Flypaper

The passing of Senator John McCain last month had a profound effect upon our nation’s conscience and countenance. If a life of service is a life well lived, McCain’s was a prodigious one, the likes of which we may never see again. The outpouring of personal stories and tributes from both sides of the aisle surpass those given even to some presidents. His iconic story will undoubtedly endure while those of lesser men fade from memory.

McCain may have been denied the brass ring of the presidency, but that hasn’t stopped some from wondering how things might have been if he had prevailed. In my mind, this would include the trajectory of education policy, considering that a McCain presidency would have partially supplanted an historic period in school reform. While the responsibility of education falls largely to the states, the presidential bully pulpit is a sizable one, and my guess is that McCain would have seized it like the fighter that he was to play a prominent role.

Pundits have varying opinions when it comes to our nation’s best education presidents. Again, given its province in the states, we talk far more...

 
 

Children in the state of Connecticut are being denied access to schools that have plenty of room for them because of the color of their skin. Yup, that’s right. Available seats in the magnet schools of Hartford—and beyond—sit empty despite long waitlists for admission.

And this denial of opportunity is happening in the name of integration.

“Those seats just stay empty, no matter what,” Robinson said. “Even if I want Jarod to have a seat, he can’t get in unless kids from the suburbs come in too. It’s like Connecticut says, ‘You have to have a white kid in a classroom for a black kid to be educated.’”

Year after year, LaShawn Robinson entered her son Jarod’s name into the lottery for one of Hartford’s magnet schools and year after year, he was denied admission even though the school had room for him. Now Ms. Robinson and six other plaintiffs are taking their case to federal court.

After a 1996 supreme court ruling in Sheff v. O’Neill that held that racial segregation in Hartford schools violated the state constitution, lawmakers responded by passing a racial quota law. The law required Connecticut school boards to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic...

 
 

Were there any shootings at your workplace last year? Want some time to think about it? Better check the files or ask the H.R. department. Maybe you were out that day or forgot. Are you really, completely, hand-to-God, one hundred percent certain you know for a fact whether there was or was not a shooting at your work in the last twelve months?

It’s not a trick question. Of course you’re certain. If someone had fired a shot in anger in your office, factory, or school, it’s something you wouldn’t forget quickly. Or ever.

If you missed the news in the run-up to the Labor Day holiday, Anya Kamenetz of NPR committed a remarkable act of journalism last week. According to U.S. Education Department data for the 2015–16 school year, 240 schools reported at least one incident involving a school-related shooting. “NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months,” Kamenetz reported, “and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened.” Of the 240 incidents reported by the U.S. Ed Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), NPR was able confirm only eleven.

Eleven versus 240 is not, to put...

 
 

Overall, mathematics standards in the United States are far stronger today than they were in 2010, when Fordham conducted its last fifty-state review. And much of that improvement is due to the Common Core math standards, which earned a rating of A- in our 2010 report and a score of 9 out of 10 in our most recent review. In general, the states with the strongest math standards are the ones that have built on the Common Core, modified it in minor ways, or independently drafted separate standards that mirror its pacing and organization.

So why are today’s standards better than the math standards of a decade ago? Here are four strengths that our expert mathematics reviewers found in state math standards in 2018.

1. Stronger focus on arithmetic in grades K–5

Because it is the foundation for much of the mathematics that students will encounter in higher grades, experts agree that arithmetic should be the primary focus of math instruction in grades K–5. Yet in 2010, the biggest problem we identified in state math standards was that arithmetic wasn’t a sufficient priority. As mathematicians Steven Wilson and Gabrielle Martino lamented at the time:

Many states...

 
 

This editorial was first published by the New York Daily News.

New York City’s eight selective high schools are rightfully sought after. Most consistently rank near the top of U.S. secondary schools. Their alumni include multiple Nobel laureates. Their graduates garner bountiful acceptance letters from Ivy League universities and go on to become the innovators, job creators, scientists, and leaders of tomorrow.

Each year, tens of thousands of eighth graders seek admission, which for decades has been based solely on whether an applicant gets above a cut-off score on the city’s Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). Only a few thousand make the cut.

But the racial profile of those admitted does not remotely mirror the diversity of the city’s population. Black and Hispanic youngsters comprise 67 percent of New York City students, but just 10 percent of those who attend the eight elite public high schools. Various efforts have been made over the years to fix this, but they’ve only made small dents.

Mayor de Blasio recently proposed his own remedy: overhauling the admissions process. He would scrap the SHSAT, which is taken only by students seeking admission to the specialized high schools. Instead, he’d use New York...

 
 

Most states are now including a measure of student absenteeism in their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability system for the so-called “fifth indicator” of student success, so many districts are now keen to strengthen student attendance. The results of a recent study could help.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley examined the results of a randomized experiment where parents were provided with information about their child’s absences (or not) to see if the information intervention actually reduced chronic absenteeism.

The study was conducted in the School District of Philadelphia, the eighth largest in the U.S. The sample included parents of over 28,000 high-risk kindergarten through grade twelve students. Analysts defined high-risk students as those absent three or more days more than the modal student in their school at their grade level, and those with no more than over two standard deviations more days absent than the mean student in their school-grade. (The districts believed these students had most likely left and not informed them or were experiencing a grave challenge that would make them less responsive to treatment.)

Analysts randomly assigned households in equal numbers to a control group or one of three personalized treatment...

 
 

In response to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, states including Georgia restructured teacher evaluation criteria to include both rigorous principal-conducted evaluations and student test scores. Andrew Saultz conducted an exploratory study in Georgia for the American Enterprise Institute to identify patterns in teacher dismissals and their relationship, if any, to teacher quality.

Saultz gathered 136 teacher dismissal cases from three of the six largest Georgia school districts: Fulton, DeKalb, and Atlanta. These records contained the recommendations of the tribunal reviewing each case, the state board of education’s final decisions, or both, stating the main cause for termination, as well as other offenses and an optional explanation. These causes came from a predetermined list outlined in Georgia’s Fair Dismissal Act. Saultz analyzed the results to understand patterns in Georgia’s teacher dismissals, looking specifically for mentions of teaching and/or teacher quality; so he broke down the results by main cause of termination and whether that cause is linked to teaching and/or teacher quality.

“Willful neglect of duties” was the most frequently cited cause for terminations, with 38 percent of cases labeled as such. It includes transgressions like “failure to complete lesson plans” and “failure to report to...

 
 

The buzz about mindsets, what we believe about our intelligence, has captivated parents and educators in recent years. Its message is powerful—if you believe your intelligence can grow, you will embrace challenges and achieve more. Yet, even as noted by Carol Dweck herself, this mighty notion of mindset can be misinterpreted. In discussions about giftedness and mindsets, there may also be misconceptions.

Research about praise tells us that when we praise students for their intelligence, they are likely to develop fixed mindset beliefs—the belief that your abilities do not change—and so, they are more likely to avoid challenges in order to maintain a smart identity. Using this premise, it has been argued that the gifted label itself is a form of intelligent praise that can influence challenge-avoidance. The very label provides the context that their strong abilities were “gifted” to them as innate, unchanging qualities.

These discussions and the popularity of Dweck’s work have influenced educators, blog-writers, and authors of books to assert that gifted students are especially fragile to developing fixed mindsets and miss the mark on achieving their potential. Others have also argued that students who...

 
 
Laura Slover and Bonnie Hain

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on CenterPoint Education Solutions’ blog.

Road map for student success

As Kate Gerson, CEO of UnboundED, recently said: “Adopting an aligned curriculum is the number one way to stop all the confusion and extra labor that is currently placed on teachers…Providing a road map that is comprehensive and coherent is game-changing.”

As former teachers, we agree. Back in our days in the classroom, we spent countless hours trying to create aligned curriculum, often without that road map. This included finding lessons, searching for quality grade level texts, and building assessments to track student learning—time that could have been better spent with students and with other teachers. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Data show that teachers still spend considerable time trying to find/develop content for their students and to create what is essentially their own curriculum—only now they do it online instead of in the teachers’ lounge.

For example, RAND’s 2017 analysis of the American Teacher Panel found that 96 percent of teachers use Google to find lessons and materials, while nearly 75 percent use Pinterest. What’s more, in schools...

 
 
Lisa Keegan

I think we all understand John McCain best when we understand his passionate love for this country and her ideals. He always told us that he only really fell in love with her when he was deprived of her freedom and aspiration during his five-plus years in captivity in Hanoi. He came home and, as you know, immediately said that he believed the greatest responsibility of his life beyond his family would be to serve the country that he loved, and to seek the benefits of her freedom for all who live here, and for those abroad.

He did that. John McCain defined an American patriot.

In the work that we shared for education, his deepest passion was for the idea that families whose children were denied access to quality schools would be able to choose their school. In his speech to the NAACP in 2008, he said the following:

Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We've heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We've heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up...

 
 

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