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Frank McCourt, the memoirist and legendary English teacher at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, was once challenged by a student who asked what possible use a particular work of literature would have in his life. “You will read it for the same reason your parents waste their money on your piano lessons,” McCourt replied tartly, “so you won’t be a boring little shite the rest of your life.” Perhaps schools should collect Boring Little Shite (BLS) data and report it alongside AYP and FRPM. Jay Greene seems to be working on it. A data hawk and acerbic defender of school choice and vouchers, Greene might have been voted least likely to give a damn about the arts before his surprising 2013 study linking field trips to art museums to a range of desirable outcomes, including critical thinking and empathy. He’s at it again in the current issue of Education Next with an interesting study on the effects of taking students to see live theatre, including improved grasp of the play, vocabulary, empathy, and tolerance. Greene and his co-authors make much of these enhancements over a control group who only read the plays or saw film versions. But the good effects...

All the world's a stage - October 22, 2014

The benefits of live theater, how and whether to discipline, detrimental reading tests, and relative school costs.

Amber's Research Minute

The Relative Costs of New York City’s New Small Public High Schools of Choice,” by Robert Bifulco and Rebecca Unterman,  MRDC (October 2014).

SHORT-TIME PRINCIPALS
Yesterday’s Late Bell highlighted NPR’s review of the brief tenure of many urban superintendents. But high turnover rates plague principals as well, as Chalkbeat Colorado reports. Of Denver’s 185 schools, thirty-four have seen at least two changes in principals over the last six years. The lack of continuity disrupts learning and hampers the implementation of new policies and standards. 

DUNCAN MAKES THE CASE FOR PRESCHOOL
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is making a big push for universal preschool, saying the time to debate the issue is over and the time to implement early education is here. At a recent speech in Los Angeles, Duncan urged lawmakers to increase budgeting for early childhood programs by as much as $350 million.

ELECTION SPOTLIGHT: ILLINOIS
The educational philosophies of the gubernatorial candidates in Illinois, who take the stage for their final debate next Monday, could not be more at odds. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn wants a three-year moratorium on charter schools, while his Republican challenger, businessman Bruce Rauner, has donated generously in support of the movement.

CHARTERS:...

  1. The annual leadership conference for charter school authorizers is taking place this week. EdWeek’s Arianna Prothero is there and learned a lot about closing down poor performers from Fordham’s Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen Upton, among others. (EdWeek blog)
     
  2. "If I am elected it will be an indictment of Common Core and a call for local control." Why yes, there are races for State Board of Education seats coming up in two weeks. Why do you ask? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. The good folks at StateImpact also have a full voters guide for the state board races. This link is to the intro piece. Links to all candidate statements received in the various races are available there. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Beacon Journal is really only interested in one of those state board races – District 4. In what is probably a rare move, editors have made an endorsement in the race. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Thanks Common Core. Due to the roll out of new Common Core-aligned tests in Ohio this year, Lorain City Schools’ new academic recovery plan must lack in specifics as far as growth targets go. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  6. ...

[Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The previous posts in this series can be seen hereherehere, here, and here.]

Andy’s odyssey: Part six

The greatest friction between contemporary education reform and conservatism is the former’s obsession with “new” and the latter’s deep skepticism of it.

This conflict has its roots in the very different worldviews of progressives and conservatives. Those on the political right generally seek to preserve, believing that longstanding practices, policies, and institutions possess the wisdom of ages. They have evolved and grown robust. In Yuval Levin’s words, they “developed through years of trial and error and adapted to their circumstances.” They possess stores of social capital that facilitate the healthy functioning of society.

Progressives generally seek to dramatically change, aspiring to uproot society’s injustices and inefficiencies, possessing great faith in our ability to create something new and better...

CUOMO SLOW-WALKING COMMON CORE
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign has been tough on his Republican opponent, and now it’s training its sights on Common Core: In a new ad, Cuomo vows to hold off on using Common Core test results for evaluation purposes for at least five years. Of course, by that time, he’ll have already lost a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, so there will be no worries about backlash. 

REVOLVING DOOR FOR URBAN SUPERINTENDENTS
The departure of Los Angeles public schools chief John Deasy sheds light on the high turnover rate of urban school district superintendents. A tenure of three and a half years is about average, though experts argue it takes at least four years for superintendents to begin making a long-lasting impact.

FORDHAM CINEMA CLUB
Real Clear Education showcases First Generation, a new film documenting the lives of first-generation college students. These students often face difficulties during the admission process and have little knowledge of how to navigate student loan applications. Research shows, however, that almost all college graduates see a return on...

  1. The Ohio Department of Education has taken unprecedented steps to combat the “recycling” of closed charter schools, learning in the process, I think, of how many ways there have been to actually do it. One such school in Cincinnati needs a whole new set of board members – to be appointed by ODE – ASAP. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. As if yesterday’s “pig weighing”/ “test-mania” story wasn’t enough, the PD published another one later in the day. This one consists mainly of quotes from emails from local superintendents responding to the first piece. Spoiler alert: overtesting is “an abomination”. Who says journalism is dead? Not me. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Abomination or no, teachers are getting ready to “feed the pig” before they weigh it (to use the North Coast technical terms I learned this week), by which I mean they are prepping for the new PARCC exams. Case in point: Springfield Twp. teachers, who are schooling their students in online document submission and editing ahead of PARCC test administration. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Must be the pigs. ODE has gotten wind of what they term “an uproar” on the topic of over testing of students. And so
  5. ...

Polls of parental attitudes about education can give guidance to those of us researching, dissecting, and commenting on education issues—clueing us in on issues of concern and, more importantly, helping framing those issues in ways which resonate with the general public. Education Post, a newish education-based communications network whose mission is to “cut through the noise” and to foster “straight talk,” published just such a poll earlier this month. As similar efforts have shown, poll respondents (1,800 “school parents” nationwide) feel better about their own children’s education than they do about the “education system” at large. Eighty-four percent of parents were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their child’s school. But when asked about the education system broadly, 60 percent thought there were “some changes” that needed to be made, while 33 percent thought that the system needed a “complete overhaul.” A mere 3 percent of respondents thought that the system was “fine as is.” When asked about specific changes to improve “the system,” 88 percent supported “higher standards and a more challenging curriculum,” 78 percent supported “expanding the number of charter schools so parents have more options,” 93 percent supported “more accountability for teachers and principals,”...

Isabel Sawhill is the founder of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, an effort from which she draws much of the impetus for her latest book: Generation Unbound. She reviews decades of research and literature to support the notion that “traditional” patterns of education, marriage, and parenting—in that order—are a thing of the past, especially in the lives of low-income individuals. Delayed parenting—one of the pillars of the “success sequence” that some education pundits espouse—is largely nonexistent in impoverished communities, where we fervently believe education can do so much to help break the cycle of poverty. Sawhill notes that these are facts of modern life, like it or not (a traditionalist, she seems not to like them very much). Ideologues on the left argue for more social support for unmarried parents; those on the right for a return to traditional marriage. Sawhill posits a third way—foregrounding the various downsides of single parenthood, providing as much information about and access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) as possible, and even incentivizing their promotion and use. With this “split the difference” approach, sure to be controversial with many, she believes that many young people who would otherwise simply drift...

EDUCATION SNAPSHOT
Federally owned schools located on Native American reservations, which serve about 48,000 students nationally, face extreme poverty and lack of resources; they are also marked by low performance scores, with some schools reporting proficiency at 25 percent. The AP’s Kimberly Hefling looks at the sorry state of an under-resourced elementary school on a Navajo reservation, where housing, transportation, and local facilities are in appalling disrepair and scarcity. 

COMMON CORE PUT TO THE TEST
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues for high-quality standardized testing. Two major state assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are in the process of evaluating Common Core-aligned assessments, as Education Week’s Catherine Gewertz reports.

DOLLARS AND PENCE
Last week, Governor Mike Pence elected not to apply for a federal grant that might have afforded up to $80 million for Indiana preschools. In a statement justifying the decision, he wrote, “It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state's mission and programs.” Fordham tackled the issue of Pence’s repudiation of the Common Core standards this...

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