“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.” 

—Werner Heisenberg

Not three months after graduating from college, I got a job teaching middle school science at a local parochial school. For my orientation, I was given a tour of my classroom and the keys to a closet that contained my students’ textbooks. Whether I used them was entirely my call. It’s the kind of freedom many teachers could only dream of—and a freedom that is perhaps common in the Catholic school world.

As it turned out, the closet held two full sets of eighth grade science textbooks—one for earth science and one for physical science. My first big decision as a teacher was which one to use. When I met with the teacher I was replacing, she recommended I used the earth science textbook because it was “easier.” I followed her advice for one chapter, at which point I realized I didn’t much enjoy earth science and would rather teach physical science. So I switched—pivoting to an entirely different set of content and hoping my eighth grade students would follow along. I had the...

Advocates for gifted and talented education will always face an uphill struggle. Garnering support for policies that, by definition, benefit a small subset of students is hard—and harder when so many people assume that these kids will do fine regardless.

The inevitable—but foreseeable—result is the emaciated condition of programs designed to serve such children in U.S. public schools: scarce, often thin, and frequently staffed by ill-trained educators.

Weakness in gifted education undermines the country’s long-term prosperity. It’s also inequitable and bad for social mobility. The students most harmed are able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, who depend far more than upper-middle-class students on the public education system to support them.

One partial remedy for this neglect is to ensure that policies that focus on all students truly benefit high achievers, too. Properly crafted, such policies can be significant boons for bright, motivated pupils, while sidestepping the “elitist” label that too often gets applied to gifted-centric initiatives.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents just such an opportunity for broad-gauged policy improvement at the state level—and it’s heartening that most of the new state accountability plans for schools under that statute are likely to do some good for...

Max Eden

Abel Cedeno, a bisexual eighteen-year-old high school student, sits at Rikers Island charged with manslaughter. Cedeno claims he killed another student in self-defense, and Wednesday appeared in court to plead not guilty. He insists his school did nothing to address years of homophobic bullying. And that on September 27, two teachers in his history class did nothing as classmate Matthew McCree confronted Cedeno—who, claiming to fear that Matthew was armed, snapped and stabbed him with a serrated knife.

While the families of the perpetrator and victim dispute some details, they agree that, in the words of Matthew’s brother, “Nobody had the kids under control” at Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx.

Five years ago, a nightmare like this would’ve caused a call to action from education reformers for higher disciplinary standards and perhaps more charter schools. Today, the outcry has been conspicuous by its absence...

Click here to read the rest of the article at the New York Daily News, where it originally appeared.

Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The views expressed herein represent the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the Thomas B. Fordham Institute....

Simon Whitehead

Editor’s note: This is a lightly edited version of prepared remarks that Mr. Whitehead delivered to senior U.S. Department of Education officials at Friday morning’s listening session concerning the agency’s school discipline guidance. Mr. Whitehead is a retired high school teacher with thirty-seven years of teaching experience, the last twenty-five years of which were in Minneapolis.

I am here today because I am very worried about the direction some of our urban and suburban schools are taking.

Over the past four to five years, there have been strong expectations to discipline students differently depending on their race. We were told that too many students of color were being suspended and this looked bad, especially in the case of African American boys. This was definitely the case in Minneapolis.

However well-intended, this policy actually disrespects a whole class of students by lowering the expectations for their behavior, their work ethic, and inevitably their academic progress. When students walk though my classroom door, I have high expectations for them—no matter what they look like.

Another great area of concern is that students are now increasingly emboldened to get together and collaborate to “get teachers in trouble.” Those teachers can lose...

The controversy brewing over Obama-era school discipline policy has all the makings of a polarizing debate. For progressives, it taps into deeply held beliefs about fairness and justice. And for conservatives, it taps into deeply held beliefs about order and safety. Throw in race, Donald Trump, and Betsy DeVos, and you have a potentially toxic stew.

That’s a shame because this is an issue that desperately needs pragmatism and a good-spirited search for common ground. Let me propose how we might find it.

First a little background: In 2014, the Department of Education and Department of Justice published a “dear colleague” letter addressing discipline disparities by race and special education status in public schools. It was lauded by civil rights groups—and bemoaned by conservatives—for applying “disparate impact theory” to the issue of school discipline. In effect, it said that districts could be investigated for violating students’ civil rights if data collected by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights showed significant disproportionality—as would happen when, for example, African Americans were suspended by their schools at higher rates than whites. It also stated that districts could be found in violation of civil rights laws even if...

I write from a place of privilege today. I have never once worried about the safety of my three children at school. The victim of a fatal school stabbing in September at a New York City high school was named Matthew. I have a Matthew too. And I owe it to every parent who does worry to try to put myself in their shoes and then raise my voice on their behalf. I wish I had done so sooner.

Robert Pondiscio and Max Eden have penned a piece about the New York incident at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx for the Daily News that will likely rankle many folks who call themselves education reformers. But no matter how much certain parts of the piece may get under the collective skin of the reform community, I sincerely hope we find it in ourselves to slow down and ask ourselves: What if my child attended the school where this happened? What if that had been my student?

I have spent the morning doing just that.

From the piece:

Abel Cedeno, a bisexual 18-year-old high school student, sits at Rikers Island charged with...

When Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), shifting much education decision-making back to the states, many reformers, especially on the left, voiced concern that states would give up on rigorous accountability systems. “Federal pressure is a hard thing for people to swallow,” said Conor Williams, a senior researcher at New America, “but this law doesn’t give enough federal pressure for enough schools and doesn’t define the guardrails we need.”

That worry wasn’t unreasonable. Conventional wisdom indicated that opponents of results-based accountability—the teachers unions, superintendents, and other establishment groups, especially—wield enormous power in the states. With many of the “guardrails” of No Child Left Behind removed, nothing would keep vested interests in the education status quo from dismantling consequential accountability. In correcting NCLB’s flaws, states might throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We’re pleased to report that such fears turn out to be mostly unfounded. So we find and document in Fordham’s new study, Rating the Ratings: An Analysis of the 51 ESSA Accountability Plans. While there’s still plenty about the accountability systems of many states to criticize—and implementation challenges lie ahead for all of them—the school ratings at least represent more of...

A recent study on career and technical education examines whether taking “CTE” courses in high school has any relationship to dropping out of high school and, conversely, going to college.

Data come from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 and follows a cohort of public school students starting in the second half of their sophomore year (2002), surveying them again in both spring 2004 and spring 2006 when they would have been in their second year after high school graduation. Analysts attempt to control for a wide range of demographic, family, academic, attitudinal, and school-level variables, such as parental education, family income, poverty level of school, college expectations, etc. While they have loads of control variables, the study is nevertheless not causal, in part because it is not able to control for all of the unobserved factors that may make students who enroll in CTE different from those who do not.

The key finding is that taking more CTE courses is linked to a lower chance of dropping out of high school. Specifically, taking any CTE course in high school decreases the odds of dropping out by 1.2 percent for each course, so the more the better, but taking a...

“Collective efficacy” is the sense among group members that they have the capability to organize and execute the actions required to achieve their most important goals. Researchers have, for twenty years, tested it as a key factor in explaining performance differences among groups attempting the same task in areas such as healthcare and manufacturing. The literature on collective efficacy in K–12 education is new and growing, spearheaded largely by Roger D. Goddard of The Ohio State University. A new report by a group of researchers led by Dr. Goddard seeks to unite quantitative and qualitative data on the subject.

The quantitative portion of the analysis was fairly straightforward, looking at the math achievement levels of 13,472 fourth- and fifth-grade students on a mandatory assessment given annually in one large district in Texas. Change between the two years of scores was the sole academic measure utilized and researchers looked at achievement gaps between different school buildings and between black and white students. A measure of collective efficacy was derived using a twelve-item survey, which was administered to 2,041 teachers. The survey rated teachers’ level of agreement on a scale of one to five with statements such as, “Teachers are here...

The Every Student Succeeds Act grants states more authority over their accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind, but have they seized the opportunity to develop school ratings that are clearer and fairer than those in the past? Our new report, Rating the Ratings: Analyzing the 51 ESSA Accountability Plans, examines the plans submitted by all fifty states and the District of Columbia, and whether they are strong or weak (or in-between) in achieving three objectives:

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

Key findings include:

  • Thirty-five states—69 percent—received a "strong" grade for using clear and intuitive ratings such as A–F grades, five-star ratings, or user-friendly numerical system. These labels immediately convey to all observers how well a given school is performing, and is a major improvement over the often Orwellian school ratings of the NCLB era.
  • The country is also doing much better in signaling that every child is important, not just the "bubble kids" near the proficiency cut-off. Twenty-three states earned
  • ...