2004 Thomas B. Fordham Prizes for Excellence in Education

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This brochure contains profiles of the winners of the second annual Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Prizes for Excellence in Education.  The 2004 prize for Valor is awarded to Howard Fuller, and the 2004 prize for Distinguished Scholarship is awarded to Eric Hanushek.

Having Their Say: The Views of Dayton-area Parents on Education

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Much has changed in education in Dayton during the past two years. The remarkable election of a "reform" majority to the Dayton school board, and the selection of a new superintendent. Passage of a huge levy for school-building construction and renewal. The arrival of the No Child Left Behind Act and Ohio's Senate Bill 1. The dramatic growth of the charter-school sector and of controversy surrounding it. Some ferment on the high-school reform front. And much more. Thus, it seemed time to once again "take the community's temperature" with respect to a wide array of K-12 education issues. Herewith are the results.

The State Testing Program for Ohio and How It Works: A Primer for Charter Schools

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Increasingly, charter schools are being held to the accountability standards of traditional district schools and are now also subject to the newest requirements regarding student achievement and accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act. Unfortunately, few charter schools have the financial resources necessary to hire full-time testing coordinators to help them navigate the intricacies of state and federal testing requirements. This primer is designed to aid charter school leaders in coordinating testing and test data reporting procedures as required by state and federal guidelines. The report seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the roles and responsibilities of charter schools under Ohio's new accountability system?
  2. What do charter schools need to know to effectively administer the test?
  3. What are the responsibilities of charter schools regarding testing?

Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card

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Is there any subject as disheveled, distorted and dysfunctional as social studies? As part of our continuing effort to revitalize the subject of social studies, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute offers Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card. This groundbreaking and comprehensive state-by-state analysis of K-12 education standards in U.S. history was prepared by Sheldon Stern, historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston for more than 20 years. It evaluates U.S. history standards in 48 states and the District of Columbia on comprehensive historical content, sequential development, and balance.

Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know

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This new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation includes the voices of 29 political leaders, education practitioners, and cultural analysts who discuss what schools should teach about U.S. history, American ideals, and American civic life in the wake of 9/11, the war on terror, and the liberation of Iraq.

Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?

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This new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation consists of penetrating critiques by renegade social studies educators who fault the regnant teaching methods and curricular ideas of their field and suggest how it can be reformed. While nearly everyone recognizes that American students don't know much about history and civics, these analysts probe the causes of this ignorance-and lay primary responsibility at the feet of the social studies "establishment" to which they belong.

Six Questions to Ask on Back to School Night

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A good, well-organized social studies curriculum seeks to teach students the key events, issues, and people in America's past, how our government works, our rights and responsibilities as citizens, and how our predecessors fought to defend democracy. How can parents tell whether their children are getting such a curriculum in school?one that is rich in historical content and provides a solid base for future learning? The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation suggests asking teachers and principals these six questions on back to school night.

1. What are your goals for this course?

Beware! If the goal is to "improve critical thinking skills" or "help children understand the world around them," you can bet there's little focus on vital historical content.

2. In this course, do you follow a chronology of history, or do you teach thematic units?

Many educators belittle the chronological study of history?"what happened when?"?and prefer to base their curriculum on such "themes" as "community helpers" or various cultures. While some of that is valuable to the study of history, such themes do not give students the knowledge they need to understand the past and develop informed opinions about the present.

3. What textbook do you use for this course?

When you find out which textbook is used, search on the Internet for an expert review of it. Or just read a few pages yourself. Look, in particular, to see how it handles key events like the American Revolution, the framing of the Constitution, World Wars I and II, etc. Many texts gloss over such events and the people who caused them, or focus on what America did wrong?as judged by today's standards?rather than helping children understand why things happened the way they happened, and when they happened.

4. Besides the textbook, what additional resources do you use in this course?

Over-reliance on the textbook is a bad sign, especially if the book is weak. It may signal a teacher with little personal knowledge of history. If the teacher does use additional resources, ask to see samples. Do they help explain complex historical lessons? Do they present a biased or balanced view of history?

5. How important is it to you that students get a multicultural view of history?

Listen closely to the answer. Multicultural history often overlooks or undervalues the Founders' contributions and the chronological sequence of key historical events.

6. May I have a copy of the syllabus or "scope and sequence" for this course?

A detailed syllabus or (as educators often call it) "scope and sequence" should set forth just what the teacher plans to cover during the year, and how s/he plans to cover it. This is often more informative than the textbook alone and more complete than the verbal answers you get on "back to school" night.

Are you satisfied with the teacher's (or principal's) answers? Worried? Want to learn more? Be a fussy consumer. Don't hesitate to press for more information, even to argue for a different approach. If the school won't cooperate, supplement your child's historical education at home. That's a pretty good idea even when the school is doing a good job. Few schools today teach as much history as children need to learn.  We'll give you the inside scoop on what went wrong with social studies, and how to fix it.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation supports research, publications, and action projects of national significance in elementary/secondary education reform, as well as significant education reform projects in Dayton, Ohio and vicinity. The Foundation is neither connected with nor sponsored by Fordham University.

Charter School Authorizing: Are States Making the Grade?

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This new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the first significant study of the organizations that authorize charter schools. The report examines 23 states and the District of Columbia to determine how supportive they are of charter schools, how good a job their authorizers are doing, and how policy makers could strengthen their states' charter programs.

Better Leaders for America's Schools: A Manifesto

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This report, published jointly by the Fordham Institute and The Broad Foundation, contends that American public education faces a "crisis in leadership" that cannot be alleviated from traditional sources of school principals and superintendents. Its signers do not believe this crisis can be fixed by conventional strategies for preparing, certifying and employing education leaders. Instead, they urge that first-rate leaders be sought outside the education field, earn salaries on par with their peers in other professions, and gain new authority over school staffing, operations and budgets.

The Best of Both Worlds: Blending History and Geography in the K-12 Curriculum

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Geography plays a crucial role in shaping history, and the study of history provides an important context for students learning geography, but teachers rarely take advantage of the complementary nature of these subjects. This report shows how the study of U.S. history can be enriched by blending geography into the curriculum. The centerpiece is an innovative curriculum framework in which each historical period is supplemented and enriched by the introduction of relevant geography