Flypaper

Although it’s been almost seven years since many states took the important step of elevating their academic standards by adopting the Common Core, teachers and administrators across the country still bemoan the lack of reliable information about which instructional materials are high-quality and best aligned to the new standards.

One recent survey found that a whopping 90 percent of districts reported having major or minor problems identifying high quality, well-aligned resources. A second study found that the majority of textbooks had substantial alignment problems. In response to these reports, several entities such as EdReports, the Louisiana Department of Education, and the California Curriculum Collaborative have begun providing educators with impartial reviews of core instructional and curricular materials. Yet next to no information exists on the quality and content of resources intended to supplement a full curriculum.

Our recent series, repackaged this past Tuesday in The Right Tool for the Job, fills that void by providing in-depth reviews of several promising digital learning tools. The authors—four all-star educators—focus on English language arts (ELA) resources, as their fellow teachers stress that those are particularly difficult to come by (especially for writing).

Melody Arabo (a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary...

Research into non-cognitive aspects of human development is all the rage, and this study marries it with our fascination with birth order. It examines how birth order impacts non-cognitive skills, personality traits, and career paths. Analysts use a trove of longitudinal data to address these questions in Sweden, starting with population registry data that include every person born in that country since 1932, specifically data on their birth year, biological or adoptive parents, and biological or adoptive siblings. These data are combined with military enlistment data (until 2010, all Swedish men had to enlist), which include information on non-cognitive as well as cognitive abilities gleaned from a battery of physical, psychological, and intellectual evaluations. They also have data on employment and occupation from 1996 to 2009 for individuals between the ages of 16 and 74 in the labor market and they employ data from the Occupational Information Network (ONET) to generate measures of personality traits (such as conscientiousness, emotional stability, and extraversion) based on their importance to particular jobs. Finally, they include data from a survey of children at age 13 to examine how parental behavior affects kids’ study habits. The final sample includes children whose mothers were...

Local property taxes provide $180 billion for education nationally (29 percent of all funding), which makes the administration’s $20 billion promise seem cheap. A new study by EdBuild looks into the fairness of the local property taxes that raise those funds.

Discussing taxes can be opaque, so let’s start with the end goal: funding schools. Imagine two nearly identical school districts; one, a wealthy suburb, the other, a community with modest homes and incomes. The authors were concerned that the more modest district would have to tax itself more heavily (i.e. at a higher rate) to sufficiently fund its schools. In other words, they were worried that local property taxes are regressive in ways that “overburden low-income households or low-wealth homeowners.”

So they did some digging. They used district-level taxation, income, and property value data from eighteen states and the 2014 American Community Survey to investigate the relationship between a school district’s affluence and local property tax rates. They also closely examined three states (South Dakota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) to write a case study on the interplay between state policy and local taxation. The state-local funding dynamic is critical because, nationally, 90 percent of education money is sourced...

In Fordham’s fourth annual Wonkathon, twelve policy experts opined on how President Trump should structure his highly anticipated $20 billion school choice proposal:

To be maximally helpful to the folks inside the Administration and on the Hill who are actually working on this, we are seeking blog posts that focus on the nitty-gritty of how such an initiative should be structured. (Meaning we’re not interested here in debating whether choice is a good thing or whether it’s a good idea for the feds even to get involved with it. Though, to be clear, those questions are worth debating!)

Please draft a post that describes the contours of your proposal. Is it a federal tax credit and, if so, for whom? Individuals? Corporations? An expansion of 529 plans? A different kind of incentive for education savings? Something else? Would it support private school choice only, or other forms of choice as well, such as charters or magnet schools? Would it rely on state actions (such as the creation of a within-state tax credit scholarship program) or not? To what extent should it address (for example) student eligibility rules, regulations for participating schools, and accountability provisions at the federal level?...

That’s the topic of my recent op ed in The Baltimore Sun.

History—and recent events—suggest that the answer is no, barring a fundamental change in the stance of policy makers and those who influence them. While public education in Maryland assuredly has bright spots and success stories, it's failing far too many of the state's children… Far too many young Marylanders are trapped in dreadful schools. Even in such highly regarded districts as Montgomery County, we find school after school where barely one pupil in five is on track for college.

What to do about these “dropout factories” and the schools that feed ill-prepared youngsters into them? Here Maryland has nothing to be proud of.

Read more to find out who’s behind this situation in Maryland.

That’s what I argue in my latest “What Next” for Education Next.

Great Minds* didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and only went into the curriculum-development business when it won a contract from New York State to build a set of free, online math lessons as part of the state’s Race to the Top (RTT) grant. The resulting curriculum, originally known as “EngageNY,” spread rapidly nationwide, and a 2015 RAND survey found that an astonishing 44 percent of elementary school teachers in Common Core states reported using EngageNY at least once a week, more than any other math program, and 13 percent said they used Eureka Math.

Read more to find out why Eureka (a.k.a. EngageNY Math) has been so uncommonly successful.

*Fordham helped to incubate Great Minds in the late 2000s, back when it was known as Common Core, Inc....

In Fordham’s fourth annual Wonkathon, twelve wonks opined on how President Trump should structure his highly anticipated $20 billion school choice proposal:

To be maximally helpful to the folks inside the Administration and on the Hill who are actually working on this, we are seeking blog posts that focus on the nitty-gritty of how such an initiative should be structured. (Meaning we’re not interested here in debating whether choice is a good thing or whether it’s a good idea for the feds even to get involved with it. Though, to be clear, those questions are worth debating!)

Please draft a post that describes the contours of your proposal. Is it a federal tax credit and, if so, for whom? Individuals? Corporations? An expansion of 529 plans? A different kind of incentive for education savings? Something else? Would it support private school choice only, or other forms of choice as well, such as charters or magnet schools? Would it rely on state actions (such as the creation of a within-state tax credit scholarship program) or not? To what extent should it address (for example) student eligibility rules, regulations for participating schools, and accountability provisions at the federal...

Nat Malkus

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2017 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts to explain how President Trump should structure his highly anticipated $20 billion school choice proposal. Other entries can be found here.

School choice advocates have long faced a bear market. For a couple of decades, their investments have shown slow and steady growth, but for confident investors it has been a tough grind waiting for an expected windfall. This year, the bear market looks to be turning, and with Trump’s promise of a $20 billion investment in school choice, the school choice bulls are ready to run.

However, any good investment advisor will advise diversifying because going big on any one push can end in disaster. The question for advocates should not be how to make fast gains on a $20 billion investment in school choice, but how to structure that investment to pay off in the long run.

First, some preliminaries.

1.) Let’s stipulate that a big federal push is coming. It is clear that Trump’s eye-popping campaign promise to spend $20 billion on school choice was not a thoroughly vetted proposal. But elections have consequences, one being that this...

Sean Saffron

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2017 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts to explain how President Trump should structure his highly anticipated $20 billion school choice proposal. Other entries can be found here.

There’s a lot to know in the education policy realm so it’s important we define what we know for the purposes of this proposal:

  1. Empowering parents to choose the manner of their child’s education works for students—scores usually go up, graduation rates rise, and there is less contact with the criminal justice system, to name just three.
  2. Federal Title dollars are ineffective at improving student outcomes—recent studies of School Improvement Grants (Title I) and teacher professional development (Title II) find no benefits.
  3. Title I portability, the white whale of the choice world, is a messy proposition which obviously is an affront to Democrats and understandably makes Republicans uneasy.
  4. Title II funds serve a constituency, teachers, reflexively opposed to the Republican party—and who went so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton during her primary—either by funding their (ineffective) on-the-job training or assuring them of (easier) work by reducing the number of students in the
  5. ...

With a $20 billion federal educational choice program now a real possibility under the Trump Administration and Republican-led Congress, the media spotlight has turned to the voucher research. The discussion often revolves around the question of participant effects—whether students are better off when they use a voucher to transfer to a private school. In recent days, voucher naysayers have pointed to the negative participant findings from recent studies in Louisiana and Ohio in order to attack the idea. (I oversaw the latter study as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Ohio research director.)

These cursory analyses are misleading for a number of reasons. The Ohio study, led by respected Northwestern University professor David Figlio, came with a number of caveats that are often glossed over. Figlio was only able to credibly examine a small sample of voucher participants. To do an apples-to-apples comparison using a “regression discontinuity” approach, he had to focus on voucher students who came from marginally higher performing public schools (akin to a “D” rated school). As a result, voucher participants who left the most troubled public schools in the state—the “Fs”—were not studied. It’s possible that these students benefited from the program (or perhaps not),...

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