Flypaper

A recent report from the Manhattan Institute seeks to demonstrate that “cream-skimming”—sorting students to favor smarter, harder-working pupils—is not the reason charter schools outperform traditional public schools on standardized tests. Author Marcus A. Winters points out that critics who use this argument ignore the fact that not all traditional public schools are open enrollment.

The report compares the English and math test scores of ninety-eight selective non-charter middle schools whose students have to pass entrance exams to be admitted, with those of seventy-three charter middle schools whose students are admitted by lottery and are often underprivileged minorities. All of the schools are located in New York City.

Winters reasons that if admitting students with better academic credentials does indeed result in higher test scores, traditional selective middle schools would fare significantly better than lottery-based charter schools. That is not, however, the case.

The report finds that the charter school students did better in math (38.3 percent proficient) than their peers at selective middle schools (34.7 percent proficient); but worse in English language arts (24.6 percent at charters compared to 32.2 percent at selective middle schools). Yet, when Winters adjusted for student demographics, the difference in ELA proficiency shrunk to a...

A recent study in the Social Science Research journal investigated teacher bias and its profound effects on student achievement. Many scholars have tackled this topic in various ways, but this study looks at subject-specific teacher bias, which manifests itself in terms of teacher perceptions and beliefs of student ability in math and English. It asks the question: How do math and English teacher perceptions of their students’ academic abilities vary by student race and ethnicity? Additionally, the study looks at teacher underestimations of student ability and its impact on students’ own expectations and achievement. Is there a significant causal-effect relationship between teachers’ low expectation of students and students’ own expectations and achievement? If so, do they vary by race or ethnicity of student?

The study uses data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002), a “nationally representative, longitudinal study of 10th graders in 2002 and 12th graders in 2004.” Selecting approximately twenty-six students from each high school, the study used a combined sample size of 12,500 students. To determine how teacher perceptions affected student outcomes, researchers used a propensity score matching method: For each student in the treatment group, there was a student in the control sample...

Eva Moskowitz is on a nice little roll. On Friday, the State Supreme Court handed her network of Success Academy charter schools a victory—and $720,000—ruling that New York City overstepped its authority trying to impose its pre-K contract on Success. On Monday, she was in Washington, D.C., to accept the Broad Prize, which goes each year to a charter school operator who demonstrates “outstanding academic outcomes among low-income students and students of color.” Success, with forty-one schools educating 14,000 mostly low-income New York City children, was nominated for the same award last year. The validation from her charter school peers is fortuitous timing for Moskowitz and Success Academy, which today unveils its “Ed Institute,” an online collection of free curriculum, tools, and training resources that are “the foundation of Success Academy’s school design.”

Attention must be paid. Moskowitz remains a deeply polarizing figure in education. But as the Broad honor suggests, whether enthusiastically or begrudgingly, one has to respect what she has brought to the families she serves. Success Academy students continue doing to state tests what Aaron Judge does to baseballs at Yankee Stadium, hitting them high, far, and with authority. The poorest performing Success Academy pushed 90% of...

One of the greatest and longest-lasting education accomplishments of the George W. Bush Administration, in which I was honored to serve, was the creation of the Institute of Education Sciences. Thanks to the vision, courage, and persistence of IES’s first director, Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, education research is no longer the laughingstock of the social sciences. Every week we find multiple studies published on important topics, employing rigorous methodologies, and yielding findings that can inform classroom practice. This is an enormous accomplishment. (Getting educators to follow the evidence is another matter.)

Still and all, we’re not nearly as far along when it comes to publishing rigorous research that is relevant to policymakers, especially state leaders and lawmakers, who make many of the big decisions when it comes to K–12 schooling.

It may be that IES, and the scholars that it funds, are doing the best they possibly can. As Rick Hess (among others) has long argued, many questions in policy and governance simply cannot be answered by evidence. We often turn to the healthcare system for inspiration when it comes to research, looking at randomized field trials of pharmaceuticals as a model for what we'd like to do with...

Matthew Ladner

The Fordham Institute has released an important new study on open enrollment in Ohio. Figure 1’s dark blue areas show districts not participating in open enrollment, and they just happen to be leafy suburban districts that are both higher income with predominantly white student bodies and near large urban districts with many students, who are neither of these things. Feel free to reference this the next time someone claims that public schools “take everyone.”

Figure 1. Ohio school districts by open-enrollment status: 2013–14 school year

Many moons ago, I wrote a study for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy about the interaction between charter schools and open enrollment in Michigan. I found a very clear pattern among some of the suburban districts whereby charter schools provided the incentive for early open enrollment participants to opt-in. After one district began taking open enrollment transfers and some additional charters opened, it created an incentive for additional nearby districts to opt in—they were now losing students to both charters and the opted-in district. Through this mechanism, the highly economically and racially segregated walled-off district system began to collapse.

Not every domino fell, however. I interviewed...

Jeremy Noonan

U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best High Schools Rankings are a source of great pride to some schools, and great consternation to others. Schools, in addition to earning a place on the publication’s hierarchical list, can also earn a “Bronze,” “Silver,” or “Gold” medal. Yet the way in which these honors are determined is puzzlingly problematic.

While a school’s math and reading proficiency rates, as determined by state exams, plus its graduation rates, can net the school a “Bronze” ranking, attaining a Silver or Gold ranking also requires a “College Readiness Index” (CRI) score at or above the median of all high schools rated, 75 percent of which is determined by “performance” on AP Exams. Performance, however, is not measured by a straightforward exam passage rate (i.e., the number of exams passed, out of the number of exams taken) or even by an average score, but by the percentage of all graduates who pass at least one AP exam.

A performance metric that calculates a success rate on a task that includes people who haven’t even attempted that task seems like an odd way of measuring success. Yet this same metric, sometimes called the Equity and Excellence (E&E) rate,...

Tough problems rarely have quick fixes. The racial achievement gap, which has plagued our nation for as long as achievement has been measured, and has grown worse in recent decades, is that type of problem. However, new research suggests that if the teachers of today can inspire more young people of color to be the teachers of tomorrow, we may be able to narrow that gap significantly.

A recent study by Seth Gershenson et al. found that black teachers, all else equal, have immensely positive long-term influence on black students. Somehow, having an elementary school teacher of the same race really helps students graduate from high school and go on to college. Unfortunately, only 7 percent of teachers in the U.S. are black, compared to 16 percent of the student body. Similarly, while 24 percent of American students are Hispanic, only 8 percent of teachers are. These underrepresentations perpetuate disadvantage.

In their conclusion, Gershenson and his team recommend that school administrators ensure black students get assigned to at least one black teacher. Yet that isn’t enough. The researchers used data from over 100,000 black students in North Carolina and Tennessee, and when assigned per standard procedure, two in...

Editor’s note: On Tuesday, Caprice Young will be inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ Charter School Hall of Fame, which recognizes the movement’s pioneers and leaders whose contributions have made a sizeable, lasting, or innovative impact. Caprice Young has been a charter innovator for over two decades. The former founder and CEO of the California Charter School Association, as well as former board president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, Caprice now leads the Magnolia Public Schools—a group of charter schools ranked among California’s very best. This is her interview, conducted by Fordham’s Jamie Davies O’Leary.

Jamie Davies O’Leary: You oversee the Magnolia Public Schools, a group of California charter schools that are STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). What is happening at Magnolia that you’re most proud of?

Caprice Young: Magnolia’s schools were started by a group of world-class graduate students in science programs at USC, CalTech, and UC Irvine dedicated to the vision of developing and graduating students who are scientific thinkers and civically responsible. Our academic program is rigorous, hands-on, and student driven. Over the last two years, we have added arts to our STEM-based curriculum because cultivating creativity and...

Lyall Swim

Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series that outlines some foundational principles for successful adoption of innovative education reforms.

When the founding fathers advocated for principles of federalism, they weren’t thinking that this philosophy of governance was going to be great for innovation. Rather, based on their writings, the push for the tenets of federalism was to create a system of checks and balances within the government that ensured that power was diffused and the threats of tyranny were minimized.

However, it turns out that federalism and the separation of powers isn’t just good governance policy. As implemented in the American experiment, federalism has become a tremendous way to create a culture of innovation for a broad range of policy areas—particularly for education.

One of the most important and visible findings from my doctoral research on innovation adoption was that the type of innovation dictates where an innovation is most likely to be successfully adopted. In many ways, this aspect of innovation follows the number one rule of real estate: location, location, location.

In education reform, our federalist government structure naturally creates four distinct locations, or levels—federal, state, district, and school—that can be matched...

In a recent Los Angeles Times editorial, Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman and the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten blasted the private-school choice programs that the Trump Administration has strongly promoted. They built their case, in part, on the notion that public schools are “open to all,” while stating that private schools are not. But can public schools claim the high ground on admissions? Is every public school district really open to all?

In the words of football analyst Lee Corso: “Not so fast.” Consider Fordham’s home state of Ohio where, like most states, boundary lines have long determined public-school assignments. For many families, their “zoned” schools are fine and were very likely a driving force during the home-buying process. Other parents, however, might prefer to send their child to another district. They may want access to a specialized academic program or to ensure their kids attend a school that is nearer to their home than the one assigned to them, even if it means crossing a district boundary.

To offer parents more interdistrict opportunities, Ohio legislators enacted one of the nation’s first open enrollment laws in 1989. This public-school-choice policy permits students to attend another district without...

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