Flypaper

Building upon the well-known work of Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues, Kalena Cortes and Jane Lincove recently conducted a study that examines the “match” between underserved students and their choice of college. The study exploits Texas’s automatic admissions policy, which granted automatic admission to all public universities in the state to all students who achieved the top 10 percent in class rank as juniors in their high schools (that’s since been changed). This is the sole admissions criteria, although students are still required to complete a college application and take the SAT. (So again, they are admitted regardless of their scores on the SAT, the caliber of their high school, or the courses they took.)

Analysts estimate the differences in the effects of this admissions offer on both low- and high-income students who graduated from public school in 2008 and 2009. Specifically, whether knowing that they are automatically admitted to any public university in the Lone Star State fosters less “undermatch” or more “overmatch”—in other words, when students enroll in institutions where the average SAT score is, respectively, lower than or higher than their own. Analysts also look into whether nonacademic factors play a role in the choice...

 
 

Stacey Abrams became something of a household name in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterms and tonight she will give the Democrat response to the President’s State of the Union Address. Abrams shot to political stardom when she came close to becoming Georgia’s first Black woman governor. And there would have been much to cheer about that glass ceiling being broken, especially in a southern stronghold like Georgia. Abrams is an unapologetic progressive, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, and fierce advocate for voting rights. Oprah even went door to door for her in the final days of the campaign.

Welp, I suspect that Oprah either doesn’t know or chose to overlook Abrams’ positions on education. Oprah helped to propel the issue of school choice into the mainstream and she has been a vocal supporter of parents, especially low income ones, having choices about the schools their children attend. Stacey Abrams does not share that view. In fact, most people who proudly wear the progressive label are opposed to all versions of school choice. They are adamant about the need for more funding and even more adamant that only one kind of school is...

 
 

A narrative has emerged that Democrats don’t care much for education reform anymore. Maybe there is some evidence to support this. Legislatures that passed teacher evaluation reforms with bipartisan majorities have been running away from those policies ever since. Senator and now presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren famously caved to pressure and bailed on charter schools during the Massachusetts cap fight (despite having once been a voucher supporter).

Meanwhile, in the Empire State, many of New York’s ed reform Democratic moderates lost their seats in the fall election’s anti-centrist wave, and the jury is out on the new members. The Garden State’s Democratic governor Phil Murphy promised his New Jersey teachers union allies he’d roll back state assessments the moment he got in and has been trying to do so.

Ed reform looks left in the lurch, and Democrats appear to be widening the gap.

On the surface, this line of reasoning makes sense, but I am not sure it’s the right conclusion. Instead, I believe there is an argument to be made that charter schools, choice, and education reform writ large are merely among the best places to see a series of policy conflicts play themselves out in the Democratic...

 
 
Kalman R. Hettleman

Bravo to the Fordham Institute for being at the top of the class in searching for fresh approaches to education reform, particularly in the realm of classroom practice (a realm far away from where most reformers left and right dwell). With these strategic thoughts to guide us, I would like to set out what may well be the best, highest leverage practice path: evidence-based instructional interventions, the earlier the better, for struggling readers.

Such a basic, common sense instructional practice seems like a no-brainer. You might even think it’s already being done by states and local districts across the country since most states have laws that require or encourage interventions for struggling readers. Most focus on grades K–3, often with a link to dyslexia. And some call explicitly for the interventions to be delivered within the frameworks known as MTSS (Multi-tier Systems of Support) or RTI (Response to Intervention).

MTSS and RTI commonly feature data analyses as early as possible to identify struggling students, evidence-based instruction to address skill deficits, continuous monitoring of progress, and three tiers of increasingly intense evidence-based interventions, particularly tutoring, to enable students to achieve high standards. RTI hones in more on...

 
 
Dr. David Steiner

Jamestown, Valley Forge, the pioneers’ Conestoga wagons, and so much more—the skills of survival are woven into the American narrative. Our heroes include Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, and today’s national conversation about education focuses on giving students the technical and career-ready competencies that ensure rewarding and fulfilling employment. Our renewed interest in “practical” learning recalls Benjamin Franklin’s sardonic take-down of the academic kind: “He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages; so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on.”

Focusing on skills makes a virtue, too, of America’s heterogeneity. In the England of my own youth, curricula and assessments in the language arts were one and the same: Examiners assigned the texts, teachers taught them, and the exams required students to write about them. That meant teachers never faced such questions as why those texts, those authors, and not these (insert one’s own cultural favorites)? In today’s United States, by contrast, focusing on leaning to master reading skills makes content a secondary concern, one left to choices by teachers, districts, or states. This has a certain, if questionable, logic: Students in Mississippi can be taught about the “War of Northern Aggression” and...

 
 

I’ve lived in Maryland for more than four decades now and in recent years have been honored to serve on the state board of education and the statewide Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (a.k.a. Kirwan Commission). Certainly there are bright spots in this state’s K–12 system—some great schools, many fine teachers, forward-looking leaders, and more. What there’s not is much school choice—and that means that far too many children, most of them poor and minority, are trapped in district-assigned neighborhood schools that are far from bright spots. On Maryland’s new statewide report card, 180 public schools received just one or two stars (out of five possible); in Baltimore, those bottom-of-the-pack ratings applied to 60 percent of city schools.

It’s to be expected in any large education system that some schools will be duds. What’s not to be expected in the United States in 2019 is that families—unless they’re rich or very lucky—aren’t allowed to extricate their daughters and sons from such schools and move them to better ones.

Maryland has been this way for a long time. My own family first encountered it in 1985 when, upon returning from several years away, we petitioned our district superintendent to...

 
 
Marguerite Roza

Psst, districts! We’ve seen this script before.

Back in 2008, it’s a fair bet that most school systems didn’t know they were in a financial boom before the Great Recession unleashed the bust, filling subsequent years with program cuts, furloughs, school closures, and fights about seniority-based layoffs. Today, signs suggest we’re once again at a peak, with a likely financial stumble headed our way.

Just like the years leading up to 2008, the last few years have yielded stronger growth in funds for schooling. And just like in 2008, there are signs of trouble ahead. For districts, a fiscal downturn can trigger the equivalent of a debilitating migraine: Pain comes from every direction and little seems to quell it. 

While we can’t predict how an economic downturn will affect every district, we can anticipate some big-picture trends, and in doing so potentially tweak the script.

State revenues will likely stumble: This will hurt districts in some states more than others

Where districts may have been benefitting from a higher growth rate in state revenues in the last two years, that trend is likely to wane as tax revenues slip in a downturn. Some states, like...

 
 

OK, readers. It’s time for today’s “skills and strategies” lesson in reading comprehension. Today’s aim and standard is “finding the main idea of a complex text.” Please follow along as I do a “think aloud.” I will “model” for you the habits of proficient reading so that you can see what good readers do—just the way I was trained to do when I was an elementary school teacher. Then you can go off and practice these skills on your own until you can demonstrate proficiency on today’s standard. Our story today is by David Steiner and Jacqueline Magee.

Making inferences is an important comprehension strategy strongly emphasized in standards and assessments. I infer that Steiner and Magee think the emergence of curriculum as a “pillar of school improvement strategy” in the United States is important, since it says here that in “high-performing systems such as Finland, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and British Columbia….high-quality curriculum is always part of the story.” But they seem to think that just paying attention to curriculum isn’t enough to ensure student achievement. We need to have a sophisticated view of it and look at other factors. The authors describe an “ordinary school examining its 2018...

 
 

It’s a common accusation leveraged against schools of choice, and especially charter schools: They “skim” students who they perceive to be easier to teach and avoid those they perceive harder to educate. In this clever new study, analysts Peter Bergman and Isaac McFarlin conduct an experiment to test whether that’s true. They send emails from fictitious parents (sneaky!) to nearly 6500 schools of choice—that includes traditional public schools in areas with intra-district school choice and charter schools—in twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., asking if any student is eligible to enroll in the school and, if so, how to apply.

More specifically, the experiment randomly assigned an attribute to the child (or no attribute). The control or baseline email read, “I am searching for schools for my [daughter/son]. Can anyone apply to your school? If so, can you tell me how to apply?” Then they added a sentence to indicate one of four other treatment conditions: 1) a special needs requirement (“Her IEP says she has to be taught in a separate room”); 2) bad behavior (“She gets in trouble a lot for behaving badly in school”); 3) poor grades (“She’s been getting bad grades”); and 4) good grades (“She...

 
 
Todd Ziebarth

Earlier this week, we released the tenth edition of our annual state charter school laws rankings report. Since we released the first edition of it in January 2010, three states enacted brand-new legislation relatively well aligned with the model law (Alabama in 2015, Maine in 2011, and Washington in 2012 and 2016). Between 2010 and 2018, thirty-seven states made policy improvements that resulted in increases in their scores in the report. States made the most progress in lifting caps, strengthening charter school and authorizer accountability, and making significant improvements to their facilities policies for charters.

Some key takeaways from this year’s rankings include:

  • For the fourth year in a row, Indiana has the nation’s strongest charter school law in the country, ranking No. 1 (out of forty-four). Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability. Indiana has also made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools, although some work remains to be done.
  • Georgia made the biggest jump in this year’s rankings, moving up eleven spots from No. 27 to No. 16. Georgia made this leap because it enacted legislation
  • ...
 
 

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