Additional Topics

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.

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.

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
  4. ...

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.

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.

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
  5. ...

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.

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.

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
  4. ...

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. 

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.” 

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
  6. ...

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.

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.

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.

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, 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
  5. ...