Did you routinely win the estimate-the-weight-of-a-pumpkin contests at the state fair? Always know how to sneak on an already too crowded train? You may be stupendous at math! Or so a new study from Johns Hopkins, which as found a link between number sense--the ability for humans to estimate numbers--and math ability, concludes. Don't run out and spend all your money on those jelly bean jar raffle tickets to practice, though, since researchers have not yet figured out if number sense can be learned.

Joanne Jacobs??takes aim at the disparities between charter and traditional public school performance standards. She writes,

Ohio is closing two chronically low-performing charter schools. That's good. But the perform-or-else rule applies only to charters. Fourteen district-run schools would be closed if the same standards were applied. All will remain in business.

Liam Julian

Paul Tough's New York Times article, which Mike referenced, is really something. It's fascinating to watch stale education ideas rejuvenated, and to hear their proponents tout their supposed freshness. But what's even more fascinating is to watch education reformers who are unable to build a rickshaw??try to design a??Ferrari. We have such a difficult time replicating high-quality charter schools. The answer, apparently: Replicate the Harlem Children's Zone, a 97-block neighborhood in which social and educational services are integrated and which has an annual budget of $58 million.

Liam Julian

It's "Education Week" over at National Review Online. Mike and Amber get in on the fun.

Thanks for all of you who wrote in with ideas for Mike Lach about how he can reinvigorate Chicago's social sciences curriculum. Many pointed to Core Knowledge--at least for grades K-8--and others highlighted the problems with Illinois's social studies standards. But none went into as much depth as Mia Munn from Chatham County, North Carolina, who wrote:


Why reinvent the wheel? Use what already exists:

For K-8, use the Core Knowledge curriculum. There are specific standards for each grade level for US History, World History and Geography. There is a set of textbooks available (from Pearson Learning) but the curriculum can be taught without the textbooks. There are several sets on lesson plans available from the Core Knowledge Teacher Handbooks, the Baltimore Curriculum Project),??Colorado teachers,??and from the national Core Knowledge conventions over the past decade. There is an anthology of African-American literature and culture (Grace Abounding) to be used as a supplement in grades 4-10, as well as other teacher, student, and classroom materials. I believe Core Knowledge also has standardized tests.

For high school, Illinois requires a year of US History and a year of US government. Also offer a standard World History course


I failed to fulfill my promise to write a post about Michelle Rhee's appearance before our reporter roundtable on Friday, and now the Washington Post's Bill Turque has gone ahead and written a fully credentialed newspaper article about it, so the pressure is off. His piece explains Rhee's back-up plan in case her teacher pay-for-performance proposal gets voted down by the teachers union:

In recent weeks, Rhee has moved to defuse expectations surrounding the contract and novel pay package. Asked earlier this year by Fast Company magazine what happens if she fails to get the labor deal she wants, Rhee replied, "Then I'm screwed." But at Friday's roundtable, she suggested that "Plan B" could have a national impact as far-reaching as the pay plan because it would show other cities a path to reform that does not require winning over unions and spending millions more on raises.


"The contract is the way that I would prefer to go," Rhee said. "But if we can't get to agreement on the contract, there's another very clear way that we can get there. . . . The bottom line is we are going to bring


There's sure to be lots of buzz about this Paul Tough article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, which, among other things, aptly describes the great schism within the Democratic Party over education, with unions on one side and reformers on the other. A Democratic-reformer-friend I saw the other day said that this fight is for real, it's getting nasty, and if Barack Obama wins in November it's still not clear which side will prevail.

But let me officially lodge a complaint with the editors of the magazine, who put this teaser on its cover:

Counterintuitive Campaign Issues: Republicans Need to Take Income Inequality Seriously, By David Frum; Democrats Need to Move School Reform Out of the Schools; By Paul Tough

I'm sorry, but since when did arguing that "schools alone" can't close the achievement gap-that we need to...

Liam Julian

I'm told that Michelle Rhee, who moments ago wrapped up a "Reporter Roundtable" here at the Fordham offices (I knew I noticed a soft glow emanating from our conference room), defended her plan to pay students for right behavior by pulling out the KIPP Card. KIPP schools--where the hallways are always awash in soft glows--bestow upon their pupils KIPP Dollars, which can be spent on items, such as pencils and pens, on offer at the school store. Why, Rhee wondered, is her plan to pay D.C. students in cash any different from KIPP's program? I'm so glad she asked.

First, let's make the obvious distinction between KIPP dollars and American dollars, the former being valid tender only at KIPP-operated enterprises that stock wholesome inventory and the latter easily traded for 64-ounce buckets of cola and pornographic magazines. To be clear: There is a not insignificant difference between rewarding 12-year-olds with school supplies and cutting them each month a $100 check (as Rhee's plan would do), which they can spend on whatever savory or unsavory products or activities they please.

Second, Rhee's plan is bribery and KIPP's is not. To be clear: Rhee's plan is engineered such that...

Liam Julian

Seems that Miami's superintendent, Rudy Crew, who starred on the cover of our Leadership Limbo report (though I've long suspected that Crew, second from left, is actually flouting limbo rules and bolstering himself with Arne Duncan-obscured hands), won't be hanging around South Florida much longer.

I just noticed that four of the five contenders for this year's Broad Prize for Urban Education are from either Texas or Florida. While the award goes to school districts, I think this is another indication that state context matters. And what do these two have in common, besides a "former Governor Bush"? First, a longstanding testing-and-accountability system. Second, a robust alternative certification sector. And third, weaker teachers unions than you'll find in most locales. These things matter....