Once upon a time, there was a small village on the edge of a river. The people there were good, and life in the village was good. One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. The villager quickly swam out to save the baby from drowning. The next day this same villager noticed two babies in the river. He called for help, and both babies were rescued from the swift waters. And the following day four babies were seen caught in the turbulent current. And then eight, then more, and then still more! The villagers organized themselves quickly, setting up watchtowers and training teams of swimmers who could resist the swift waters and rescue babies. Rescue squads were soon working twenty-four hours a day. And each day the number of helpless babies floating down the river increased. The villagers organized themselves efficiently. The rescue squads were now snatching many children each day. Though not all the babies, now very numerous, could be saved, the villagers felt they were doing well to save as many as they could each day. Indeed, the village priest blessed them in their good work. And life in the village continued on...

It’s become fashionable in ed-policy circles to decry “misNAEPery,” coined by Mathematica’s Steven Glazerman and defined as the inappropriate use of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It’s an important caution to us pundits and journalists not to make definitive declarations about what might be causing national or state test scores to rise or fall when we really have no idea of the true cause or causes.

But like all good things, the crusade against misNAEPery can be taken to extremes. It’s hard to use NAEP results to establish causation (more on that below), but NAEP scores and trends have great value and reveal much that’s important to know, and therefore the influence they wield is generally justified. In short, just because NAEP scores can be misused doesn’t mean they are useless.

As we look ahead to April’s release of the 2017 NAEP reading and math results for states and the nation, here are five reasons why policymakers, analysists, and educators should pay close attention:

  1. Tests like NAEP measure skills that are important in their own right. To quote President George W. Bush, “Is our children learning?” is still an essential question for our
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A recent investigation revealed that several high schools in Washington, D.C., skirted district rules to graduate large numbers of their students who didn’t meet the standards for earning diplomas. As Erica Green of the New York Times and others have argued, this type of malfeasance isn’t limited to the nation’s capital. It happened in neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, and there are reasons to believe it’s happening in plenty of other places.

It’s not hard to understand why. For a decade now, federal policy has required states to measure graduation rates uniformly, to set ambitious goals for raising those rates, and to hold high schools accountable for meeting such goals. But the same local administrators who have been charged with getting more students across the graduation stage also have considerable leeway—via course grades, credit recovery programs, and shadier practices—in determining whether students have earned the privilege.

Given how many children enter American high schools far below grade level, and noting how many states have been dropping external checks such as exit and end-of-course exams, the temptation for educators to ignore graduation norms is pervasive.

That’s no reason to excuse cheating, but it does point to a large...

We know that it’s hard to fire poorly performing teachers, especially after they earn tenure, so the more that districts can do to predict effectiveness ahead of time, the better.

This study by CALDER researchers Paul Bruno and Katharine Strunk examines whether a new teacher hiring and screening process in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second biggest district in the country, is actually ushering in more effective teachers.

Instituted in 2014–15, the Multiple Measures Teacher Selection Process is a standardized system of hiring with eight components whereby eligible candidates (those completing the application packet and meeting certification requirements) are scored on multiple rubrics. The eight components are a structured interview; professional references; sample lesson; writing sample; undergraduate grade point average; subject matter licensure scores; background (such as prior teaching or leadership experience); and preparation (such as attendance at a highly ranked college, evidence of prior teaching effectiveness or major in a credential subject field). The study uses a wealth of applicant data from 2014–15 through 2016–17, as well as teacher- and student-level administrative data for teachers who are ultimately hired and for their students.

Bruno and Strunk observe those individuals who pass the selection process, which typically...

The Ohio House of Representatives just proposed to restructure oversight of K–12 public education by shifting much of the state Board of Education’s power to the governor through a newly formed cabinet-level position.

This would be a serious overhaul, so it’s no surprise that it’s garnering strong reactions. I’m sensitive about reducing the role of a publicly elected board—in no small part because I ran for a seat on it two years ago.

Supporters of the change argue that the board’s current hybrid governance structure—wherein the pubic elects eleven members and the governor appoints eight—is ineffective; they think the governor should be responsible for the direction of education policy and held accountable by voters accordingly. Critics of the proposal contend that reducing the authority of the partially elected board would subvert the will of the voters and replace it with “party politics,” the last thing they want for K–12 public education.

Democracy is rightly one of America’s core principles. But, as Robert Kennedy, Jr. said “Democracy is messy. And it’s hard.” Indeed, running for the state education board laid bare some of its imperfections—and not just because I lost. Elections are sometimes portrayed as ideal forms of...

  1. In the news from Lorain, it appears to be two steps forward as five new administrative positions are filled… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/19/18) …and one step backward as the board president goes fishing for information about stuff. (Elyria Chronicle, 2/21/18) Hey Lorainians! How about a charter school instead? Constellation Schools would like to have a word if for some reason you’re interested. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/20/18)
  2. Enrollment in West Muskingum Schools has been steadily declining for a decade. Open enrollment availability in the rural-ish part of Ohio is partially to blame, say officials, but so also is a declining birth rate in the area. Very perceptive of them, I must say. As a result, teacher positions will likely be eliminated and a new levy placed on the ballot soon. And yes, 7 positions eliminated will result in savings of over $600,000 per year, according to this piece. (Zanesville Times Recorder, 2/17/18)
  3. Speaking of declining enrollment, a taskforce looking at underutilization in Dayton City Schools was said to be speeding up its work—conducting the last of its formal meetings this week, and, seemingly, backing away from more than a couple of consolidations
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If a renewed focus on curriculum as a driver of improvements in K–12 education is in the cards, then a recent study from University of Oregon and Georgia Southern University scientists is good news indeed. It shows that four well-designed online science modules increased student achievement across all student subgroups, and especially for English as a second language (ESL) students and students with disabilities.

The study, a randomized controlled trial with over 2,300 middle school students and their teachers in thirteen schools in Oregon and Georgia, was conducted over three school years between 2014 and 2017. Each year, students in the treatment group completed one module—described as “enhanced online textbooks.” The modules covered life science, Earth and space science, and physical science; were aligned with Next Generation Science Standards; and included teacher professional development regarding their effective use prior to the start of each school year. Pacing was left up to the teachers, although the minimum duration reported was ten weeks. Control group teachers taught these topics “as usual”—i.e., in class without online content. Students in both groups completed pre-tests and post-tests around the specific content of each module.

The researchers found that students in both groups...

For over twenty-five years, center-left and center-right policymakers and advocates in Washington, D.C., and in many states and communities, have worked together to create and grow charter schools that are improving the life outcomes of students, especially those from low-income and minority families.

That remarkable bipartisan alliance—a rarity in Washington today—was threatened in 2017 by wide-ranging criticisms rightly aimed at the new administration on a variety of K–12 reform issues by many thoughtful, progressive, center-left reformers.

The good news is that this fragile coalition seems once again to be on firm ground, though the partnership remains precarious.

The criticisms began with the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, focusing largely on how her home state of Michigan epitomized charter schools gone awry. Pundits and reporters jumped to conclusions, as in the New York Times story “Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools: Its Children Lost.” No doubt some criticisms by those on the center-left were well placed, especially regarding how charter schools are authorized in Michigan, and—not surprisingly—were shared by some on the center-right.

Another criticism—again, not without merit—had to do with the Trump administration’s proposal to cut $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, for K–12 education from the...

In the waning days of January, the Ohio Department of Higher Education gained approval from the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review for two new regulations regarding College Credit Plus (CCP) that will take effect during the quickly approaching summer term of the 2018-19 school year. Here’s a brief look at two of the most significant changes.

Course restrictions

One of the new rules divides available college courses into two categories: Level I and Level II courses. Level I is defined as any of the following:

  • A transferable course, which is defined in detail within the rules
  • A course in computer science, information technology, anatomy, physiology, or foreign language that is not eligible to be a transferable course
  • A technical certificate course, which the rules define as a course that is part of an organized program for a technical certificate offered by a public institution
  • A course included in a model pathway, which are developed by each secondary school in accordance with state law
  • A course designed to teach study skills and other skills for academic and career success to first-year college students
  • An internship
  • Any other course approved by the chancellor

Level II courses...

  1. I hear tell that February is “Career and Technical Education Month” among folks who pay attention to these things. In honor of that (and of them), I first give you an update on what I like to call “OG CTE” – it seems there is a resurgence in the very traditional vocational school models that I remember from my school days. Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/18/18) And secondly I give you the 21st century CTE model which is also, it appears, flourishing. As a secondary note, I would draw your attention to the structure of the school featured here. It is a standalone STEM school located in Ohio – a tuition-free public school that is not a charter and is not run by a district either. It is so borderless that students can attend from anywhere, including across state lines. I don’t know how they manage the financial part of it, but it seems to be working. There are fewer than ten such schools in Ohio but it seems like there ought to be more. If this heavily-biased-toward-such-entities clips compiler says so himself. (Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, 2/16/18)
  2. Editors in Columbus this weekend opined about the proposed consolidation
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