Harry’s Purple Crayon

A recent re-analysis of the Head Start Act of 1981, which significantly expanded the eligibility requirements of federally funded pre-Kindergarten, revealed a startling loophole that has nearly two in three Americans trading in their Outlook accounts and Crackberries for Green Eggs and Ham and naptime: It was recently revealed that the law does not specify a maximum age of enrollment (see sec. 645. [42 U.S.C. 9840] (b)). Recent publicity afforded this otherwise buried statute has resulted in an unexpected turn: Nearly 200 million U.S. adults have gone back to preschool.

Those who have enrolled cite numerous benefits: Justin Baker, a civil engineer in Denver, CO, related, “During play time, we’ve experimented with different types of building blocks. We’ve learned that structures made of Lego are more durable than those made of Lincoln Logs. Plus, there’s Play-Doh!” Ellen Shaw, a lawyer in San Diego, CA, enthused, “I’m learning skills I never was never taught in law school, like how to work out problems before suing someone over them.”

Although some parents of three- and four-year-olds expressed concern that the influx of larger students put their kids at a disadvantage...

Ivanna B. Rich

The gauntlet was truly thrown when charter tycoon Eva Moskowitz issued a public challenge to fellow New Yorker Chris Whittle. In the latest battle for rich-kid enrollment, Moskowitz insists that charters will prevail over private schools. “Chris is charging parents a zillion-dollar tuition for his Avenues Schools venture,” she said. “But there’s no rational reason that rich people should pay for their own children’s plush educations when taxpayers are perfectly willing to foot the bill. My charters,” she declared, “with their IB curricula and teachers swiped from Andover and Choate—not to mention climbing walls, on-campus spas, water-polo facilities, and vegan dining options—come with all the amenities of Avenues without the personal price tag.”

“I welcome the competition,” snarled the usually affable Whittle, while sorting through his ascot collection. “Despite Eva’s claim that her charters provide everything, she’s going to have to hire expert lobbyists to amend state charter laws or else charge parents fees for the horseback-riding instruction, flying lessons, and personal valets. My schools are truly all-inclusive, and parents will happily pony up for pony lessons. Besides, my schools are now importing math and science teachers from Singapore and...

The Power Vested in Me by Nate Silver

Thirteen days after an infamous Obama-Boehner rock-paper-scissors battle brought the sequestration conflict to a head and the federal government to its knees, the Department of State is eerily quiet and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving has stopped making dollar bills. Yet at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) offices servers hum, emails fly, and scrawling STATA printouts cover the walls as NAGB prepares to release the latest NAEP results. After a decisive move by Board Chair David Pistol, NAGB is the only operational federal outfit in town. “Instead of throwing in the towel like those wimps at Homeland Security,” Pistol said proudly, “I put on my thinking cap.”

So how have congressionally nixed “line items” like test creation, test administration, and results tabulation become redundant?

Simple: NAGB hired Nate Silver.

By acquiring Silver, the statistician who reportedly spends his post–happy hour evenings wandering the New York subway telling strangers the day they will die, NAGB was able to slash its budget to a workable $100,000, covering twelve months of dial-up internet and fifty pounds of Swedish Fish—all Silver needs to accurately and efficiently predict NAEP scores down to the last eighth-grader....

Queenie Bea

Maybe it goes back to when no one believed his UFO sighting during Kindergarten. Or possibly the time a remote-control car ran over his foot when he was ten. Whatever its deep-seated source, Senator Rand Paul has a thing against drones. Recall his tiresome outburst the other week about CIA drones and U.S. citizens. Yet ‘twas nothing compared with his recent fulminations over Arne Duncan’s Common Core classroom-drones program, officially the “Race to Observe Archaic and Simple-minded Teaching” (ROAST) program. Not only is Senator Paul revealing himself to be a one-trick pony, he doesn’t even seem to grasp the game-changing potential of this new technology for the revitalization of primary-secondary education.

Let’s set the record straight. These drones are not (heavily) armed, nor will they clog up U.S. airspace or bandwidth. (The Senator’s satellite re-runs of “Howdy Doody!” will continue to stream just fine.) These “child-centered” drones simply float around classrooms, observing and recording teachers’ instructional practices. It’s not really all that different from the Gates Foundation’s MET program—and we don’t recall Paul filibustering that.

As for privacy, fret not: The drone pilots at 400 Maryland Avenue SW...

Vladimir Gompers

It was yet another difficult week for Karen Lewis, whose recent rhetoric has her own flock calling for her head.

Math teachers United in Resenting Dumb Education Reform (MURDER) and Secondary Teachers After Blood (STAB) joined hands in protest on Wednesday outside Chicago City Hall, urging the teaching proletariat not to be taken in by Lewis’s “corporate-style” labor strikes. The past month has seen mounting dissatisfaction with what many crazed, leftist agitators perceive to be her massive—er, passive—leadership and supposed ties to Wall Street. (Sources have implicated her as possessor of a public pension, which may include so-called “investments.”) In a recent Mother Smith article, STAB executive director Mike Clownsky declared, “Ms. Lewis clearly lacks dedication. While she's half-heartedly suggesting that we decapitate the corporate pawns, we're in the streets pulling out their entrails and hanging them from the walls of school buildings. With her, it’s always too little, too late.”

In front of a riotous gathering of hopped-up educators and Hessian mercenaries, representatives from STAB and MURDER read from their list of demands:

  • Classes no bigger than eight kids
  • Tenure after one year of teaching (rounding up any partial
  • ...
Gary Larceny

After Tony “the Idol” Bennett’s ousting in November from Hoosier chiefdom, reform funders commissioned public-affairs experts ED 08 Associates and The Acropolis Group consulting firm on how the stalled reform movement can regain momentum. Herewith the executive summary of their report.

Like the Republican Party, the education-reform movement has been searching its soul, examining its slogans, and bickering over who’s in charge. Those who lost hard-fought elections in typically reform-minded states in November understandably wonder: Are our policies off and our principles awry? Is it just “message” and “tone”? (Or could it be our weird spokespersons?)

Well, be of good cheer, reformers. Our state-of-the-art research has found that your policy prescriptions are still popular with the unwashed masses whose tax dollars you crave, whose children you yearn to change, whose neighborhood schools you insist on closing, and whose favorite teachers you are bent on firing. All you need to do is change your messaging and explain your intentions in focus-group-validated language uttered by hypnotically beautiful spokespeople.

We’ve learned that your present message is too often perceived as “dour,” “tough,” “mean,” and “divisive.” You must become the...

Springtime is at hand for America’s senior class—and for many of these graduating seniors, spring means daydreaming about college or a first job. Senioritis anyone? In a recent report, From High School to the Future: The Challenge of Senior Year in Chicago Public Schools, The University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research tackles the question of whether high school students’ entire senior year is one large case of senioritis. In other words, are senior years generally productive or wasted? To answer this question, the researchers analyzed the course-taking patterns of over 50,000 Chicago Public School graduating seniors, between 2003 and 2009.

The study’s key finding is that, for too many students, the senior year is indeed an unproductive and unchallenging academic year—far from a launching pad into college or gainful employment. In their analysis of student transcripts and follow-up interviews with students, the researchers found that many students chose to take easy elective courses that allowed them to “coast to graduation.” The researchers attribute this senior-year mess to the lack of an “organizing framework or common set of expectations” for what a rigorous and productive senior year looks like—for the college- and vocation-bound student alike.

Perhaps the only...

The Fordham Institute has been engaged in a wide range of conversations recently, ranging from gifted-student education to Common Core to charter school quality. If you’ve missed any of these events or publications, check out the following notes.

Starting in the 2014-15 school year, Ohio’s schools will fully implement the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC exams--online assessments aligned to the Common Core. As the Buckeye State draws nearer to lift off for these new academic standards and tests, school districts are ratcheting up their technological infrastructure and capacity.

Consider a few recent examples of how schools are improving their technological infrastructure in advance of the Common Core and the PARCC exams:

  • The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the Akron Public Schools recently approved $300,000 plus in spending to upgrade its computer software and Internet bandwidth. These improvements will ensure that its students are able to take the online PARCC exams.
  • Meanwhile on the other side of the Buckeye State, The Lima News reported that Delphos and Ottawa-Glandorf school districts, both located in rural Northwest Ohio, have purchased new computers to ensure that their students will be able to take the PARCC exams.
  • Finally, in rural Southeast Ohio, The Marietta Times reported that Morgan Local School District has been piloting Thinkgate. Teachers at Morgan Local will use this digital instructional system to provide real-time feedback to students about how well they are progressing
  • ...