Flypaper

One of the longest running debates about early childhood education is how much emphasis teachers should place on academic content. Thanks to changing perceptions, the standards-based reform movement, and accountability policies that have changed early grade instruction, kindergarten classrooms are increasingly focused on academic content and skill development.

These changes have garnered mixed reactions. Those in favor of the increased academic focus cite studies showing that exposure to advanced content is associated with higher student achievement. Opponents, meanwhile, have raised questions about whether kindergartners are developmentally ready for academics, and whether focusing on more advanced skills reduces play opportunities and leads to poorer social-emotional (SE) development.

To address these concerns, a new study examines the relationship between advanced content in kindergarten and children’s academic achievement and social-emotional outcomes. The study’s authors used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of Kindergartners in 2010 (ECLS), a nationally representative study of kindergarteners enrolled during the 2010–11 school year. ECLS included approximately 18,200 children from nearly 1,000 schools, but the authors used a specific sample of 11,600 public school kindergarteners and their 2,690 teachers. ECLS collected information during the fall and spring of the academic year about children’s academic achievement and SE skills through surveys...

 
 
Jessica Baghian

While the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gave states the opportunity to broaden and deepen their visions of what makes for an excellent education, researchers and states have both struggled to design measures and systems that take meaningful steps in that direction. Most of us would agree that primary grade literacy, knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and productive transitions to employment and postsecondary education, for example, are essential and measurable aspects of schooling in America. Yet their appearances in ESSA accountability plans are rare to nonexistent.

The same is true for another essential area of the educational experience—enrichment experiences, which are abundant in virtually all respected schools, and which research confirms contribute profoundly to the lifelong interests and habits students take on as adults. Enrichment experiences, however, are not proportionally made available to all students at all schools. In Louisiana, for example, where I’m an assistant superintendent at the state education department, the average student in the district with the lowest enrichment enrollment is accessing 61 percent fewer enrichment courses than her counterpart in the district with the highest enrichment enrollment.

There is a clear and growing national interest to change this by elevating the role of enrichment opportunities...

 
 
Max Eden

Last week, the first randomized control trial study of “restorative justice” in a major urban district, Pittsburgh Public Schools, was published by the RAND Corporation.

The results were curiously mixed. Suspensions went down in elementary but not middle schools. Teachers reported improved school safety, professional environment, and classroom management ability. But students disagreed. They thought their teachers’ classroom management deteriorated, and that students in class were less respectful and supportive of each other; at a lower confidence interval, they reported bullying and more instructional time lost to disruption. And although restorative justice is billed as a way to fight the “school-to-prison pipeline,” it had no impact on student arrests.

The most troubling thing: There were significant and substantial negative effects on math achievement for middle school students, black students, and students in schools that are predominantly black.

What are we to make of these results? For education journalists like U.S. News and World Report’s Lauren Camera, there’s an easy solution: Don’t report the negative findings and write an article titled “Study Contradicts Betsy DeVos’ Reason for Eliminating School Discipline Guidance.”

When asked why she left her readers in the dark regarding the negative effects on black student achievement,...

 
 

In Ohio and across the nation, policymakers are contemplating sizeable increases to public outlays for early childhood programs, including expanded preschool, childcare, and other support services. Polls indicate that early childhood programs enjoy broad support, and proponents of early childhood programs often cite as evidence for expansion the positive, long-run effects of the boutique Perry Preschool program (it served just fifty-eight low-income children during the 1960s). But will greater expenditures in early childhood programs generate big returns? Or could they backfire?

A new study by university researchers Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, and Kevin Milligan offers a cautionary tale. They examine the short- and longer-run outcomes of children participating in North America’s largest universal childcare program. Starting in fall 1997, Quebec began offering large public subsidies, open to all parents, for center- or home-based childcare programs serving youngsters up to four years old. As of 2011–12, the program cost $2 billion per year and subsidized roughly 80 percent of a family’s child care costs. Quebec has been the only province to adopt such an expansive childcare policy. For example, from the mid-1990s to 2008, Quebec children in center-based childcare jumped from 10 to 60 percent; during...

 
 

“We ain't asking you to love us
You may place yourself high above us
Mr. President, have pity on the working man.”

—Randy Newman, Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)

“Hold on a sec, I’m gonna get me a beer,” said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in a New Year’s Eve live feed on Instagram, hours after filing paperwork to launch her exploratory committee to run for President. Warren, an unusually opportunistic and calculating politician, even by the standards of Oval Office aspirants, was immediately eviscerated on social media and in the press for her ham-handed attempt at regular guy authenticity, both for her language (“gonna get me a beer” vs. “get myself a beer”) and her choice of brews (Michelob Ultra). One Boston newspaperman aptly dismissed her self-conscious display as “the multi-million-dollar Cambridge law professor poppin’ a brewski.”

Here we go again. Brace yourself for many more of these de rigueur and unconvincing Joe (and Jane) Sixpack displays as the 2020 election cycle gets underway in earnest. For my own sanity, I have no intention of paying any serious attention to presidential politics until at least the calendar year in which the race will be decided....

 
 
Kevin Teasley

Over the past thirty years, I’ve witnessed one education reform effort after another. We’ve had standards-testing-accountability, school choice in innumerable forms, curriculum reform, teacher reform, and much more. All have been worthwhile and should continue. However, while we persist on these paths, I suggest we also look at reforming where our students are educated in the first place. To take a lyric from the hit show “Hamilton”: Are our kids “in the room where it happens”? They should be.

In Gary, Indiana, we started a school in 2005. We started with the same methods as other college-prep schools—counsel kids about the importance of college, show them the varying incomes of those who attain different levels of degrees (high school, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, etc.), take them on college tours, help them with FAFSA and scholarship applications, provide support on ACT and SAT, and more. In the end, however, our efforts fell short of our goal. Many students were still not going to college or succeeding there.

So I started researching the issue. Many of our students told me they didn’t believe they were college material and that they were in high school for the social scene or athletics. Few told me...

 
 

Just before Christmas (or about ten thousand news cycles ago) the Trump administration took the widely anticipated step of reversing the Obama administration’s much-debated guidance on school discipline, the essential goal of which was to pressure school districts to address the well-documented and longstanding racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions.

The context for that decision—and in particular, the spurious link between federal policy and the tragic Parkland massacre—put yours truly in an unusually tight spot, even for a guy who splits his time between liberal politics and a conservative education think tank. Yet despite the nightmarish politics, I agree with the decision more than I disagree with it. At best, pressuring districts to equalize their suspension rates is a recipe for gamed data and an overly politicized debate. And at worst, it could have unintended and potentially serious consequences for students (though the latter are speculative).

Regardless, the decision is a setback for discipline reformers, a group I would be happy to join if it would get its act together. So where should reformers go from here? What strategy should they pursue in a country that somehow elected both Barack Obama and Donald Trump?

Herewith is my unsolicited advice...

 
 

Before the holiday break, I wrote a series of posts discussing how we might turn the “End of Education Policy” (as I see it) into a Golden Age of Educational Practice. It’s time to pick up where I left off.

To be honest, much of what I published in late 2018 amounted to throat-clearing, a warm-up before the main event. My basic (and hardly brilliant) argument was this:

Not that any of this is simple, as it takes serious investment in R&D, tackling tough student privacy issues, and dealing with the inherent complexity and heterogeneity of our schools. But it’s way more doable than the next phase of the research-to-practice cycle: getting schools to actually use the stuff that works....

 
 

Late December brought not one but two excellent disquisitions on moral education, both the importance of rekindling an emphasis on it in American schools and some thoughtful advice as to how to go about it. Each does a nice job of explaining why such rekindling is needed at this time—though unless you’re completely off the grid you already know why: not so much because of troubles with private morality (teenage pregnancy rates are down, etc.) but because of manifest failures in the public and semi-public squares: with honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, both on the part of elected officials and in the small venues where we observe an excess of selfishness, cheating, laziness, and willingness to be a burden on others.

The moral and ethical renewal that American society needs, and that our schools have an obligation to do their best to infuse into their pupils, is the Aristotelian kind, nicely defined by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson as human beings “exercising their reason and habituating certain virtues, such as courage, temperance, honor, equanimity, truthfulness, justice and friendship.” Gerson deplores—correctly in my view—today’s tendency among our public officials and many others to disregard Aristotle and instead embrace the version derived...

 
 

“Restorative practices” are an increasingly popular alternative to suspensions. To examine the effectiveness such practices, researchers at the RAND Corporation studied Pittsburgh’s new restorative justice program. It’s the largest study of its kind, and the first randomized control trial of this disciplinary strategy—and unfortunately, the results are decidedly mixed.

RAND worked with Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) to evaluate a new restorative justice program, Pursuing Equitable and Restorative Communities (PERC), over two years. The program aims to help students build better relationships with their peers and teachers and understand how their actions affect others. This should, researchers posit, lead to fewer punishable behaviors, more instructional time, and improved academic outcomes. PERC includes eleven restorative practices staff can implement, for example:

  • Affective Statements: “Personal expressions of feeling in response to specific positive or negative behaviors of others.”
  • Proactive Circles: “Meetings with participants seated in a circle…for students to share feelings, ideas, and experiences in order to build trust.”
  • Responsive Circles: “Meetings with participants seated in a circle…[for] the management of conflict and tension.”

Restorative practices are not meant to replace more serious consequences like suspension for serious offenses, but to remind the student that...

 
 

Pages