Karla Phillips and Carri Schneider

Mike Petrilli recently reopened an important conversation. Why is there still such a great disconnect between student and parent perceptions of student achievement and reality?

Petrilli calls for “courageous language” to find a way to explicitly report to students and their families whether they are on track to be college and career ready. We totally agree with his suggestions and examples of better reporting and have been committed to helping states improve school report cards. We’ve even gone so far as to suggest an approach that mirrors what is now required on credit card reports. After all, don’t we owe the same level of full disclosure to students and their families?

One option that wasn’t discussed in the original blog that we think deserves some attention is competency-based learning (also called “mastery-based” or “proficiency-based”). We believe that competency-based systems create a more transparent, complete, and accurate, picture of student achievement than the traditional time-based and cohort-based systems.

In a competency-based system, students advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills regardless of time, place, or pace. Decisions of proficiency are based on true evidence and application of knowledge and not...

Michael Hartney

Fordham’s latest study, Charter School Boards in the Nation's Capital, doesn’t disappoint. Kudos to authors Juliet Squire and Allison Crean Davis (of Bellwether Education Partners) who, in tackling such a novel set of questions, have given us an array of heretofore-unknown information about the inner workings of school governance in the charter sector. While I won’t wade into every aspect of their voluminous findings, three items stood out for me, particularly with regard to what we currently know about traditional school boards.

First, charter boards are less stocked with “corporate” representation than your typical charter opponent would claim—yes, you read that correctly. Checker Finn once characterized traditional school boards as comprised mostly of politicians seeking higher office, disgruntled former school employees, and/or single-issue zealots. On the other end of the spectrum, charter opponents claim that charter schools are governed by profit seekers, big business types, and Wall Street executives rather than true “education professionals.” At least for D.C.’s charter sector, this assertion is not borne out by the data.

The table below compares occupations of traditional school board members and D.C.’s charter board members, using data from the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2009 survey. (Disclosure:...

Our goal with this post is to convince you that continuing to use status measures like proficiency rates to grade schools is misleading and irresponsible—so much so that the results from growth measures ought to count much more—three, five, maybe even nine times more—than proficiency when determining school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We draw upon our experience with our home state of Ohio and its current accountability system, which currently generates separate school grades for proficiency and for growth.

We argue three points:

  1. In an era of high standards and tough tests, proficiency rates are correlated with student demographics and prior achievement. If schools are judged predominantly on these rates, almost every high-poverty school will be labeled a failure. That is not only inaccurate and unfair, but it will also demoralize educators and/or hurt the credibility of school accountability systems. In turn, states will be pressured to lower their proficiency standards.
  2. Growth measures—like “value added” or “student growth percentiles”—are a much fairer way to evaluate schools, since they can control for prior achievement and can ascertain progress over the course of the school year. They can also differentiate between high-poverty schools where kids are making steady
  3. ...
Shannon Garrison

Editor’s note: This article is part of the series The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom that provides in-depth reviews of several promising digital tools for English language arts classrooms.

The use of text sets is a promising instructional approach that is informed by solid research on reading comprehension. A text set is a collection of texts that are tightly focused on a specific topic. As described in this earlier post, it may include varied genres and media and can be organized in many different ways. But all high-quality text sets have this in common: they are designed to build knowledge of an academic topic and are presented in a specific order with attention to text complexity, vocabulary development, and background knowledge.

However, quality text sets are difficult to find and not easy to create, so identifying resources that can assist is invaluable. Newsela, ReadWorks, and Achieve the Core are three sites that all provide particularly high-quality text sets for use in the classroom. I have reviewed each of them previously, and you can find those reviews here, here, and here.

All three sites offer useful...

In this study, the authors examine the long-term impacts of publicly subsidized preschool and nurse home visitation in Denmark, using administrative data from preschools that began receiving public funding between 1930 and 1957.

Overall, they find that low-income Danish kids benefited from preschool access in several ways, and that some of those benefits were passed on to the next generation. However, for kids who also had nurse home visitation at birth, the positive effects of receiving pre-school were reduced by 80–90 percent. For example, Danish kids who had access preschool by age three were about 10 percent less likely to have only a compulsory education at age twenty-five—unless they also had nurse home visitation, in which case the impact of pre-school was only a fifth as large. Similarly, male students with access to preschool earned about 2 percent more as adults. However, those with nurse home visitation saw an earnings boost only a tenth as large.

This pattern suggests that preschool and nurse home visitation may have been substitutes rather than complements—at least in pre-World War II Denmark. However, the program’s design makes it difficult to know what to make of this finding.

To receive public funding, Danish preschools had...

Maryland governor Larry Hogan has excellent political judgment. I wish I could say the same of his educational judgment. With yesterday’s revision of his already-controversial executive order regarding school calendars, he managed, in one fell swoop, (a) to delight the Ocean City vacation industry, (b) to please a great many Maryland voters who, when polled, favor a long, uninterrupted summer vacation, (c) to take away from the state’s school districts and counties an important element of local control, (d) to disregard the findings and views of just about every knowledgeable educator in the land, (e) to undermine the State Board of Education, almost all of whose members are Hogan appointees, and (f) to dim the future prospects of hundreds of thousands of young Marylanders who are not yet learning nearly enough to be prepared to succeed in college and modern careers.

Not a bad day’s work. I suppose it’s just coincidence that the amended executive order appeared on the eve of the Day of Atonement.

The key issue, as just about everyone now knows, is whether Maryland schools and districts should be able to start the year before Labor Day and continue it into the summer, or...

A multitude of research has shown that quality teaching is necessary for student achievement and positive labor market outcomes. Rigorous evaluations have been hailed as a way to improve the teacher workforce by recognizing and rewarding excellence, providing detailed and ongoing feedback to improve practice, and identifying low-performers who should be let go. While plenty of time has been devoted to how best to provide teachers with feedback, less time has been spent examining how evaluation systems contribute to the removal of underperforming teachers and the resulting changes in the teacher workforce.

This study examines the Excellence in Teaching Project (EITP), a teacher evaluation system piloted in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2008. The program focuses solely on classroom observations and uses Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) as the basis for evaluation (unlike many current systems, which rely on multiple measures including student test scores). Roughly 9 percent of all CPS elementary teachers participated in the first year of the pilot, which was considered a “low-stakes intervention” since scores on the FFT rubric were not officially included on teachers’ summative evaluation ratings.

Prior to the use of the FFT, teachers in Chicago were evaluated against...

British prime minister Theresa May has set off a royal dust-up with her proposal to loosen England’s half-century-old shackles on grammar schools, the British term for selective-admission public secondary schools focused on preparation for university.

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, England had a “tripartite” system of secondary education (not including old-line, private-pay prep schools like Eton and Harrow). Besides grammar schools for high achievers seeking an academic education, there were technical schools and “secondary modern schools.” Children were pointed down a particular track after taking the “eleven-plus” exam (around fifth grade).

This was typical of the era in many places and characteristic of class-riddled England. And of course it tended to perpetuate class divisions, as better-off kids with better-educated parents were much more apt to make it into (and want to enter) the grammar schools.

This arrangement began to change under Labour governments in the mid-sixties, as they pushed communities to create “comprehensive” secondary schools—akin to what James B. Conant, using the same adjective, urged for the United States, and what Ted Sizer would eventually dub the “shopping mall high school.”

Many policy chapters followed as Tory and Labour governments took turns changing priorities and ground rules but, by...

Matthew P. Steinberg and Johanna Lacoe

The federal Office for Civil Rights announced this spring that the number of suspensions and expulsions in the nation’s public schools had dropped 20 percent between 2012 and 2014.

The news was welcomed by those who oppose the frequent use of suspensions and expulsions, known as “exclusionary discipline.” In recent years, many policymakers and educators have called for the adoption of alternative strategies that allow students to stay in school and not miss valuable learning time. Advocates for discipline reform contend that suspensions are meted out in a biased way because minority students receive a disproportionate share of them. Some also assert that reducing suspensions would improve school climate for all students.

In a recent Education Next article, we describe the prevailing critiques of exclusionary discipline, then examine the research base on which policy reform rests. We also describe the alternative approaches that are gaining traction in America’s schools and present the evidence on their efficacy. Throughout, we consider what we know (and don’t yet know) about the effect of reducing suspensions on a variety of important outcomes, such as school safety, climate, and achievement.

In general, we find relatively thin evidence for both critiques of exclusionary discipline and...

This summer’s dual repudiation of education reform policy and charter schools by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives Coalition is a story that hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s a pivot that will come to a head later this week in Cincinnati, when the NAACP takes up a resolution supporting a national moratorium on charter schools.

The significance of such a resolution should be lost on no one.

In a rare and interesting turn, however, the press has repeatedly engaged on this policy matter in depth over the past several months. Even NPR, normally above the fray on these sorts of contentious education tilts, has chimed in (complete with illustrations).

Though the Movement for Black Lives’ position on charters and reform seems inconsistent with its ultimate mission, the national NAACP’s long-standing resistance to empowering families with school choice remains antiquated and deeply wrongheaded.

To be blunt, as this once-great organization continues its struggle for relevance in the era of Occupy and flash mobs, it must decide whether or not it wants to put the interests of the dues-paying teachers who occupy its ranks above those of the hundreds of thousands of black children...