A new study tests the theory that pupils in a school’s oldest grade have better experiences—less bullying, heightened feelings of safety, and better academic outcomes—than those in younger grades.

Analysts examined two cohorts of New York City middle school students (sixth- through eighth-graders) totaling about 90,000 students and 500 schools between 2008 and 2011. They utilized various student-level demographic data, as well as student self-reported data on the NYC School Survey, which includes questions about school environment and other non-academic information.

Through causal analysis, the study finds that students who are in the top of the grade span in a school (most of whom are also the oldest) are indeed less likely to report bullying, fights, and gang activity and more likely to report feeling safe and welcome than those in the bottom of the grade span (who are usually a school’s youngest). The latter report the opposite on all of those measures, while, fittingly, those in the middle of a school’s grade span report experiences that fall between those of buildings’ top- and bottom-grade tiers.

Interestingly, being in a school’s senior-most grade had a greater positive effect on sixth-graders than it did on eighth-graders. Analysts found that the larger...

A new Fordham Institute study, Charter School Boards in the Nation's Capital, asks a simple but largely uninvestigated question: Do the characteristics, views, and practices of charter boards have any bearing on charter school quality?

To answer this critical question, we enlisted two of Bellwether Education Partners’ savviest analysts, Juliet Squire and Allison Crean Davis.

The object of our analysis, Washington D.C., has both pros and cons. It’s a good place to analyze charter board governance because its scale (sixty-two boards overseeing 112 campuses) is sufficient for comparisons. And it operates under a single set of laws and regulations, a uniform set of school-quality metrics, and a single authorizer that values transparency.

Yet the sector is also atypical. It is relatively large—enrolling nearly half of the city’s public school students—and high performing. This differentiates it from many others across the country that are less established, more fragile, and include suburban and rural charter schools, so we cannot and do not claim that our findings are generalizable beyond the nation’s capital.

Nevertheless, they paint a detailed and revealing portrait of what is occurring in D.C.—and what may be, could be, or should be occurring elsewhere. Our survey response rate was...

Kay S. Hymowitz

As the media picked over the carcass of Donald Trump’s disastrous debate performance last week, Hillary Clinton’s critics continued to eye one statement by the Democratic nominee. “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she said in response to moderator Lester Holt’s question about recent police shootings of black men. “I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other.” She promised to fund implicit-bias training for police forces if she is elected.

By citing “implicit bias”—defined as unconsciously held “negative associations” about a group—the ever-studious Clinton introduced into the political conversation an academic term that has migrated from social-justice circles to the mainstream. A new paper by the Yale Child Study Center on implicit bias among preschool teachers gives us a chance to get a closer look at the concept in practice. The results are dismaying. Though endorsed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and gullibly covered in major media outlets, the study is a mess of contradictions and spin. If it proves anything other than the bias of both social scientists and the media on racial issues, it’s...

Nicole M. Monteiro, Ph.D.

“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” - Paulo Freire

As a child, I always had a sense of myself—a way of understanding who I was/am, in a very concrete and tangible way. When I was a young girl others would often comment that I appeared very grounded and steady. At the time I didn't quite know what they meant because I was usually in my own internal world and not really aware of how others viewed me. But I do remember as a child feeling connected to my familial roots and having a deep perception of and sensitivity to my physical, mental, and spiritual existence. That is what knowledge of self meant to me. And that knowledge—expanded in a decidedly global way—would eventually become my foundation for navigating the world as a gifted child and young woman.

Reflecting on my childhood and upbringing, I can see clearly that my parents already had their own plans to make sure I received an extraordinary education at school and at home. They were committed to having me educated in the public schools, but they certainly did not intend to leave the...

Christopher Weiss Harrison

Earlier this month, Mike Petrilli raised a time-honored question in education circles: Why is it so difficult for “evidence-based” educational strategies to permeate practice? It’s a question that holds substantial resonance in policy circles. Heck, it’s our raison d’être at the National Center for Research in Policy and Practice (NCRPP)! As all good blogs do, Mike’s work led me to my own musings about how we might expand the conversation he started.

He identified a number of key issues that contribute to the often tenuous relationship between the communities of research and practice. Many of these pertain to the dissemination and presentation of our accumulated knowledge about “what works” in education. Citing recent work by the NCRPP, for instance, he notes that relatively few district leaders are leaning on empirical work from sources like the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). He also (quite justifiably) points to the relative cacophony of research that surrounds nearly any given issue in the field, and our limited success in producing work that leaders can understand and use when seeking answers to pressing questions of practice.

That said, there are a few places where I would expand on the points that he raised....

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.

While ReadWorks offers a huge array of reading comprehension resources for educators, two particularly promising features are its paired passages and text sets for grades K-12. The former consist of two passages with similar topics and/or themes, while the text sets are comprised of three or more passages that share a topic or theme. Both resources can be used to build vocabulary and background knowledge in order to strengthen student reading comprehension and content knowledge.

Paired Passages

ReadWorks provides teachers with paired passages to help build vocabulary and background knowledge around a specific topic. The reasoning behind each pairing is clearly stated and sets of questions that assess student learning and comprehension accompany each pair. Questions focus on each passage individually and then on the integration of knowledge from both passages.

For example, one 8th grade U.S. History text pair includes the passages Frederick Douglass: from Slavery to Freedom and Before Jackie: How Strikeout King Satchel Paige Struck Down Jim Crow. ReadWorks explains...

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.

We know the importance of students developing strong reading comprehension skills. Students need to be able to read and understand a variety of complex texts in order to be successful – in school, in their careers, and in life.

As a teacher, I am always looking for new and better ways to engage my students in reading. One recent find worth sharing is ReadWorks. This site provides teachers with passages, paired texts, text sets, lessons, comprehension units, and novel study units, all at no charge to the user. The materials are research-based, come from reputable sources, and are classroom ready.

ReadWorks Overview

ReadWorks is an education website that provides teachers with online, research-based units, lessons, and nonfiction and literary passages to help develop and strengthen student reading comprehension. As its website says, “ReadWorks is committed to solving the nation's reading comprehension crisis by giving teachers the research-proven tools and support they need to improve the academic achievement of their students.”


New York has become the latest Common Core state to issue rewritten learning guidelines aimed at mollifying critics of the standards. The state’s move seems to follow a familiar pattern: officials promise a “major departure” from the controversial standards while actually changing very little. Like marketers re-launching an unpopular laundry detergent with the words, “New and Improved!” the underlying standards remain largely intact, get rebranded with the state’s name (and without the words “common” or “core”), and voila!

At first glance, this would appear to be precisely the case with the “New York State P-12 English Language Arts and Mathematics Learning Standards,” which were unveiled for public comment last week. Many of the changes in the “new and improved” learning standards were “tweaks to language, or clarifying examples,” noted The New York Times, wise to the game. “But the broad concepts that students were expected to master in math and English from prekindergarten through the twelfth grade were left unchanged.”

But the devil is in the details. On closer examination, what New York has done is roughly akin to leaving a bathtub intact with all the water inside, but subtly dislodging the drain plug—a minor shift...

In May, a new organization called Learning Heroes released a survey with a startling finding: 90 percent of parents believe that their children are performing at “grade level” or higher in their schoolwork. Setting aside the debate over what “grade level” even means, by any reasonable definition many of these parents, if they are being frank with the pollsters and themselves, are sorely misinformed. In fact, only about a third of U.S. teenagers leave high school ready for credit-bearing college courses.

Providing a more honest assessment of student performance was one of the goals of the Common Core initiative and the new tests created and adopted by states meant to align to the new, higher standards. Those tests are much tougher than they used to be, with failure rates in many states approaching those reported on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Yet on the heels of their first administration in most states in the spring of 2015, and the reporting of results in the months following, parents seem to be as ill-informed as ever. (The 2016 Education Next poll indicates that lower proficiency rates haven’t shaken parents’ view that their schools deserve As and Bs, either.) Why...

A new NBER paper examines whether student coaching can be implemented just as effectively through technology as it can be in person. Specifically, it looks at helping coaches foster students’ motivation, effort, good study habits, and time management skills—and whether all of this can be done just as effectively through automated texts and emails as it can be done through real people. How might this affect grades and credit accumulation?

This study utilizes a sample of over four thousand undergraduate students from a large Canadian university who registered for first-year economics classes in the fall of 2015. Analysts randomly assigned them into a control group or into three treatments meant to help promote the aforementioned skills (management, study habits, etc.): (1) a one-time online exercise where they explored their values and goals for the current year and for their future and how they intend to meet them; (2) a text-messaging campaign that provided them with mostly automated advice about academics and that motivated them to do their best (contact was not initiated with individual students nor were emails presented as coming from a real person—just from a program); and (3) a personal coaching service in which students were matched with...