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Not sure if it’s the impending arrival of Halloween or of next week’s election that is curtailing the education news stories (two very different versions of trick or treat there), but for whatever reason, there’s not much to report on today. But let’s make the most out of what we have, shall we?

  1. First up, Sports. LeBron James is interviewed about his foundation and specifically its Wheels for Education program which aims to “rescue” and “save” (I love sports rhetoric) Akron kids “when they need it most”. Some evidence is presented that the two-year-old program is already helping to improve reading scores among participants. And LeBron himself is confident that if the program proves to be sustainable, it can be expanded beyond Akron City Schools. Sounds fantastic. Now, who is this guy again? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Next up, Reality Television. Specifically, the “teen mom” genre gets an important twist. We first brought you this story at the end of last school year: Katie Nethers went to West Virginia to get her GED when she learned that Ohio law required a superintendent sign off on GEDs for people under the age of 19 and her district’s supe wouldn’t
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All Hallows Edition

The testing pushback, a college boost for poor kids, adolescent readers, and school-supporting nonprofits.

Amber's Research Minute

"The Rise of School-Supporting Nonprofits," by Ashlyn Aiko Nelson and Beth Gazley, Association for Education Finance and Policy (Feburary 2014).

  • With Election Day on Tuesday (go vote!), Education Week is covering interesting state battlegrounds with its delicious “Caravan of Delights” series. Each day, State EdWatch mainstay Andrew Ujifusa walks readers through an important state race, including polling numbers, candidates’ education-related positions, and local factors influencing the debates. Individual sections are devoted to each Republican and Democratic candidate, and a catchall section lists other things to know, such as relevant information about select superintendents and lieutenant governors. It’s worth a read for anyone who wants to make an educated vote—which we could use more of.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies is teaming up with Khan Academy, the College Board, and a handful of other prominent ed groups to boost the college-going rates of poorer students. Spending more than $10 million over the next two years, the program targets top high schoolers who come from lower-income families and aims to educate them about on the college application process. Too many of these kids are missing out on opportunities. The plan is to reach about 70,000
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The case for character education hardly needs to be made. Have a glance at the motivational posters lining school hallways everywhere. “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison counsels our kids. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” adds NBA star Kevin Durant. Perhaps Brookings will issue a classroom poster with Richard Reeves’s face and his conclusion from this paper: “Smarts matter, but so does character.” We get it. Among the least surprising findings in social science research is that people who have certain character strengths (this paper focuses on “drive” and “prudence”) do better in life. Whether our children have great or modest gifts, we hope they will work hard, delay gratification, and persist when things don’t come easy. Still it’s easy to get nervous when Reeves suggests “too little attention is paid by policymakers to the cultivation and distribution of these character skills.” What exactly would such attention look like? Demanding that schools making AYP in grit and prudence? Character value-added measures? Likewise, eyebrows may rightfully be raised when Reeves suggests that “character skills may count for a lot – as much, perhaps, as cognitive skills – in terms of important life...

This new study asks a question that is receiving increasing attention: How does teacher preparation affect student achievement? To answer it, the authors gathered data from about 22,078 North Carolina educators, including how teachers were prepared and characteristics of the schools where they teach. This was combined with five years of test score data from 1.18 million students. The study is more robust than similar research, owing to its comprehensive data set and the way that it grouped teachers: Instead of lumping teachers into two broad groups—traditional or alternative certification—it creates much more nuanced groups of teachers by the way they were prepared, as well as by grade and subject taught. The first comparison is between teachers who were traditionally prepared to those who received alternative certification (meaning they didn’t have a full credential when they began teaching), excluding teachers prepared by Teach For America. Alternative entry teachers are significantly less effective (as determined by value-added measures) than traditionally prepared teachers in middle school math and high school math and science. There was no difference in the other grade levels and subjects. Second, compared to traditionally-prepared teachers, TFA teachers are more effective in six of the eight categories: elementary math and reading,...

For the first time this year, the College Board released the annual test results of its three programs—AP, SAT, and PSAT/NMSQT—in one report. The news is mixed. On the upside, an unprecedented number of students, including a large increase in minority and low-income students, participated and succeeded. Of the 1.67 million students who took the SAT, nearly half were minorities and nearly a fourth were low-income students. And the number of high school students who succeeded on at least one AP exam (earning at least a 3 out of 5) doubled in the past year. On the other hand, the results reveal at least three problem areas. First, too many students are missing out on opportunities. Thirty-nine percent of the 684,577 students who showed AP potential (indicated by high PSAT/NMSQT scores) didn’t enroll for a single AP class. Likewise, for SAT takers, 9 percent were close to achieving the college and career readiness benchmark and might have succeeded with less than a year of additional instruction. The SAT Benchmark is a combined score of 1550 and indicates a 65 percent likelihood of achieving a B- average or higher during the first year of a four-year college. Second, using this same...

SECOND ACT
Nevada and Missouri are the most recent states to contract with the SAT and ACT to ensure that every eleventh grader has access to a college entry exam. While we can all agree that increasing access to these tests is a good thing, there are also concerns about adding another test to the pile. Some wonder if the test could serve the dual purposes of college admittance and school assessment.

ELECTION SPOTLIGHT: KANSAS
Funding for schools has landed on the political map in Kansas, where Democrat Paul Davis stands an excellent chance of upsetting Republican incumbent Governor Sam Brownback. Democrats claim that Brownback’s primary fiscal agenda item, a series of tax cuts, has led to a revenue shortfall that endangers public education. The governor’s supporters point to nonpartisan analysis indicating that per-pupil funding has, in fact, increased over the last several years.

POLLING ALERT
New numbers are out on Common Core’s approval among teachers. According to today’s Gallup poll, 41 percent view the standards positively and 44 percent negatively. Beyond the top-line polling, there were interesting implications...

  1. Apologies if I’ve clipped this before, but Fordham-sponsored KIPP Columbus is getting some national attention for winning a $3 million grant to build a science center on their new campus and to provide STEM training for area teachers. (THE Journal)
     
  2. As we noted yesterday, there was a student protest held ahead of a school board vote in West Geauga on the future of open enrollment in the district. None of the options the board was considering really showed much interest in the students currently attending the district on open enrollment, and the final vote – to allow those currently open enrolled to stay through graduation but to close grades K-5 to any future open enrollment – was really no exception. Earlier iterations of this tussle focused on money (e.g. district “guilt” over “stealing” money from its neighbors), but do note that the one public reason given this time was a parent’s concern over no longer getting “good kids” through open enrollment. Hope this vote shows those bad Kindergartners where they belong! Sad. (Willoughby News-Herald)
     
  3. We noted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Columbus earlier this week. The Washington express continued as HUD Secretary Julian
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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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