Curriculum & Instruction

Fordham has commissioned the former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News, Ellen Belcher, to interview educators from across Ohio to learn about their hopes and concerns per early efforts to implement the Common Core in their districts and schools.

The report, Future Shock: Early Common Core Lessons from Ohio Implementers, will be released next week, but some of Belcher’s findings are worth reporting early because this is such a burning issue for schools and educators across the state. Here is a quick sample of some of what Belcher discovered in speaking with real educators working in real schools to implement the Common Core in the Buckeye State:

  • Educators see the “big picture,” the “global” problems that the Common Core aims to address ( i.e. U.S. students’ lackluster performance among their international competitors and the large number of high-school graduates who are not prepared for college or a career).
  • A common language around the Common Core is being widely used. The educators spoke of
  • “rigor and relevance,” “formative assessments,” “short cycle assessments,” “formative instructional practices,” “professional learning communities,” “curriculum-based assessments,” “curriculum alignment,” “curriculum maps,” “project-based learning,” “portfolio-based assessments,” “higher level thinking,” “performance-based testing” and “critical thinking skills.”
  • Teachers
  • ...

An independent task force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security brought together by the Council on Foreign Relations released a report in March that found that "the United States' failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country's ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role."

These findings may be disconcerting, but they're not new. Politicians, policymakers, educators, parents, and even students have long understood that far too many American students leave high school without having mastered the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and on the job.

There is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. But who is right?

Of course, there is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. Many believe that small classes are our best route to closing the achievement gap. Others feel similarly about setting clear and rigorous standards. And still others push for accountability reforms that use results from assessments to hold students, teachers, and leaders accountable.

Who is right?

There is a saying among high performing schools that there is no 100...

The Gadfly’s spring line is out!

Janie and Daniela debate designer Kenneth Cole’s foray into education reform and the Department of Education’s CTE overhaul, while Amber examines turnover among charter school principals.

Amber's Research Minute

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector by New York City Charter School Center

Pre-Kindergarten funding is in a precarious position. Over the last two years, more than $90 million has been trimmed from pre-K programs. And, as ARRA wells run dry, more cuts to this $5.5 billion enterprise are on the way. This while enrollment continues to creep up. That’s the news from this tenth yearbook by the National Institute for Early Education Research which, despite its name, must be counted as an advocacy outfit. The briefing is chockablock with statistics on enrollment, length of school day, class-size requirements, and more. But it tells us little about quality or efficiency, such as just how much bang are we getting for our preschool buck? (While the report does comment on pre-K quality, the metrics it uses are wholly input based; states that spend more on pre-K programming rank higher in quality.) As resources become ever scarcer throughout our education system, a rethink of how we fund preschool—and how we measure its quality and gauge its efficacy—is long past due.

W. Steven Barnett, Megan E. Carolan, Jen Fitzgerald, and James H. Squires, The State of Preschool 2011 (Newark, NJ: National Institute...

The pineapple and the gadfly

Standardized testing, school closures, and a pineapple: Rick and Janie cover it all this week, while Amber wonders whether weighted-student funding made a difference in Hartford after all.

Amber's Research Minute

Funding a Better Education: conclusions from the first three years of student-based budgeting in hartford

States experimenting with online learning—and struggling with how this new delivery system will alter such familiar practices as seat-time requirements—would be wise to check out recent doings in the Granite State. This book offers a tutorial. Since 2008-09, New Hampshire high school students have been able to work with educators to create personalized learning plans—with course credit awarded for mastery, not time in class. Such credits can be earned year round through internships, online courses, overseas travel, or brick-and-mortar classes. Mentor educators set course-competency guidelines (based on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels), track progress, and conduct final assessments. Authors Fred Bramante (former New Hampshire Board of Education chair) and Rose Colby (former principal) offer a deep dive into the NH model—explaining the expected benefits to this policy change, including cost savings, increased curricular offerings, and a lower drop-out rate. (Remarkably, New Hampshire has seen an almost 20 percentage-point decrease in its dropout rate since 2008.)  Still, there are a few gaps. Notably, the authors don’t duly justify the rigor of their quality-control metrics for ensuring true mastery—the lynchpin for ensuring that New Hampshire’s program hasn’t, and doesn’t, devolve...

Billions of dollars are being spent to increase learning time in struggling schools through Extended Learning Time (ELT). “ELT,” which the  U.S. Department of Education defines as the use of a longer school day, week, or year, is a key component of the School Improvement Grant program aimed at turning around failing public schools. But is the way to improve low-performing schools simply to add more time in school A recent report by Education Sector, Off The Clock: What More Time Can (And Can’t) Do For School Turnarounds, attempts to answer that question by looking at how schools are actually using their extra learning time. The report states that roughly 1,000 public schools around the nation are now operating with extended learning schedules, and at least 60 percent of those are charter schools.

ELT takes three major forms:

  • Adding time to the school day: Schools anywhere from 180 additional minutes per week to 90 new minutes per day.
  • Expanding time outside of school: This model relies on a community partner or external provider to offer additional learning hours outside of the school on Saturdays or during the summer.
  • Changing the way schools use time: The goal here is simple:
  • ...

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released Arts Education In Public Elementary and Secondary Schools1999-2000 and 2009-10, a report detailing the status of arts education in K-12 schools, the third study of its kind. This report builds on topics covered in the two prior reports: extent to which students received instruction in the arts, facilities and resources available for arts education, and preparation and instruction practices of art specialists and non-classroom teachers. The study also added new categories that were not discussed in the prior reports: the availability of curriculum-based art education activities outside of regular school hours and the presence of school-community partnerships in the arts. A total of 3,400 school participated in the current survey, including both district and charter schools.

The report compares the 1999-2000 school year data to the current data, in other words, pre-recession data versus post-recession data. In secondary schools, the only arts subject to increase in availability was music, with 91 percent of public schools offering courses in 2008-2009 (only 90 percent did so in 1999-2000.) Availability of courses in visual arts, dance, and drama/theatre all decreased from the 1999-2000 school year. In elementary schools, the numbers are worse. Schools...

Will the digital-learning movement repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement? How much more successful might today's charter universe look if yesterday's proponents had focused on the policies and practices needed to ensure its quality, freedom, and resources over the long term? What mistakes might have been avoided? Damaging scandals forestalled? Missed opportunities seized?

Can we be smarter about taking high-quality online and blended schools to scale—and to educational success? Yes, says this volume, as it addresses such thorny policy issues as quality control, staffing, funding, and governance for the digital sector. In these pages, the authors show how current arrangements need to change—often radically—if instructional technology is to realize its potential.

Table of Contents

Introduction, by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Daniela Fairchild

Chapter One: "Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction," by Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel

Chapter Two: "Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: Three (Imperfect) Solutions," by Frederick M. Hess

Chapter Three: "The Costs of Online Learning," Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman, and...

Streeeeetching the school dollar

Mike and Adam talk space shuttles, vouchers, and how districts can make the most of tight budgets on this week’s podcast, while Amber explains what special ed looks like in the Bay State.

Amber's Research Minute

Review of Special Education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Download the PDF