Additional Topics

HOSTILE TAKEOVER
Students, teachers, and community members in Memphis protested the takeover of local schools by Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District, which contracts the administration of failing schools out to charter providers. Students chanted in protest while brandishing signs reading, “We’re not going down without a fight." For the full story on the ASD and other reform measures in Tennessee, drop everything and turn to Nelson Smith’s classic 2013 report for Fordham.

BLOOMBERG PUSHES LOW-INCOME KIDS TO COLLEGE
As has been widely reported, dropping out of college can exact a dreadful toll on job prospects and future income. Today, just one-third of all top-performing high school students from the bottom half of the income scale attend a college with a six-year graduation rate above 70 percent. To address the problem, Bloomberg Philanthrophies has started an initiative to boost that portion to one-half, the New York Times reports.

"STUDENT"-ATHLETES
The Hechinger Report’s Joseph Rauch has an excellent, searing take on the academic scandal haunting the University of North Carolina. Though it’s easy to feign shock over a decades-long...

  1. Arne Duncan was in Columbus yesterday. Before the main event, he answered a couple of quick questions on Common Core from Cleveland public media. (IdeaStream)
     
  2. The main purpose of Secretary Duncan’s visit was addressing the second Rural Education National Forum. Seems that the concerns of the group haven’t changed much since last year (lack of resources, high teacher turnover, insufficient access to technology, etc.) but through the work of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative and the Straight-A Fund, some strides have been made. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Newark is not exactly rural, but neither is it suburban. It is a small city with big-city issues, and it is one of many in Ohio. One out-of-the-box effort in Newark City Schools to serve students at risk of dropping out is the district-sponsored charter e-school Newark Digital Academy. NDA was one of four Charter School of the Year winners from the Oho Alliance of Public Charter Schools, based on some very good report card numbers last year. Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. We first told you this strange tale a few weeks ago: the School District who Wouldn’t Sell. Despite a solid offer, Monroe Schools’ board would not sell their mothballed
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THANKS OBAMA
Many observers found Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent admonishment of testing to be a puzzling change of direction. However, it now appears that his motivation may have been executive in nature. Alyson Klein writes that President Obama’s new position on testing likely influenced Secretary Duncan. What has made the President rethink the issue is not as clear.

MO' MONEY, REFRESHINGLY FEWER PROBLEMS
A new study from Mathematica Policy Research lends credence to a somewhat intuitive notion: If you pay teachers more, educational outcomes will improve. The case in question is that of Manhattan’s Equity Project, a mostly Hispanic charter school in Washington Heights that pays its teachers roughly $125,000 annually. Eighth graders at the school have experienced gains in math performance comparable to an extra year and a half of instruction at a district school.

HERO AMIDST TRAGEDY
Details continue to emerge surrounding Friday morning’s deadly school shooting at Washington’s Marysville-Pilchuck High School. While the fourteen-year-old shooter’s motives and state of mind remain a mystery, the New York Times reports that a heroic member of the school’s faculty...

  1. Our friends at School Choice Ohio have created a nifty voucher-eligibility tool that went live on their website last week. It’s a tough business because there are a lot of variables (income, assigned school, school attending, future year assignments, etc.) but it seems like a great way to give families some initial information about one of the least-understood and least-clear options potentially available. There are several items in the linked piece. The SCO story is toward the bottom. Worth a look. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. I was a bit premature in calling the PD’s “test mania” story finished last week. The final piece – talking to a couple of parents who’ve opted their children out of as much testing as possible – was published later in the day on Friday. Both of these folks have, I believe, testified against Common Core as well, mostly on testing concerns. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Speaking of continuing series, the Beacon Journal continued its look at disciplinary transfers in Akron schools, which we first noted on Friday. This time, a historical perspective. A contract change made in the wake of a teachers strike in 1989 allowed Akron teachers to sit in on
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MORE ON INSTITUTIONAL FAILURE AT UNC
Continuing their terrific coverage of the unfolding academic scandal at the University of North Carolina, the Washington Post weighs in with an important finding: Of the over 3,000 students who enrolled in academically deficient classes in the school’s African and Afro-American studies department, a narrow majority were not athletes. Some weren’t aware that the coursework—including Swahili classes that evidently required no knowledge of the language—was bogus, but most seemed to have knowingly used the shadow curriculum for an easy A. 

AND THE WINNER IS...
The superintendent of the Houston Independent School District received the Urban Educator of the Year award at the CGCS conference yesterday. While the rising graduation rate and narrowing achievement gap were cited as reasons for the decision, winner Terry Grier admitted that Houston is still a work in progress, saying “We’re that close to being a breakout urban district, and we’re not going to stop until we make that happen.” 

DEPARTMENT OF GOOD NEWS
A bit of good news in Mississippi, home to a public school system that has long...

  1. Patrick O’Donnell concludes (?) his “test mania?” series with the national level view. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Teacher value-add data was released by ODE yesterday, and promptly taken down because of a data glitch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Doug Livingston takes a look at the numbers – and the processes – involved in transferring students for disciplinary reasons in Akron City Schools. Numbers were up last school year. There are some further questions that need to be asked here. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. What got the ABJ thinking about disciplinary transfers? Kenmore High School did. It seems that disciplinary transfers concentrated in Kenmore the last couple of years, leading to several high-profile incidents that tarnished the school’s reputation. Things are quieter this year so far, it seems, but the issue of “transfer students” still seems to be on everyone’s minds. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Here’s one for my colleague Robert Pondiscio: The Cleveland Play House – in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School district – received a $2 million federal grant for the CARE Program. It is intended to improve social emotional learning skills while increasing literacy learning among otherwise underserved students. The story notes
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SIZE MATTERS
Tom Vander Ark at Real Clear Education weighs in on new research showing that smaller high schools may yield serious educational rewards. Among other positive effects, the new MDRC study concludes that New York’s small high schools have helped boost graduation rates among low-income students over the past decade. For the last word on the costs and benefits of small schools of choice, read Fordham’s own Amber Northern, who reviewed the study for this week’s Education Gadfly Weekly.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE
First he ran an ad touting his efforts to slow down the progress of Common Core in New York. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo—a center-left Democrat in a comfortably blue state, with a healthy lead over his election opponent—has completed his long-rumored transformation into a besuited chicken, protesting that he had “nothing to do with Common Core” in last night’s gubernatorial debate.

IF ONLY SAM COOKE WERE ALIVE TODAY
In the first installment of a new series celebrating the classroom totems of yesteryear, NPR has put together a quick read that finally explains what a slide rule is for.

TARHEELED AND FEATHERED
An extensive investigation...

  1. Editors at the Dispatch weighed in on the KnowYourCharter website today. Every line is worth a read, but just a hint: they are not fans. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. As you may remember, Columbus City Schools is a pilot site for Ohio’s parent trigger law, and 20 schools in the district are, for the first time, eligible to be taken over/reorganized/reconstituted if a majority of parents want that to occur. Today, KidsOhio.org released an overview of all the schools on the list, noting that all have improvement plans already in place and that most have had new principals within the three-year time frame of the trigger review. Interesting. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The PD’s “test mania” series continues, this time talking with teachers about their views. No spoilers from me. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. I applaud the PD for their extensive “test mania” series, but I have to ask if it was really necessary to use those thousands of words/pixels and all those column inches/bytes to keep on saying that everyone hates testing. Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, those last three words sum up the entire PD series. However, here’s the other side, as presented in
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Trying to understand how education spending is influencing our education priorities is like looking through murky water, notes this report from the Data Quality Campaign: “[I]t is evident something is there, but it is not exactly clear what.” For example, education leaders need to know whether investments in interventions have an impact, whether schools with high numbers of special-needs students are receiving the resources to which they are entitled, and whether dollars spent on teacher development have led to improvements. Without a clear picture of education spending, there is little to inform decision-makers. The report proposes several solutions. First, states should find new ways to make financial data more accurate and transparent for stakeholders. This starts with changes in data collection, including a shift to a common system of financial information record-keeping across states. Second, raw financial data should be translated for use in public reports, including information that connects education dollars to outcomes. The report also encourages states to create a forum for district leaders to share best practices and learn from one another. To illustrate DQC’s proposed reforms, consider this process with funding for special-needs students: Districts could use financial data to tie how much extra funding is...

2014 marks the first year that minority students are projected to surpass their white counterparts in public school enrollment. And nearly one in four students in American schools speak a language other than English at home. Currently, these students, categorized as “dual language learners” (DLLs), are shuffled through a four-part “reclassification” process: a screening assessment, English proficiency support services (such as vocabulary interventions), reassessment, and follow-up monitoring. Such models are mandated by the ESEA, so all states comply in one way or another—but the lack of interstate consensus on exactly how to comply has led to a “chaotic” system, says analyst Conor Williams. There are three issues: (1) local control over which of the four currently available English language proficiency assessments they administer; (2) a lack of consensus regarding when a DLL is proficient and ready for mainstream English instruction; and (3) uncertainty about how to prepare educators and create appropriate DLL instruction. By failing to coordinate reclassification policies, DLLs, who are more likely than other student subgroups to move from state to state, fall further behind their peers academically or lose their precious bilingualism—an asset schools should be nurturing, not silencing. Williams’ proposed solution? A unified set...

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