Kate Kreamer and Ryan Reyna

The movement to expand career readiness is growing across the country. After reviewing all fifty-one state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans for our new joint brief, “Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans,” we found that almost all include at least one strategy to advance this work. Much more so than in the past, states are simultaneously creating more of these opportunities and holding schools accountable for their number of career-ready students. This is a significant shift in state policymaking that, if implemented in equitable and high quality ways, has the potential to benefit millions of learners.

Unfortunately, it is too soon to declare victory because most states failed to fully leverage ESSA’s flexibility to advance career readiness. For example, few states aligned their long-term goals to their vision for success, leaving many states’ overall strategy for supporting learners’ college-and-career readiness little more than rhetoric. And very few states leveraged ESSA to promote the integration of academic and technical instruction into their professional development or standards.

Seven findings—some good, some bad—are particularly noteworthy:

  • Forty-nine states’ ESSA plans included at least one strategy to expand career readiness.
  • Thirty-five plans included a career-focused metric in their high school accountability
  • ...

In an important and mostly depressing New Year’s Day column in The Washington Post, veteran education journalist Jay Mathews describes the on-again, off-again “carnival ride” to “raise school standards” that he’s observed over the past half century. “We love making schools more accountable,” Mathews writes. “Then, we hate the idea.”

He cites a pair of recent setbacks. First, the striking decline in states that require high school students to pass a statewide exit test before receiving their high school diplomas. Five years ago, that was the practice in half the states. Today, as documented by the anti-testing group called FairTest, it’s a graduation requirement in just thirteen jurisdictions.

Second, Mathews notes the gloomy appraisal of State ESSA plans that was issued last month by Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success, which declares that “States largely have squandered the opportunity…to create stronger, more innovative education plans” and that many “proposed graduation rate goals that far exceeded proficiency rates by 20 percentage points or more, creating the potential for states to graduate students that are not adequately prepared for their futures.”

Although my Fordham colleagues, focusing on just a few key elements of states’ ESSA accountability plans,...

Advertisements for investment funds always say that past performance is no guarantee of future results; in the case of my forecasting skills, that’s probably a good thing. After all, in 2016 I claimed that Donald Trump would never become president, and a year ago I thought that 2017 might be the year of coming back together again. So in the spirit of third time’s a charm, not three strikes and you’re out, here’s what I see coming down the pike in 2018.

  1. NAEP. The release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress results is always big news, but I have a hunch that this one will be bigger than usual. That’s because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen significant progress on the Nation’s Report Card and analysts will consider this round a legitimate indicator of the success or failure of Obama-era reforms. I’ll admit to being worried that gains will be minimal. The headwinds of the 2008 recession and the changing demographic mix of the student population are significant. Still, if states’ higher standards and tougher tests are leading to real changes in the classroom—especially as schools adopt high quality curriculum like Eureka Math—we ought
  2. ...

A November report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce examines the changes in the job market from 1991 to 2015, specifically the number of good jobs without a bachelor’s degree nationally and by state. Defining “good jobs” is subjective, of course, but here they are defined as those that pay at least $35,000 annually for workers under the age of forty-five (or $17 per hour for a full-time job) and $45,000 for older employees (or $22 per hour full time). In 2015, these jobs had median earnings of $55,000 annually.

The report uses annual survey data administered by the U.S. Census Bureau called the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement for years 1992 to 2016. Data for workers between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four are used to estimate employment by state, as well as the level of educational attainment, industry, and occupation.

In looking at the national breakdown of good jobs, 55 percent of those workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. And of the 61 percent of employed adults who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent have a good job. But this differs between states. In Wyoming, for example, 62 percent without the...

Regular readers know that I’m somewhat obsessed with the topic of screen time. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing, or the years our kids spent in a Waldorf pre-school, but I can’t help feeling a little guilty about letting my boys watch stupid Disney TV shows or play mindless video games when I could be engaging them in healthier pursuits. I stand in awe at my friends who have gone years—years—without allowing their children to watch a drop of television. It’s nothing but board games and arts-and-crafts at their homes. Incredible!

I don’t have that kind of discipline. And, as I’ve argued before, I’m not even sure a mass-media ban is what’s best for children. Everything in moderation, right?

So let me admit that the Petrilli family will be enjoying some screen time this winter vacation. Here are some great things you can watch with your kids that allow everyone to relax and will keep everybody learning to boot.



Geography Now!

My ten-year-old is obsessed with this YouTube channel, but

‘Tis a time of celebration, reflection, gift-giving, and—swiftly thereafter—planning and resolving for the year to come.

Let’s include in those reflections and resolutions some extra attention to the oft-neglected demographic subset we might simply call smart poor kids. They so often fall through a crack between two common assumptions in American education: (1) that “gifted and talented” education is something that’s mostly about able but also privileged middle class youngsters with pushy parents (i.e., that it’s an elitist thing); and (2) the belief that smart high achievers will generally do fine on their own and hence the formal education system should focus laser-like on the laggards and those on the lower edge of the achievement gap.

What gets left out are millions of able kids who, for reasons entirely beyond their control, aren’t middle class, lack sophisticated and aggressive adults to steer them through the education system, and who therefore depend heavily on that system to notice what they’re capable of and cultivate their abilities to the max. All of which was made worse by No Child Left Behind with its single-minded fixation on getting kids over the proficiency bar.

Why bother thinking differently about it now?

  • There’s an equity
  • ...

Earlier this month, Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success released a report assessing states’ ESSA plans. As The 74 reported, their reviews found them “largely lackluster,” a judgment that, at first blush, seems to conflict with Fordham’s own generally positive review of all fifty-one ESSA accountability plans. But don’t rely on first blushes.

The key word in the preceding paragraph is “accountability,” which distinguishes our report from theirs and mostly explains why ours was more positive. Although both reports looked at accountability, Fordham’s looked only at accountability—and only at select aspects of it—and we had good reasons for restricting our analysis in this way.

Both projects assessed “Consolidated State Plans” that states sent to the U.S. Department of Education as part of their obligations under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These submissions were typically more than one hundred pages long, and each set forth its state’s intentions in myriad areas, including assessments, accountability, long-term goals, school turnarounds, instructional support, teacher equity, programs for at-risk students, rural education, and much more.

One problem with reviewing everything in these plans—and a reason, we suspect, why neither report did—is that they’re basically big, complex compliance exercises. They...

The past year has been frantic and fraught, and that was no less true for education. Politically charged debates raged over perennial contentious issues like school discipline and school choice, as well as newer topics like the Every Student Succeeds Act and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

These topics and more show up in the two lists that follow, which comprise fifteen of our most-read articles. The first ten articles come from Fordham staff members, and the last five were written by guests.

The top ten Fordham-authored posts of 2017

1. David Brooks and the language of privilege, by Robert Pondiscio

Responding to New York Times columnist David Brooks, Robert Pondiscio challenged the assertion that the parenting styles of privileged Americans, the so-called “pediacracy,” is ruining America for the rest of us. This provocative piece also prompted a conversation around privilege in education, with responses on Education Post, Joanne Jacobs’s blog, and Fordham’s own Flypaper.

2. Counting down the top 5 education issues for 2017, by Aaron Churchill

Readers’ top five issues were school accountability, e-schools, the new federal administration, ESSA, and charters and choice—predictions that turned out to be rather prescient.

3. ...

A new working paper from the Stanford Graduate School of Education uses roughly 300 million state math and English language arts test scores from 2009–15 for students in third through eighth grade in over 11,000 school districts across the country to take a really-big-picture look at patterns of academic achievement. The analysis allows users to compare the growth rates across U.S. school districts, a view of educational quality that is rarely seen at a national level. The findings—broken down over time, by geography, and into various subgroups—should be of interest to all education stakeholders.

The data come from NAEP and state assessments via the National Center for Education Statistics and exclude only the smallest districts for whom data on test scores and/or socioeconomic status (SES) are not available due to small sample sizes. Data on students in bricks-and-mortar charter schools are also included, rolled into the data of the district in which each school is located. Data on students in online charter schools, which enroll without regard to district boundaries, is excluded. The author of the study estimates that the data account for almost 99 percent of all public school students.

The best news comes from the temporal analysis:...

Charter opponents have long argued that school choice increases racial isolation in America’s public schools. Earlier this month, for example, the AP released an unsophisticated analysis that supported this hypothesis. (That misleading story was swiftly discredited.) Related to this issue, Brookings has followed up a previous report, “Segregation, race, and charter schools: What do we know?,” with a study comparing the racial compositions of schools with their surrounding neighborhoods. It’s more rigorous and nuanced than the AP report, although it also risks further confusing the rhetoric in such an important and politically charged debate.

The analysts created their own measurement index for their comparison, using 2013–14 NCES Data for student enrollment and demographic information and 2010 data from the National Historic Geographic Information System (NHGIS) to determine neighborhood composition. NHGIS data are broken down into small census blocks. For purposes of this study, a school’s neighborhood includes all census blocks within two miles of a school that are also within the same school district. These demographics are then compared to school demographics to determine the “racial imbalance measure.” Each school has a racial imbalance score for white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and other race students.

The analysts...