Flypaper

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),...

With Donald Trump in the White House and long-time school choice advocate Betsy DeVos installed as his education secretary, arguments for and against vouchers and scholarship tax credits are burning white hot.

A New York Times report and subsequent editorial claimed that "three of the largest voucher programs in the country, enrolling nearly 180,000 children nationwide, showed negative results." Choice advocates fired back, disputing the methodology of those studies and insisting that the vast majority of "gold standard" research has found that school choice produces "equivalent or superior academic results, usually for a fraction of what is spent on public schools," in the words of the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey.

Who's right? Who's wrong?

Wonky battles over research studies can be illuminating. They can also be irrelevant or premature. While McCluskey and other advocates are correct that the preponderance of evidence tends to favor school choice, this entire debate puts the cart before the horse. When we look to test-based evidence—and look no further—to decide whether choice "works," we are making two rather extraordinary, unquestioned assumptions: that the sole purpose of schooling is to raise test scores, and that district schools have a place of...

Some country politicians say education reform is fine as long as it stays in town—especially in the urban neighborhoods we call “inner cities.”

These folks think it’s great to help the poor. Some of them believe in the free market principles by which school reform works. But they see no need for reform in their own backyards. That might scare the horses.

These rural sluggards showed their stuff when Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Senator Susan Collins (Maine) voted against Betsy DeVos as education secretary. This country club might mean well, but they are wrong to oppose reform.

I have rural roots myself. I grew up in a place that is literally called “Farmersville”—a town of 700 in central Illinois. During my childhood, our area faded as its lifeblood—coal mines—closed.

I remember miners worrying about the future. They were powerless to reverse the market trends, but when all you’ve known is a coalmine, you grimace through the thin times and hope for the best.

What about the children in such places?

Once, after being away for years, I drove by the public school where I was educated through the sixth grade. A rust stain drooped below one of the letters...

Neal McCluskey

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.

My favorite scene from A Man for All Seasons, the Robert Bolt play about the execution of Sir Thomas More for his silent opposition to Henry VIII, is when More is begged by family members to arrest Richard Rich, the man whose deception about More would eventually seal More’s death warrant. At this point in the story, there is no evidence that Rich has broken the law. Here’s the exchange, but it is better watched than read:

Alice More: Arrest him!

More: Why, what has he done?

Margaret More: He's bad!

More: There is no law against that.

Will Roper: There is! God's law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do?...

Sometimes women with the best intentions end up hurting other women, and today is one of those days. While those who have the freedom, flexibility, and privilege to take the day off for #DayWithoutAWoman, moms in multiple states are scrambling to find child care for their children because their schools have closed, some with almost no advance notice.

Wait, what?

Yup, that’s right. There are schools that had so many women teachers and staff planning on being out that administrators felt they were left with no option but to close for the day. Kids miss out on learning, parents are totally inconvenienced, and some women will lose a whole day’s pay because they have to skip work to be home so that their kids’ teachers can take the day off.

Would these organizers of the “Day Without a Woman” be cool if they had a sick child and their doctor (a woman) decided to blow off their appointment? Should the nurse who administers chemotherapy stay home today? Would these pink hatted ladies be cool as cucumbers when they are rushing to fly off to an important event and the all-women flight crew says, “Nah, we are taking the...

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.

Should the federal government get involved in school choice? The question pits support for federalism and a limited federal role in education against our desire to expand options for kids. It’s a close call. Could this be viewed as a Race to the Top for school choice? Will private school autonomy be appropriately respected? These concerns are real and should remain front of mind, but they can be appropriately addressed while expanding choice for the millions of U.S. students who are languishing in assigned schools that aren’t meeting their unique needs.

In this case, choice trumps.

To navigate the increasingly complex politics surrounding how—and if—such a significant federal investment in school choice should be made, we encourage the Administration to follow three guiding principles responsible for the growth of existing federal and state school choice programs:

  • Focus on supporting and expanding the immense success of school choice in the states;
  • Do no harm to existing state choice programs; and
  • ...

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