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The Ferguson edition

Conor Williams guest stars.

The Ferguson grand jury decision, pre-K for disadvantaged kids, school discipline, and summer reading programs.

Amber's Research Minute

Jonathan Guryan, James S. Kim, David M. Quinn, "Does Reading During the Summer Build Reading Skills? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in 463 Classrooms," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 20689 (November 2014).

  • Conventional wisdom suggests would-be GOP presidential candidates are supposed to disavow the Common Core (cf. Bobby Jindal), but Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich didn’t get the memo. During a speech last Thursday in Washington, the former Florida governor emphasized the importance of raising academic standards in America’s schools, which starts with the Common Core. And if states opt to forgo adoption, any replacement ought to be even more rigorous, Bush said. Likewise, Governor Kasich, speaking last week at the Republican Governors Association, continued his strong and unwavering support of the CCSS, reiterating that governors wrote the standards and not the federal government. In other words, the Common Core is not a litmus test for Republicans.
  • Due to tougher teacher exams, New York State saw a 20 percent drop in the number of new certifications for the 2013–14 school year, reports the New York Times. The Empire State introduced the new assessments last year in an attempt to boost the caliber of new teachers. Those who don’t pass can’t teach in public schools. Better still, ed schools with high failure rates risk losing accreditation. Raising standards for teachers was a critical part of the "Massachusetts
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Myriad obstacles stand between low-income students and a college education—even for those who beat the odds, graduate from high school, and gain acceptance into a post-secondary institution. Indeed, 20 percent of these young people will not make it past their first semester—which raises a couple of questions: Why is this happening? And how do we fix it?

According to authors Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, much of the problem is what happens (or doesn’t) between the last day of high school and the first days of college. They call it the “summer melt.” Things like stacks of enrollment paperwork, complicated financial forms, and daunting tuition bills prove to be substantial hindrances for these kids, many of whom are the first in their families to make it this far. And once they get to campus, they often lack the support to persevere through those difficult first months. In other words, preparing these youngsters for freshman year involves more than academics. To this end, the authors propose three solutions.

First, high schools need to expand the role of college counselors, paying them to work in the summer months and encouraging them to...

The Cristo Rey Network comprises twenty-eight private schools serving 9,000 students nationwide. Ninety-six percent of network students are minority (largely Hispanic), and 100 percent are economically disadvantaged (defined as households earning less than 75 percent of the national median income). The schools utilize an innovative education model that honors its Catholic roots while simultaneously embracing new ways of preparing economically disadvantaged high school students for future success. This report from the Lexington Institute profiles the Cristo Rey model and looks at how—despite great success—the laudable network is still searching for ways to improve. A defining feature of the schools is a work-study program that requires students to work at least one day a week in the community while keeping up with rigorous high school coursework. In lieu of wages, companies donate money to the schools that’s used to cover most of the operating costs. More than 2,000 employers invested upwards of $44 million in 2013–14, lowering the average tuition costs for parents to $1,000 annually. Other features include extended school days and school years and a summer preparatory program that focuses on both academic and work skills. The results are impressive: All 1,400 of Cristo Rey's 2014 graduates were accepted...

This study, conducted by economists at the University of Toronto, examines the impact of a comprehensive Canadian academic and social support program for at-risk youth called Pathways to Education. The voluntary program starts with a contract, signed by the youngsters and their and parents, that requires each student to participate in twice-monthly meetings with a “support worker” who helps the children deal with any academic or social issues that arise during their high school careers. Participants must also attend free weekly tutoring and group activities such as sporting events, cooking classes, and community recycling projects. They receive career counseling, college transition assistance, free transportation, and college scholarships up to $4,000. Its beneficiaries, who live in the largest public housing project in Toronto, are asked to participate prior to their ninth-grade year; between 80 and 96 percent of eligible students register. Authors compared outcomes before and after the introduction of the program to outcomes for students who resided in other Toronto public housing projects and also attended Toronto high schools between 2000 and 2007, which comprised roughly 6,900 students. In the end, it works: Pathways to Education puts poor kids on a better life trajectory. Five-year high school graduation rates increased...

Emily Hanford

Halfway through my senior year of college, I quit. Why? Because I didn’t want to graduate. I had no idea what I was going to do next.

I was one of those students who did everything she was supposed to do. Good grades, good college, all that. But school was all I had ever known, and not once during my sixteen years of education do I recall anyone ever making an explicit connection between what I was learning in school and what I might actually do for a living once I was done. The goal of high school was to get into college. The goal of college was to get a degree. Then what? I wasn’t at all prepared for that question.

I come from a background of abundant educational privilege. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s in an affluent New England town with great public schools. My parents had graduated from college. My grandparents had graduated from college. On my dad’s side even my great grandfather had a bachelor’s degree. I was on the “college track” before I was born.

But there was another track: vocational...

  1. Not much education news to report on again today, but at least most of it is good news. Here’s an update on a Straight-A Fund project in Springfield. The CareerConnectED consortium already includes two school districts, a tech school, and a STEM academy. They are working to align students’ educational experiences with the high tech skills needed by employers in the area.  They are also looking to add at least two more partners in the next five years. Hey guys, how about a charter school or two? (Springfield News Sun)
     
  2. An opinion piece in the PD today extols the virtues of Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship. It is written from the perspective of a service provider (author Lannie Davis is VP of the Julie Billiart School…) and from the perspective of a choice advocate (…and is also a board member of School Choice Ohio).  Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. But there’s always some less-good news lurking around the corner. Stay with me on this one. A group of public school zealots have been working hard to create the “feeder pattern” on Columbus’ south side that they would like their children to traverse from elementary through high
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Gadfly editorial by Michael J. Petrilli and Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.

Over the past decade, the English government has revamped that country’s approach to school leadership. At the center of the reform is the sensible idea that school leadership needs to be a team endeavor. While not a new idea—there’s been for years plenty of discussion about “distributed leadership” on both sides of the pond—the Brits got busy actually making it happen as opposed to jawboning about it. Central to their leadership structure is the formalization of three levels of school leaders, each with distinct roles and responsibilities: headteachers who lead schools (equivalent to the principal’s role in the U.S.), senior leaders or deputy heads who assist the headteacher (similar to the vice principal role in American education but with additional school-wide responsibilities), and middle leaders responsible for the quality of teaching within a certain department, grade-level or grade cluster. Each level (and some differing roles within the level) comes with its own mix of time devoted to teaching and time spent leading.

To see how America's fragmented leadership system might benefit from these ideas and others from our British brethren, download Building a Lattice for School Leadership: The Top-to-Bottom Rethinking of...

WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' DATA
“There shouldn’t be a whole movement out of charters the month before the test,” said NYC schools chancellor Carmen Fariña last week, implying that some charters are manipulating test scores by pushing struggling students out of their schools prior to testing. Her statements have charter operators and advocates incensed, and many are calling for the chancellor to produce data to substantiate her remarks. “Unless she can back up this statement with facts,” said Jeremiah Kittredge of Families for Excellent Schools, “she should withdraw it.”

WONK ALERT
Teachers are trying out a new way to prepare students for tests through a strategy known as interleaving, or mixing problems and concepts. In studies, students who completed homework in mixed sets performed better on final assessments than those who received traditional “blocked” problems. Psychologists also say students better retain information when they teach to peers. 

DRILLING FOR DEGREES
Amidst multi-year budget cuts to higher education across the country, two states have managed to buck the trend: those profligate spenders Alaska and North Dakota. Flush with newfound petrodollars, both states have sunk millions into their state schools in the hopes of...

  1. Not much to report on in terms of education news over the weekend. We begin with a bit of a rerun: Editors in Columbus opine again in favor of eliminating the mandatory teacher pay schedule in Ohio. They reason that “Making seniority and extra college coursework the primary basis for rewarding teachers has created a system that is incapable of recognizing and promoting those teachers who actually are best at helping their students. In a field desperate for effectiveness, a teacher who is a miracle worker is treated the same as one who is just marking time.” Why the reiteration of their position? Because the bill including this provision passed the House last week and is now on to the Senate for debate. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Ohio’s teacher evaluation system is on Patrick O’Donnell’s mind in Cleveland. He goes to great lengths to explain how value-add calculations will be done for high school teachers starting this year. He focuses on the way in which “previous year” data will be amalgamated for subjects such as physical science, American history and American government in order to compare to current year data. Skepticism abounds. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
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