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In a new NBER study, analysts pool estimates from lottery-based studies of the effect of charter school attendance on student outcomes, rescaling as needed so that the estimates of those effects are comparable across studies. They end up with a sample of 113 schools drawn from studies of KIPP and SEED schools, as well as charters in Massachusetts, New York City, Boston, and more.

On average, they find that each year children are enrolled at these schools increases their math scores by .08 standard deviations and their ELA scores by .04 SD on average, yet there's wide variation as expected. They link impact data to school practices, inputs, and characteristics of fallback schools (the non-charter schools that lottery losers attended the following year). They find that schools that have adopted a “no-excuses” model—which typically includes extended instructional time, high expectations, and uniforms—are correlated with large gains in performance. But noting that such schools are also concentrated in urban areas with poor-performing schools, analysts determine that the gains are largely a function of the poor performance of fallback schools. Once they control for the performance of the fallbacks, intensive tutoring is the only no-excuses characteristic that is consistently associated with student...

At an EWA webinar last summer, I was asked to name the best thing that could happen to restore civic education as a priority for U.S. schools. My spontaneous two-word answer: “President Trump.” That was good for a cheap laugh back in the days when the Huffington Post relegated coverage of Trump’s campaign to its entertainment section. It’s not so funny in the sweltering and divisive summer of Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Nice, when we seem determined to push our tolerance for one another past the limits of human endurance.

Only the most rabidly partisan and deeply unserious among us is not a touch fearful, wondering what the hell is happening. The concern is especially deeply felt among those of us whose jobs require helping children to process the irrational actions of adults in a world that seems to inch closer to the edge every day. What will we tell the children?

Our opportunity—perhaps obligation is the better word—is to think long and hard once more about the civic mission of schools and restore a vision of schooling organized around an embrace of the civic ideals enshrined in the Constitution. A surprising and counterintuitive step in this process may be reclaiming and rehabilitating...

George Betts

Ensuring that highly able learners are recognized through systematic programming is of the highest importance. All teachers must be able to recognize a high-ability student who needs more depth and complexity in instruction or a referral for further assessment and services. Teachers in specialized programs for gifted learners, or those who coordinate gifted and talented programs, should be familiar with the theory, research, curriculum strategies, and educational practices necessary to sustain high-quality, classroom-based opportunities for advanced student learning.  

To help improve teaching for the nation’s estimated 3–5 million gifted and talented students, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has created national standards in gifted education programming and services, as well as teacher preparation.

Pre-K–12 Gifted Education Programming Standards

National programming standards assist school districts in examining the quality of their programs and services for gifted learners. Recognizing that the ongoing evaluation and re-tooling of a successful gifted program is an evolutionary process, “NAGC Pre-K–Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards: A Blueprint for Quality Gifted Education Programs” detail a framework that focuses on student outcomes rather than teacher practices. Districts use the program standards both as mileposts for improving programs and as rubrics for evaluation.  

The standards have been endorsed...

At the National Charter Schools Conference last month, Secretary of Education John King challenged U.S. charter operators to rethink their approach to discipline and “lead the way on professional reflection and growth.” Fordham has expressed some skepticism about the nationwide drive to loosen disciplinary practices, particularly in charters. But the secretary's comments were largely well-considered, so I decided to pick up the gauntlet he threw down.

Over the past week, I solicited contributions from voices on all sides of the discipline discussion. Their assignment: To react to Secretary King's remarks, but also to help reframe the terms of a policy debate that's proven fractious to the reform movement for years. The questions they raised are numerous and pressing: What are the adverse effects on students of being suspended from school? How about the impact of trying to learn in a classroom with a disruptive classmate who can't be removed? What level of autonomy should we try to preserve for charter schools—which were created, after all, to experiment with their own approaches to school culture?

See the full series here:

1. Paul Hill: Tradeoffs, not absolutes, on suspension and expulsion

2. Sarah Yatsko: Suspending belief

3. Carrie Irvin: Charter boards need to understand school...

For three decades, leaders of both major political parties have recognized the urgency of reforming and renewing American K–12 education, and major elements of the reform agenda have generally enjoyed bipartisan support: higher standards, better teachers, results-based accountability, and more choices (particularly via charter schools). That’s why forty-three states—red, blue, and purple—have passed charter laws, and nearly all have higher standards and better assessments than they did a decade ago. From A Nation at Risk (1983) to Charlottesville (1989) to NCLB (2002) to ESSA (2015), elected officials from both sides of the aisle have been able to work together in pursuit of important goals involving the future of the country and its children.

They haven’t always agreed—especially on which levels of government should do what, how many forms of school choice warrant public funding, how best to evaluate teachers, and so on—but I’m not talking about consensus on the details of policy and implementation. I’m referring to mutual acknowledgment of the acute problems of weak achievement, unequal opportunity, too many dropout factories, and too few terrific teachers. Republicans and Democrats have generally agreed that the need for reform is urgent, and their policy outlines have often included many of the...

Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, is the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate, running alongside Donald Trump. The duo will face off in November against Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Here are some of Pence’s views on education.

1. Charter schools: “We want to eliminate low income and location as barriers to receiving a quality education, and public charter schools are an essential element of achieving that objective.” July 2015.

2. Vouchers: “This is a school that has greatly benefited by our educational voucher program, opening doors of opportunity to kids that might not otherwise be able to enjoy the kind of education they have here. We've increased our investment in our traditional public schools, we've raised the foundation under our charter schools, and we've lifted the cap on our voucher program." (Said while visiting St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School.) May 2015.

3. School accountability: “We grade our children every week, and we can grade our schools every year, but those grades should fairly reflect the efforts of our students and teachers as we transition to higher standards and a new exam.” ...

Lauren Morando Rhim and Paul O’Neill

Editor's note: This is the seventh entry in our forum on charter school discipline practices. Earlier posts can be found hereherehereherehere, and here.

Mike Petrilli’s recent blog post regarding student discipline in charter schools is a classic example of a false dichotomy—with a bit of Chicken Little thrown in. In that post, Petrilli proposes that charter schools should not be discouraged from disciplining students. Doing so, he argues, will fundamentally limit their autonomy and ability to successfully serve students at risk of failure.

While Petrilli does not explicitly call out students with disabilities, he emphasizes that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a big part of the overregulation problem he perceives. The role of the OCR is to ensure that the rights of disabled students and other at-risk groups are protected; unfortunately, this sometimes requires regulation.

Petrilli may find it amusing to poke fun at OCR (i.e., “Office of Hard and Fast Rules and Directives”), but he fails to recognize that parents and advocates don’t appeal to the office as their first line of defense. Rather, they see it as an option of last resort after trying to persuade schools and districts to uphold...

A new experimental study examines whether interim assessments have an effect on improving outcomes for students at the lower, middle, and higher ends of the achievement distribution, with a particular focus on the lower end.

Specifically, researchers study two reading and math assessment programs in Indiana: mCLASS in grades K–2 (a face-to-face diagnostic for which teachers enter results immediately in a hand-held device) and Acuity, a CTB/McGraw Hill product, in grades 3–8 (which is administered via paper/pencil). K–8 schools that volunteered to take part in the study and met certain criteria (like not having used the two interim assessments before) were randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions in the 2009–10 academic year. Of the 116 schools that met all criteria, seventy were randomly selected to participate, fifty-seven were assigned, and fifty ultimately participated. The outcome measure for grades K–2 was the Terra Nova; for grades 3–8, the Indiana state test (ISTEP+). The analysts conducted various analyses, each of which targeted impact at the lower, middle, and upper tail of the distribution.

In general, the results show that in grades 3–8, lower-achievers seem to benefit more from interim assessments than higher-achieving students. The magnitude of the effects were larger in...

Spend any time at all writing education commentary and you’ll inevitably find yourself coming back to certain ideas and themes. Here’s one that I can’t stop probing and poking at like a sore tooth: Why do we insist on making teaching too hard for ordinary people to do well? It seems obvious that we’ll never make a serious dent in raising outcomes for kids at scale until or unless we make the job doable by mere mortals—because that’s who fills our classrooms. So go nuts: Beat the bushes for 3.7 million saints and superheroes. Raise standards. Invest billions in professional development (with nearly nothing to show for it). Or just give teachers better tools, focus their efforts, and ask them to be really good at fewer things.

The latest data point to illustrate this idea—that maybe we should make teaching an achievable job for average people—comes from C. Kirabo Jackson and Alexey Makarin, a pair of researchers at Northwestern University. Their intriguing new study suggests that teacher efficacy can be enhanced—affordably, easily, and at scale—by giving teachers “off-the-shelf’ lessons designed to develop students’ deep understanding of math concepts.

The pair randomly assigned teachers in three Virginia school districts to one of three...

Ohio has finally proven that it is serious about cleaning up its charter sector, with Governor Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly placing sponsors (a.k.a. authorizers) at the center of a massive charter law overhaul. House Bill 2 aimed to hold Ohio’s sixty-plus authorizers more accountable—a strategy based on incentives to spur behavioral change among the gatekeepers of charter school quality. Poorly performing sponsors would be penalized, putting a stop to the fly-by-nightill-vetted schools that gave a huge black eye to the sector and harmed students. Under this effort, high-performing sponsors would be rewarded, which would encourage authorizing best practices and improve the likelihood of greater quality control throughout all phases of a charter’s life cycle (start-up, renewal, closure).

While the conceptual framework for these sponsor-centric reforms is quite young, the reforms themselves are newer still. (House Bill 2 went into effect this February, and the previously enacted but only recently implemented sponsor evaluation is just now getting off the ground.) Even so, just five months in, HB 2 and the comprehensive sponsor evaluation system are already having an impact. Eleven schools were not renewed by their sponsors, presumably for poor performance, and twenty more are slated to close. Not only are academically...

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