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Editor's note: This post was first published on Flypaper on April 29, 2015.

This is the third installment in our Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling the declared presidential candidates’ stances on today’s biggest education issues. I began with editions for Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. Next up is Ted Cruz, the junior U.S. senator from Texas.

With a midnight tweet on Monday, March 23, Cruz was the first to officially announce his candidacy. He followed that up a few hours later with a half-hour speech at Liberty University. His campaign has emphasized “restoring” America, which includes education. Here’s what he’s said:

1. Education as a foundation: “Education is foundational to every other challenge you've got. If you're looking at issues of crime or poverty or healthcare, if you have education, if you get the foundation of an education, all of those problems by and large can take care of themselves.” March 2014.

2. The Department of Education: “We...

Editor's note: This post was first published on Flypaper on May 5, 2015.

Ben Carson announced yesterday that he’s running for president. The retired neurosurgeon has never held political office, but he was the first doctor to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head—so there’s that. He’s also the fifth subject in the Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling candidates’ stances on education.

Since his highly publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer breakfast, Carson has become a popular figure among conservatives. This has afforded him many opportunities to share his views, and education is one of his favorite issues:

1. The importance of education: “Education is the fundamental principle of what makes America a success. It is the foundation of what truly makes our country ‘the Land of Opportunity.’” May 2015.

2. Common Core: “In recent years,...

  1. In case you missed it yesterday, full report card data for Ohio schools and districts were released. Our own Aaron Churchill was front and center in major media coverage, as he usually is for these things. Aaron’s main point was that, while generally lower for everyone, the scores better reflect how students and their schools actually performed last school year. The Dispatch put that notion at the very top of their coverage, although the print headline (front page, above the fold) conveys that thought better than the online one. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/26/16). Aaron is farther down in the quote mix in this piece, likely reflective of the high-profile folks who came out swinging against the data even before the report cards were available, let alone analyzed. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/25/16) In Fordham’s home city of Dayton, things look pretty bleak. The district is the bottom of the heap statewide and folks there are taking it hard. Kudos, however, to West Carrollton supe Rusty Clifford for this quote clearly stating his opinion on the state’s value added measure: “It’s a lark. It’s a joke. It’s phooey data… “We don’t look at it, we don’t use it. … You’ve heard
  2. ...

Today, the ratings bubble burst for Ohio’s schools and districts. With rising standards associated with the state’s New Learning Standards and next-generation assessments now fully in place, as expected, student proficiency rates fell throughout Ohio. Correspondingly, school ratings declined as well. This much-needed reset of academic expectations will better ensure that parents and the public have an honest gauge of how students and schools are performing.

Still, state policymakers have work ahead to guarantee that parents and the public gain the clearest possible picture of students’ college and career readiness. Based on 2014-15 test results, roughly 55 and 70 percent of Ohio students were deemed “proficient” depending on the grade and subject. While these proficiency rates are indeed a more accurate gauge of achievement than in previous years—when Ohio regularly labeled more than 80 percent of students as proficient—the number of students meeting rigorous academic benchmarks continues to be overstated.

When utilizing a more demanding standard for achievement, state testing data indicate that between 30 and 45 percent of students statewide are on track for college and career success. These achievement rates—the percentage of students reaching Ohio’s advanced and accelerated levels—better match the Ohio’s proficiency results on NAEP, the best...

Rural school districts face many of the same challenges as their urban counterparts: lots of students living in poverty, low college-attainment rates among parents, high and growing numbers of ELL students, and difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals. Add the sprawling and isolated geography, weak tax base, and iffy broadband access that plague many rural districts, and we have a daunting set of barriers to the goal of students leaving high school fully ready for their next step in life. As Paul Hill put it recently, if America neglects its rural schools, nobody wins.

Fortunately, according to a new report from Battelle for Kids and Education Northwest, America’s rural schools are not standing idly by. The report looks at the work of rural education collaboratives (RECs), which have been formed across the country in an effort to respond to these very challenges. While there seems to be no handy list—nor a single definition—of such organizations, the authors know what they’re not looking for: top-down collaborations, which they eschew in favor of “informal and organic collaborative structures that are more peer-to-peer and network based.” The identify the right sort of RECs as partnerships that are: 1) committed to a common purpose that creates value for...

Los Angeles is our country’s Mecca for magic and transformation. It’s where long-extinct dinosaurs come alive, marionettes turn into real boys, and Ryan Reynolds gets chance after chance to anchor film franchises. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the wonders extend even to the education realm. In December of last year, it was anticipated that just 54 percent of high school seniors in the Los Angeles Unified School District would graduate on time—a byproduct of the state’s exacting new academic standards, and fully twenty percentage points lower than in 2014–15. Just a few months later, that projection has amazingly shot up to 63 percent. District administrators are hyping the “dramatic gains,” but skeptics point to the role of dubious credit recovery schemes that allow students to make up for classes they originally failed. These programs exist in a black box, to put it generously, allowing no real scrutiny of their rigor or legitimacy. We need to know far more about the online measures that miraculously lift students’ fortunes. Otherwise, the degrees they collect will carry no weight, and the value of a high school diploma will fall like a worthless penny stock.

The...

  1. The dust is currently settling on SB 3, the education bill we reminded you of earlier this week, which was potentially being amended in some not-so-good ways. Well, that didn’t happen in the House Education Committee, but the media didn’t let it go. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on some of those not-so-good amendment proposals in both this piece of journalism from the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/23/16)…and in this op-ed from the Dispatch. Editors there opined in agreement with Chad on this one. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/23/16) The same is to be said of editors in Youngstown, although they didn’t quote Chad to help make their point. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/22/16)
     
  2. No, Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, you may not meet yet. Not until that definition of “teacher” is well and truly settled. What? No. You should have thought of that before you sat down. Next “expedited” court date: April 7. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/24/16) One of the arguments used in court to continue stonewalling the new ADC is that kids in the district are “achieving academically” and that the school district “is not in immediate doom”. So the courts should allow this definition of teacher thing
  3. ...

The challenges facing rural school districts have much in common with those facing many urban districts: lots of students living in poverty, low college-attainment rates among parents, high and growing numbers of ELL students, and difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals. Add the sprawling and isolated geography, weak tax base, and iffy broadband access that plague many rural districts, and we have a daunting set of barriers to the goal of students leaving high school fully ready for their next step in life. As Paul Hill put it recently, if America neglects its rural schools, nobody wins.

Fortunately, according to a new report from Battelle for Kids and Education Northwest, America’s rural schools are not standing idly by. The report looks at the work of rural education collaboratives (RECs), which have been formed across the country in an effort to respond to these very challenges. While there seems to be no handy list—nor a single definition—of such organizations, the authors know what they’re not looking for: top-down collaborations, which they eschew in favor of “informal and organic collaborative structures that are more peer-to-peer and network based.” The metrics they use to identify...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece discussing potential amendments to an education bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly. Amendments which many knowledgeable folks fear would weaken new charter school accountability rules which have only been in effect for three weeks. Could be a moot point for the moment, though, as that particular bill has since been removed from this week’s House Education Committee agenda. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/19/16)
     
  2. One bill that’s still on the committee’s agenda is HB 401. We told you two weeks ago about this one: it would require private schools in Ohio to publicly disclose certain pieces of information – like cashflow, enrollment, and background check policies – in an easy-to-access fashion for the general public. Its impetus was, you’ll recall, the so-called “goat rodeo” currently required to access such info. The Enquirer published a guest commentary from a parent VERY well-versed in school choice who expressed support for the bill. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 2/21/16)
     
  3. Grade point averages are a big deal for many schools, parents, and students, especially in terms of college application reviews. Admit it, dear readers, you still remember what yours was. In that spirit, The D took
  4. ...

Fordham’s latest blockbuster report digs deep into three new, multi-state tests (ACT Aspire, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced) and one best-in-class state assessment, Massachusetts’ state exam (MCAS), to answer policymakers’ most pressing questions about the next-generation tests: Do these tests reflect strong college- and career-ready content? Are they of rigorous quality? Broadly, what are their strengths and areas for improvement?

Over the last two years, principal investigators Nancy Doorey and Morgan Polikoff led a team of nearly forty reviewers to find answers to those questions. Here’s a quick sampling of the findings:

  • Overall, PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments had the strongest matches to college- and career-ready standards, as defined by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
  • ACT Aspire and MCAS both did well regarding the quality of their items and the depth of knowledge they assessed.
  • Still, panelists found that ACT Aspire and MCAS did not adequately assess—or may not assess at all—some of the priority content reflected in the Common Core standards in both ELA/Literacy and mathematics.

As might be expected, the report has garnered national interest. Check out coverage from The 74 MillionU.S. News, and Education Week just for a start.

Or better...

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