Additional Topics

POVERTY'S FOOTPRINT
Poverty is an established risk factor for poor academic achievement, but it’s critical to remember that poverty is associated with much more than low incomes. A new study by the Center for New York City Affairs identified eighteen factors in a student's school and neighborhood that strongly predicted chronic absenteeism and low state test scores. The research places student achievement in a broader context, allowing school administrators to better understand where their students come from and how to meet their needs.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES
Teachers’ unions are attempting to distance themselves from the Democratic walloping that occurred Tuesday, claiming that the results were “more about the national climate than anything.” Regardless of the accuracy of that judgment (the president's low approval ratings no doubt influenced the outcome of many state-level races), it seems like a convenient way to justify spending millions on failed candidates—something that Andy Smarick writes should have dues-paying members up in arms. 

STILL NEED A DEGREE
A new report finds that short-term college certificates that offer training for specific job skills can lead to students...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This post marks the first in a series of blog entries that examines what can be learned from the most promising alternative leadership development programs in the country. John Chubb, president of the National Association of Independent Schools, interviewed leaders in several of these programs to learn more about how to cultivate successful leadership. We’ll roll out the six lessons that he learned over the next week.]

At a time when US education is consumed with the lagging achievement of students, why should we care about school leaders? Compelling evidence indicates that teachers are the key to student achievement.

Yet principals can significantly influence student achievement through their interactions with teachers. They hire teachers directly (or oversee the people who do). They supervise and evaluate teachers. They coach and mentor, or ensure teachers receive those supports. They set school goals, instill a sense of mission, and inspire, coax, and counsel teachers to do their best. They have the hard conversations when teachers require them. (Or at least the successful ones do.)

Leaders also set the tone in schools, the culture and expectations that may motivate students directly. They provide for student safety and well-being, fostering an environment in...

  1. EdWeek is still talking about charter school closures, and Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton is on hand to not only talk best practices in the event of closure, but also to remind folks that strong application processes for new schools is really the key to mitigating closures: “It's much easier to say no on the front end.” Well said. (EdWeek)
     
  2. So, you may have heard that the stacked deck on the House Rules Committee voted yesterday to refer the Common Core repeal bill to the full House 7-2. Not a surprise, really. Media coverage of the vote – and of the bill’s uncertain future in the House – came in two flavors. First up, the clear and concise pieces, all of which quoted Fordham’s Chad Aldis on the consequences of Common Core repeal. You can check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch for the big-city take, and also for some choice quotes from House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton. For the statewide take, check out Gongwer Ohio.  And of course there’s the national take from PoliticoPro.
     
  3. The second flavor of media coverage of the House Rules Committee vote was pretty much
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  • Over the weekend, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post wrote a thoughtful article about parents’ quest to better understand the Common Core’s approach to math instruction. For example, the standards want kids to understand numbers as something more than symbols. Thus, what “10” means might be taught by asking kids to draw ten candy canes. Word problems are also plentiful. The trouble is that these new and improved methods differ from how some older folks learned how to add and subtract—and these caring moms and dads are struggling to help with homework. These training sessions, paired with web resources like Khan Academy, are a smart solution. Not to mention the fact that they get parents more involved in their kids’ schooling—always a good thing.
  • Accountability at work is a beautiful thing—even (or especially) when the realities it reveals are ugly. Such is the case of the Louisiana voucher program. Louisiana Believes, a part of the Bayou State’s Department of Education, just released the 2013–14 annual report of the state’s scholarship program. Under the initiative, schools are permitted to take in voucher-wielding youngsters, but in return, these schools are subject to annual oversight pertaining to how their scholarship
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The introduction of the Common Core State Standards into America’s schools offers a unique opportunity to rethink teachers’ professional development. Drawing on recent research and interviews with key state and district stakeholders, Education First’s latest report, Common Core State Standards and the Transformation of Professional Development, offers recommendations for how to re-conceptualize teacher training to drive effective Common Core implementation. The report consists of three briefs covering what professional development should look like, examples of successful systems, and advice for policymakers, respectively. Among the first’s key takeaways: Isolated and sporadic professional development should be replaced with ongoing sessions (both individually focused and collective) that help educators to cultivate a deep familiarity with the Common Core and to identify and utilize high-quality curricular materials that are well-aligned to the standards. The second brief highlights places where teacher development is working well and identifies effective practices to be replicated at scale. For example, Washoe County School District’s Core Task Project is a three-week Common Core implementation boot camp. It utilizes free resources provided by national organizations to immerse teachers in an intensive introduction to the standards, support them during implementation, and provide them with continuous feedback as they progress. The third...

This week’s election results remind us that factors other than the ideologies and performance of candidates often determine the outcomes. One such factor is voter turnout. Campaign strategists and politicos often cite President Obama’s ability to mobilize the minority vote as a major factor in his successful 2008 and 2012 presidential bids. In those elections, down-ballot candidates politically aligned with the president benefitted from this galvanized voter pool. Not so in off-cycle elections, during which the vast majority of the country’s 500,000 elected officials win office—and which aren’t held on Election Day. (Note that midterm elections, like last night’s, aren’t off-cycle; midterms are held on Election Day, just like presidential ones.) So what does this mean? How are these elections different? And who benefits? These are the sorts of questions that Sarak F. Anzia tackles in her new book, Timing and Turnout. Anzia argues that organized groups have more influence in off-cycle elections because the voters they mobilize have a greater relative impact due to smaller overall turnout. Take teacher unions: Anzia offers data showing that educators operating under school boards whose members are elected off-cycle have higher salaries than those whose boards are constructed on federal election days. Other...

Less than four years after stepping down as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein’s tenure is already being re-appraised. A recent study showed that the small schools built from the remains of large, comprehensive high schools on Klein’s watch have smartly raised both graduation rates and college attendance. In his new book, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, Klein discusses his successes, shortcomings, and hopes for the future. At the helm of the nation’s largest school district, Klein pushed for radical reform over incremental change, in hopes of uprooting a stubbornly bureaucratic and complacent system. The Bloomberg administration’s set of education reforms, labeled “Children First,” centered on three major areas of improvement. The first wave focused on building and supporting great school leaders, namely principals, through the rigorous Leadership Academy. Designed to develop leaders eager to disrupt the status quo, the fourteen-month long academy immersed trainees in extensive role-playing activities and turned out hundreds of new leaders who went on to serve in the city’s most disorganized schools. Building on this foundation, Klein set out to establish a system of choice, breaking up...

There’s a wonderfully apt saying about why debates in the U.S. Senate last so long: “Everything’s been said but not everyone has said it yet.”  In that spirit, I offer my admittedly late thoughts on last night’s results. (It was a late night, so you may want to triangulate the real story by also reading the reactions from Eduwonk, Rick Hess, Eduflack, and Mike Petrilli.)

  1. The Uncertain Edu-meaning of the GOP Triumph: It was obviously a gigantic night for Republicans. They won just about every race imaginable. But it’s not clear what views, if any, all of these new office-holders share. Some are pro-Common Core; some aren’t. Some love choice and charters; some are more traditional. So we’ll have to stay tuned to see how this landslide settles.
  2. End of the Obama-Duncan Era: We’ll have to wait and see what the new reform era holds, but it feels more and more like the heady days of Race to the Top, ARRA, etc., are behind us. Secretary Duncan’s team still has work to
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  1. Before we talk election results, let’s note that editors in Columbus opine today on Ohio’s parent trigger law. They are not really fans, but do recognize the need for change in chronically underperforming schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Also before we talk election results, let’s note that no decision was made during Monday’s Monroe school board meeting in regard to their mothballed high school. All bids for a sale/swap were rejected, making this at least the third rejection of an offer by a local church to buy the building. Lots of interests at play here, very few of them having to do with the students in the district. (Middletown Journal News)
     
  3. NOW we’ll talk election results. Lots of seats on the state board of ed up for votes yesterday. The good folks at StateImpact Ohio keep the overview short and sweet. Most incumbents running for reelection won. The Toledo Blade notes that their district’s incumbent – a Republican – beat out two challengers including another Republican. The Middletown Journal-News focuses on the Common Core angle, noting that both the District 3 incumbent winner and the District 4 newcomer winner are both supporters of Common Core.
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Is Robert anti-teacher?

The midterm elections, Common Core math confusion, Joel Klein, and teacher selection tools.

Amber's Research Minute

Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, and Nick Huntington-Klein, “Screen Twice, Hire Once: Assessing the Predictive Validity of Teacher Selection Tools," Center for Education Data and Research, Working Paper 2014-9 (2014).

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