Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 12, Number 39
October 18, 2012
Opinion + Analysis
Chartering the future
Why urban school districts need to go
By Andy Smarick
U.S civics education is lacking...but at least we're not France
By The Education Gadfly
The Hangover: Thinking about the Unintended Consequences of the Nation’s Teacher Evaluation Binge
Look before you leap—out of the policy window
American Community Survey, Census 2011
A warning bell for private-education continuation
High School Rigor and Good Advice: Setting Up Students to Succeed
Grit is not a four-letter word
It’s all French to me
Rick and Mike pick apart an egregious example of Continental Achievement-Gap mania and take on differing proficiency goals based on student race and ethnicity. Amber asks if we’d be better off spending our edu-dollars in very different ways.
The Leadership Limbo
In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America's Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.
Andy Smarick / October 18, 2012
The traditional urban public school system is broken, and it cannot be fixed.
It must be replaced.
Given urban districts’ unblemished record of failure over generations, you’d think these statements would be widely accepted and represent the core of the education-reform strategy. But somehow, just about everyone working in this area assumes that the traditional school district is essential and immortal—that because of its age and standing, it must be the focus of reform. Few recognize the anachronism of a model created by historical circumstances—mass immigration, industrialization, and Progressive Era-idealism—rather than today’s social realities and educational priorities.
Chartering provides a blueprint for the urban school system of the future.
Photo by Todd Ehlers.
I am convinced that the district is not part of the solution. It is the problem. Persistent low performance is the natural consequence of this institution that our predecessors placed at the heart of urban public schooling. No city will ever realize a renaissance in K-12 education so long as the district continues as the dominant, default delivery system.
The blueprint for the urban school system of the future can be found in charter schooling.
Chartering’s systemic innovations have already shown that the district need not be the exclusive operator of all public
The Education Gadfly / October 18, 2012
France's president plans to ban homework, citing the disadvantage it poses for students without a supportive home environment to aid their after-school studies. While the move would give us one less country to worry about come the next PISA administration, discouraging kids from learning outside of school for reasons of equity is perhaps the most absurd example of Achievement-Gap Mania yet.
Amidst the turmoil of Chicago Public Schools's CEO Jean-Claude Brizard's sudden resignation last week, Windy City Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to make arts a "core subject." Although the news may be crowded out by the leadership changes, Chicago deserves credit for making sure the arts aren't crowded out of the curriculum.
Speaking of curriculum narrowing, civics education is wanting according to a new report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Almost a dozen states don't require any civics or American-government education, and states are increasingly cutting the essay portions of the civics state tests that do exist, a trend that Americans should address this election year before civic literacy declines any further.
Education-reform groups are split over California’s Proposition 32, a “paycheck protection” measure that would keep unions from automatically deducting funds from employees’ paychecks for political purposes. Their opponents, however, are not divided, and if the practice is
Pamela Tatz / October 18, 2012
“As we start to rethink outdated tenure, evaluation, and pay systems [for teachers], we must take care to respect how uncertain our efforts are and avoid tying our hands in ways that we will regret in the decade ahead,” warns Rick Hess in the foreword of this insightful contribution to AEI’s Teacher Quality 2.0 series. Authors Sara Mead, Andrew Rotherham, and Rachael Brown of Bellwether Education Partners caution that the deluge of teacher-policy legislation over the last few years, while markedly better than the old policies, may in fact have the effect of drowning progress and innovation by mooring premature solutions and imperfect metrics in place. Moving forward, policymakers should keenly examine the fundamental tradeoffs and tensions inherent in the teacher policies they create, especially those regarding evaluation. As we strive to get teacher-evaluation policy right, we must balance flexibility and control, accept the complications created by new education models (like blended learning), and determine the right use of value-added data (human judgment must play a role in teacher evaluations). With these perspectives in mind, Bellwether’s authors offer a number of smart policy recommendations. Among them: Focus on improving, not just purging, low-quality teachers; encourage and respect innovation by creating and funding “innovation zones” for pilot evaluation systems; and accept the limits of legislation (don’t lock too much policy into legislation, as it creates a rigid system that
Daniela Fairchild / October 18, 2012
July brought us the annual U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract (flush with data on educational attainment, staffing, finances, etc.); October washed in the latest federal school-enrollment data. Once again, private-school enrollment suffers: Battered by a harsh economic climate, private-school enrollment has eroded precipitously in recent years. Since its high-water mark in 1965, enrollment in these schools has dropped by 2.2 million; since 2005, enrollment is down 12 percent. Now just 11 percent of students attend private or parochial schools. While Census data cannot show the reasons for these declines, the causes seem to be tripartite. Catholic-school enrollment has steadily decreased over the past few decades; in New York City, Catholic enrollment fell by over 14,500 over the past five years alone. This at the same time as the charter-school market share has steadily increased (particularly drawing students away from urban Catholic schools). And finally, enrollment in early-childhood education has largely shifted from a private- to public-school phenomenon. In 1965, the vast majority of nursery-school enrollments were private; by 2011, that percentage had dropped by over 34 points. (This while public-preschool enrollment jumped from 24 percent to nearly 59 percent.) And the trends are equally jarring for Kindergarten enrollments. The proliferation of publicly funded school-choice programs may help stem this decline but those who believe private schools provide a necessary competitive mechanism will find these data sobering.
SOURCE: United States Census Bureau, American
Asa Spencer / October 18, 2012
The statistics, though jarring, are not novel: In 2009, only 58 percent of students who had enrolled in four-year colleges graduated within six years (just 79 percent persisted through their first year of post-secondary schooling). Just one-third of those who matriculated at two-year institutions completed their degree within three years (two-thirds persisted to year two). The figures are even starker for low-income students; even high-performing youngsters from this demographic struggle. This report from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) offers tangible recommendations for what can be done to reverse this trend. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study, NSBA authors track characteristics of students who successfully persist through year two of post-secondary schooling. Controlling for prior achievement and socioeconomic status, NSBA finds three traits of high schoolers that predict greater success in college: taking upper-level math courses (students of low socioeconomic status who took pre-calculus or calculus were 44 percent more likely to persist to year two than those who took only algebra or geometry), enrolling in AP or IB courses (even if the student did not pass the associated exam), and consistently meeting with academic advisors. (Researchers did not examine how participation in high school extracurriculars affected college completion.) “No excuses” charter schools have long experimented with these types of initiatives—and have shown them to be successful. But the NSBA fails to acknowledge a key