My respect and appreciation for the Foundation for Excellence in Education is almost boundless, particularly for founder/chairman Jeb Bush and CEO Patricia Levesque. Their “summit” last week in Washington was first rate and their policy advice for state leaders is nearly always sound.

But I (and my Fordham colleagues) must respectfully take issue with several elements of FEE’s “A–F School Accountability Playbook”—advice to states regarding school accountability under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

There’s much here that we agree with and that states would be well advised to do. Their recommendations for school participation in state testing and for reimagining school report cards are on the mark. So, too, their suggestions for measuring students’ academic growth, gauging the proficiency of ELL students, and using success (not just access or participation) in college-level courses such as AP as the “indicator of school quality or student success” at the high-school level. They’re also right to urge a uniform A-F-style accountability system for all the state’s schools and for singling out the lowest performers in that system for intervention.

All of their ESSA policy recommendations stem from eight principles set forth on the second page of the Playbook. Six of...

Neyda Mendez

After spending my elementary and middle school years in public schools, I stumbled upon a private school called Don Bosco Cristo Rey, part of the Cristo Rey Network of thirty schools that serve students in urban areas. At first, I was hesitant to even apply. I had spent my whole life in public schools. My friends were there, I knew how everything functioned, and going to a private school meant I had to put a lot more effort into my work. They were already getting students ready for college, and I didn’t think my middle school had prepared me for that.

After much thought, however, I ended up applying and getting accepted. From the start, I could see significant differences. The school was all about its four pillars: faith, future, family, and fun. I immediately felt at home. 

Two of my favorite things about Don Bosco are that it has small classes and comprises only four hundred students, compared to the 2,300 that go to the nearest public high school. These smaller quantities make interruptions less frequent and learning a lot more productive. Getting assistance on classwork and homework comes trouble-free. The small amount of students makes the school easy...

By Dr. Clar M. Baldus and Dr. Hope E. Wilson

Five-year old Carlo absorbs every Weather Channel special on tornados and then draws his own, very accurate scenarios. Gillian never holds still and naturally creates her own choreography, even when entering a room. Izzy makes up elaborate stories. Music seems like a second language for John.

You may have seen similar signs that your child is gifted in the arts. However, for many children, their artistic gifts may not be apparent until opportunity or exposure provides a spark. That’s why it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the many ways they can ignite sparks, nurture artistic talents, and provide opportunities for gifted children to explore the arts.


In some schools, the arts may be viewed as less important or eliminated altogether. While the recent inclusion of the arts education in the Every Student Succeeds Act is encouraging, it’s important for parents and families to support the exploration and develop of artistic talent outside of schools.

In many communities, opportunities outside of school abound. Local art museums, galleries, and university arts programs often provide summer and year-round classes, access to professional artists and mentors, and links to other interesting programs. Children can also find inspiration by...

No one could pin down what Donald Trump thought about education during this year’s campaign. That’s all changed with the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. In DeVos, Trump has selected a wily and battle-tested reformer, someone with clear policy goals who knows how to win a fight and make reform happen. She deserves our support.

Yet while some are celebrating, a gaggle of naysayers is spoiling the party.

The anti-school choice crowd, of course, opposes DeVos. In Florida, some teachers are already planning protests to decry DeVos’s nomination. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have condemned the choice, too.

We might expect criticism from teacher’s unions and other anti-school choice groups, but not from fellow education reformers. And yet some of them have been quick to join the chorus.

Some reject DeVos merely because she is willing to join the Trump cabinet. According to them, anyone who supports Trump is a misogynist and bigot.

That’s simplistic and unfair.

It’s also unproductive: who knows what good DeVos might do from a cabinet position?

Michelle Rhee said it best in a statement after her much-publicized meeting with Trump: “Our job as...

No group was more appalled by Donald Trump’s daily bullying of opponents and critics than Democrats. While scads of Independents and Republicans were troubled and even spoke out about Trump’s cruelty-laden rhetoric, Democrats were essentially united in their conviction that Donald Trump was evil incarnate. And had no chance of winning.

Then he won.

Now, the very same people who rightfully couldn’t abide the bullying have taken to using a much-watered-down version of the same tactic in the election’s aftermath—publicly shaming anyone in their own party who even considers working for the Trump administration.

Democrats for Education Reform is an organization I have always respected and admired. The same goes for their CEO, Shavar Jeffries. He is a bold champion for kids even when it means standing up to the most powerful and vocal members of his own party. I tip my hat to him and to the work his organization is trying to do. God knows he’s got an uphill climb in a party in which union money and influence are unmatched.

But Jeffries’s recent official statement on behalf of DFER, in my view, resorted to shaming any Democrat who would consider accepting the appointment of...

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

As described in our prior post, iCivics Drafting Board is an online essay-building tool for teachers seeking to help their pupils learn to write argumentative essays while exposing them to core civics and social-studies content. As with any online resource, however, it has both strengths and shortcomings.

What are iCivics Drafting Board’s greatest strengths?

Drafting Board is a unique online resource for improving students’ core literacy skills—namely, teaching them how to construct effective argumentative essays that are supported by evidence and reasoning. A major strength is its clear and simple breakdown of the writing process. The site’s use of user-friendly “game-like” graphics and instructions helps students at all levels to formulate ideas, organize arguments, and defend conclusions, while making the multistep writing process interactive and approachable (for example, text is supported through a glossary of potentially unfamiliar terms, such as “candidate,” “campaigns,” and “special interest groups”). Such embedded supports may be especially helpful for struggling students who are intimidated by long essays. Differentiating the level of...

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

We are keenly aware of the challenge in encouraging teachers to work on writing instruction in subject areas other than English language arts (after all, one of us is curriculum director for a midsized K–12 school district). First, teachers need to appreciate that writing well is essential to the study of any subject. Then we must help teachers recognize that their pupils need strategies for learning how to write well within specific subject areas. Absent such strategies, students may be assigned writing yet not know how to get better at it.

Fortunately, tools such as iCivics Drafting Board can help with writing instruction across subjects, particularly when it comes to the important “argumentative essay.” If you teach social studies at the secondary level, we find Drafting Board well worth a look.

What is iCivics Drafting Board?

Founded by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to enhance civics education across the nation, iCivics is a website that has grown from...

This week, the U.S. Department of Education released the final version of regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability provisions. It incorporates feedback the agency received on its earlier draft, and reveals a number of changes. One of these is particularly praiseworthy: States can now create accountability systems that measure student achievement at multiple levels—not just “proficient”—using a performance index.

Despite the good intentions of No Child Left Behind, which ESSA replaced a year ago, it erred by encouraging states to focus almost exclusively on helping low-performing students achieve proficiency and graduate from high school. Consequently, many schools ignored pupils who would easily pass state reading and math tests and earn diplomas regardless of what happened in the classroom—a particularly pernicious problem for high-achieving poor and minority children, whose schools generally serve many struggling students. This may be why the United States has seen significant achievement growth and improved graduation rates for its lowest performers over the last twenty years but lesser gains for its top students.

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires the use of an academic achievement indicator that “measures proficiency on the statewide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics.” There are, however,...

From the latest issue of the journal Economics in Education Review comes a fascinating paper in which author Metin Akyol creates mathematical models that simulate the effects of private school vouchers on the overall education system. It is not a study of an actual voucher program, but instead a thought experiment meant to test whether both universal and targeted voucher programs can increase the efficiency of the education system as a whole. As strange as this may seem to lay readers, there is in fact a long history of such econometric analyses—and their findings are often worthy of consideration.

Akyol’s complex model can’t be fully explained in this short review, but some features are worth noting. It incorporates the findings of empirical voucher studies to increase its reliability. It simplifies the real world in an effort to find the signal in the noise. Every household therefore has only one child, and the hypothetical school district has neither magnet schools nor charters. And one of its defining assumptions is that more efficient public school spending is an effective proxy for increased educational quality. In other words, it presumes that the money saved by greater efficiency can be reinvested in...

A new analysis conducted by a research team at Duke University examines the effects of two North Carolina early-childhood programs on students’ educational outcomes in elementary school.

The first, Smart Start (SS), is a state-funded early-childcare program focused on improving academic, social, and health outcomes from birth to age four. It’s open to all children in the state but, in practice, targets disadvantaged ones. The second, More at Four (MAF), is North Carolina’s state-funded pre-K program for at-risk four-year-olds, and aims to improve Kindergarten readiness.

Researchers analyzed state records and school enrollment data from North Carolina’s Education Research Data Center to estimate the impact of state funding for these programs on student outcomes through the end of elementary school (based on funding per county). Their sample was all children who attended a public school in the state between 1995 and 2012—really impressive in size. They also used a regression analysis and controlled for variables such as race, mother’s level of education, and prior test scores.

Outcomes of interest were math and reading scores based on end-of-grade standardized tests, special-education placements, and grade retention. Key questions were whether the program effects were positive, and whether they persisted or faded out by...