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Editor’s note: Last week, at the University of Southern California, the annual Education Writers Association conference kicked off with a speech by USC professor Shaun Harper on “Big Ideas on Equity, Race, and Inclusion in Education.” That was followed by a panel on the same topic featuring Dr. Harper, Estela Bensimon, Pedro Noguera, and the Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli, moderated by Inside Higher Ed’s Greg Toppo. These were Petrilli’s comments as prepared.

Shaun's comments were well said, though you won't be surprised to know that I disagree with many of his arguments. I'm happy to get into that, as Greg sees fit.

But first I want to focus my comments on you, the reporters.

We all know that this is a difficult time to talk about issues of race and class in this country, thanks to the extreme polarization and division, including on this issue. Of course, President Trump doesn't make it any easier, as he shows no interest in bringing us together or bridging divides. In fact, he seems intent on making the divides even larger, with his awful race-mongering at his rallies and in social media, and with many of the actions his administration...

 
 

Back at the turn of the millennium, we at Fordham published a paper that urged a stronger focus on phonics. Author Louisa Cook Moates wrote: “Reading science is clear: young children need instruction in systematic, synthetic phonics in which they are taught sound-symbol correspondences singly, directly, and explicitly.” The reading wars—the longstanding debate between “whole language” and phonics proponents—has been mostly settled in the U.S. with phonics playing a key role in the federal Reading First program, and having now been embedded in most states’ English language arts standards, including Ohio’s.

Recently, British policymakers also took bold steps to prioritize phonics, i.e., structured instruction that teaches children to “decode” words. Coinciding with an influential 2006 paper known as the “Rose Report,” which recommended phonics as the principal strategy for early literacy, England began requiring its schools to move away from the nation’s “searchlights” model and instead implement phonics-centered instruction for children aged five to seven.

A recent study by Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally, and Martina Viarengo evaluates the impact of this initiative, which also included government aid allowing schools to hire literacy consultants who supported teachers’ transition to...

 
 
Paul Herdman

In the last decade, Delaware’s once very stable economy felt some seismic shifts. The General Motors and Chrysler plants closed, causing the loss of thousands of blue-collar jobs. Dupont, a major employer in Delaware for centuries, was going through a massive merger with Dow Chemical. Couple these shifts with sweeping digital transformations in the banking industry, another staple of our economy, and it was clear: Our once robust economy was now fragile. On top of which, our K–12 system was largely evolving in its own silo, unconnected with these shifts in Delaware’s “real world.” There was a growing gap between what our economy needed and what our kids were able to do.

Fast forward to 2018. All across our small state, young people’s vision of the future is becoming a lot clearer. They’re exploring their passions and matching them to potential careers with the help of a network of expert adults. They have far crisper answers to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. And they’re learning more and more each day just what steps they need to take to reach their dreams.

In a few short years, Delaware Pathways has begun to transform...

 
 
  1. It was a busy hearing in the House Education and Career Readiness Committee yesterday. Lots of bills crammed in there. Our own Chad Aldis was on hand to testify on two bills. First up, Senate Bill 216, the education deregulation bill. Before Chad even hit the witness podium, the Dispatch had coverage of one of his most-important points: keeping the “n-size” for subgroup accountability as small as possible so that accountability for Ohio’s most vulnerable students is maintained. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/22/18) Luckily, Chad is not alone in this view. Details on Chad’s and others’ testimony on that point—and on other aspects of the wide-ranging bill—can be found in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/22/18) The other bill piquing Chad’s interest on yesterday’s docket was that regarding A-F grading for Ohio’s schools and districts. Surprisingly, he was not alone in his efforts to retain A-F this time. You can check out all the testimony in Gongwer, as usual. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/22/18)
     
  2. You can go ahead and ignore the headline of this piece on the deregulation bill, but the detail on some of the bill’s other provisions is solid. (Dayton Daily News, 5/23/18)
     
  3. Here is another early college
  4. ...
 
 

NOTE: The Education and Career Readiness Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives today heard testimony on SB 216, a proposal that would make changes to the regulatory burden of Ohio’s public schools. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a witness at this hearing and these are his written remarks.

Thank you, Chair Brenner, Vice Chair Slaby, Ranking Member Fedor, and House Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity to provide interested party testimony on Senate Bill 216.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

At Fordham, we’ve long believed that scrapping regulations that burden schools, have little to do with student learning, and restrict local flexibility and autonomy is a worthy undertaking. Over the past few years, Ohio legislators have taken small but commendable steps in providing regulatory relief for public schools.

Senate Bill 216 seeks to carry on this tradition, and it does so in a couple admirable ways. First, it provides flexibility around teacher licensing. Although licensing is viewed by...

 
 

NOTE: The Education and Career Readiness Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives today heard testimony on HB 591, a proposal that would make changes to Ohio’s school report cards. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a witness at this hearing and these are his written remarks.

Thank you, Chair Brenner, Vice Chair Slaby, Ranking Member Fedor, and House Education Committee members for the opportunity to provide testimony today in opposition to House Bill 591.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

Strong, transparent school performance information is a key element to creating a high-performing educational system. It can be used to ensure excellent schools are properly recognized and rewarded for their success. It’s also critical in order for local communities and (when necessary) the state to identify chronically low-performing schools where children are grade levels behind and making no discernable progress. This allows the provision of targeted resources to schools in the greatest need of improvement. For this reason, many civil rights and...

 
 
Alex Hernandez

Some of us were in the mode, ‘Fix it, fix it! Fix it tomorrow!’ You know when you feel nauseated and you just want it to stop. Our Chief Academic Officer, Tracy Epp, did a good job of slowing us down and saying, ‘I’m not going to take forever, but this is important enough that we are going to take a few months to figure this out. And we are going to bring our team together to generate all kinds of ideas and then we’re going to make our bets.’ And I think she slowed us down and brought more people on board to try to get the bets right.

—Dacia Toll, co-CEO of Achievement First

Achievement First’s deep dive into its academic programs led to the following conclusions:

Key lessons learned

  • Picture of instruction: Our instruction was overly-scaffolded for students. We needed to focus more on student thinking. Students needed to do more heavy lifting and struggle more.
  • Curriculum: Curriculum matters—a lot. It needs to be unapologetically rigorous. You need to buy best-in-class resources or have a robust process for internal and external vetting of what you create.
  • Adult learning: Student thinking will only be as good
  • ...
 
 

Comparing Ohio K–12 education to other states helps us gauge the pace of progress, provides ideas on improvement, and gets us out of our local “bubble.” In a recent post, my colleague Chad Aldis examined Ohio and Florida’s NAEP results, finding the Buckeye State wanting in terms of gains over the past decade. Terry Ryan has also offered an insightful comparison of Ohio’s charter policies to Idaho’s. This piece follows a similar path and takes a look at Ohio’s charter landscape relative to Arizona’s.

Why the Grand Canyon State? For starters, Arizona has a significant charter enrollment of about 180,000 students, or 16 percent of public-school enrollment (Ohio has roughly 110,000, or 7 percent). Arizona charters are also producing some stellar results. As Matthew Ladner has repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) shown, Arizona charters have posted high scores on NAEP—and for two years straight, US News & World Report placed several of them in its top-ten high schools in nation.

Let’s start by comparing a couple terrific maps that my Fordham colleagues produced in their recent Charter School Deserts report. Figure 1 displays the charter locations for the Cleveland...

 
 

During the recent celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter Schools Week, Fordham Ohio staffers shared stories of the teachers, counselors, and schools that made a positive difference in their education and in their lives. You can read about:

 
 

Ohio is no stranger to district turnarounds. Back in 2007, academic distress commissions (ADCs) were added to state law as a way for the state to intervene in districts that consistently fail to meet academic standards. The law was updated in 2015 via House Bill 70, which sharpened the powers of ADCs and significantly altered the way they were run. Some of the biggest changes included lessening the power of the local school board, empowering a CEO, and offering opportunities for expanded quality choice.

Although Lorain City Schools also immediately fell under the purview of the restructured ADC law, many considered Youngstown City Schools to be the primary target. After five unsuccessful years under the previous ADC framework, legislators insisted on more drastic action. The overhauled Youngstown ADC was appointed in December 2015, and CEO Krish Mohip was hired in June 2016. By September of that year, Mohip had unveiled the district’s new strategic plan for 2016–19.

In just a few short months, the final full year of implementation of the district’s strategic plan will begin and bring the district one step closer to a decade’s worth of ADC management. There...

 
 

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