Flypaper

Sivan Tuchman and Robin Lake

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.

As the recent debacle at Washington D.C.’s Ballou High school showed, it’s not always clear whether graduation rates mean anything about whether a student is prepared for college or career. But when it comes to students with disabilities, we have reason to believe high school graduation rates are simply a farce.

This past November, The Hechinger Report reported shocking variation across states when it comes to graduation rates for students who qualify for special education. Arkansas is on the high end, with 84 percent of students in special education earning a high school diploma. At the other end of the spectrum were states like Mississippi, where just 31 percent of students with a disability graduated.

We dug into the data to try to figure out what might explain the difference between these two southern, high-poverty states.

Does Mississippi have more severe special needs?

We began by looking at whether students in Arkansas have less severe disabilities than students...

 
 

Despite genetic hardwiring of babies’ brains to learn language, emerging evidence suggests that different languages are acquired in different ways based on their specific characteristics. Most of what child development and education professionals know about language acquisition in young children is based on monolingual studies and is difficult to apply to bilingual children. But a large and growing number of young boys and girls worldwide are operationally bilingual—which means they receive regular input in two or more languages between birth and adolescence. Because language instruction and assessments are typically monolingual, understanding how simultaneous bilingual acquisition affects the taught/tested language could be an important step in supporting language development for young children. Does a low English score mean that a child is academically behind and in need of intervention? Or is she exhibiting a normal pattern based on her amount of exposure at home? A group of United Kingdom–based researchers believes they have made a breakthrough in the area of language development measurement that may open new avenues of education and support for dual language learners.

Their work involved three separate projects. The first consisted of collecting data on language exposure in a cohort of 372 typically-developing two-year-olds simultaneously learning...

 
 
The STEM Network Working Group

The NAGC Board voted to support the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) position statement on Providing Opportunities for Students with Exceptional Mathematical Promise. However, a video by Jo Boaler has caused some to question the importance of identifying gifted students. This is a response from the NAGC STEM Network Working Group.

In 1980, in their Agenda for Action, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) asserted, “The student most neglected in terms of realizing full potential, is the gifted student of mathematics. Outstanding mathematical ability is a precious societal resource, sorely needed to maintain leadership in a technological world.” This is even truer today, nearly forty years later as the world becomes increasingly technological and interdependent. In 1995, NCTM appointed a Task Force on what they termed “mathematically promising” students and charged the task force with rethinking the traditional definition of mathematically gifted students to broaden it to the more inclusive idea of mathematically promising students. The Task Force defined those students as ones who have the potential to become the leaders and problem solvers of the future. They averred that mathematical promise is a function of ability, motivation, belief, and experience or...

 
 
Jessica Shopoff, M.Ed., and Chase Eskelsen, M.Ed.

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.

What standards should students meet to graduate from high school? In the midst of graduation rate scandals and the ever-increasing population of high school graduates requiring remediation in college, it is no wonder that this question is a hot topic. Ensuing discussions typically revolve around things like the appropriate rigor of diploma requirements, high school graduation exams as proof of student achievement, and accountability changes that could be made to prevent schools from gaming the system. Are there tweaks that could be made to the existing system that could address some of the issues we are seeing today with high school graduation rates? Sure. But that only matters if we are convinced that our current system is worth saving, and as evidenced below, we aren’t sure that we have much (any?) data that says that is true (except the record-high national four-year cohort graduation rate, obviously).

...

 
 
Max Eden

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.

School leaders across the country have systematically lowered graduation standards in order to boost graduation numbers (and their own reputations). So the question at the center of this Wonk-a-thon, “What are appropriate policy responses?” is certainly timely. It is not, however, the core question we should be asking ourselves. 

Policy is downstream of politics, politics is downstream of culture, and the culture of the education reform movement has been corrupted. If integrity at the core is not restored, policy “fixes” will merely tinker around the edges of the issue.

The technocratic education reform movement provides structural and social incentives for fraud. The central premise is that by empowering highly-trained central office leaders with world-class systems designed by preeminent experts, we ought to expect “transformative” change. The notion that sitting a bureaucrat trained by the Broad Academy in a chair could fundamentally change the life trajectories of thousands of deeply disadvantaged students within just a couple of years is,...

 
 
Alex Medler

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.

It is a time to fundamentally reconsider what we think we know about high school graduates. But we should also revisit what the lack of a diploma tells us about non-graduates. Ultimately, we ought to expand our collective responsibility for both groups, get them to learn more, and invest in their development after they leave high school—with or without a diploma.

Most commentary focuses on the behavior of adult leaders and politicians. To the extent we talk about students, we focus on the future of those who earn diplomas and are cavalier about the consequences for those who do not.

Diplomas have predictive value to employers and higher education institutions; motivational value to students; and, for better or worse, cultural value that affects how we judge young people’s worth.

For employers and higher education institutions, a diploma can certify preparation and suitability. We should differentiate our understanding of preparation while de-coupling these certifications from the diploma. If we...

 
 
Quentin Suffren

Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.

Recently reported “scandals” surrounding graduation rates are a ripe opportunity to tackle a persistent problem in high schools across America. But the real scandal is the fact that a high school diploma—the tangible result of graduation—has become a bland assurance of young adults’ readiness to succeed in college and career.

What should “readiness” mean in 2018 in the United States? We know that 65 percent of jobs by the year 2020 will require a postsecondary credential (which could mean a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, a series of industry recognized credentials, or technical college training tied to employment and wage earnings). And the most highly-valued credentials are attained at the postsecondary level.  Therefore, “readiness” in 2018 means readiness for college and career. Those who argue for alternate high school CTE pathways devoid of postsecondary instruction overlook both what employers need as well as the growing number of states, districts, and schools offering robust, industry-valued pathways aligned to middle-...

 
 

This post is the second in a series of articles leading up to the release of new NAEP results on April 10. See the first post here. Future posts will examine state and local trends and identify the key questions that new NAEP scores will potentially answer.

The 2017 NAEP results will be released in April and will provide policymakers and analysts important data with which to track America’s academic progress or lack thereof.

To help us prepare, here’s a look at recent national trends, sliced and diced several different ways. In our view, the most helpful analyses:

  1. Look at subgroup performance. If we examine national trends alone, we conflate changes in educational progress with fluctuations in the student population. As our schools serve greater numbers of Hispanic students and fewer whites, for example, we should expect achievement to decline somewhat because Hispanic students, who are more likely to live in poverty, tend to perform at lower levels, on average, than whites. Splitting out the trends for the major racial subgroups helps to overcome this problem.
  2. Follow trends over a long period of time. Obsessing about gains or declines over a two-year period doesn’t tell us much. Long-term changes
  3. ...
 
 

“You can’t handle the truth.” I’m beginning to think there was great wisdom in these five words uttered by Colonel Jessup, the character played by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film “A Few Good Men.” While he was totally wrong in the context of the film, his words seem quite right when applied to America in 2018. Our politics have become so polarized that people avoid asking all the hard questions about the Parkland shooting, unwilling to accept that even a small part of the truth may not align with their preferred narrative.

The powerful pro-gun lobby, with the NRA as its leader, has done everything in its power to shut down research on gun violence for fear that it may lead to increased gun control. But how can we have an honest debate about gun violence if we can’t even study the issue?

Similarly, since 2013, schools have been under enormous pressure—for good reason—to lower their suspension, expulsion, and student arrest numbers. Broward County was part of the PROMISE program (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education), which was intended, according to the website, “to safeguard the student from entering the judicial system.” Sounds good to...

 
 

Liberal arts degrees get a bad rap. They’ve been called worthless and inferior, and some have even suggested that it may be wiser to get no college degree at all. Yet do not fear, all you liberal arts graduates, there’s welcome news for you in Mark Schneider’s and Matthew Sigelman’s latest report, Saving the Liberal Arts: Making the Bachelor’s Degree a Better Path to Labor Market Success. The duo from the American Institutes for Research examines whether students graduating with liberal arts degrees are getting a good return on their investment, and how they might maximize those degrees by incorporating other skills.

They use data from Burning Glass Technologies, which, according to their website, is an analytics software company that is “powered by the world’s largest and most sophisticated database of jobs and talent, [delivering] real-time data and breakthrough planning tools that inform careers, define academic programs, and shape workforces.” The BGT database has over 150 million unique job postings dating back to 2007, and over 78 million resumes. Their technology extracts information from roughly 50,000 online job boards, newspapers, and employer websites daily. They claim to capture, at minimum, 80–90 percent of job postings that organizations...

 
 

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