Flypaper

Kevin R. Kosar

As Flypaper readers know all too well, newly arrived Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., is in hot water with Congress, state governors, and various school reformers. The Department of Education is moving forward with rules that would turn the Every Student Succeeds Act’s “supplement not supplant” provision into a cudgel to force states to equalize school spending.

In a statement released last month, King made matters worse by trying to justify the department's overreach as keeping with the legislation’s history—going back to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—as a civil-rights measure:

Six decades after Brown v. Board, we have failed to close opportunity and achievement gaps for our African-American and Latino students at every level of education. And in far too many schools, we continue to offer them less—less access to the best teachers and the most challenging courses; less access to the services and supports that affluent students often take for granted; and less access to what it takes to succeed academically.

So we have urgent work to do as a country to truly provide equitable educational opportunities for all students. But we believe we stand better positioned to move...

This is the third in a series of essays marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of America’s first charter school law. These commentaries are informed and inspired by our forthcoming book (co-authored with Bruno V. Manno), Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities, to be published in this fall by Harvard Education Press. Read the others here, here, here, here.

As noted in our first essay, chartering evolved from many theories, responded to many needs, sought to solve many problems, and embodied many hopes. These diverse tributaries flooded the charter stream with an abundance of different life forms. Yet one species has emerged at the top of the food chain, and its prominence has brought some risk to the ecosystem.

Charter schools today primarily serve poor and minority children, the kids who typically fare worst in big district school systems. Many state charter laws give priority to schools focused on at-risk students. Some states confine chartering to urban areas. And disadvantaged families typically enjoy fewer excellent school options, so they are more apt to choose charters when possible.

The “no-excuses” model has emerged as the most effective strategy for giving these kids a fresh lease...

[T]here are a myriad of strategies out there that ostensibly can make a difference for our children, but no matter which ones we pursue, their potential impact will be diminished if we do not find ways to empower poor parents to be able to exercise influence on the nature and direction of their children’s education. For me, the height of hypocrisy in America is to hear people whose children are taken care of, to oppose choices for poor parents.…I hear Clinton and Gore and all these people get up, talking about why we got to protect the existing system. Where do they send their kids? How can a teacher tell a poor parent, “I would never put my child in this school that your child is in, but you ought to keep your child here”? If it’s not good enough for their children, how in the world is it good enough for anybody’s children?

            –Howard Fuller, 1998

Howard Fuller’s famous, inaugural “Change the Complexion of the Room" speech was delivered on the occasion of the Center for Education Reform’s (CER) fifth anniversary. I had invited Howard precisely because I thought he’d “school” the growing education reform movement about why they...

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is looming on the horizon, and education leaders and policy makers are in need of accurate information regarding stakeholder perceptions and opinions. The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) recently answered that call by releasing a comprehensive survey of perceptions of K–12 assessment. The survey asked a range of assessment-related questions to superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students.    

Some of the results are unsurprising. For instance, more than seven in ten teachers, principals, and superintendents say that students spend too much time taking assessments. Their opinions on specific tests vary, however. Six in ten teachers rate their states’ accountability tests as fair or poor, but most gave a thumbs-up to both formative assessments and classroom tests and quizzes developed by teachers. The approval gap between state tests and other assessments is most likely due to their perceived usefulness. While state tests give a summative picture of student performance, they aren’t designed to provide diagnostic information or inform instruction—functions that classroom tests and formative assessments perform well. (Of course, let’s not forget that NWEA makes millions of dollars selling a formative assessment.)

In contrast to teachers and administrators, three out of four students and approximately half...

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states now have greater flexibility regarding accountability and how to assess student learning. States are still required to test students in math, English language arts, and science at least once in high school, but now they can choose between continuing to deliver a state-designed test or adopting a “nationally recognized state assessment.” This might include tests used by multiple states that are also widely accepted by institutions of higher education (like the ACT or SAT) or tests created by consortium of states, such as Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

To help states navigate this transition, Education First’s High-Quality Assessment Project (HQAP) recently commissioned a brief that frames key choices and tradeoffs that states should consider in selecting their high school assessments. Although it might sound desirable in theory to streamline high school assessments into one single test (almost half of all states currently require students to take the ACT or SAT at some point during high school), author and assessment expert Erin O’Hara encourages policy makers and educators to ask several important high-level questions: What is each test intended to measure (high school content...

A new study by Dan Goldhaber and colleagues examines whether a teacher candidate exam (“edTPA”) predicts both the likelihood of employment in the teacher workforce and of teacher effectiveness via value-added measures.

edTPA is a performance-based assessment developed by Linda Darling Hammond and other researchers at Stanford. It is administered to would-be teachers during their student teaching experience. Like the National Boards, it’s a portfolio-based assessment that includes between three and five videotaped lessons from candidates, as well as lesson plans, student work samples, evidence of student learning, and reflective commentaries written by candidates. The test assesses three areas (planning, instruction, and assessment); it includes fifteen scoring rubrics, for a maximum summative score of seventy-five; and it comprises assessments for twenty-seven different teaching fields, such as early childhood, secondary science, and special education. At present, edTPA is used in six hundred teacher education programs in forty states, and passing it is a licensure requirement in seven of them (states determine the passing score). Candidates pay $300 for the exam and can re-submit any failed tasks.

The study’s dataset comprises roughly 2,300 teacher candidates in Washington State teacher education programs who took the edTPA in the 2013–14 school year. (Results, for...

Derrell Bradford

You can only watch a dragon eat its tail for so long before you feel compelled to intervene.

As I’ve watched the education community react to Robert Pondiscio’s argument that the Left is driving conservatives out of education reform, I’ve been increasingly frustrated to see so many people whom I like and respect (from Marilyn Rhames to Justin CohenChris Stewart, and Jay Greene) take aim at one another. I’m also convinced that the teachers’ unions are all having a good laugh at us while we play this verbal game of the Dozens amongst ourselves.

At the center of this conflict: A dividing line is being drawn between “markets” and “equity” as principles driving change in our schools. These two themes are both found in the underlying conflict of Pondiscio’s piece about the contrast between market/conservative solutions like school choice and the power of a movement like Black Lives Matter (with which the more progressive wing of the reform movement identifies).

I believe that Pondiscio’s piece only featured Black Lives Matter and the agenda of this year’s New Schools Venture Fund Summit (which I attended) as a proxy for capturing the changing view and face of the education...

Martín Pérez

Last week, a long-simmering debate about which kinds of diversity—ideological, political, socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic—should matter most in our education reform community boiled over into public view.

This debate comes at an interesting time in my life because I am in the middle of a year-long leadership development program—50CAN’s Education Advocacy Fellowship—that was created to provide an on-ramp for more people to serve as education reform leaders. This experience has led me to realize something so simple it’s perhaps overlooked in all the back and forth over this debate:

There is more than enough work to go around.

It is exactly because of the scale and complexity of the challenges we face, and the numerous gaps left unfilled, that the best work in education advocacy is increasingly being carried out by coalitions that span the traditional divides.

That means intentionally elevating both ideologically diverse and racially and socioeconomically diverse leaders—because we all have something unique and different to contribute. Making room for a greater diversity of voices doesn’t have to mean asking anyone to step back from their work.

During my time in the 50CAN fellowship, I have come to learn from and respect the contributions made by conservatives who...

Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico, is the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. He’ll face off (with running mate William Weld) in November against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here are some of his views on education:

  1. School choice: “I think I was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice—believing that the only way to really reform education was to bring competition to public education. So for six straight years as governor of New Mexico, I proposed a full-blown voucher system that would’ve brought about that competition.” August 2012.
  2. Federal role in education: “I think that the number-one thing that the federal government could do when it comes to the delivery of education would be to abolish itself from the education business….It’s also important to point out that the federal Department of Education was established in 1979. And there is nothing to suggest that, since 1979, that the federal Department of Education has been value-added regarding anything. So just get the federal government out of education.” August 2012.
  3. Common Core: “[Gary Johnson] opposes Common Core and any other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools.” June 2016 (from his campaign website).
  4. Teacher
  5. ...
Kathryn Haydon

In my work with hundreds of families, I have observed one common truth: Parents are the experts on their own children, especially when it comes to giftedness. Parents often observe certain characteristics in their children and view them as positive traits—until those same characteristics are regarded negatively in school. Though there may be outside pressure not to accept a “gifted” or “highly creative” label, sometimes that designation is the one thing that can save a child from being misinterpreted and misidentified.

Recognizing the highly creative child

Sometimes it’s not easy for highly creative children to “comply” with a regular curriculum, even at the preschool age. They are wired to explore, experiment, build, imagine, and create. If forced at a young age into a diet heavy on rote learning and directed work, they may struggle. It’s not that these children can’t do the work. It’s that the work does not engage their depth of thinking, their ability to make connections, or their desire to contribute original ideas. Their needs are so much more complex than what a traditional classroom can meet, especially if they want to voraciously pursue knowledge on their own.

Creative traits in action

So that you may see...

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