Flypaper

Yesterday, I jokingly tweeted that since today would be a snowy Friday before a holiday weekend, the U.S. Department of Education would probably release SIG data. (They’ve executed numerous SIG-related “Friday afternoon trash dumps” in an attempt to minimize the field’s attention to this failed—and massively expensive—program.)

Turns out my joke wasn’t funny at all. 

They’ve done it again.

As you might remember, several months ago, the Department released second-year results, meaning two years of data from cohort-one SIG schools and one year of data from cohort-two schools. But they had to retract the data because of mistakes made by a contractor.

So today, they’ve released the corrected information.

On a Friday afternoon.

Before a holiday weekend.

I’ve belabored the fiasco that is SIG, so I won’t pile on today. I just hope someone, someone, in the Department is saying, “If we find ourselves continually dumping bad SIG news, shouldn’t we just admit we messed up and ask Congress to end this program?”

Here’s what you need to know.

  • When the program launched, we were told that this now-$6 billion program would produce “dramatic” improvements in our most troubled schools. The Secretary talked of “transformation not tinkering.”
  • The most persistently low-performing schools in American got several million dollars, on average, and yet a third of them got worse.
  • On average, schools with two years of funding and interventions under their belts saw a three percentage point gain in reading proficiency—just about the same gain as all
  • ...
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Nothing helps pass the time better when you’re snowed in than some high-quality edu-reading. Here’s some of the best stuff I’ve come across recently.

Public Impact has produced a very good and very important report on “extraordinary authority districts,” entities like Louisiana’s Recovery School District. It’s exactly the kind of nuts-and-bolts document that’s needed right now. Many states are considering such bodies, and this is a thoughtful guide—informed by our experience to date—for how to do it right.

A group of University of Missouri researchers compared three different types of growth measures: “student-growth percentiles,” a.k.a. SGP (my preferred method), and two “value-added models,” a.k.a. VAM. They found that a VAM approach that incorporates a comparison of demographically similar schools produces the best results (for a number of reasons). The full working paper is a bit dense, but the shorter Education Next article is accessible and very informative. Growth measures are important and here to stay; this piece will help you bone up.

NACSA and Charter School Growth Fund have put together a good, short report on how to ensure that the charter sector’s future growth leads to more and more high-quality seats and fewer low-quality ones. It has valuable policy recommendations and even better suggestions for improving authorizer practice. I particularly liked the report’s view that authorizers aren’t just disinterested umpires—they also have a role to play in identifying and replicating great schools.

I really enjoyed Fordham’s recent...

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Over the past eight years, New Orleans students have achieved what few previously thought was possible. In her recent Atlantic article on charter-school discipline policies in New Orleans, Meredith Simons recognizes these gains, noting that “New Orleans’s graduation rate has surpassed the state’s, growing from 54.4 percent in 2004 to 77.8 percent in 2012.”

Yet Ms. Simons, as well as others, believes that these gains have come at a high cost—that the results, while impressive, have too often relied on discipline policies that “feel at odds with the city’s culture.” In her article, Ms. Simons proposes her own ideal solution for melding our city’s culture with a positive school climate. And, to be honest, her vision sounds great. I imagine many parents would (and do) take pleasure in sending their children to such a school. And I’m thrilled that she and her colleagues have created an excellent school.

However, I do wish Ms. Simons had visited the schools she critiqued, as she might have gained an understanding of why parents send their children to these schools.

Because what often goes unexplained in such stories is this: Sci Academy, the flagship school of the nonprofit of whose school culture has come under attack, happens to be the third-most popular school for ninth-grade enrollees in the entire city.

The school that is supposedly inapposite to New Orleans’s culture happens to be amongst...

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For a couple weeks now, I’ve been obsessing over this map. It’s the product of a remarkable research project that collected and analyzed the incomes of the thirty-year olds who were born between 1980 and 1982.

The map shows, by small geographic areas, the likelihood that a child born into the lowest-income quintile ended up (as an adult) in the highest-income quintile.

This isn’t the necessarily the best indicator of economic mobility, but it is still edifying. (The fantastic interactive map from the Times allows you to look at mobility from a number of other angles, as well).

A whole lot of staring at this map and some additional research has produced ten thoughts—most of them gloomy.

  1. The miniscule chance of a rags-to-riches rise in some locations takes my breath away. In Memphis, the chance of this “lowest-to-highest” movement is only 2.6 percent. Atlanta, at 4 percent, is barely better.
  2. The stickiness of poverty in some locations is heartrending. In most of the red areas in the Mississippi Delta, a child born into a family at the tenth percentile of earnings has a 75 percent chance of having an adulthood in one of the bottom two economic quintiles. 

    This is a catastrophic distortion of the American Dream.
     
  3. The belt of red in the Southeast is absolutely shameful. An entire swath of our nation is constricting the opportunities of low-income kids. The “Rust Belt,” once the nation’s manufacturing
  4. ...
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A first look at today's most important education news:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that he will formalize his policy on charging charter schools rent. Meanwhile, state officials say they would consider pulling back some building aid if the city appears to turn a profit on space used by charter schools. (Capital Playbook and Wall Street Journal)

Researchers find that the number of nonacademic professional and administrative employees at colleges and universities in the U.S. has doubled in the last twenty-five years, greatly outstripping the growth in the number of students or faculty. (Stay tuned for a soon-to-be-released Fordham report on similar issues in K–12 education.) (Hechinger Report)

A Vanderbilt survey finds that 63 percent of Tennessee teachers who teach subjects impacted by the Common Core think that the new standards will improve their instruction. (Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation, and Development)

The U.S. Census Bureau will overhaul the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a cross-sectional study that tracks over a four-year period the economic health of families. (Inside School Research)

The Understanding Language initiative will teach a second set of free MOOCs this spring for teachers seeking information on how to support English-language learners with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards. (Learning the Language)...

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If you want to understand why supporters of the Common Core are frustrated—OK, exasperated—by some of our opponents’ seemingly unlimited willingness to engage in dishonest debate, consider this latest episode.

On Monday, EAG News published an article entitled, “Common Core math question for sixth graders: Was the 2000 election ‘fair’?

Would you ever consider the question ‘Whom do you want to be president?’ to be asked of your third grader during a math class (or any class)?

Would you expect your fourth grader to be asked to create a chart of presidents along with their political persuasions? Or, how about a discussion on whether the 2000 presidential election resulted in a “fair” outcome? Or, what if the teacher for your sixth grader was advised to “be prepared” to discuss the “politically charged” 2000 election - all during math.

Common Core aligned, of course.

This was picked up by the Daily Caller’s Eric Owens on Wednesday, who piled on via his article, “Common Core MATH lesson plans attack Reagan, list Lincoln’s religion as ‘liberal’”

Another week has gone by and, like clockwork, some more hilariously awful Common Core math lessons have oozed out of the woodwork.

And the story jumped to cable news this morning on a Fox segment, “Common Core lesson lists Abraham Lincoln as a liberal.”

So this is pretty damning for the Common Core, right?

Wrong.

Let’s...

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Greg Weiner

This is a cliché by now, but the public schools where I live are producing test takers: pretty good ones, as far as the numbers show. At parent night at the beginning of the school year, we were introduced to a curricular program explicitly built around “assessments”—the new euphemism, I gather; maybe it intimidates less. A new study now purports to show that testing doesn’t enhance cognition. I’m not sure it was supposed to, but in any event, the critique is that teaching to the test fails to improve learning outcomes. I’m inclined—warning: this is anecdotal—to believe it does improve them, but toward the bottom, where massive investments are being made. What we may be losing in the bargain is what these tests don’t capture: excellence at the top. Welcome to Tocqueville’s democratic equality.

The Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative encourages all this; we can thank No Child Left Behind for it, too. Enormous resources are being invested to lift those at the bottom who are unprepared to learn, have difficulty taking tests, and so forth. This is unsurprising: what gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets done faster. It is difficult to believe the effect is not positive: that learning to do better on math tests, for example, does not at some level teach some students to do better at math.

The problem is that there’s only so well bright kids can do on these exams, and the incentive to invest in them...

A first look at today's most important education news:

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A first look at today's most important education news:

  • The New York Times profiles how pre-Kindergarten is having a “moment,” with support starting to stretch across party lines.
  • This week, Gallup is commencing a survey of 30,000 graduates of four-year universities in an attempt to gauge the value of a higher education. (Hechinger Report)
  • PBS airs American Promise, a documentary chronicling two African American, middle-class boys’ divergent paths from Kindergarten to high-school graduation. (You can watch the film online for free until March 6.) (PBS and NPR)
  • Connecticut, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Vermont are granted testing waivers, allowing them to exchange their standardized tests with PARCC or Smarter Balance field tests this spring. (Curriculum Matters)
  • New research from Education Next examines three school- and teacher-evaluation approaches, concluding that growth measures ought to compare the performance of schools and teachers in similar circumstances.
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Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansAncient Asian Cultures; the Early American civilizationsAncient GreeceNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery; the American founders;  movie adaptations of classic children’s books; and American folk heroes.

They say a think tank is a “university without students,” so in that spirit I took a winter break from our Netflix Academy series. But with January behind us, it’s time to get started once again. Not to mention, the weather this week is reminiscent of Washington’s winter at Valley Forge. (How’s that for a segue?) That’s right, it’s time for the best streaming videos on Colonial America and the Revolutionary War! Note that a few of these are for older audiences; you also can’t go wrong by dialing up the fantastic animated show Liberty’s Kids, though it will cost you a couple of bucks an episode on Amazon. Enjoy!

Best videos on Colonial America and the Revolutionary War

1. Jamestown: The Beginning

Jamestown The Beginning

This is a historical overview of America's first permanent English settlement, including Jamestown's origins in England and the first quarter-century of the

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