Flypaper

In recent years, as the pendulum of public opinion surrounding school discipline has swung from zero tolerance to restorative justice, policymakers, school leaders, advocates, opinion-shapers, and interest groups have struggled to solve inherently difficult problems: To what extent are such policies actually altering school practice? Are those alterations doing good or harm? And what are the pros and cons of limiting—or even banning—suspensions for certain forms of misconduct?

To address these questions, Fordham hosted a two-panel event on January 26 examining how to handle student misbehavior and the policies behind school discipline reform.

The first panel, moderated by Fordham senior vice president for research Amber Northern, featured Matthew Steinberg and Abigail Gray, the respective authors of “The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform” and “Discipline in Context: Suspension, Climate, and PBIS in the School District of Philadelphia.”

That discussion was followed by a lively debate between Cami Anderson, former superintendent in Newark and founder of the Discipline Revolution Project; Kristen Harper, director for policy development at Child Trends; Laura Jimenez, director of standards and accountability at the Center for American Progress; and Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Alia Wong,...

Did you hear the one about a curriculum with fifty years of research that actually demonstrates its effectiveness? There’s a new meta-analysis in the peer-reviewed journal the Review of Educational Research that looks at over five hundred articles, dissertations, and research studies and documents a half-century of “strong positive results” for a curriculum regardless of school, setting, grade, student poverty status, race, and ethnicity, and across subjects and grades.

Ready for the punchline? That curriculum is called “Direct Instruction.

Hey, wait. Where’s everybody going? I’m telling you, Direct Instruction is the Rodney Dangerfield of education. It gets no respect.

I know what you’re thinking. “Direct Instruction? DISTAR, Corrective Reading and Reading Mastery? Basal programs? Scripted curriculum? That stuff’s been around since the Earth cooled. It’s not just old school, it’s the oldest school. Who cares about ‘DI’ when there’s so much cool, cutting edge, and disruptive stuff going on education? This is the age of ed tech, personalized learning, and competency-based progressions. The future is here and it’s OER, social media integration, virtual reality, and makerspaces. Direct instruction!? You gotta be kidding me. See you at SXSW EDU!”

Hold on and look again. The central assumption of DI is...

Eight years after their adoption by the vast majority of states, public misconceptions about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) still abound. Even our president seems confused about what exactly the standards are, how they were adopted, and what the federal government can and can’t do to abolish or impose them on states. Given their pervasiveness, is it possible to correct common public misconceptions about Common Core? And to what extent might changing public support for education policies ultimately aid in their implementation?

A new study released via Brookings’ Evidence Speaks series last month explores these issues by employing the fairly simple intervention strategy of a “refutation text,” which comes in various lengths and types and is “written for the purpose of changing widely held misconceptions.” The study sought to answer three key questions: First, what impact does a refutation text have on respondents’ correct conceptions and misconceptions regarding the CCSS? Second, to what extent does it reduce the relationship of political views with correct conceptions and misconceptions? And third, are effects only immediate, or do they persist over a week?

Using a sample of six hundred respondents garnered via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, researchers Stephen Aguilar,...

In recent years there’s been a big push in many states for universal pre-K programs, which make access to preschool education available to all families. And that push appears to be working: 1.5 million three- and four-year-olds were served nationally as of 2015–16 at a cost of $7.4 billion. This study from Urban Institute’s Erica Greenberg presents results from the first nationally representative poll of one thousand American adults on their preferences for universal pre-K (i.e., publicly funded pre-k for all kids) versus targeted pre-k (publicly funded pre-k for poor kids). It uses data from a larger 2013 survey developed through the Laboratory for the Study of American Values at Stanford University.

What’s interesting is the survey uses a novel approach to test potential reasons that the American public may or may not support particular forms of preschool, and this merits some discussion. All respondents are first told that these programs are free for families who use them. Then the analyst tests the effect of “financial self-interest” on support for pre-K by randomly assigning respondents to one of two scenarios: in the first, the cost of the program is incurred on the respondent; and in the second, it is paid...

The single best thing that could happen to American education in the next few years would be for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to begin regularly reporting state-by-state results at the twelfth grade level.

That this isn’t happening today is a lamentable omission, albeit one with multiple causes. But it’s fixable. All it requires is determination by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to make this change, some more contracting and sampling by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and either a smallish additional appropriation or some repurposing of present NAEP budgets.

Way back in the late Middle Ages (i.e., 1988), Congress authorized NAEP to begin gathering and reporting state-level data to states that wanted it. This was a direct response to frustration on the part of governors in the aftermath of A Nation at Risk that they could not validly compare their own states’ academic performance to that of the nation or other states. Secretary Bell had responded with the famous “Wall Chart” of the mid-80’s, but its comparisons were based on SAT scores and other measures that were neither representative nor helpful for gauging achievement in the elementary and middle grades.

The Council of Chief...

Fordham’s recent report, Is There a Gifted Gap?, examines income- and race-based differences in gifted programming in American schools and unearths plenty of bad news. Students in low-poverty schools are more than twice as likely to participate in gifted programs than their peers at high-poverty schools, for example, and even when black and Hispanic K–8 students attend schools that offer such programs, they participate at much lower rates than white and Asian children.

The report also offers some welcome-sounding information: Gifted programs exist in 68 percent of U.S. primary and middle schools, and overall they’re equally likely to be offered in low-and high-poverty schools. Yet even this seemingly sunnier news masks the deeply disappointing state of gifted education in America in 2018.

Authors Christopher Yaluma and Adam Tyner used school-reported data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. This is the best source for their purposes, but it also has serious flaws. As Yaluma and Tyner aptly note:

Because of the nature of the data, we use binary classifications of gifted enrollment for students. We do not have data on the quality or characteristics of gifted programming, although this is known to vary considerably...

Jonathan Plucker, Ph.D.

The new Fordham Institute report, Is There a Gifted Gap?, gave me a lot of food for thought this week.

Let’s start with some important positives: Although gifted education research is in many ways thriving, attention to policy research has been woefully underdeveloped, and this study is a major contribution to filling that void. I’ve also been encouraging colleagues to dig into the U.S. Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights data for a couple years, and it’s nice to see someone do so, and with a substantial payoff. The results also line up with other recent research, providing valid evidence for the findings. For example, the six states with more than 90 percent of high-poverty schools offering gifted programs are similar to those that score highest on an upcoming Jack Kent Cooke Foundation report on state-level policies to close excellence gaps (the first edition is available here). The recommended solutions in this report are also right on the money, which I’ll return to in a bit.

There are, however, some important caveats that readers should consider:

  1. As you work down to the local level, I suspect the results will look different. For example, only two years
  2. ...
M. René Islas

A newly released report, Is There a Gifted Gap?, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute sheds further light on the many challenges gifted students from underserved populations face in being identified and served.

The report confirms our knowledge that students living in poverty, from racial and ethnic minorities, and who are English learners, are often overlooked for gifted programs.

Data taken from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the Office of Civil Rights shows that high-poverty schools are just as likely as low poverty schools to have gifted programs available. (See figure 1 from the report.) This key point highlights that the underrepresentation of gifted students from poverty backgrounds is not for lack of programs in high-poverty schools.

Figure 1. High-poverty schools are generally just as likely to have a gifted program as low-poverty schools.

The report should sound an alarm for all advocates for social justice and incite action for changes in policy that create supportive learning environments for all learners, especially for well qualified children from poverty and minority backgrounds who are repeatedly overlooked for gifted programming.

NAGC supports recommendations...

The United States wastes an enormous amount of its human capital by failing to cultivate the innate talents of many of its young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. That failure exacts a great cost from the nation’s economy, widens painful gaps in income, frustrates efforts to spur upward mobility, contributes to civic decay and political division, and worsens the inequalities that plague so many elements of our society.

All of this was reinforced in a widely noted recent study by Alex Bell, Raj Chetty, and colleagues at the Equality of Opportunity Project, which highlighted the inexcusable number of “lost Einsteins” among American students, most of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Their team found that, as early as third grade, math scores help to predict who will be awarded patents in later life—that’s the metric they used for “Einsteins”—but also that such scores explain less than one-third of the “innovation gap” between those growing up in high- versus low-income families. Because this gap grows much wider in the later grades, Bell and Chetty suggest that “low-income children start out on relatively even footing with their higher- income peers in terms of innovation ability, but...

By Stephanie Saroki de García

The Archdiocese of Memphis, Tennessee, announced last week that it intends to close ten schools, all of them part of the “Jubilee Catholic Schools” consortium. Hailed as the “Memphis Miracle” twenty years ago when previously-shuttered inner-city Catholic schools were resurrected to provide a preferential option for the poor in a city with too few good education options, they’ve now fallen victim to the systemic problems that plague so many other Catholic schools, above all an obsolete funding model. In the past, highly educated, truly caring, and strongly motivated religious sisters, brothers, and priests staffed these schools for little or no pay, making it possible to offer an almost free and generally excellent education to many of our nation’s most underserved children, as well as many middle class youngsters from Catholic families. But declines in Catholic religious vocations, anachronistic Blaine amendment obstacles to state funding, and strong public school lobbies render this model unworkable today in many places. In just a few decades, Catholic schools have gone from serving five million students annually to half that number.

This is heartbreaking for myriad reasons. Research, for example, has found that similar closings in Chicago were associated with more crime...

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