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.

The use of text sets is a promising instructional approach that is informed by solid research on reading comprehension. A text set is a collection of texts that are tightly focused on a specific topic. As described in this earlier post, it may include varied genres and media and can be organized in many different ways. But all high-quality text sets have this in common: they are designed to build knowledge of an academic topic and are presented in a specific order with attention to text complexity, vocabulary development, and background knowledge.

However, quality text sets are difficult to find and not easy to create, so identifying resources that can assist is invaluable. Newsela, ReadWorks, and Achieve the Core are three sites that all provide particularly high-quality text sets for use in the classroom. I have reviewed each of them previously, and you can find those reviews here, here, and here.

All three sites offer useful...

In this study, the authors examine the long-term impacts of publicly subsidized preschool and nurse home visitation in Denmark, using administrative data from preschools that began receiving public funding between 1930 and 1957.

Overall, they find that low-income Danish kids benefited from preschool access in several ways, and that some of those benefits were passed on to the next generation. However, for kids who also had nurse home visitation at birth, the positive effects of receiving pre-school were reduced by 80–90 percent. For example, Danish kids who had access preschool by age three were about 10 percent less likely to have only a compulsory education at age twenty-five—unless they also had nurse home visitation, in which case the impact of pre-school was only a fifth as large. Similarly, male students with access to preschool earned about 2 percent more as adults. However, those with nurse home visitation saw an earnings boost only a tenth as large.

This pattern suggests that preschool and nurse home visitation may have been substitutes rather than complements—at least in pre-World War II Denmark. However, the program’s design makes it difficult to know what to make of this finding.

To receive public funding, Danish preschools had...

Maryland governor Larry Hogan has excellent political judgment. I wish I could say the same of his educational judgment. With yesterday’s revision of his already-controversial executive order regarding school calendars, he managed, in one fell swoop, (a) to delight the Ocean City vacation industry, (b) to please a great many Maryland voters who, when polled, favor a long, uninterrupted summer vacation, (c) to take away from the state’s school districts and counties an important element of local control, (d) to disregard the findings and views of just about every knowledgeable educator in the land, (e) to undermine the State Board of Education, almost all of whose members are Hogan appointees, and (f) to dim the future prospects of hundreds of thousands of young Marylanders who are not yet learning nearly enough to be prepared to succeed in college and modern careers.

Not a bad day’s work. I suppose it’s just coincidence that the amended executive order appeared on the eve of the Day of Atonement.

The key issue, as just about everyone now knows, is whether Maryland schools and districts should be able to start the year before Labor Day and continue it into the summer, or...

A multitude of research has shown that quality teaching is necessary for student achievement and positive labor market outcomes. Rigorous evaluations have been hailed as a way to improve the teacher workforce by recognizing and rewarding excellence, providing detailed and ongoing feedback to improve practice, and identifying low-performers who should be let go. While plenty of time has been devoted to how best to provide teachers with feedback, less time has been spent examining how evaluation systems contribute to the removal of underperforming teachers and the resulting changes in the teacher workforce.

This study examines the Excellence in Teaching Project (EITP), a teacher evaluation system piloted in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2008. The program focuses solely on classroom observations and uses Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) as the basis for evaluation (unlike many current systems, which rely on multiple measures including student test scores). Roughly 9 percent of all CPS elementary teachers participated in the first year of the pilot, which was considered a “low-stakes intervention” since scores on the FFT rubric were not officially included on teachers’ summative evaluation ratings.

Prior to the use of the FFT, teachers in Chicago were evaluated against...

British prime minister Theresa May has set off a royal dust-up with her proposal to loosen England’s half-century-old shackles on grammar schools, the British term for selective-admission public secondary schools focused on preparation for university.

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, England had a “tripartite” system of secondary education (not including old-line, private-pay prep schools like Eton and Harrow). Besides grammar schools for high achievers seeking an academic education, there were technical schools and “secondary modern schools.” Children were pointed down a particular track after taking the “eleven-plus” exam (around fifth grade).

This was typical of the era in many places and characteristic of class-riddled England. And of course it tended to perpetuate class divisions, as better-off kids with better-educated parents were much more apt to make it into (and want to enter) the grammar schools.

This arrangement began to change under Labour governments in the mid-sixties, as they pushed communities to create “comprehensive” secondary schools—akin to what James B. Conant, using the same adjective, urged for the United States, and what Ted Sizer would eventually dub the “shopping mall high school.”

Many policy chapters followed as Tory and Labour governments took turns changing priorities and ground rules but, by...

Matthew P. Steinberg and Johanna Lacoe

The federal Office for Civil Rights announced this spring that the number of suspensions and expulsions in the nation’s public schools had dropped 20 percent between 2012 and 2014.

The news was welcomed by those who oppose the frequent use of suspensions and expulsions, known as “exclusionary discipline.” In recent years, many policymakers and educators have called for the adoption of alternative strategies that allow students to stay in school and not miss valuable learning time. Advocates for discipline reform contend that suspensions are meted out in a biased way because minority students receive a disproportionate share of them. Some also assert that reducing suspensions would improve school climate for all students.

In a recent Education Next article, we describe the prevailing critiques of exclusionary discipline, then examine the research base on which policy reform rests. We also describe the alternative approaches that are gaining traction in America’s schools and present the evidence on their efficacy. Throughout, we consider what we know (and don’t yet know) about the effect of reducing suspensions on a variety of important outcomes, such as school safety, climate, and achievement.

In general, we find relatively thin evidence for both critiques of exclusionary discipline and...

This summer’s dual repudiation of education reform policy and charter schools by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives Coalition is a story that hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s a pivot that will come to a head later this week in Cincinnati, when the NAACP takes up a resolution supporting a national moratorium on charter schools.

The significance of such a resolution should be lost on no one.

In a rare and interesting turn, however, the press has repeatedly engaged on this policy matter in depth over the past several months. Even NPR, normally above the fray on these sorts of contentious education tilts, has chimed in (complete with illustrations).

Though the Movement for Black Lives’ position on charters and reform seems inconsistent with its ultimate mission, the national NAACP’s long-standing resistance to empowering families with school choice remains antiquated and deeply wrongheaded.

To be blunt, as this once-great organization continues its struggle for relevance in the era of Occupy and flash mobs, it must decide whether or not it wants to put the interests of the dues-paying teachers who occupy its ranks above those of the hundreds of thousands of black children...

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.

It is rare to find an education website that provides classroom lessons, teacher planning tools, and professional development all in one place. Achieve the Core does this and more (see my earlier post). An especially impressive feature is its text sets, which are collections of texts organized around a specific topic that sequentially build students’ knowledge and skills.

Mindful that research indicates that text sets can improve students’ reading comprehension, I searched many sites for high-quality, comprehensive text sets. Those on Achieve the Core are among the best I have seen. They use a variety of quality texts, are specifically ordered to promote vocabulary development and build background knowledge, and provide teachers with classroom activities and guidance.

As described on the site, text sets are “lessons using a volume of reading on specific topics to support all learners in building background knowledge and vocabulary.” For teachers unfamiliar with this approach, Achieve the Core provides background information on how text sets build...

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.

Educators’ experiences with the Common Core State Standards vary depending on the state and district in which they teach. Some have ready access to solid resources and valuable support, while other teachers struggle to understand the new standards, the instructional shifts they encourage, and how to effectively implement them in their classrooms.

Achieve the Core is a website that provides educators everywhere with a myriad of resources to help implement the Common Core. The professional-development modules, classroom lessons, planning tools, student-writing samples, mathematics tasks, and assessments are exceptionally well designed and available at no cost. It is one-stop shopping for all things Common Core.

Achieve the Core offers “free, ready-to-use classroom resources designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards.” It is hosted by Student Achievement Partners, which is a nonprofit founded by the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

All lessons on Achieve the Core are CCSS-aligned and specifically designed...

Karen Dikson

Fellow teachers know that listening to students is all part of being an effective educator, but even the best among us miss things. Some, having embarked on the noble quest of becoming better teachers, suffer paralysis by analysis. They become so bogged down with reflection, test score interpretation, and the education of each and every student, that they overlook some of our most fundamental practices.

Homework overload is a problem

Students are doing less and less in-school work on an almost yearly basis. Part of this is due to the advances in technology, and part of it is due to a softer education system. Yet students are still too often overloaded with homework.

Most schools have suitable scheduling systems that allocate times during which teachers can assign homework. This is meant to prevent problems like too much over the weekend and too little during the week, as well as multiple teachers issuing assignments on the same night.

But the system is fallible, and overload still occurs. Teachers might run out of time and assign a planned in-class assignment as homework. Substitutes fail to follow directions, forcing breaks from the set schedule. Unexpected school closures wreak havoc. And looming exams...