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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s full-day pre-K initiative is exceeding enrollment expectations. More than 53,000 children have signed up for the program, compared to about 20,000 attending full-day pre-kindergarten last year. The sharp rise in attendance is seen as a victory for the mayor, who has made expansion of pre-K programs a cornerstone of his education policy.

In part two of NPR’s terrific series on reading in the Common Core era, teachers in Washoe County, Nevada, discuss how the challenging standards demand more from both low and high achievers. The shift from simple comprehension questions to evidence-supported answers helps students at all levels of achievement stay engaged with the material.


  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared on WLW radio with host Scott Sloan yesterday morning, talking about the Common Core. (WLW-AM, Cincinnati)
  2. More radio for the nostalgia buffs out there. And more Common Core for the more modern reader. All Sides with Ann Fisher gave a full hour to Common Core yesterday, starting with Rep. Huffman and discussion of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio. The rest of the time included enlightening discussion of math instruction in the Common Core era as well as some in-the-trenches talk about finding the best curriculum materials. Interesting listen. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
  3. Editors in Toledo opined on their expecations of the Ohio General Assembly during its lame duck session, now underway. Specifically, they advised legislators to avoid taking up the Common Core repeal bill in favor of more pressing and important issues. Probably something to do with ensuring safe drinking water for large cities on large lakes in the northern part of the state. (Toledo Blade)
  4. Editors in Cleveland opined in support of Ohio’s so-called “5 of 8” rule which prescribes certain staffing ratios for “support personnel” in schools and which has been recommended for removal by the
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  • Uber-effective charter leaders Judy Burton and Dacia Toll took to U.S. News this week to argue that charters and standards go hand in hand. Both reforms grew from the same analysis of and frustration over low-performing American schools. Charter advocates understand that we need to set high expectations for teachers and students; we also know that the Common Core does that, allowing American students everywhere to be ready for college and, more importantly, the world beyond. To be sure, the transition will be difficult at times. But, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
  • The New York Times editorial board penned an op-ed last week calling for a stronger school turnaround plan for the city. The impetus for and target of the piece was Mayor de Blasio’s long-anticipated blueprint to rescue struggling schools, which the paper deemed imprecise and almost surely doomed to fail. A prominent feature of the plan is to add wraparound services to low-performing schools over the next three years, including mental health and dental treatment. But because these kids are struggling now, a three-year plan seems tone deaf—especially when the
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This book, out of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, is a useful field guide to the design and implementation of blended learning models, which combine computer-mediated resources like MOOCs with conventional classroom instruction. Nonetheless, readers may greet its subtitle, “Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools,” with a pang of foreboding. Blended initially makes you worry that its pages will mostly be a blend of TED Talk doublespeak. Indeed, the foreword (contributed by the High Prophet of Disruption himself, Clayton M. Christensen) ominously name-checks Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher and historian who first coined the now-inescapable phrase “paradigm shift.” But whatever their slight fondness for techno-jargon, authors Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker have written something valuable mainly because they are at pains to define their terms. This is the critical task facing advocates of blended learning, as Fordham itself has chronicled. Furnishing students with laptops and posting lesson plans on Blackboard isn’t blended learning; nor is a totally online experience that students access from home. For clarification, Horn and Staker use refreshingly simple graphics to outline the varying blends—from hybrid approaches shuttling kids between online activities, small-group instruction, and pen-and-paper assignments, to more unfamiliar models that explicitly make...

This new study examines whether voluntary financial contributions to public education have increased over time and, if so, whether these donations vary by district size and other characteristics. Voluntary contributions are those awarded by charitable school foundations, local endowments, booster clubs, parent-teacher associations, and alumni associations—so these are local dollars in addition to the local revenues generated largely by property taxes. Analysts examine voluntary contributions to public schools from 1995 through 2010, relying on Form 990 filings that are captured in the Guidestar nonprofit database, which includes expenditure reports for nonprofits with annual revenues totaling $25,000 or more. These data were then linked with mapping data to match the nonprofit to the corresponding school district, including data about district revenues and demographics. The final sample included over 13,000 non-profits that supported schools and/or districts. There are four key findings. First, PTAs comprise most of the nonprofits (70 percent), while local foundations comprise only 13 percent. And among all donors, 93 percent of them give to district schools, while only 1.3 percent support charter schools. Second, the number of nonprofits supporting schools has increased 230 percent, from over 3,400 in 1995 to nearly 12,000 in 2010. Third, nonprofit revenues increased almost...

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right. Education really is an easy major. This study from the National Council on Teacher Quality, the bête noire of America’s teacher prep programs, finds that 44 percent of prospective teachers graduate with honors, compared to only 30 percent of all graduating students at the same colleges. The reason appears to be that grading standards for education majors are much lower than for students in other majors on the same campus. NCTQ analyzed course assignments on the syllabi for nearly 1200 courses at thirty-three schools—not just in education, but in a variety of majors. The 7,500 assignments in those courses were then classified as either “criterion-referenced” or “criterion-deficient.” The former means that students were graded on “a clearly circumscribed slice of knowledge and skill-based content,” which ostensibly allows instructors to provide substantive feedback and comparisons of student work. By contrast, “criterion-deficient” assignments were more subjective in nature. These latter kinds of assignments are used about twice as often—71 percent versus 34 percent—in education coursework. The report also examines and dismisses several popular theories for why ed majors earn so many As: Yes, a rising tide of grade inflation has...

The Sesame Street edition

Mayor de Blasio’s school plan, low American math scores, the intersection of standards and charters, and school management.

Amber's Research Minute

Nicholas Bloom, Renata Lemos, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen, "Does Management Matter in Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 20667 (November 2014).

Earlier this fall, Fordham’s inimitable Robert Pondiscio traveled to Reno to check out the breezy and successful Common Core implementation in the Washoe County school district. This week, the county's teachers discuss how their original wariness of the standards gave way to an understanding of how they will benefit students. Teachers are particularly optimistic about how the Common Core ELA standards stress text-based evidence rather than personal connections, an approach that helps disadvantaged kids keep pace with the rest of their class.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in September that more than 1.1. million public school students have no permanent homes. Experts say homeless students are nine times more likely to be held back a grade level and four times more likely to drop out of school entirely. Nonprofit mobile tutoring programs often have to supplement the work of local schools, as NPR reports.

There is growing controversy surrounding Common Core-aligned test-development contracts. Bidding in many states has lacked any semblance of competition, with only one company participating in the process, and a lawsuit in New Mexico alleges that the...

  1. Chad appeared on Columbus’ WTVN radio yesterday morning, talking about Common Core in the wake of last week’s House Rules Committee vote. You can also check out the audio clip of Rules Committee Chair Matt Huffman, who also was interviewed by host Joel Riley, about the outlook for HB597 in the full House. (WTVN-AM, Columbus)
  2. Editors in Columbus got a two-fer in their opining today: objecting to both the pending bill to limit standardized testing time (“reckless”) and to repeal Ohio’s New Education Standards (“political posturing”). Fordham is namechecked in terms of the latter item. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. More drama at the state board of education meeting yesterday, including unscheduled testimony, points of order, and a temporary walkout by four board members. Thanks again, carpetbaggers. Check out coverage in the Dayton Daily News, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  4. What does it mean when a parent is thankful for the opportunity to camp outside for nearly two weeks to get a chance to apply for the school of their choice? It means that lots of stuff is messed up in Cincinnati. There’s a lot to unpack in this guest
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The U.S. Department of Education is reviewing the process by which teachers are assigned to schools to ensure that highly qualified and experienced teachers are equally staffed at both high-poverty schools and those of greater means. States are being sent OCR data about teacher experience, certification, absenteeism, and salary, and asked to develop plans for their schools to comply with federal law mandating equal access to high-quality instructors. It’s the first time such plans have been solicited in almost a decade.

In an interview with NPR this morning, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander described the education policy agenda of the newly Republican-controlled Senate. The former education secretary emphasized the need for more local control and declared that fixing No Child Left Behind is among his highest priorities. 

Students at a Boston Cristo Rey high school gain real-world work experience that boosts confidence and gives them a competitive edge in the workforce. The Catholic school network’s work-study program sends students, who primarily come from low-income families, to local companies for five days a month in exchange for a...