It is not reasonable to expect research to resolve all issues or to erase all differences of opinion. We can but supply some information that we think reliable, and we will continue in the future to supply more. But it is up to the American people to decide what to do. The better their information, the wiser will be their decisions.

So wrote my colleague Chester Finn in his introduction to a compendium of research findings about teaching and learning.

The book was called What Works, and it was published in March.

March of 1986.

In the thirty years since, America has gone through several waves of reform, but we’re still talking about establishing research-based practices in our schools. Figuring out how to do this better is another way that reformers and funders might improve our education system without overhauling laws and regulations. (I’ve identified other tactics, besides policy change, for reforming our schools, namely building a new system via charters or education savings accounts; spurring disruptive innovations that target students, parents, or teachers directly; and investing in leadership.)

No, it’s not easy. Policy makers can exhort educators to adopt “evidence-based practices,”...

Jonathan Butcher

Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Those debating reforms to American education should remember this memorial to Sir Christopher Wren, architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren is buried inside his masterpiece with no marking other than the inscription: If you seek a monument, look around.

Some education reform advocates are starting to wonder whether the long battle to increase parental choice in schooling (among other things) is really making a difference, particularly in light of the growing criticism of public charter schools. Despite recent victories giving students more opportunities in education, Robert Pondiscio recently accused reformers of “cowardice”—of having lost their will to fight.

Yet in states around the country, families and advocates still struggle on students’ behalf. Parental choice in education has seen great successes, and stories of students’ changed lives and parents’ acts of courage are all around us.

Let’s start in Washington State. In 2015, a successful union lawsuit shut down the state’s new charter school law. Prior to the ruling, unionized Seattle teachers went on strike just as the school year began, leaving charter schools the only public schools in the city open for business. District schools forced students to stay home, disrupting their...

Sally Krisel

Throughout the recent Olympic Games, I reflected on the parallels between elite-level athletics and gifted education, and I thought how much we could learn about developing exceptional ability from what we saw during those two weeks. We appreciate diverse forms of brilliance on the field, in the pool, on the court, and on the track. And we support the long-term dedication of time and resources it takes to achieve athletic excellence. And yet we wonder why, as a society, we have had a harder time openly embracing and celebrating the development of intellectual and creative talent.

It has been suggested that the answer lies in some vague (I would suggest misguided) discomfort related to our nation’s egalitarian roots. Supporters of gifted education counter with the argument that there is something decidedly undemocratic about not providing all children—including those of exceptional ability—with equal opportunity to develop their talents.

A second argument—one that came to mind many times when Rio commentators talked about records that fell during the games—is that by investing heavily in the kinds of programs that promote exceptional performance from gifted students, we may indeed be showing the way to much-improved educational experiences (and achievement) for all students. This argument may finally...

Last week, several of my Fordham colleagues published a fantastic fifty-state review of accountability systems and how they impact high achievers. Lamentably, they found that most states do almost nothing to hold schools accountable for the progress of their most able pupils. There are several reasons for this neglect, as the report’s foreword discusses; but with states now revamping their school report cards under the new federal education law, they have a great chance to bolster accountability for their high-achieving students.

How did Ohio fare? We’re pleased to report that the Buckeye State is a national leader in accounting for the outcomes of high-achieving students. As the Fordham study points out, Ohio accomplishes this in three important ways. First, to rate schools, the state relies heavily on the performance index. This measure gives schools additional credit when students reach advanced levels on state exams, encouraging them to teach to all learners and not just those on the cusp of proficiency. Second, Ohio utilizes a robust value-added measure that expects schools to contribute to all students’ academic growth, including high achievers (and regardless of whether they come from low- or higher-income backgrounds). Third, state report cards...

During the No Child Left Behind era of education reform, now winding down, teachers, schools and districts were tacitly encouraged to focus their efforts on raising the floor rather than raising the roof on student achievement. Whether by accident, choice or neglect, high-achievers as well as those merely "above proficient" received little attention. And why should they? With so many struggling in the water, why concern ourselves with those standing safely on dry land?

A new report from my colleagues at Fordham tells why. Simple fairness, for starters. We should strive to develop the full potential of all children, not encourage schools to choose winners and losers either by design or neglect. It's also in our strategic interests not to ignore high-achievers. From their ranks will surely emerge many of the men and women for whom our children and grandchildren will work and vote, and whose talents will hopefully keep the nation secure and economically competitive well into the future.

There's a moral component to consider as well. "If we want tomorrow's scientists, entrepreneurs, and inventors to 'look like America,' our schools need to take special pains with the education of high-ability kids from disadvantaged circumstances," the report...

Much like the typical American fourth grader, education news tends go on a ten-week vacation each June after a year of intermittently joyous, raucous, and bizarre happenings. While parents take their precious ones to Disneyland, education commentators—who have spent months poring over testing data and marveling at the intricacies of “supplement, not supplant” language—unwind with a Moscow Mule and a sheaf of white papers.

But Fordham hasn’t gone anywhere. We’ve stoically kept off the beaches and chronicled the important developments in education politics and policy. And to ward off the summer slide, we’ve compiled a list of the ten biggest ones.

10.) Education reformers find common ground

This one actually kicked off at the end of last school year, when our own Robert Pondiscio wrote a scalding philippic against the perceived encroachments of progressive politics into the reform movement. The reform Left didn’t take kindly to the piece, arguing that any mention of education would be incomplete without addressing issues of race, class, and social equity. With the conversation threatening to devolve into a Hobbesian war of wonk against wonk, Fordham leapt into the fray to convene a roundtable on points of concordance across the political spectrum....

Thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state leaders today have a rare opportunity to set schools on the right trajectory for years to come. The law gives those policy makers significant leeway to design school accountability systems that will work for students at all levels of achievement.

This is welcome news because most state models need a total overhaul. Relics of the No Child Left Behind Era, they continue to judge schools based largely on the percentage of their students who attain the “proficient” mark on state tests. The signal those schools receive is that “bubble kids”—those performing just below or just above the “proficiency” line—are the students whose learning really matters. Indeed, research has demonstrated that students just below that bar were most likely to make large gains in the NCLB era, while high achievers made lesser improvements.

The students most harmed by these perverse incentives are high-achieving, disadvantaged students who depend most heavily on the public education system to do right by them. Under today’s accountability regimes, their teachers often feel pressure to elevate their low achievers to pass state tests. And their schools face so many other challenges—attendance, discipline, nutrition, etc.—that attending to the educational needs of high...

Two years ago, I matriculated from one of the most liberal, activist college campuses in the country. In the months leading up to graduation, I fantasized about jumping head-first into a vocation fighting for social justice. I knew that I had a passion for policy and a healthy interest in education issues (my mom is a school teacher). It was as clear to me then as it is now that education is the key to equality of opportunity.

Eager to put my beliefs into action, I landed in the realm of education reform. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to meet wonks and policy mavens from all walks of life, all of whom hold in their hearts the best interests of students. Having found the perfect union of my interest in education policy and my desire to help make the world a little better, I figured the rest would be smooth sailing. It was not until earlier this year that I noticed the growing chasm that has formed between two reform camps.

Some on the Right (including a few of my colleagues at Fordham) have argued that if the reformers start pandering to liberals, conservatives will feel...

It's been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad summer for education reform. After many years of bipartisan support, key elements of the reform agenda—higher standards, better teachers, test-based accountability, parental choice—are starved for oxygen in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms. Earlier this month, the NAACP further upset the apple cart with a call for a moratorium on new charter schools. Not to be outdone, a "platform" released by the Movement for Black Lives (a group of organizations organized by Black Lives Matter) issued a scorched-earth condemnation of every aspect of the reform agenda, which it characterized as "a systematic attack…coordinated by an international education privatization agenda, bankrolled by billionaire philanthropists…and aided by the departments of education at the federal, state, and local level."

Response to this series of stunning attacks and political reversals has been muted. The usual groups have told journalists where and how they disagree with the antis. But there's been no outcry of support for the agenda items under attack, and certainly not from any political leaders, prominent columnists, etc.

This week, by marked contrast, the atmosphere inside the edu-bubble was set alight by—wait for it—John Oliver. The British comedian recorded a "takedown" of charter schools that was...

Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown

The new school year is on the horizon, and you’re already feeling somewhat apprehensive. You know that transitions are a challenge for your gifted child— whether it’s a new school, a new grade level, a new teacher, or all of the above. You want to make sure that your child’s new teacher understands that your gifted child has learning needs that differ from others. You feel that establishing a close and respectful partnership with your child’s teacher early in the year can ease stress and set a structure for a successful year of learning.

In anticipation of meeting the new teacher, you think about questions you want to ask. You start with the obvious: “Are you aware that my child is gifted? What is your experience teaching gifted children? How do you plan on challenging my child this year?” At the same time, you really don’t want to come across as one of those parents. What’s a parent to do?

Here are five key strategies to form a strong relationship with your gifted child’s teacher:

1. Share information about how your child thinks and feels, along with any specifics that will help the teacher understand your child’s learning needs at school. Respect the process...