First, a thirty-minute student led parent-teacher conference with one child’s homeroom teacher. Then, six five-minute conferences with another son’s individual subject teachers. And lastly, a ten-minute conference with my third child’s English language arts and social studies teachers, and another ten-minute conference with his math and science teachers, both mostly led by him. We parents of multiple school-age children attend so many of these meetings, and there’s nothing universal about them.

I have three children in grades three, five, and seven, and as you can see their schools’ offerings vary greatly. Some are great, some aren’t. But the worst of the bunch is the one I can’t even get in to: Sort of like when Jimmy Buffett tickets go on sale, by the time I logged on to sign up, all the “tickets” were gone. But I suppose that’s to be expected when there are only forty slots for more than one hundred students.

Let me explain. My seventh-grade son’s school has two days of conferences coming up, for which I must give the school at least some props; many middle and high schools forgo conferences entirely. Each conference is five minutes—yes, that’s it—and you have to sign up quickly...

Charles Sahm

With New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña stepping down and the de Blasio administration reportedly conducting a national search for her replacement, here are some serious (and not-so-serious) suggestions of intriguing candidates to run the city’s schools during the mayor’s second term.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: The creator of Hamilton is a product of New York City public schools and a former English teacher. No one has done more to improve history education than he has. He’s a certified genius and should be on the short list for all the jobs. Plus, his freestyle-rap press conferences would be awesome.

Eva Moskowitz: None other than education historian and reformer-turned-anti-reformer Diane Ravitch suggested this a few years ago during an interview on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC radio show. When Lehrer mentioned how Moskowitz’s schools outperformed almost all other public schools and asked if they should be considered a model, Ravitch responded: “I think that Eva Moskowitz needs to take over an entire school district so that she can show what she can do when she takes all the kids. The kids with disabilities. The kids who don’t read or speak English. That would be a proof of her methods.” Indeed,...

Stacey Childress

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

—William Pollard

Which forces and trends will drive the next twenty years of K–12 education innovation? We’re asking this question at NewSchools Venture Fund as we celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year.

In this spirit, here are three big, important questions for 2018, the answers to which have implications not only for the coming year, but for the next decade and beyond.

Is education technology poised for a new wave of innovation?

Several years ago, I often frustrated ed tech entrepreneurs and investors by pointing out that the last thing teachers wanted was another online gradebook. I’d say, “We already have a bunch of those.” Nonetheless, it was the most frequent pitch I heard from 2009–2011.

Fortunately, this imitative drought gave way to a flood of innovation. Investment in K–12 ed tech increased fourfold from 2010 to 2015. The sheer volume of instructional content and tools produced during this period resulted in many high-quality digital offerings in segments such as math, classroom management, and school communications.

But over the last...

Kate Kreamer and Ryan Reyna

The movement to expand career readiness is growing across the country. After reviewing all fifty-one state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans for our new joint brief, “Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans,” we found that almost all include at least one strategy to advance this work. Much more so than in the past, states are simultaneously creating more of these opportunities and holding schools accountable for their number of career-ready students. This is a significant shift in state policymaking that, if implemented in equitable and high quality ways, has the potential to benefit millions of learners.

Unfortunately, it is too soon to declare victory because most states failed to fully leverage ESSA’s flexibility to advance career readiness. For example, few states aligned their long-term goals to their vision for success, leaving many states’ overall strategy for supporting learners’ college-and-career readiness little more than rhetoric. And very few states leveraged ESSA to promote the integration of academic and technical instruction into their professional development or standards.

Seven findings—some good, some bad—are particularly noteworthy:

  • Forty-nine states’ ESSA plans included at least one strategy to expand career readiness.
  • Thirty-five plans included a career-focused metric in their high school accountability
  • ...

In an important and mostly depressing New Year’s Day column in The Washington Post, veteran education journalist Jay Mathews describes the on-again, off-again “carnival ride” to “raise school standards” that he’s observed over the past half century. “We love making schools more accountable,” Mathews writes. “Then, we hate the idea.”

He cites a pair of recent setbacks. First, the striking decline in states that require high school students to pass a statewide exit test before receiving their high school diplomas. Five years ago, that was the practice in half the states. Today, as documented by the anti-testing group called FairTest, it’s a graduation requirement in just thirteen jurisdictions.

Second, Mathews notes the gloomy appraisal of State ESSA plans that was issued last month by Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success, which declares that “States largely have squandered the opportunity…to create stronger, more innovative education plans” and that many “proposed graduation rate goals that far exceeded proficiency rates by 20 percentage points or more, creating the potential for states to graduate students that are not adequately prepared for their futures.”

Although my Fordham colleagues, focusing on just a few key elements of states’ ESSA accountability plans,...

Advertisements for investment funds always say that past performance is no guarantee of future results; in the case of my forecasting skills, that’s probably a good thing. After all, in 2016 I claimed that Donald Trump would never become president, and a year ago I thought that 2017 might be the year of coming back together again. So in the spirit of third time’s a charm, not three strikes and you’re out, here’s what I see coming down the pike in 2018.

  1. NAEP. The release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress results is always big news, but I have a hunch that this one will be bigger than usual. That’s because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen significant progress on the Nation’s Report Card and analysts will consider this round a legitimate indicator of the success or failure of Obama-era reforms. I’ll admit to being worried that gains will be minimal. The headwinds of the 2008 recession and the changing demographic mix of the student population are significant. Still, if states’ higher standards and tougher tests are leading to real changes in the classroom—especially as schools adopt high quality curriculum like Eureka Math—we ought
  2. ...

A November report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce examines the changes in the job market from 1991 to 2015, specifically the number of good jobs without a bachelor’s degree nationally and by state. Defining “good jobs” is subjective, of course, but here they are defined as those that pay at least $35,000 annually for workers under the age of forty-five (or $17 per hour for a full-time job) and $45,000 for older employees (or $22 per hour full time). In 2015, these jobs had median earnings of $55,000 annually.

The report uses annual survey data administered by the U.S. Census Bureau called the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement for years 1992 to 2016. Data for workers between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four are used to estimate employment by state, as well as the level of educational attainment, industry, and occupation.

In looking at the national breakdown of good jobs, 55 percent of those workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. And of the 61 percent of employed adults who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent have a good job. But this differs between states. In Wyoming, for example, 62 percent without the...

Regular readers know that I’m somewhat obsessed with the topic of screen time. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing, or the years our kids spent in a Waldorf pre-school, but I can’t help feeling a little guilty about letting my boys watch stupid Disney TV shows or play mindless video games when I could be engaging them in healthier pursuits. I stand in awe at my friends who have gone years—years—without allowing their children to watch a drop of television. It’s nothing but board games and arts-and-crafts at their homes. Incredible!

I don’t have that kind of discipline. And, as I’ve argued before, I’m not even sure a mass-media ban is what’s best for children. Everything in moderation, right?

So let me admit that the Petrilli family will be enjoying some screen time this winter vacation. Here are some great things you can watch with your kids that allow everyone to relax and will keep everybody learning to boot.



Geography Now!

My ten-year-old is obsessed with this YouTube channel, but

‘Tis a time of celebration, reflection, gift-giving, and—swiftly thereafter—planning and resolving for the year to come.

Let’s include in those reflections and resolutions some extra attention to the oft-neglected demographic subset we might simply call smart poor kids. They so often fall through a crack between two common assumptions in American education: (1) that “gifted and talented” education is something that’s mostly about able but also privileged middle class youngsters with pushy parents (i.e., that it’s an elitist thing); and (2) the belief that smart high achievers will generally do fine on their own and hence the formal education system should focus laser-like on the laggards and those on the lower edge of the achievement gap.

What gets left out are millions of able kids who, for reasons entirely beyond their control, aren’t middle class, lack sophisticated and aggressive adults to steer them through the education system, and who therefore depend heavily on that system to notice what they’re capable of and cultivate their abilities to the max. All of which was made worse by No Child Left Behind with its single-minded fixation on getting kids over the proficiency bar.

Why bother thinking differently about it now?

  • There’s an equity
  • ...

Earlier this month, Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success released a report assessing states’ ESSA plans. As The 74 reported, their reviews found them “largely lackluster,” a judgment that, at first blush, seems to conflict with Fordham’s own generally positive review of all fifty-one ESSA accountability plans. But don’t rely on first blushes.

The key word in the preceding paragraph is “accountability,” which distinguishes our report from theirs and mostly explains why ours was more positive. Although both reports looked at accountability, Fordham’s looked only at accountability—and only at select aspects of it—and we had good reasons for restricting our analysis in this way.

Both projects assessed “Consolidated State Plans” that states sent to the U.S. Department of Education as part of their obligations under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These submissions were typically more than one hundred pages long, and each set forth its state’s intentions in myriad areas, including assessments, accountability, long-term goals, school turnarounds, instructional support, teacher equity, programs for at-risk students, rural education, and much more.

One problem with reviewing everything in these plans—and a reason, we suspect, why neither report did—is that they’re basically big, complex compliance exercises. They...