Flypaper

Last night, President Obama promised to use the stroke of his pen to push forward initiatives upon which Congress refuses to act. In the education realm, this is nothing new (see: conditional ESEA waivers) and generally nothing to cheer. But just this morning, the U.S. Department of Education took an executive action that I support strongly, issuing new guidance for the Public Charter Schools Program that will allow charters to use “weighted lotteries” without forfeiting their chance to receive federal start-up funds.

I’ve been making the case for such an allowance for years; Sam Chaltain, Rick Kahlenberg and I did so again just the other day in the Washington Post. The premise is pretty simple: charter schools that want to be socioeconomically diverse sometimes struggle to maintain a healthy balance if they are forced to use a single random lottery. That’s because the best charters often become so popular with middle-class parents that they flood the lotteries and end up taking most of the available seats.

In fact, some of the most successful diverse charter schools, such as the Denver School of Science and Technology and High Tech High, have decided to pass on federal start-up funds so they can use lotteries that achieve their integration goals. Now they won’t have to.

This will also help charter schools, like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies, that seek to enroll more English-language learners or students from other underserved subgroups. (New York charters are required by law to serve a...

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Vince Bertram

Our nation’s education crisis is not exaggerated, nor is the risk to our economic prosperity and national security. The United States Department of Commerce estimates that by 2018, our country will have 1.2 million unfilled jobs in the science, technology, engineer, and math (STEM) fields because the workforce will not possess the necessary skills or interest to fill them —this in a country with a 7 percent unemployment rate.

An analysis of the recent National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) results—often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card—paints a bleak picture. The tests measure the progress of our nation’s fourth- and eighth-grade students in math and reading every two years. While we saw a slight improvement (a one-percentage-point increase in math and a two-percentage-point increase in reading from 2011 to 2013), the real headline is this: overall achievement among our nation’s fourth and eighth graders from 2007 to 2013 is flat. To put it another way, over the past half of a decade, nearly half of American fourth- and eighth-grade students continue to fail to perform at a basic level in math and reading.

Despite these results, I am confident we can change course and better prepare our nation’s youth for college and careers. After all, our nation has a proven record of resilience and focus. But success will not happen without a clear path carefully and intentionally created by educators, administrators, business, nonprofit, and government leaders, as well as anyone else concerned about the United States’ future....

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It’s no fun to argue with friends—at least not about serious matters—and worse to find respected colleagues slipping into error or avoiding reality. But that’s my regretful take on where Jay Greene and Rick Hess have headed on the (admittedly tricky) issue of accountability for voucher schools.

The policy question is indisputably important: are voucher-bearing kids, their parents, and the policymakers and taxpayers who make their participation possible well served by the education they acquire at the private schools they attend? Is this a good investment of public dollars? Is it worth the political tussles that such programs invariably trigger?

Similar questions must be asked about youngsters who benefit from tax-credit scholarships, the difference being that the dollars involved in those programs are not actually “public.” Rather, they are monies that never enter the public fisc because they are routed into the scholarship programs instead. But that, too, is an education investment arising from politically fraught decisions by policy makers—and anyone who cares about either an individual child’s education or the cultivation of an educated society must also ask whether these schools are effective.

Believing that these are important matters, we at Fordham have, on several occasions, urged an “accountability” regime for private-school-choice programs that includes both test results and fiscal transparency on the part of participating schools. We’ve also recommended a “sliding scale” whereby a school’s continued participation in the program would hinge in part on the...

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Sam Chaltain, Richard Kahlenberg, and Michael J. Petrilli

From 2000 to 2010, the white share of the District of Columbia’s population grew from 30.8 percent to38 percent . And from 2000 to 2012, the median household income in the city rose 23.3 percent while the nation saw a 6.6 percent decline, adjusted for inflation. This rapid gentrification provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create racially and socioeconomically integrated public schools. The D.C. Advisory Committee on Student Assignment, which is redrawing school boundary lines and feeder patterns, should seize this opportunity.

Middle-class families have moved into neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Petworth in large numbers. And many of these families are staying in the District even after their kids are old enough to attend school.

Meanwhile, more parents in D.C. neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park are sending their kids to public schools, resulting in fewer spots for “out of boundary” students in the most sought-after neighborhood schools such as Lafayette, Murch and Eaton elementary schools or Deal Middle School.

As a result, more-affluent parents in the transitioning neighborhoods — squeezed out of schools west of the park and unable to afford private schools — are taking a shot at either the elementary school down the street or a diverse charter school nearby. In several cases, this has been an orchestrated effort, organized via community meetings or e-mail discussion groups. The trend is particularly pronounced in both district and charter preschool programs, resulting in class rolls that are much more diverse than those in the upper...

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Our slim new book Knowledge at the Core: Don Hirsch, Core Knowledge, and the Future of the Common Core has three large aims. First, it pays tribute to three decades of scholarship and service to American education by E. D. (Don) Hirsch, Jr., author of Cultural Literacy (and three other prescient books on education reform) and founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation. Second, it restates the case for a sequential, content-rich curriculum for America’s elementary and middle schools. Third, it strives to chart a course for the future, a future in which many more schools embrace Hirsch’s Core Knowledge program—or something akin to it—en route to successful attainment of the Common Core State Standards for English language arts/literacy and mathematics.

Five of the essays included in the volume were first presented at a December 2013 conference in Washington, D.C., cohosted by the Fordham Institute and the Manhattan Institute. Video from that event, and a terrific documentary about Don and his contributions to American education, are available on our website at edexcellence.net/hirsch.

That day left us hopeful—not a word that often comes to mind amidst the rancorous debates now swirling about education in general and the Common Core in particular. Yet Don himself is, by admission, an unwavering optimist; his enthusiasm is as contagious as his ideas are bracing. So in that spirit, let us make the hopeful case that many more of America’s schools are on the precipice of finally embracing those ideas—and thereby boosting their students’ chances of achieving...

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

  • A new study led by Harvard scholar Raj Chetty suggests that poor children’s opportunities for upward social mobility are exactly the same today as they were over half a century ago. The authors have a bone to pick with both Democrats and Republicans: They explicitly question Obama’s “Great Gatsby Curve” (the concept that increasing inequality will decrease mobility over time), but they also suggests that Republicans oughtn’t downplay inequality in favor of focusing exclusively on mobility. (Equality of Opportunity Project and Washington Post)
  • Hechinger Ed examines Governor Cuomo’s and Mayor de Blasio’s posturing over their early-childhood-education plans, noting that the narrative seems to be more about politics than the merits of high-quality pre-Kindergarten education.
  • After two recent civil-rights complaints, District of Columbia lawmakers seem ready to pass Title IX legislation, which would address disparities between boys’ and girls’ opportunities to play sports in public schools. (Washington Post)
  • Charters & Choice rounds up the action on private-school vouchers across the land.
  • Two reports find that the K–12 publishing and ed-technology industries are seeing a jump in sales, attributing the upturn to schools’ increasing usage of digital resources, an improving economy, and new Common Core–aligned materials. (Education Week)
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The rumor around the water coolers in D.C. is that President Obama plans to mention the Common Core State Standards in his State of the Union Address next week—for the third year running. He should reconsider, for three reasons.

First, it will feed the narrative that Common Core is, in fact, a federal takeover of public education.

Many Common Core opponents I debate on talk-radio shows or speak with in person eventually get around to admitting they have very few problems with the standards themselves and think they are better than what their state had in place before (we think so too). But, as Andy Smarick wrote earlier this week,

They are skeptical of big promises and big government. They are skeptical of centralized solutions. And they are skeptical of enlightened national leaders who pat them on their heads.

Remember, they were told by such enlightened leaders that if they liked their insurance, they could keep it. They are once bitten, twice shy.

Why would an administration that has already insulted Common Core opponents give them another reason to claim that this is true?

Second, the President is deeply unpopular; associating himself with the Common Core is simply unhelpful. As of writing, Gallup put the President’s approval rating at 39 percent. His approval among Republicans, like those who will be determining the fate of the Common Core in the states where the issue is most contentious, is likely dipping near or into the single digits. Even if...

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

  • The Cato Institute launches the “Public Schooling Battle Map,” an attempt to record and categorize the battles that have occurred around public education since 2005. (Cato)
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo outlines his education priorities while presenting his proposed 2014–15 budget for New York State. He wants to allocate an additional $807 million in state school aid, partially to go towards teacher-merit-pay program and expansion of pre-K funding. (Chalkbeat)
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, argues that Cuomo’s proposed $1.5 billion over five years for pre-K with no tax surcharge is not good enough. This highlights the tension between Cuomo, a centrist who has repeatedly pledged to reduce taxes, and de Blasio, a steadfast liberal who made a campaign promise to fund pre-K in the Big Apple by raising taxes on the wealthy. (New York Post and New York Times)
  • Also while outlining his budget proposal, Cuomo announced the creation of a panel that will study the way the state has implemented the Common Core and recommend any “corrective actions.” (Curriculum Matters)
  • The Hechinger Report releases a two-part analysis of the problems associated with Chicago’s longer school day, primarily related to the policy’s “one-size-fits-all” nature.
  • A survey conducted by Common Sense Media finds that nine out of ten American voters are both worried and uninformed about student data privacy. (Digital Education)
  • An Education Week op-ed warns that although
  • ...
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A first look at today's most important education news:

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