The Gadfly’s "grand swap"

Mike and Rick analyze Senator Alexander’s ed-for-Medicaid trade and critique America’s private-public schools. Amber delves into a startling SIG success story.

Amber's Research Minute

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

Where are the wild things?

Checker joins Mike on the podcast to recount his recent investigation of Asian gifted education and predict the outcome of California’s waiver gambit, while Amber has some issues with a recent report on the Common Core’s potential.

Amber's Research Minute

William Schmidt Common Core State Standards Math: The Relationship Between High Standards, Systemic Implementation and Student Achievement - Download the Powerpoint

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

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

The U.S. spends more per capita on education than every other country in the OECD except Switzerland. Yet teacher salaries are relatively low, especially for early-career teachers, students underperform their OECD peers on international tests, and college students feel their K-12 education was inadequate preparation for higher ed. The solution to all these problems may just be to pay teachers more money, especially in salary rather than expensive fringe benefits.

Our education system has developed an obsession with remediation.

Our education system has developed an obsession with remediation, both for students and teachers. Youngsters fall behind quickly (or start behind) and start an endless round of pull-out instruction, reading groups, remedial courses, and tutoring early. For educators, districts have now beefed up the payroll with instructional coaches, teacher aides, and other paraprofessionals who bring (costly) support and advice but wield little authority. This addiction to support is unhealthy—every dollar spend on remediation and extraneous personnel could be going to pay front-line teachers more.

We released a policy brief yesterday that goes deeper on these points, How School Districts Can Stretch the School Dollar. Public Impact has also weighed in on the importance of high-quality, well-compensated teaching with a...

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

This study by Harvard researchers Tom Hehir and colleagues cracks the lid on special education in Massachusetts—which holds the distinction (perhaps dubious) of the second-highest identification rate in the U.S, with more than 17 percent of students eligible for special education services. Analysts examined both demographic and test-score data at the district, school, and student levels in roughly 300 Bay State districts and offer gobs of interesting findings—each well presented and nicely summarized. For example: Categories with the most subjective diagnoses (specific learning disabilities and communication or other health impairments) are by far the most prevalent (and are likely overdiagnosed). What’s more, low-income students are more frequently identified as having these “high incidence” disabilities than wealthier youngsters. This is particularly true for low-income pupils in high-income districts. More blacks and Latinos than whites are eligible for special-education services, but these differences mostly disappear when analysts control for socioeconomic status and other demographic characteristics. Student achievement for the Bay State’s special-needs population is better than the national NAEP average for such kids, though much of this effect can likely be attributed to MA’s high identification rates—meaning students with less...

The Education Gadfly Podstagram

Will Mitt take on ed? Is Jindal gutting public schools? The podcast has answers. Plus, Janie provides the inside scoop on state accountability and Amber analyzes school shoppers in Detroit.

Amber's Research Minute

Understanding School Shoppers in Detroit

The dictum states: Teacher quality is the single most important in-school factor for student achievement. The corollary goes: It’s hard to staff low-income schools with high-bar teachers. Thus: Students who need the strongest teachers often do not get them. This recent Institute of Education Sciences report, using data from seven large urban districts that participated in its two-year Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), analyzes whether school districts can incentivize top-tier teachers to transfer into chronically low-performing schools. TTI recruited districts’ top 20 percent of elementary and middle school teachers (based on two years of value-added scores). It offered each potential participant $20,000 in added pay (awarded over the course of two years) if he or she transferred to and remained in an identified low-performing school. (Retention bonuses of $10,000 were also awarded to upper-echelon teachers already in low-performing schools.) Most eligible teachers did not apply to participate in the TTI program. Of this group, 29 percent cited their lack of confidence in teaching in a low-performing school as reason not to transfer. A quarter stated that $20,000 was not a large enough incentive. Still, the 24 percent who...