Curriculum & Instruction

In this policy brief from The Future of Children organization, authors Ron Haskins, Richard Murnane, Isabel Sawhill, and Catherine Snow start from the premise that the United States has a two-part “literacy problem”: (1) the current reading skills of U.S. children are “inadequate for the heightened literacy demands of the twenty-first-century economy,” and (2) the widening literacy gap between students from high- and low-income families virtually ensures a permanent impediment to economic mobility for those students left behind.

In Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap?, the authors suggest that adoption of the Common Core Standards is an important first step. In fact, they argue “If American children were to master the Common Core, they would fare better in international comparisons, the American economy would receive a boost, and the literacy achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children might narrow somewhat…giving them a better opportunity to compete.” But standards by themselves, the authors argue, have very little effect on achievement and must be backed up by assessments, comprehensive reporting, curriculum fully aligned with the Common Core, and most importantly high-quality teaching to support all of the above.

The authors are not alone in...

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, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst & Ray Cruz

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 to education?

These quandaries...

The laugh factory

Mike and Rick wonder if there’s still room for ed reformers in the Democratic Party after Chicago. Amber analyzes why American students continue to struggle with the SAT. And Rick makes a few jokes at Karen Lewis’s expense.

Amber's Research Minute

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 - The College Board Download PDF

  • A New Haven “turnaround school” has its students assigning their own homework. The new approach is part of an experiment to move from a “normal” class to “independent pacing,” in which students master concepts before moving on. High School in the Community is directly managed by the teachers union.
  • Students at Belmont High School are getting a leg up on college readiness. The Educational Talent Search program, sponsored by Sinclair Community College, supports middle and high school students in college decision-making, preparation, and entrance at no cost.
  • In an effort to increase mastery on state tests, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools has gotten rid of graded homework, extra credit, and behavior-related grading. Students can practice concepts until they are understood. The District asserts this new system has accountability because it requires more work on behalf of students, not less, when they do not understand material.
  • A coalition of three non-profit groups is on an anti-drop out crusade to address areas that prevent students from earning diplomas. Diplomas Now is piloting at three Columbus schools that have agreed to participate in a federally funded study on the program’s effectiveness.
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