They already made up in their mind that they’re not going to give [my children] back. I feel as though they want me to say, ‘F**k it, let me just sign, take ’em.’ I get to that point. I get there. That’s why I’ve been late. I can be on time. But when I’m at home getting ready, I don’t see an end to this tunnel, I don’t see a light, it’s just pitch black. This is a frickin’ routine that is never going to f**king end, and I feel like I’m drowning all the time. Lord knows I love my kids. But at the end of the day, it’s only so much one person is willing to take.”

—Mercedes, single mother of four children

In the grueling world of education reform, we are inundated with mind-numbing statistics about the generational academic failure suffered by millions of students, many of whom are “of color or living in poverty.” Yet rarely do we have the opportunity to go beyond these nameless, faceless identity groupings of race and class to understand the human story of the individual souls in our classrooms. Rarer still is empathy for the circumstances of the adult...


There’s much about Montgomery County, Maryland, that I appreciate—starting with the fact that it’s been a fine home for me and my family for forty-plus years. There’s also much that I respect about the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and several of its current initiatives, including greater attention to the education of gifted kids, particularly those from poor and minority backgrounds.

Yet I take strong issue with a new policy that the school board is expected to ratify in early January that, according to the Washington Post, will “allow public high school students to take as many as three excused absences a year to participate in political protests and other forms of ‘civic engagement’ during the school day.”

This, added Post reporter Joe Heim, will make my county’s school system “one of very few in the country that would formally let students take an excused day off to join marches, lead protests, lobby leaders, campaign for candidates, or otherwise partake in civic action.”

Welcome to civics education circa 2019—and welcome to the left’s encouragement of protest in Donald Trump’s America circa 2019. Take my word for the fact that the MCPS school board—like most of the county...

Kari Patrick

Lately, I’ve seen a meme that keeps popping up on social media: “Telling a teacher to use a boxed curriculum is like forcing a chef to cook hamburger helper.”

I was tempted to like it at first; it seems catchy and does hint at an issue that teachers face regularly: maintaining autonomy and creativity, while using materials that are aligned to academic standards and include challenging activities and content for students. But the meme boils down (pun intended) an important topic—aligned instruction and teachers’ access to high-quality materials—into an “either, or” situation. But, of course, it’s actually more complicated than that.

Indeed, the material we teachers use, and the way we deliver it inside classroom walls, is critically important to our students learning, and the use of low-quality, uninspired materials is, well, a recipe for disaster.

The RAND Corporation recently published a report titled “Changes in What Teachers Know and Do in the Common Core Era.” Using responses from their annual American Teacher Panel survey, they looked at changes in teacher instruction and materials from 2015–17 to find out whether the materials teachers are using in the classroom are aligned to higher standards.

Some of the highlights may...


There’s a terrific story about the late Frank McCourt, who became famous as the author of Angela’s Ashes and other books, but who was Mr. McCourt the English teacher to a generation of students at Stuyvesant High and other New York City schools. One day a student asked what possible use a particular work of literature he assigned would have in his life. “You will read it for the same reason your parents waste their money on your piano lessons,” McCourt replied. “So you won’t be a boring little shite the rest of your life.”

Of course, merely suggesting that a student might become a boring little shite would be enough today to get a teacher Twitter shamed by sundown and fired the next day. But McCourt’s barb was well-aimed: The point of a good education is to expose children to the best of what has been learned, spoken, or thought over the past ten thousand years of human civilization. It’s their intellectual paycheck. Enjoy it and spend some today. Invest the rest where it can mature and pay dividends forever. Not everything should or will be immediately or obviously useful or relevant.

So with the caveat that a rich...


Out of the 2016 presidential election emerged a struggling and forgotten group eager to voice their needs: working-class Americans. In response to this outcry, Opportunity America, a D.C. think tank focused on economic mobility, united a bipartisan group, cosponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, to agree on a set of recommendations to revitalize the working-class.

Over one year, the group conducted four studies and site visits in three locations (Ohio River Valley, Louisville metro area, and southern Indiana) to determine the demographics, educational attainment, household characteristics, and reliance on government programs of the working class. The researchers identified almost sixteen million households containing such adults—individuals between twenty-five and sixty-four years old with at least a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree, and a household income between the national twentieth and fiftieth percentile. At the end of their research, the group negotiated which recommendations would best ameliorate some of the negative impacts affecting the working class’s income, employment, education, and family composition. The recommendations are budget neutral and designed to “do no harm” to America’s debt.

The working group concluded that career education offers a substantial opportunity for revitalizing these blue-collar communities. The...


You might think the executive director of an organization called the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools would place the interests of children seeking the best possible special ed that charter schools can provide for them ahead of the policy preferences of IDEA (the federal special-ed law). You might even think that the fundamental precepts of school choice and parent preference might loom large in her mind. Alas, no. Lauren Morando Rhim’s wrong-headed and legalistic piece instead decries and deplores the existence of what she terms “specialized” charter schools, of which the U.S. already contains more than a hundred. These schools—which are created specifically to serve youngsters with disabilities, sometimes with particular disabilities—she faults for their failure to “mainstream” disabled students, even for isolating them from the “real world” and from others who share their learning challenges.

She appears to ignore a core tenet of charter schooling, which is the creation of educational options for kids and families that the regular public-education system is incapable of providing. She appears also to ignore a core tenet of school choice, which is that parents may be better judges of what their children need than distant bureaucrats and rulemakers—and...


After the recent mid-term election, we published our analysis of newly elected and re-elected governors and where they stand on the issue of private school choice. We also saw changes at the state legislative level that could have implications for educational choice.

What do the election results mean in states that have existing school choice programs in place? What potential effect might they have when it comes to enacting new programs? Now that all the races have officially been called, we break down the states to watch in 2019 and beyond.


Governor Kay Ivey, who has long advocated for educational choice, was elected to her first full term after filling a vacancy in 2017. Alabama has an opportunity to expand its existing tax-credit scholarship program, which served more than 3,500 families last year.


Alaskans elected Mike Dunleavy as their next governor. As a state senator, Dunleavy sponsored Senate Joint Resolution Nine, which would have allowed for school choice programs to be utilized in Alaska. School choice champions also won a number of state legislative seats that will determine whether the Last Frontier will embrace its first private school choice program in the coming years.


Lauren Morando Rhim

Some state charter school laws create the opportunity to open schools specifically for students with disabilities. Such schools may appeal to families who have not experienced success in their local public school and who simply cannot afford to wait for the reality of inclusion to catch up with the ideal. The rise in these schools, however, raises questions about their overall quality, whether their students are prepared when they move on to other schools, and whether they violate a central tenet of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment available.

The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, of which I am the executive director, recently analyzed the federal Civil Rights Data Collection and found that there are at least 137 charter schools that specialize in serving students with disabilities. This means they identify this as their mission or more than half of their students qualify to receive special education services. There are long established charter schools designed for children with autism spectrum disorder, emotional disturbance, and hearing impairments, as well as newer ones serving students with learning disorders like dyslexia. One of the first was the Louisiana Key...


Last week, I argued that the education-policy field has reached a state of homeostasis, “characterized by clearer and fairer but lighter touch accountability systems; the incremental growth of school choice options for families; but no appetite for big and bold new initiatives.” This “end of policy,” as I called it, won’t last forever, but while it’s here, we have a chance to finish what we started and usher in a “Golden Age of Educational Practice.” In other words, to implement the higher standards with fidelity. To improve teacher preparation and development. To strengthen charter school oversight and quality. To make the promise of high quality career and technical education real.

The challenge, I said, is that “while policymakers might be taking a break from education policy, we cannot afford to take a break from educational improvement.”

Unless, that is, we’re satisfied with the results our $650 billion educational system is producing. But we shouldn’t be. It’s not just lackluster student achievement, with barely a third of students reaching “NAEP proficiency” in core subjects. It’s also the 61 percent of students who graduate high school unprepared for what’s next, and the alarming number of young people...

Jonathan Plucker

Last week, the Twin Cities was the epicenter of gifted education policy and practice as Minneapolis hosted the sixty-fifth NAGC Annual Convention. The convention provided a time for reflection about how Minnesota and the nation fare in supporting the needs of advanced students—and what we can do better.

After years of darkness, we are fortunate that a number of new studies are providing insights into who would benefit from advanced learning, the types of programs that are most effective, and policies needed to support high levels of student achievement.

For example, in a recent study we found evidence that large percentages of students—between 15 to 40 percent—start each school year already knowing most of what will be taught that year. Without access to a more rigorous and advanced education, the odds of them developing their talents are long indeed. Boredom need not be a characteristic of a bright student’s educational experience!

Fortunately, Minnesota has been a national leader in addressing the needs of gifted students. In studies of state-level policies to support academic excellence we identified Minnesota as one of only a handful of states that provide high levels of support for gifted students across multiple criteria. This includes...