On Wednesday, Michigan superintendent Mike Flanagan dumped the Education Achievement Authority, saying it will no longer be exclusively responsible for Michigan’s failing schools. Opponents to the EEA are claiming victory, but Gadfly notes that this is a political maneuver that Detroit’s children won’t find very clever.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican, is taking a tool from our school-choice toolkit. He wants to expand the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program while requiring scholarship students to take the same (or similar) assessments as their public-school counterparts. The expansion would also allow partial scholarships for participating families with rising incomes—a smart way to encourage upward mobility.

The majority of teachers may support Common Core, but the largest union is raising a big red flag nonetheless. But read the NEA’s words carefully; when its president, Dennis Van Roekel, says a major “course correction” is needed, we’re pretty sure he’s mostly talking about teacher evaluations. Implementation isn’t easy, but “when the going gets tough, union presidents run for cover.”


Many complain, legitimately, that the ed-reform world has been overly focused on math and reading scores, to the detriment of other important—but not as easily assessed—student outcomes. This working paper out of the University of Arkansas aims to address this issue by exploring a potential new measure of non-cognitive ability: survey-item response rates. The authors use data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that tracks a nationally representative sample of young adults; respondents are born between 1980 and 1984 (making them between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-three now) and are surveyed annually on issues like employment, assets, and wages. When the analysts compared information collected in 1997 to the respondents’ highest educational outcomes as reported in 2010 or earlier, they find that the number of items either left blank or answered “I don’t know” is a significant predictor of educational attainment, even after controlling for many factors, including cognitive ability. The fewer the number of questions left unanswered, the greater the likelihood overall that the respondent had enrolled in college. (For example, a one-standard-deviation increase in response rates increased the amount of education received by .31 years, or 11 percent of a standard deviation.) The authors posit that failure to respond to these questions could mean a loss of interest or lack of effort, which they contend is a valid measure of conscientiousness. While one might dispute this assertion—and while the inclusion of “don’t-know” responses in their count could be an issue, given that the respondent could...


A Chicago public school and public library will begin to share space on Thursday, breaking ground for a new “library-within-a-school” model that may be “copied and mimicked all across the city,” according to an enthusiastic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Windy City’s schools and libraries have both seen financial troubles in the last couple of years. Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has clarified that proliferation of this model would be about “reducing storefront and leased space” and possibly result in moving libraries, not closing libraries. Gadfly likes efficiency and books—so hat tip!

The school-funding crisis in Philadelphia has reached the boiling point: After Superintendent William Hite issued an ultimatum stating that schools may not open in time if the district does not receive at least $50 million more in funding by Friday, August 16th, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that it would borrow the cash, apparently obviating that eventuality. Now that the district will be able to re-hire some laid-off staff members, the School Reform Commission—Philadelphia’s appointed school board—will vote on whether to suspend portions of state law to grant Hite the flexibility to re-hire for reasons other than seniority. The unions, naturally, are furious, but this appears to be the best possible outcome for students.

This week, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis asked the district’s Board of Education to stop approving new charter schools. The reason: Georgia’s Supreme Court has yet to decide whether Davis can withhold...


Over the past twenty years, opponents have charged charter schools with further Balkanizing America’s education system. Give parents a choice, the thinking goes, and many will choose homogenous environments for their children. And there’s certainly evidence that charters in some cities tend to be more racially isolated than traditional public schools.

Capital City Public Charter School
Capital City Public Charter School in Washinton, D.C., has achieved a nearly even racial and socioeconomic balance.

    But could charter schools actually be a solution to segregation—particularly as gentrification brings more white and middle-class families to our urban cores? A growing crop of social entrepreneurs thinks so. In cities across the country, educators and parents are starting charters expressly designed for diversity.

    Charter schools have certain advantages. As start-up schools, they can be strategic about locations, picking spots that are well positioned to draw students from different racial and socioeconomic groups. They can design academic programs that take diversity as a given and make the most of it. And they can be thoughtful about putting elements in place to appeal to whites and blacks, Asians and Hispanics, rich and poor.

    Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., was founded in 2000. It’s one of the oldest charter schools with significant racial and socioeconomic diversity. It serves elementary and middle school students from almost every...


    The Center for Education Policy recently released a three-part series of reports reviewing the Common Core State standards implementation with focuses on the federal role, state progress and challenges, and teacher preparation, training, and assessments for the new standards. In the second of this series, the progress and challenges of states were reviewed through a survey of distributed to state deputy education superintendents’ offices. Of the 45 states and D.C. adopting Common Core, 39 states and D.C. participated along with Minnesota (adopting only the ELA standards). The CEP surveyed states’ progress by inquiring on the state perceptions of the standards, curriculum alignment,  implementation activities, state collaboration, state funding, challenges, and state education agency (SEA) capacity. The responses are an encouraging sign for many state-level Common Core advocates. The CEP found that all of the survey participants found the Common Core State Standards to be more rigorous than their previous standards. With this higher rigor, “nearly all CCSS-adopting states recognize that implementing the Common Core will require substantial changes in curriculum and instruction in their state.” The report also noted that most have developed statewide professional development for teachers and encouraged district collaboration. Unfortunately, the survey revealed challenges persist for some Common Core adopting states, such as developing effective educator evaluation systems. This report stood apart from the others because of its emphasis on state level operations, especially state agencies providing the leadership and support to facilitate Common Core alignment. The CEP notes, “state leaders also need to pay close...

    • New York City mayoral candidates look to Cincinnati Public Schools as an example to improve academic performance and provide students with greater opportunities.
    • Ohio lawmakers set out to repeal Common Core with newly introduced legislation that would repeal the rigorous new academic standards and place limits on student data collection.
    • Summer is cut short for some students as school districts set start dates as early as July to prevent the dreaded summer “learning slide.”
    • Movie star Matt Damon brings school choice into the spotlight. In a recent interview, Damon, an outspoken critic of education reform, admits that he sends his four daughters to a private school.

    Many states have found a solution for how to better serve their inner-city students through portfolio districts, urban districts that prescribe to a continuous improvement model based on seven key components. Ohio is no exception to that as Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus all participate in the portfolio district network. In order to become a portfolio district, central offices must learn to give the decision making authority to school leaders.  In transitioning, however, district officials are left wondering how much power to give and who to give it to. Simply giving all schools full autonomy is a bad idea. In a short piece by Paul Hill, creator of the portfolio school district, management strategy provides advice to central offices by determining what authority schools should receive and which ones should be chosen.  Hill delineates between two types of autonomy—basic and advanced. If a school is selected to be autonomous, basic autonomies are those that are “non-negotiables.” The list of basic autonomies include control of spending, control of hiring, control of student grouping, and control of funds for professional development. Advanced autonomies are those that, according to Hill, “ensure that the school is fully in charge of itself and can be held accountable for student learning.” Among the advanced autonomies are the control of teacher pay, control of firing, and freedom to make purchases for academic support services. In developing the first pilot group for school autonomy, Hill recommends that central office staff consider schools that, more than anything, are...


    The Fordham Ohio staff thanks Terry Ryan for his time, energy, and commitment to serving the state of Ohio and its students for twelve years. In case you missed it, the articles linked below contain Terry’s parting thoughts as he leaves the Buckeye State for Idaho, the Gem State (not the “Potato State” as Gadfly suspected). They are food for thought as we at Fordham and other school reformers continue the good work that Terry has started.

    Ohio Gadfly Daily: 12 years; 12 lessons

    Dayton Daily News: “Roundtable Discussion: How Can We Make Our Schools More Effective?”

    * * *

    Terry’s contact information:

    Idaho Charter School Network

    815 W. Washington Street
    Lower Level Suite
    Boise, ID 83702

    Email: terry@idahocharterschoolnetwork.com

    Office: 208-906-1420


    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

    Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

    Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

    “Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Ohio and Fordham—and the education-reform cause more broadly—have benefited hugely from his labors these past dozen years. We will miss him and wish him the very best in Idaho.”

    “Terry can, however, be ‘succeeded,’ and in Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen-Upton, we have been fortunate to find...


    New York made education headlines last week, as its public schools reported substantially lower test scores than in previous years. The cause of the drop? This was the first year that New York administered exams aligned to the Common Core—though these were not the “official” Common Core-aligned exams (PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments). According to Education Week, proficiency rates for English language arts sunk by 24 percentage points, and, for math, proficiency declined by a staggering 34 percentage points. New York’s Commissioner of Education, John King, attempting to reassure the public, remarked that “the changes in scores do not mean that schools have taught less or that students have learned less.”

    In contrast to New York—and earlier, Kentucky—the Buckeye State has not taken the interim step of ratcheting up the rigor of its assessments to prepare its students, educators, and public for the exams aligned to the Common Core. (Ohio is a member of the PARCC consortium of states, which is one of the two organizations that are developing Common Core exams.) And, if the results from New York and Kentucky are a predictor, Ohio should brace itself for a shock, come 2014-15, when the PARCC exams arrive. Similar to the Empire and Bluegrass states, Ohioans should expect sizeable drops in proficiency rates in their local schools and districts, as we forecast in a report last fall.

    Ohio’s implementation of the Common Core in math and English raise the academic expectations for all Ohio students, whether...