A first look at today's most important education news:
"The open-source school district," by Michael J. Petrilli, Flypaper
"District replacers, drama standards, and cranky composing," by Andy Smarick, Flypaper
"Fixing pell grants," by Jane S. Shaw, Flypaper
Christine C. Quinn, a New York City city-council member and mayoral candidate, proposes a plan to provide more gifted-and-talented spaces for children and relax admissions standards. (New York Times)
A new study argues that only students headed into STEM careers need advanced algebra. (Wall Street Journal)
Education Week profiles the deepening rifts and unusual alignments between actors in the education-policy sector.
Starting in 2015, the ACT will be offered as a computerized exam. (New York Times)
A report finds that teacher pay took a hit during the recession and its aftershock. (New York Times)
After the story of Kiera Wilmont (a sixteen-year-old expelled and charged with felonies for a science project gone awry) went viral, scientists have come to her defense with stories of their own failed experiments. (Miami New Times)
Michael Petrilli is absolutely right that many Pell grant recipients aren’t ready for college and would be better off doing something else. One sign of poor preparation is the need to take remedial classes in college, and Petrilli recommends that students enrolled in such courses not be given Pell money.
The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (which I head) offers a somewhat different solution to the same problem. We believe that the federal government should inject an element of merit into the selection of Pell grantees. Thus, in a paper on Pell grants, Jenna Ashley Robinson and Duke Cheston recommend that Pell-grant recipients have SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a high school GPA of at least 2.5 (between a C and a B).
“Not only would this save taxpayer money, it would provide a positive incentive for students to do better in school,” they write. “Students with very low high school academic performance are unlikely to graduate from college regardless of financial aid.”
The two solutions are similar, of course. As we see it, the advantage of our proposal is that it’s an objective standard that would be easy to enforce. Under Petrilli’s proposal, I would worry (as he does) about colleges renaming remedial courses as “regular” courses, something that may already be happening.
The SAT score we recommend, 850, isn’t high. According to the College Board, in order to
Last month, I asked why schools ignore so many good ideas. Have we not gotten the incentives right? Is it poor leadership? Do we have an ineffective system for disseminating promising practices? Or are superintendents, principals, and educators simply overwhelmed by the avalanche of advice that lands on their desks and in their inboxes? Might there be a way to help them sift the wheat from the chaff, then make good use of the former?
I believe there is. Let me introduce the open-source school district.
Imagine a virtual school district, charged with developing and constantly updating a strategy for addressing the needs of fictitious students.
Imagine the creation of a virtual school district. It wouldn’t have any actual students, teachers, buses, or facilities, but it would have a school board, a superintendent, and a central-office staff. (The superintendent and staff would be paid real salaries and be housed in a real office; the school board would be made up of various “education experts” or maybe “stakeholders” who, like real school board members, would volunteer their time.) It would be given a demographic profile—say, an inner-ring suburban district of 10,000 with a fair amount of racial and socioeconomic diversity. It would inherit the student achievement results, policies, and practices of a typical
A new era of city school leaders?
Big happenings on the urban-schools front. In recent weeks, numerous cities have announced they’re looking for new district leaders. In Boston, the search is on for Carol Johnson’s replacement. New Jersey, having just taken over Camden, is looking for someone to fill the top job. Baltimore’s Andres Alonso just announced his departure. Indy is looking for a new schools supe. Detroit is searching for someone to take over now that the emergency manager has retired. Oakland is in the same place.
So will these cities’ leaders take the same path as their predecessors over the last half century and choose another set of “district fixers,” those who mistakenly believe they can turn this irreparably broken institution into a high-performing organization? (Sadly, probably yes.) Or one or more of these cities could decide to build The Urban School System of the Future and choose leaders dedicated to bringing the failed urban district to an end and replacing it with a true system of schools. (Prayerfully, and this Nashville report, p. 30, gives me hope…)
Common Core as soap opera
So much drama going on with Common Core these days. Lots of states are having renewed conversations about the merits of standards. Checker pens a very strong pro-CCSS piece that explains how they came into being and how they
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Core Knowledge Blog
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- Education Next Blog
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- Jay P. Greene
- Joanne Jacobs
- NACSA's Chartering Quality
- National Journal Education Blog
- NCTQ Pretty Darn Quick
- NCTQ Teacher Quality Bulletin
- Ohio Education Gadfly
- Politics K-12
- Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- The Corner
- The Hechinger Report
- Top Performers