Flypaper

A new working paper by Calder analyzes whether federally funded school turnarounds in North Carolina have impacted student outcomes.

The study uses achievement, demographic and descriptive data about teachers and principals for K–8 schools in the 2010–2014 school years, as well as teacher survey data from North Carolina’s biannual Teacher Working Conditions Survey. The data set includes eighty-five elementary and middle schools that were subject to the state’s school turnaround program, which was funded by federal Race to the Top funds. Most schools used a “transformation model” of turnaround that required replacing the principal, along with other instructional interventions like increasing learning time (but no teacher terminations).

The analysis uses a regression discontinuity design, wherein assignment to the treatment and control groups are based on a school falling right above or below the cut point for placement into the turnaround program. The idea is that whether a school is just above or just below the cut is essentially random.

The key findings: The program had a mostly negative effect on test scores in math and reading—especially so in math. It decreased average attendance by between 0.4 and 1.2 percentage points in 2012 (the first full year after the program was...

Late last month it was revealed that Sean Combs, the hip-hop mogul better known as Diddy or Puff Daddy, was behind the creation of a new charter school set to open in Harlem this fall. Good for him and good for Harlem. We can never have too many good schools.

But truth to tell, the neighborhood is already awash in successful, high-profile charter schools, including Success Academy, KIPP, Harlem Children's Zone and Democracy Prep, where I'm a senior adviser and civics teacher. Harlem is one of the most robust charter school marketplaces in the country. If Diddy is in it for the long haul and determined to make a difference in for low-income kids of color, let me offer an alternative suggestion: He should lend his name, resources and celebrity aura to lead a revival of urban Catholic schools.

He's perfect for the role. Back when he was still Sean Combs, Diddy attended and graduated from Mount Saint Michael Academy, a Catholic school in The Bronx. He must have thought highly of the education he received, since he sent at least one of his children to Catholic school too. Diddy's oldest son, Justin, was a standout athlete at...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires a “negotiated rulemaking” process whenever the Department of Education issues regulations under parts of the law pertaining to assessments, academic standards, and several other topics. This process requires a panel of experts, which the agency assembled in March. Their work thus far (they’ve met twice) has revealed major problems on the regulatory front concerning gifted and high-achieving students. These issues need immediate attention, including close scrutiny by the lawmakers who crafted ESSA.

As Education Week explains the process, panel members “essentially get together in a room and try to hammer out an agreement with the department. If the process fails, which it often does, the feds go back to the drawing board and negotiate through the regular process, which involves releasing a draft rule, getting comments on it, and then putting out a final rule.” The Department of Education assists this process with issues papers (which provide background), discussion questions, and draft regulatory language that the panel can edit based on its discussions.

Last week, the group tackled assessments, an area of ESSA that directly affects gifted and high-achieving students. Unfortunately, in the twenty-plus pages of draft regulations and seven issue papers that accompanied those discussions,...

Princeton University announced last week that it would preserve the name of Woodrow Wilson on several buildings and programs, though it had plenty of reasons to do otherwise. In his years leading the university and, later, the United States, Wilson acted as a vehicle for racist impulses that right-thinking people now find abhorrent. Outraged undergraduates, marinated in the activist pique so prevalent on American campuses, walked out of class this fall in protest against what they deemed maltreatment of minority students. A handful staged a sit-in in the office of the school’s current president, Christopher Eisgruber, who responded by pledging to study the issue of Wilson’s legacy. By November, the call for change was being echoed in the New York Times editorial page.

Ultimately, it went unheeded. The special committee assembled by Princeton’s trustees to decide the issue recommended against expunging Wilson’s name from a residence hall and the famed school of international relations. Instead, the university will initiate an effort to diversify campus art, encourage more minority students to pursue graduate degrees, and explore the truth of the former president’s impact on American life. His presence at Princeton is secure, at least for now.

The...

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...

Social Impact Bonds (SIB), also known as “pay for success” loans, are a novel form of financing social service interventions, including education initiatives. First piloted six years ago in the United Kingdom and now making their way to the United States, SIBs aim to leverage private funding to start new programs or scale proven ones. Broadly speaking, the instrument works like this: Private lenders and philanthropists deliver dollars—the bond—to a nonprofit provider that, in turn, implements the intervention. A government agency pays back the bond principal with interest, but only if the program achieves pre-specified results.

In its ideal form, an SIB has the potential to be a triple win: Governments receive risk-free funding to test or expand social programs that could help them save money; investors reap a financial return if the program works; and providers gain access to new sources of funding. To ensure that the deal will benefit all parties, due diligence occurs on the front end, including selecting a program provider, estimating government savings, and developing an evaluation method. 

To date, the discussion on SIBs has been largely conceptual, engaging both supporters and skeptics alike. But a fascinating new report written by MDRC President Gordon Berlin provides a first-hand...

In recent years, a few early childhood advocates have blasted the Common Core State Standards for their “harmful” effects on kindergarteners, particularly in reading. While a careful examination of the standards reveals this claim to be overstated—and overheated—the notion that we are killing kindergarten was gaining traction long before Common Core came onto the scene. Until now, this narrative has been informed largely by anecdotal evidenceidealism, and good old-fashioned nostalgia. Noting that “surprisingly little empirical evidence” has been gathered on the changing nature of kindergarten classrooms, this paper attempts to fill the void by comparing kindergarten and first-grade classrooms in 1998 and 2010—capturing the changes in teachers’ perceptions of kindergarten over time.

Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, researchers compared survey response data from public school kindergarten teachers in 1998 and 2010 to investigate changes across five dimensions: teachers’ beliefs about school readiness, curricular focus and use of time, classroom materials, pedagogical approach, and assessment practices.

Overall, researchers found that kindergarten has indeed become more like first grade. When asked to rate the importance of thirteen school readiness skills, 2010 teachers tended to rate all of them as more important than their 1998 counterparts had. This was true for academic skills (identifying letters,...

A recent study released by NCES compares the competencies and skill levels of U.S. adults to their counterparts in foreign countries. The study relies heavily on the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which tests three “domains”: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

Researchers looked at data from 2012 and 2014 on a representative sample of 8,670 U.S. households—including PIAAC test scores, educational attainment, employment status, and more. They split the sample into three subgroups: unemployed adults (ages 16–65), employed young adults (ages 16–34), and employed older adults (ages 66–74).

Analysts found that, compared to people in other participating countries, U.S. adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have lower average PIAAC scale scores in numeracy and problem solving. American young people are less ready for college and career, and larger percentages of them scored in PIAAC’s lowest level in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

Moreover, compared to the international average, U.S. students who graduate high school typically only possess reading, math, and problem solving skills needed to complete brief and simple tasks in the workplace. And 69 percent of unemployed young adults in the United States scored at PIAAC’s lowest level in problem solving. That’s far...

Allow me to let you in on a little secret from deep inside the nation's policy making machinery: Policy elites view the rise of Donald Trump—the candidate and everything he stands for—with equal parts alarm and revulsion. That's probably not much of a secret. A campaign that draws its oxygen from anti-elite sentiments probably doesn't expect much attention or affection from think tanks and serious people in education reform. Not surprisingly, there hasn't been much.

But it's well past time to start thinking seriously about education reform in the Trump era. Even if 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue becomes the one piece of real estate destined never to be festooned with the candidate's surname, the restive 2016 campaign should serve as a wake-up call. Broad swaths of Americans feel disconnected from public institutions and are convinced that policy makers don't understand or much care about them.

Education policy has done little to bridge that divide. When downwardly mobile white, working-class Americans hear us talking about education reform, it's a fair bet they don't think we're talking about them and their children. And they're not mistaken. The priorities and language of reformers—achievement gaps, no-excuses schools, social justice, and the "civil rights issue of our...

Policy wonks and political prognosticators have begun to forecast the collateral damage that is apt to follow if Donald Trump manages—in spite of himself, and notwithstanding his Wisconsin setback—to win the Republican nomination, damaging not only GOP prospects for retrieving the White House but also the party’s odds of prevailing in innumerable races for Congress and for state (and even local) leadership. Following in the wake of those generally dire prognostications are early conjectures about the policy shifts that may ensue in sundry realms both international and domestic if Democrats are positioned to chart the future course.

For education reformers parsing this prospect, it’s useful first to recall the many worthy changes that followed the GOP’s 2010 sweep of a galaxy of state and federal offices (obviously omitting the one that’s ovular). Though nothing in the list below is (from my perspective) perfect, it’s hard to picture many—perhaps any—of these things happening had Republicans not been in positions of influence:

  • New assessments in most states, geared to higher academic standards and featuring higher “cut scores” that correspond more accurately and honestly to the actual demands of college, career, and international competitiveness
  • Accelerating the spread of school choice, both the public version (typically
  • ...

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