Curriculum & Instruction

The day after Superintendent Gene Harris announced her 2013 retirement from the Columbus City Schools (CCS) last month, Mayor Michael Coleman declared he’d play a greater role in improving the city’s schools. The district has been plagued in recent months by a data-tampering scandal and its unrelenting news coverage, and academic achievement has been stagnant for several years now. Coleman and City Council President Andrew Ginther have launched what is effectively the start of the post-Gene Harris era with a briefing about the district from Eric Fingerhut, corporate Vice President of Battelle's Education and STEM Learning business and the Mayor’s newly appointed education advisor; Mark Real, founder of KidsOhio.org; and John Stanford, deputy superintendent of CCS. The briefing is one of four intended to bring city leaders up to speed on the state of the city’s schools and related issues.

So what did they learn? There were at least three major takeaways.

The city’s footprint is significantly larger than the district’s. The distinction between kids who live in the City of Columbus and those who live within the boundaries of Columbus City Schools (CCS) is important – and something most residents and observers would find surprising. Columbus’s population has doubled since 1950...

Last week, Fordham and the ESC of Central Ohio welcomed Nate Levenson to the Buckeye State for a series of conversations with district and Educational Service Center superintendents, state policymakers, and education organizations that represent both traditional districts and charter schools. Levenson spoke about his ideas for making special education more efficient and of greater quality, which are laid out in his recent report Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Special Education in Ohio.

Throughout his time in Ohio, Levenson emphasized the following points:

1. The compliance-driven culture of special education needs to change. Compliance is ingrained deeply into the culture of special education. Because compliance is so worrisome for special education directors, it leads to perverse incentives; for example, the incentive to “over-identify” students as special needs and the incentive for special education training and professional development to focus on compliance rather than pedagogy and actual student learning.

2. Schools could become more efficient and provide higher-quality services by subcontracting special education services. Ohio’s Educational Service Centers, social service agencies, and non-profit and for-profit companies could provide a “dream team” of special education specialists that districts could bid for. Districts would therefore reduce the...

With the Kasich Administration’s push for improved literacy skills among Ohio’s elementary students, many educators and analysts are keeping a keen eye on the development and assessment of reading programs. One national program, Project Sit Together and Read (STAR), is examined in the new research study by Shayne Piasta, Increasing Young Children’s Contact with Print during Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement. Piasta’s research measures the program’s effects on student literacy in pre-k to second grade. (See the U.S. Department of Education's review of the study.)

Project STAR is designed to develop students’ reading, spelling, and vocabulary skills. Teachers read aloud to students, but also use techniques to encourage kids to pay attention to the print on book pages. For example, a teacher may ask students about words or use a finger to follow along as words are read.

To measure the impact of these print focused techniques, researchers compared three groups in 85 preschool classrooms, composed mostly of socioeconomically disadvantaged...

It’s all French to me

Rick and Mike pick apart an egregious example of Continental Achievement-Gap mania and take on differing proficiency goals based on student race and ethnicity. Amber asks if we’d be better off spending our edu-dollars in very different ways.

Amber's Research Minute

How Do Public Investments in Children Vary with Age? A Kids' Share Analysis of Expenditures in 2008 and 2011 by Age Group by The Urban Institute - Download PDF

The statistics, though jarring, are not novel: In 2009, only 58 percent of students who had enrolled in four-year colleges graduated within six years (just 79 percent persisted through their first year of post-secondary schooling). Just one-third of those who matriculated at two-year institutions completed their degree within three years (two-thirds persisted to year two). The figures are even starker for low-income students; even high-performing youngsters from this demographic struggle. This report from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) offers tangible recommendations for what can be done to reverse this trend. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study, NSBA authors track characteristics of students who successfully persist through year two of post-secondary schooling. Controlling for prior achievement and socioeconomic status, NSBA finds three traits of high schoolers that predict greater success in college: taking upper-level math courses (students of low socioeconomic status who took pre-calculus or calculus were 44 percent more likely to persist to year two than those who took only algebra or geometry), enrolling in AP or IB courses (even if the student did not pass the associated exam), and consistently meeting with academic advisors....

1984 in 2012?

Aaron Churchill drops by to explain Ohio’s attendance foibles and debate the merits of another kind of student tracking. Amber asks if super sub-groups are all that super.

Amber's Research Minute

Shining a Light or Fumbling in the Dark? The Effects of NCLB’s Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Student Achievement by Douglas Lee Lauen & S. Michael Gaddis for EEPA

When charter schools first emerged twenty years ago, they represented a revolution, ushering in a new era that put educational choice, innovation, and autonomy front and center in the effort to improve our schools. While charters have always been very diverse in characteristics and outcomes, it wasn’t long before a particular kind of gap-closing, “No Excuses” charter grabbed the lion’s share of public attention. But in this rush to crown and invest in a few “winners,” have we turned our back on the push for innovation that was meant to be at the core of the charter experiment?

It’s become increasingly obvious that charters have hit a wall in their quest to put their students on the path to college.

Of course, the top charter management organizations got this level of attention the old fashioned way: they earned it. The best CMOs—like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First—have done amazing work. The teachers work long hours and do—often quite literally—whatever it takes to give students the kinds of opportunities they’ve had.

But, while charters have made important strides, it’s become increasingly obvious that they’ve also hit a wall in their quest to put their students on the path to college....

One of the great joys of parenthood is reading to my two young sons. Partly it’s the visceral experience: Little guys curled up on my lap, in their PJ’s, soft light overhead, the day winding down, sleep coming (well, one can hope). But it’s also about the books: An endless treasure trove of stories to share, pictures to enjoy, traditions to pass along.

So I got to wondering: Is there a list of the must-read picture books for preschoolers? The greatest classics, old and new? A “canon,” if you will? I couldn’t find one, so I decided to create one. You can find the books on Amazon with this wishlist. With help from some friends, I now present to you the Kindergarten Canon:

...

1 is One - Tasha Tudor

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible,

The Fall Classic

Mike and Dara analyze the NAACP’s definition of discrimination and grapple with the unpleasant reality that Ohio’s online schools mostly suck. Amber looks at what it takes to exit high school these days.

Amber's Research Minute

Center on Education Policy, State High School Exit Exams: A Policy in Transition (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, September 2012)

 

 

Many of today’s parents yearn to live in or near the lively, culturally vibrant heart of the city—in diverse, walkable neighborhoods full of music and theater, accessible to museums and stores, awash in ethnic eateries, and radiating a true sense of community. This is a major shift from recent generations that saw middle class families trading urban centers for suburbs with lawns, malls, parks, and good schools.

But good schools still matter. And standing in the way of many parents’ urban aspirations is the question: Will the public schools in the city provide a strong education for my kids?

To be sure, lots of parents favor sending their sons and daughters to diverse schools with children from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. But can such schools successfully meet the educational needs of all those different kids? How do middle class children fare in these environments? Is there enough challenge and stimulation in schools that also struggle to help poor and immigrant children reach basic standards? Is there too much focus on test scores? And why is it so hard to find diverse public schools with a progressive, child-centered approach...

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