Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 13, Number 20
May 23, 2013
Opinion + Analysis
Why private schools are dying out
And what we can do about it
Am I a part of the cure...or the disease?
A question for folks on both sides of the education-reform debate
Well, that’s embarrassing
Voice of the Graduate
Hi Mom, can I move back in?
How Blended Learning Can Improve the Teaching Profession
Online learning meets the Opportunity Culture
Education’s Fiscal Cliff, Real or Perceived?
Charter schools: Underfunded after all these years
Mike the Squish
Is Mike going soft on accountability? Are private schools doomed? And why on earth is anyone still majoring in journalism? We ask, you decide.
Can we be smarter about taking high-quality online and blended schools to scale—and to educational success? Yes, says this volume, as it addresses such thorny policy issues as quality control, staffing, funding, and governance for the digital sector. Read on to learn more.
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / May 20, 2013
Private education as we have known it is on its way out, at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. At the very least, it's headed for dramatic shrinkage, save for a handful of places and circumstances, to be replaced by a very different set of institutional, governance, financing, and education-delivery mechanisms.
Consider today's realities. Private K–12 enrollments are shrinking—by almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2010. Catholic schools are closing right and left. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for example, announced in January that forty-four of its 156 elementary schools will cease operations next month. (A few later won reprieves.) In addition, many independent schools (day schools and especially boarding schools) are having trouble filling their seats—at least, filling them with their customary clientele of tuition-paying American students. Traditional nonprofit private colleges are also challenged to fill their classroom seats and dorms, a situation to which they're responding by heavily discounting their tuitions and fees for more and more students.
Meanwhile, charter school enrollments are booming across the land. The charter share of the primary-secondary population is 5 percent nationally and north of 25 percent in two dozen
Michael J. Petrilli / May 17, 2013
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure?
Or am I part of the disease?
-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002
I am haunted by the title of your last post: “The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap.”
Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?
"It's OK to ask: 'What if I'm wrong?'" you wrote last week. So let me ask it. It wouldn't be the first time. A year ago, for example, I explored the "test-score hypothesis"—a line of reasoning, undergirding
The Education Gadfly / May 23, 2013
The D.C. charter board has rejected the application for the proposed One World Public Charter School, whose high-status organizers include a former Sidwell Friends principal—due in part to “multiple grammatical and spelling errors” in the application. The board also rejected six other applications while okaying just two: a Montessori elementary and an adult-education program, both of which had been turned down in previous years and came back with stronger applications. Hat tip to the D.C. charter board for showing us how quality authorizing is done.
The online-education provider Khan Academy—with a little help from a $2.2 million Helmsley grant—has announced a plan to develop online, Common Core–aligned math tools for teachers and students. Hat tip number two!
After a bit of competition from within the ranks, the always-controversial Karen Lewis has been reelected to lead the Chicago Teachers Union. You get the champagne, we’ll get the party hats, and CTU will break out the celebratory lawsuits.
On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that three more states—Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia—will be granted NCLB waivers, bringing the tally to thirty-seven. This is another win for Hawaii, which (finally) eked out a teacher-contract deal just last month—and which just might get to keep its Race to the Top dollars, too. In the meantime,
Amber M. Winkler, Ph.D. / May 23, 2013
McKinsey’s survey of 4,900 recent graduates of two- and four-year colleges is the latest contribution to a literature of dismal news on our nation’s latest crop of young professionals. These are the top five findings: First, nearly half of all graduates from four-year colleges said that they were in jobs that did not require a four-year degree; graduates with STEM majors, however, were more likely to report the opposite. Second, a little over a third of alums of both two- and four-year colleges had regrets, reporting that they would choose a different major if they could do it all over again. What’s more, students who had majored in visual and performing arts, language, literature, and the social sciences were the most likely to wish they’d majored in something else, while health majors were the least likely. Third, university quality didn’t seem to matter much: Forty-one percent of graduates from U.S. News’s top 100 universities responded that they were not employed in the field they had hoped to enter, while 48 percent of students from other institutions conveyed the same. Fourth, the retail and restaurant industries were among the least desired fields—but ended up employing four to five times the number of graduates who had intended to enter these sectors. And fifth, liberal-arts graduates of four-year colleges fared worse
Laura Zaccagnino / May 23, 2013
Taking a page from Public Impact’s "Opportunity Culture” playbook, this paper from Digital Learning Now! (the seventh in its “Smart Series”) argues that blended learning will help improve teacher satisfaction and reinvigorate the profession. Both are surely good things when one considers current teacher-satisfaction rates—which have dropped substantially over the past few years. The DLN/Public Impact team argues that blended learning allows for improved working conditions (with more opportunities for collaboration), more tailored professional development, more varied career advancement, and professional flexibility (including the ability to teach remotely). To be sure, the authors do not make a convincing case for heightened teacher satisfaction through all of their suggestions, such as why teachers would intrinsically support increased class sizes (in order to make the technology affordable). However, most recommendations make good educational sense. Profiles of schools (mostly charters) that have utilized blended learning to increase teacher effectiveness and streamline teacher workload speckle the text, reminding us that blended learning is about leveraging technology, not replacing teachers.
SOURCE: John Bailey, Bryan Hassel, Emily Ayscue Hassel, Carri Schneider, and Tom Vander Ark, How Blended Learning Can Improve The Teaching Profession (Tallahassee, FL: Foundation for Excellence in Education, May 2013).
In our 2005 report, Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier, we wrote, “U.S. charter schools are being starved of needed funds in almost every community and state.” We backed that statement with funding data from seventeen states and twenty-seven districts. A 2010 report, tracking 2006–07 data, agreed. In the years since, some jurisdictions have moved to provide more equal funding levels to district and charter schools, yet large disparities remain. This paper—which will be published in the Journal of School Choice in September—examines the extent of those inequalities. Larry Maloney and colleagues tallied local, state, federal, and non-public revenue from 2007 to 2011 in Denver, Newark, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. The upshot: On average in 2011, charters received $4,000 less per pupil, per year, across all five studied locales, with gaps ranging from $2,700 in Denver to nearly $13,000 in D.C.—though jurisdictions with the largest spending gaps (Newark and D.C., specifically) actually narrowed the gap between district and charter funding during the study period while those that started out closer to equal funding widened the gap. The authors also noted that charter schools—which receive a higher percentage of their operating budget from nonpublic revenue, such as foundation grants—were hit harder by the economic recession than their district counterparts: