Party's Jill Klein.

Since Donald Trump announced his campaign on June 16, 2015, he has addressed many of today’s biggest education policy issues. But he’s also been talking about a number of these topics for more than a decade. For example, in The America We Deserve, published in 2000, he wrote about citizenship education, teachers unions, and school safety. And ten years later, in Think Like a Champion, he touched on American history and comprehensive education. Here are some of his views, with recent quotes first:

1. School choice: “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to...

Steve V. Coxon

America’s pipeline for STEM talent is happily expanding, but many groups remain severely underrepresented. This leads to huge disparities in the applicant pool for STEM careers. One reason is clear: family wealth.

Poverty squanders a wealth of STEM potential in childhood. In 2012, 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty, and that number is increasing. Poverty restricts academic promise in a variety of ways, including inadequate healthcare, lack of access to high-quality preschool and day care, a paucity of school resources, fewer good teachers, and increased school bureaucracy. Despite these disadvantages, there are still more than a million poor children nationwide who rank in the top quartile academically when they start school. Unfortunately, only about half of these children will remain there by the end of fifth grade, and they are twice as likely to drop out of high school as their middle class peer of the same ability. While many have the potential to pursue STEM, the odds are stacked against them.

To ensure that children from low-income families are included in the STEM talent pipeline, we need to start early, provide engaging STEM activities beyond the school day, and connect with families. Certainly by age...

Michael B. Horn

Last week, I offered thoughts on the Fordham Institute’s research paper on e-schools in Ohio, “Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools.”

It is a strong study. As I wrote, however, it suffers from four significant data limitations—none the fault of the analysts, but instead arising from inadequacies intrinsic to the data that are currently available to measure the outcomes of e-school students—that should give us pause.

It’s worth discussing one of those limitations in more depth, as well as exploring the policy implications of Fordham’s study.

Understanding students’ jobs to be done

The study controls for both the demographic and prior achievement variables of e-school students that are measured at the state level. This is useful for giving us a window into the quality of a school on average, but it misses the full circumstances in which a student enrolls in a full-time virtual school. In our research on innovation, we refer to this underlying causal reason as the student’s “job to be done.” It therefore does not allow researchers—and this report in particular—to actually compare like situations and results.

Demographic data often misleads researchers. In business, for example, most companies simply look at...

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to use “another indicator of student success or school quality,” in addition to test scores and graduation rates, when determining school grades. This is in line with the commonsensical notion that achievement in reading, writing, and math, while an important measure, surely doesn’t encapsulate the whole of what we want schools to accomplish for our young people. Reformers and traditional education groups alike have enthusiastically sought to encourage schools to focus more on “non-cognitive” attributes like grit or perseverance, or social and emotional learning, or long-term outcomes like college completion.

We at Fordham wondered whether charter schools might have something to teach the states about finding well-rounded indicators of school quality. After all, when charter schools first entered the scene in the pre-No Child Left Behind era, the notion was that their “charters” would identify student outcomes to be achieved that would match the mission and character of each individual school. Test scores might play a role, but they surely wouldn’t be the only measure.

As the head of Fordham’s authorizing shop in Dayton, I set out to determine which indicators the best charter school authorizers in the nation were using—measures that transcended...

Jeanne Paynter, Ed.D.

We should all know by now that the “differentiation in the regular classroom” model doesn’t work in practice. The Baltimore County Schools’ move (back) to this approach may be well-intentioned, but as Fordham’s Brandon Wright has written, “the real victims are gifted, disadvantaged youngsters…who depend most heavily on the public education system to do right by them.”

While Fordham and others have helped define the problem, I want to offer a practitioner’s solution that has worked in Baltimore classrooms and will work in your school system as well. It’s called the Catalyst Gifted and Talented Education Resource Teacher program, and it places highly trained and motivated gifted specialists in Title I elementary schools with the specific mission of discovering and developing talent. I’ve witnessed its impact in identifying talented low-income and minority students, including them in advanced curricula, educating Title I school teachers and parents about giftedness, and even raising school test scores.

When I became the county’s gifted and talented education program coordinator, the superintendent asked me to produce a research-based elementary program and curriculum that could be offered in every school in the county. We developed a handbook of prescribed but inclusive identification procedures, as well...

The big news to emerge from the forty-eighth annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools is that when a public school has been failing for a number of years, Americans would prefer to try to fix it by a six-to-one margin rather than to close it. More than any other finding in the poll, PDK says this result “exemplifies the divide between the reform agenda of the past sixteen years and the actual desires of the American public.” I’m not completely convinced. If school choice of any kind weren’t so utterly foreign to the experience of an overwhelming majority of Americans (nearly three out of four of us have no public school of choice available whatsoever), I’d be more surprised by the result. You’d likely get a similar ratio if you polled 1,221 adult Americans, as PDK has, and asked, “Given the option, would you like to have your home’s leaky roof and faulty wiring repaired? Or would you prefer to have your home condemned?” Without some clear sense of the alternative, you’d likely opt to stay put too. But let me not quibble too strenuously. The finding is noteworthy enough and surely says something about the disconnect...

A new report uncovers some good news about narrowing socioeconomic gaps in kindergarten readiness.

It compares the early life experiences of incoming kindergarteners in 1998 with those in 2010 using two large, nationally representative data sets called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). The data include survey information from a child’s parents and his/her teachers, as well as results from assessments of skills administered multiple times during kindergarten and elementary school.

Analysts examine, among other things, various readiness gaps at the tenth and ninetieth percentiles of the income distribution. For the most part, the data showed many encouraging signs: Across the board, analysts found that both high- and low-income young children in the 2010 cohort were exposed to more books and reading in the home than their 1998 peers. They also had more access to educational games on computers, and they engaged with their parents more both inside and outside the home.

These developments took shape despite the fact that other negative shifts in family characteristics have occurred in the twelve years between samples. Among families at the tenth percentile, the likelihood that a mother was married at the time of a child’s birth dropped five percentage points; fathers in...

Pages