Flypaper

Using data from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Washington State, a 2017 study published in the Statistics and Public Policy journal examines how teachers of various levels of effectiveness impact student achievement. Researchers analyze multiple years of educator data, using as many data points as were available for each teacher.

Not surprisingly, the authors find that the distribution of teacher effectiveness resembles a bell curve. As Figure 1 demonstrates, educators who are nearer to the middle of the curve have similar effects on student achievement, regardless of which percentile the teachers fall into. The impacts of those in the 45th and 55th percentiles are quite close, for example. This is not, however, true of those at the tail ends of the bell curve—teachers who are very bad or very good. Compared to more average educators, the impacts of those in the 2nd and 12th percentiles, for instance, are markedly different, with the bad-but-not-as-bad teachers producing much better student results. And the same goes for those at the high end. Students educated by teachers in the 98th percentile are much better off than their peers whose teachers fall into the 88th percentile.

Figure 1. Gains in student achievement associated with gains in...

You’ve got to be kidding me. Steven Singer has actually penned a piece in which he claims that Common Core has led to a spike in middle school suicides. Though he does admit that there are a variety of reasons for the increase, he stands firm in his claim that the Common Core State Standards are one of them.

I grew up and used to teach in metro-west Boston, which has its share of affluent districts known to be pressure cookers for kids and where adolescent suicide has devastated families and rocked school communities. They are places where the schools and parents’ expectations are high, where it’s not unusual for students to be doing extra work and SAT prep after-school, where high priced tutors abound to keep the dreaded C+ at bay, where parents dole out many thousands of dollars to pay for a private college counselor, and where the only acceptable colleges are the most prestigious (and selective) ones. Many students do fine and even thrive in the pressure-filled environment, but some internalize the pressure to a point that the expectations they put on themselves make them quite literally sick. Because we know that no one who is...

The NAACP caused quite a stir recently when it released a report calling for a moratorium on new charter schools for the next ten years. While the proposed charter ban has drawn most of the headlines—and with good reason—the NAACP report also offered a number of recommendations to address what it claims are widespread problems and abuses of power in the charter sector. These recommendations, which haven’t generated as much scrutiny, were incorporated into a model law for use by interested states.

Hailing from Ohio, a state with a history of charter-quality challenges, we cannot deny the charter sector’s warts. Outcomes in some charter schools are indeed much too poor, and financial shenanigans have been much too common. That’s why those of us at Fordham-Ohio and our partners worked hard to pass historic reforms to the state’s charter laws in 2015.

So we decided to review NAACP’s recommendations with an open mind, hoping to see them embrace the sort of quality-control policies that we identified and helped to enact in Ohio.

Sadly, that’s not what we found. The NAACP model law is not about improving charter schools, but strangling them. Moreover, if a law like...

The summer edition of the first-rate Education Finance and Policy Journal examines whether principals really think that all teachers are effective, especially since we know from prior studies that upwards of 98 percent receive positive evaluations. Supplementing 2012 administrative data from Miami-Dade, the fourth largest district in the U.S., Jason Grissom and Susanna Loeb ask roughly one hundred principals to rate a random handful of their teachers on different dimensions of practice. Importantly, they let the principals know that these are low-stakes ratings, in that only researchers would know the scores that they gave. The hypothesis was that without any stakes attached they might give more candid appraisals. These ratings were later compared to the high-stakes, summative personnel ratings (i.e., the Instructional Performance Evaluation and Growth System, or IPEGS) that principals gave those same teachers a few weeks later.

Analysts found that both sets of evaluations were quite positive, but the low-stakes evaluations tended to be more negative. Indeed, many teachers who were rated “ineffective” on the low stakes measures received “effective” or “highly effective” ratings on the high-stakes measures. Still, even though the official ratings skewed to the high side, teachers receiving the highest of the...

A new analysis from David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik, part of the “Evidence Speaks” series from Brookings, indicates that variation in educational practices between individual schools explains a large amount of the socioeconomic achievement gap. In short, school quality varies, and it matters for every student.

Using a specially created data set from the Florida Departments of Education and Health, Figlio and Karbownik were able to match each child’s school record with his or her birth certificate data, which includes parental education, family structure, and poverty status. Based on a child’s socioeconomic status (SES) at birth, they grouped children into SES quartiles. Then, they examined academic gaps between low- and high-SES students at three points in time: kindergarten entry (using existing readiness data), the end of third grade (the point at which most students in Florida are first formally assessed), and the end of fifth grade. The study included 568 elementary schools across the state with a substantive distribution of students in all four socioeconomic quartiles, excluding schools that were practically all low- or high-SES (about one quarter of the elementary schools in the state).

In line with prior research, achievement gaps were observed between high- and low-SES pupils....

Michelle Pearson

It’s almost the end of the summer and I realize that the professional development I have been in has been pretty fantastic, and pretty awful. I spent a good amount of time discussing about how we teachers can perfect our craft reaching at-risk students—a great goal. The difficulty is that defining an at-risk student can be hard.

We talked a lot about “those in poverty, those with gender issues, those with disabilities, and diverse students who struggle to have a voice and be accepted.” This makes sense. Yet not once this summer did I hear gifted and talented students mentioned as being at risk. Not once.

On some level, I get it. It took me nineteen years to fully understand that I had a gifted student in my own house who was at risk. But at 1:30 a.m., my son admitted he wanted to drop out of school.

After picking myself up off the floor, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what my husband and I could have done differently. After all, I teach gifted and talented kids. I differentiate my instruction. I work to meet their...

Russell T. Warne

More than sixty years ago, Lewis Terman said, “It seems that the schools are more opposed to acceleration now than they were thirty years ago. The lockstep seems to have become more and more the fashion, notwithstanding the fact that practically everyone who has investigated the subject is against it.” Terman’s words reflect today’s disconnect between research on and practice of academic acceleration.

Gifted education experts have been advocates of academic acceleration for decades. It is a strategy that works. Early pioneers in the field promoted grade-skipping and early college entrance. Contemporary scholars study a variety of academic acceleration, ranging from widespread interventions like Advanced Placement classes to less common procedures such as allowing a child to advance through a year of curriculum in just one semester.

Many studies have shown benefits during childhood for accelerated individuals, but few studies have examined outcomes of acceleration in adulthood. Two recent studies compared adult income for accelerated and similar non-accelerated individuals. The first study used the Terman dataset, a famous study that collected data on over 1,500 gifted children over the course of seven decades. The second study used more modern data from five U.S. federal government studies, ranging from...

Baltimore, also known as Charm City for those who grew up there, is my hometown. When I was a kid, Mayor Kurt Schmoke used his inaugural address to declare that education was one of his top priorities: “It would make me the proudest if one day it could simply be said that this is a city that reads.”

Thirty years of strife and lackluster education have, instead—in my mind as well as the minds of many others—given Baltimore a very different name that’s impossible to shake: “The City That Burned.”

So it strikes me as surreal that at its national convention in Charm City, a place where the fight for black opportunity may burn hottest, the NAACP issued its latest set of cold edicts to kill America’s—and Baltimore’s—charter schools. It’s offered a set of black-and-white notions, which would end the concept of chartering as we know it, in a town now infamous for the name Gray. You’d have to look the other way to miss the irony.

I participated in a debate on the organization’s charter school moratorium hosted by the NYC Bar Association just a few weeks ago. The NAACP board member, a former Goldman Sachs executive, participating in...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) grants states more authority over their school accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—meaning that states now have a greater opportunity to design improved school ratings. In Fordham’s new report, Rating the Ratings: Analyzing the First 17 ESSA Accountability Plans, we examine whether states are making the most of the moment.

In our view, three of the most important improvements that states can make are to ensure that their accountability systems:

  1. Assign annual ratings to schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators, and the public;
  2. Encourage schools to focus on all students, not just their low performers; and
  3. Fairly measure and judge all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Based on these three objectives, we rate states’ planned accountability systems using the most recent publicly available information. States can earn grades of strong, medium, or weak in each.

Table 1 shows the results for the seventeen plans that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, sixteen of which have enough information for us to rate.

Table 1. Results for states that have submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education

I am 200 percent in favor of personalized learning, defined as enabling every child to move through the prescribed curriculum at his or her own speed, progressing on the basis of individual mastery of important skills and knowledge rather than in lockstep according to age, grade level, and end-of-year assessments. (I’m 200 percent opposed to the “let everyone learn whatever they want to whenever they want to learn it” version.)

There is nothing beneficial to kids about declaring that every ten-year-old belongs in something called “fifth grade” and that all will proceed to “sixth grade” when they get a year older, get passing marks from their teachers, and perform acceptably on “grade-level” tests at year’s end.

That’s not how it worked in the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear, and it’s oblivious to the many ways that children differ from each other, the ways their modes and rates of learning differ, how widely their starting achievement levels differ, and how their interests, brains, and outside circumstances often cause them to learn different subjects at unequal speeds—and to move faster and slower, deeper or shallower, at different points in their lives, even at different points within a “school year.”

Yet we’ve organized conventional...

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