Upward Mobility

Nationally and in Ohio, we work to promote policies and practices that help children born into poverty transcend their disadvantages and enter the middle class as adults, with a particular focus on what role our schools can play. Through publications, events, and commentary, we advocate for proven paths to the middle class, including high-quality career and technical education, a focus on high-achieving disadvantaged students, and the "Success Sequence."

Resources:

Our many upward-mobility-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s upward mobility experts:


Career and technical education (CTE) schools and academies are important and impactful, but they’re also scarce and expensive. To develop the skills of the millions of students who want high-quality CTE, we must be more egalitarian in the ways students access it—and the prospects for economic stability and success that it can create.

CTE is not just about the courses students take; it’s also about form: how, when, and where courses are delivered. And this varies depending on the state, district, and even school.

In most cases, the courses a student can take are determined by what’s available at the school site where they are enrolled. Most traditional high schools offer basic CTE classes in addition to academic coursework. Some host school-within-a-school “career academies” where academy students take CTE coursework focused around a single career theme (while taking academic classes at the host school); non-academy students can’t take these classes. There are also fully independent, self-contained career/technical high schools that serve as enrolled students’ home schools. Like academies, CTE schools usually focus on developing students’ skills to prepare them to enter a particular industry.

Some CTE programing is open to more students. Centralized locations called regional technical centers offer a diverse variety of...

 
 
Shaun M. Dougherty

Recently, there has been increased interest in career and technical education as a mechanism to create pathways to college and employment. This increased interest has occurred despite the fact that, aside from two studies on career academies, there is relatively little high-quality evidence about whether and how CTE provides educational and work-related benefits to students. In my new report with the Fordham Institute, Career and Technical Education in High School: Does It Improve Student Outcomes?, we capitalized on the willingness of state agencies to partner with us and share data as a way to answer these questions. Our ability to produce answers is related to the rich datasets from Arkansas that enabled us to translate this data and available computing power into actionable policy findings.

In the past, roughly one in five students took three or more high school courses in a field classified under career and technical education. But some recent evidence suggests that the number of students taking a larger share of CTE courses may have receded during the expansion of high-stakes, test-based accountability. Very little of the data accumulated in recent years has been examined to explain how major shifts in policy and educational practice may have...

 
 

In the midst of Illinois's historic budget stalemate, funding for education and much else remains in dispute. Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature haven't been able to agree on major priorities, even as Chicago schools go broke and the Chicago Teachers Union looks more likely to strike every day.

A fundamental issue in these disputes is whether to keep spending money on present priorities, practices, and programs or to instead seize the opportunity to make major reforms.

One set of reforms that belongs on the table is Illinois's shameful neglect of its high-ability students, especially those from poor and minority backgrounds.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just 2 percent of Prairie State 8th graders who are eligible for subsidized lunches reached the Advanced level in math in 2015 (NAEP's designation for high scorers).

The racial gaps are even worse. Not even one percent of black students reached NAEP's highest level, and just 3 percent of Hispanic youngsters did. Nine percent of white students got there—not great, but ten times the ratio for African-Americans.

A major reason for this lamentable performance is Illinois's inattention to high-ability students.

Click here to read the rest of the article...

 
 

Ask any group of high school teachers, and they will report that the most frequently heard question in their classrooms is, “When are we ever gonna use this?” In a traditional college prep program, the honest answer is usually, “Maybe when you get to the university.” But in the real world? Depending on the class, maybe not at all.

However, in high-quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, that question is moot. Students learn skills that will help them prepare for stable careers and success in a modern, global, and competitive economy. A student who wants a future in architecture doesn’t question his first drafting course in high school. One interested in aerospace sees value in her introduction to engineering design class. An aspiring medical professional is enthusiastic, not indifferent, about high school anatomy.

Unfortunately for millions of American students, CTE is not a meaningful part of their high school experience. Instead, they are shuffled through large, bureaucratized schools that do not adequately prepare them for anything, be it college, career, or both.

In large part, this is because CTE has been chronically neglected by American education leaders and policymakers. Many CTE advocates suspect that it’s because of the damaged...

 
 
Myles Mendoza

As a parent of three young children in Chicago Public Schools, I’m starting to get nervous.

Luckily, my family can afford to live in a neighborhood with one of the city’s few higher-performing elementary schools that aren’t governed by selective enrollment. But in the upper grades, even Chicago’s best neighborhoods have almost no high-quality options unless you can afford a private school.

So we’ve begun the effort to get our kids tested to see if they can be among the lucky few to gain entry into Chicago’s selective enrollment schools. Because the system is point-based, families strategize on how to get their kids into these coveted programs. Parents in the know find tutorials online. Some even spend hundreds of dollars for test preparation.

Recently, as I sat in a testing center waiting for my son to finish his exam, I looked around and saw a lot of affluent parents like me. I wondered, what about the children without parents to advocate for them? What about those families without social capital or financial means—do they even know these gifted programs exist?

Gifted schools and programs are supposed to be for all students with unique abilities, but as I sat in the...

 
 

This study examines the impact of achievement-based “tracking” in a large school district. The district in question required schools to create a separate class in fourth or fifth grade if they enrolled at least one gifted student (as identified by an IQ test). However, since most schools had only five or six gifted kids per grade, the bulk of the seats in these newly created classes were filled by the non-gifted students with the highest scores on the previous year’s standardized tests. This allowed the authors to estimate the effect of participating in a so-called Gifted and High Achieving (GHA) class using a “regression discontinuity” model.

Based on this approach, the authors arrive at two main findings: First, placement in a GHA class boosts the reading and math scores of high-achieving black and Hispanic students by roughly half of one standard deviation, but has no impact on white students. Second, creating a new GHA class has no impact on the achievement of other students at a school, including those who just miss the cutoff for admission. Importantly, the benefits of GHA admission seem to be driven by race as opposed to socioeconomic status. They are also slightly larger for minority...

 
 
M. René Islas and Keri Guilbault, Ed.D.

A recent report showing low levels of participation by black, Hispanic, and low-income students in the gifted and talented programs of Montgomery County underscores the significant challenges before our nation in the pursuit of equity in excellence.

Montgomery County school officials should be applauded for commissioning the study and for announcing plans to hold community meetings to discuss the findings later this spring. But ultimately, meaningful reforms will require actions, not words. This is particularly true of changes to the practices and policies serving gifted students from historically underrepresented populations.

The report highlights the need for families to be fully aware of the existence of gifted education programs and the ways their children can be identified for participation. Gifted identification would ideally begin early in a student’s career to allow for planning and early intervention. This requires a change in attitude; chiefly, it demands that we drive a stake through the dangerous fallacy that gifted students don’t exist in disadvantaged or diverse populations.

County school officials must also ensure that multiple criteria are used to identify students as gifted and that universal screening procedures are in place. These practices do not water down the talent pool. Instead, they aim to...

 
 
Ethan Gray

Schools are supposed to be the great equalizers. Yet it is far too difficult to tell which cities or states do the most to ensure that all children receive equitable access to strong public schools.

That’s why Education Cities, in partnership with GreatSchools, is proud to announce today’s launch of the first national comparative measure of the achievement gap between students from low-income families and their more advantaged peers.

The Education Equality Index is powered by what we believe is the largest collection of income-focused student proficiency data ever gathered. The data span forty-two states, fifteen thousand cities, seventy-eight thousand schools, and forty-three million children.

With these data in hand, we developed a methodology to measure and compare schools, cities, and states. At each level, we measure the gap between the proportion of students from low-income families who are proficient on a state assessment and the proportion of all students across the state who are proficient on the same assessment. 

We are not measuring within-school or within-city achievement gaps; we are comparing the performance of students from low-income families at the school level to the average performance of all students at the state level. We then assign each school a...

 
 
Dina Brulles, Ph.D.

The goal of gifted programs should reflect that of any other educational program: to engage students with appropriately challenging curricula and instruction on a daily basis and in all relevant content areas so that they can make continual academic growth.

Over the past several years, the Paradise Valley (AZ) Unified School District has continued to expand gifted services in response to identified need. The district provides a continuum of services designed for the specific learning needs of gifted students from preschool through high school.

With a student population that is 30 percent Hispanic and 37 percent eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, Paradise Valley uses a multifaceted identification process and embeds a gifted specialist in each of the district’s elementary schools to train teachers and staff to recognize high potential. The result: 32 percent of the district’s gifted population is non-white, a doubling of this portion since 2007.

Strong gifted programs take time to develop and will change over time. Developing sustainable services requires that we continually modify our programs to respond to many factors. Educational trends, district initiatives, state policies, shifting student demographics and staffing all can significantly influence how programs develop and evolve. Embedding gifted services into what...

 
 

Nobody knows how this year’s wild presidential campaign is going to end. But one thing’s for sure: It has exposed some fundamental rifts in American society that won’t easily be resolved.

Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ populist messages have struck a chord, particularly with working-class voters. That doesn’t surprise scholars and intellectuals on the Right and Left, who have studied these issues for years and sounded the alarm about rising inequality in wages and lifestyle.

As Charles Murray put it in the Wall Street Journal, “During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the benefits have gone to the working class.” Furthermore, “for someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.”

State and national leaders have warned since at least the 1980s against leaving people behind. Southern governors particularly—think Bill Clinton and Lamar Alexander, Dick Riley and George W. Bush—understood what globalization and the changing economy meant for their citizens, and they grasped the imperative of getting many more of their workers ready...

 
 

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