Halfway Out the Door
What do ordinary Ohioans think about the myriad education reforms enacted in the Buckeye state over the last half-decade? How do parents, taxpayers, and citizens view public schooling in 2005? Do they like these reforms? Seek more or less of them? Have confidence that they'll succeed? Fordham decided to enlist veteran analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett to examine the attitudes of Ohio residents toward their public schools. The results? Ohioans are frustrated with their K-12 education system on a number of fronts, and feel the state is in dire need of stronger, better leadership when it comes to education. Policymakers would do well to pay attention.
Less Than Proficient
Almost every week a new report or commission decries the decline of America's preeminence in science, and calls for the nation's education system to raise standards in order for our economy to remain competitive with the rest of the world. Within this context, the National Assessment Governing Board is preparing to launch a new science assessment for 2009. Curriculum developers and textbook writers are likely to follow its lead. Fordham couldn't help but wonder: is the draft science Framework up to the challenge? Using much the same criteria applied in the Foundation's state science standards reviews, our reviewers answered: no. As author (and esteemed biologist) Paul R. Gross wrote, "The Framework is an interesting start, but there is much work to be done if it is to achieve its potential usefulness."
School Performance in Ohio's Inner Cities: Comparing Charter and District School Results in 2005
How are charter schools in Ohio truly performing when compared to their district counterparts? The latest Fordham Foundation report, School Performance in Ohio's Inner Cities: Comparing Charter and District School Results in 2005 provides a rare apples-to-apples comparison of charter school and district school achievement in four of Ohio's cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton. The results reveal that the performance of charter pupils isn't as dismal as Ohio's charter opponents want you to believe. However, the findings also illuminate the larger problem: ALL public schools in the Buckeye State still have a long way to go to reach academic success.
Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work
American middle schools have become the places "where academic achievement goes to die." So says Cheri Yecke, K-12 Education Chancellor of Florida and author of the new Fordham report Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work. Today's middle schools have succumbed to a concept of "middle schoolism" in which a strong academic curriculum is traded for one that focuses more on emotional and social development, and less on learning the basics. And the achievement data reflects "middle schoolism's" results. In 1999, U.S. eighth graders scored nine points below average on the TIMSS assessment of math. What's more, these same eighth graders had outperformed the average by 28 points as fourth graders in 1995! According to Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., "Trying to fix high schools while ignoring middle schools is like bandaging a wound before treating it for infection."
Personality Test: The dispositional dispute in teacher preparation today, and what to do about it
The standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Excellence (NCATE) are of critical import for America's future teaching corps and for K-12 education in general and will wield disproportionate influence for decades to come. Over the past fifteen years, 25 states have outsourced the approval of teacher preparation programs to NCATE by adopting or adapting its standards as their own; the other 25 have various "partnerships" with the organization. Which makes it all the more disturbing that central to these standards is the call for teachers to possess certain "dispositions" such as particular attitudes toward "social justice." As Professor William Damon of Stanford University explains in Fordham's latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education, NCATE's framing of the "dispositions" issue has given education schools "unbounded power over what candidates may think and do." This is leading to (understandable) charges of ideological arm-twisting and Orwellian mind-control. A must-read for state policy makers and others, who might reconsider whether being accredited by NCATE is evidence of quality or something far more sinister.
Charter School Funding: Inequity's Next Frontier
Of all the controversies swirling around the nation?s charter schools, none is more hotly contested than the debate over funding. Into the fray leaps Charter School Funding: Inequity's Next Frontier, the most comprehensive and rigorous study ever undertaken of how public charter schools are funded, state by state, and how their revenues measure up to dollars received by district-run schools.
Fwd: It's All About the Kids
In just more than five years, Mary Anne Stanton has led 13 Catholic schools from high-poverty Washington, D.C. neighborhoods into a consortium that has not only strengthened each school's financial health, but has also greatly improved the academic performance of the children the schools are charged with educating. To get there, she's installed a new standards-based curriculum, shaken up old bureaucratic approaches, and streamlined operations. In its latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation presents a compelling story of just how much change can be made by one determined school leader with a vision.
Fwd: Half Empty or Half Full?: Florida's voluntary pre-Kindergarten standards
In 2002, when its voters approved a ballot measure calling for universal pre-Kindergarten by 2005-06, Florida joined a handful of states in which all children are eligible for free, publicly funded education in the year prior to Kindergarten. The passage of the referendum was cause for great optimism among those aware of the power of high-quality pre-K programs to prepare children, particularly low-income children, to meet the challenges of K-12 education. But as with any public policy initiative, the devil is in the details. In designing the half-day Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program (VPK), the Florida legislature faced competing demands. How did they balance the trade-offs? Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust lays it out in Fordham's latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education.
Testimony Prepared for the Alternative Education Subcommittee
On April 21, 2005, Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Program Director Terry Ryan testified before the Alternative Education Subcommittee of the Ohio House of Representatives. They discussed Ohio's community schools (a.k.a. charter schools), which face a developing paradox: the more they expand and the more students they serve, the more threatened they become, by internal and external forces alike.
The State of State Math Standards 2005
States still have far to go in setting rigorous, high quality expectations for K-12 math instruction. Although a majority have replaced or revised their math standards since 2000, many have failed to make substantial improvements. The review was led by David Klein, Professor of Mathematics at California State University-Northridge, and evaluates the content, writing quality, and clarity of K-12 math standards in each state. Klein and his team attribute many of the shortcomings to overuse and wrong applications of manipulatives and calculators; wrong-headed guidance from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and lack of true mathematics competence among those writing the standards.