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Great news: Kansas is cool again! The Sunflower State’s House and Senate have emerged from a cyclone of negotiations with a school-finance bill that increases aid to poor school districts, reduces teacher-protection measures, creates a tax-credit scholarship program, and does not ban the Common Core (or counting to 100 or reading)! Phew. That was a close one, Kansas.

The U.S. House education committee passed two bipartisan bills on Tuesday. The first would reauthorize the Institute for Education Sciences. The second is a charter-school measure meant to foster more high-quality schools and encourage them to do better by English-language learners and special-needs students. Both are worthy measures, and even getting them out of committee feels like cause for applause in today’s political climate. But, of course, many hurdles lie ahead.

Officials in Washington, D.C., have issued a proposal for the first comprehensive overhaul of the district’s school boundaries in four decades. The city unveiled three policy proposals for how D.C. might assign students to its public schools. The least drastic proposal would continue to assign families a neighborhood school while giving some charter schools feeder rights into DCPS middle and high schools. The most drastic proposal would base admissions largely on the results of a lottery, with considerations for socio-economic balance, eliminating the “right” to a neighborhood school. The third is a middle-ground option, which would maintain neighborhood elementary schools but...


A few weeks ago, Slate published an article by Mike that argued that reformers’ obsession with college was blinding us to other valid routes to the middle class. The reaction was swift and sweeping: 31,000 shares on Facebook, 1,200 tweets, and nearly 1,000 comments. It also sparked several responses in the edu-blogosphere and in a private email chain that Mike moderated. Here’s a selection of some of the feedback—and pushback—organized by major themes.

Reaction #1: Students need to be ready for college and career, not one or the other

This was by far the most common response from the education-reform community: on college-ready versus career-ready, we need “both/and,” not “either/or.” Here are some comments along that vein:

Kate Blosveren, National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium:

Ultimately, I believe that this piece fails to put forward the right message parents need and want to hear. If over 90 percent of parents want their children to go to “college,” it doesn't really do CTE any good to frame itself as being the option other than college, but rather a pathway to a broader set of college options (since upwards of 75 percent of CTE concentrators go on to some postsecondary education within two years). By perpetuating the dichotomy of CTE vs. college, it still keeps CTE as “lesser than” rather than an equally viable (and more reliable) option.
It all comes down to redefining what college is—and getting parents, policymakers and others to see the high value...

  1. In case you missed it yesterday, Fordham’s Chad Aldis had the best time ever on the radio yesterday morning, talking Common Core with two knowledgeable hosts and debating with Rep. Andy Thompson and Dr. Terrence Moore with their feisty assistance. Great fun to listen to. The comments underneath the post on the website are insightful as well. (IdeaStream/WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
  2. Lots of newspapers around the state and into West Virginia today note that the education MBR bill passed the House yesterday. On to the Senate, with lots to talk about for dropout recovery, charter school accountability, voucher programs, and all the things we love. Here is the Dispatch's take on the bill. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Speaking of dropout recovery, here is a story in the continuing series about high school dropouts in Ohio – a very personal one about a woman from Cleveland who actually dropped out of school in 7th grade due to early reading difficulties. She is now a mother of 3 and has learned to read at age 30. Wow. Great story. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  4. So Aaron and I attended an event yesterday on the topic of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and what it means to students in Columbus. While the awesome Andy Boy from USN was there and was recognized, the focus was on what Columbus City Schools and the Columbus Library were
  5. ...
  1. A group of lawmakers pledged yesterday to introduce legislation to require what they say will be more transparency and accountability for operators and sponsors of charter schools. This was, of course, covered all over the state. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was quoted on the topic by the Dispatch. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Chad was not included in reports on the announcement in Cleveland (Plain Dealer) or in Akron. (Beacon Journal)
  3. Here’s the first of two stories from Zanesville about the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The first one discusses the results of the first test last fall in several local districts, along with discussion of what is being done to help those students who did not pass. Says Zanesville’s Title 1 coordinator: “I never have a problem with accountability. I don’t feel any panic or trepidation toward the test at all.” Nice. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  4. And, if it’s so good for traditional district and charter school students, the provisions of the TGRG should apply to voucher students at private schools as well. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  5. Tussles over public schools wanting to hold graduation ceremonies in church buildings are not new in Ohio. Here’s a new one from Toledo that involves a statewide virtual school and a nationwide organization who is weighing
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  1. Last week, you no doubt heard that the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving White Hat, a large and well-known charter school management company, and 10 of its former managee schools over the issue of just who owns the assets of a charter school should it seek to disengage from its management contract. It’s a complex question with a lot at stake based on the final ruling – not just for charter school contracts but potentially for contract law writ large across the state. Fordham’s Chad Aldis spelled it out succinctly in an interview for Kent State’s public radio station.  It is important to note that Chad’s participation in this piece comes as a direct result of the Sunshine Week assault on White Hat by all the cub reporters overseen by the Beacon Journal’s Doug “Dog” Livingston. I guarantee that Chad’s answers were not what this particular cub was expecting. (WKSU-FM radio)
  2. It is with great pleasure that I announce on this page that Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins (DMC!) has decided to break the city council’s tie vote in favor of Horizon Science Academy's application for a use permit that would allow them to purchase the Toledo YMCA building  – after more than six months of work/delay/debate/votes – to move and expand the school. It is with even more pleasure that this is the on-the-record reason why Mr. Collins decided the way he
  3. ...

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on Ancient Asian Cultures; the early American civilizations; Ancient GreeceAncient RomeNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of DiscoveryColonial America and the Revolutionary Warthe American founders;  movie adaptations of classic children’s booksAmerican folk heroesdinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansreptiles; and birds.

Over the course of this year’s exploration of educational videos available on Netflix and other streaming services, one fact has become clear: science is easier to cover than history. That’s surely true when it comes to videos on mammals; our cup runneth over. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, as mammals are fascinating—particularly since we are mammals, and we love to learn about ourselves. What follows barely scratches the surfaces of what’s available, but it’s some of the best. Enjoy!

Special thanks to research interns Andrew McDonnell, Elisabeth Hoyson, and Liz McInerney for helping to compile these lists.

Best videos on mammals

1. The Life of Mammals

Life of Mammals

David Attenborough hosts this in-depth examination of mammals, from the smallest shrew to the biggest whales and the...


Findings from a fascinating new report on school boards are unintuitive for two big reasons. First, the study finds that, among other things, boards can have a meaningful influence on student performance, even enabling district kids’ ability to “beat the odds.” Second, the report is from Fordham(!)—a group that, like me, is generally skeptical of today’s current governance arrangements. The most interesting part is that board-member characteristics (political ideology, prior employment as an educator, level of professional development, when and how elected) can help predict the board’s effectiveness. Score one for interesting research and one for effective school boards.

Speaking of school boards, this proposed legislation in Louisiana would essentially do what Paul Hill recommended 20 years ago: stop school boards from operating schools and give schools lots of autonomy. Here, the district superintendent would function much like an authorizer. This is a step on the way to The Urban School System of the Future. But, in my humble opinion, its basic flaw is it tries to get what we want by changing what we have, instead of starting anew. I don’t trust that school boards, superintendents, and district central offices can fundamentally alter what they’ve done for 100 years. And are most of today’s principals ready to suddenly take control of just about everything the district used to do? I’ll admit to being too critical; if this legislation is adopted, have no doubt, it’ll advance systemic reform of urban school systems...

Mike and Dara explain the de Blasio–Cuomo deal, the difficulties of studying high flyers, and what it takes to be cool in school. Amber thinks the new PISA data on creative problem solving are just a touch too creative. Amber's Research Minute PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving by OECD, (...

As in many states across America, too many young adults in Ohio are unemployed, disengaged, and on the road to nowhere. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that approximately 140,000 Ohioans aged twenty-five to thirty-four have not earned a high-school diploma. Within this same age bracket, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 85,000 job-seeking young adults (or 7.6 percent of them) are unemployed in the Buckeye State.

Given these alarming statistics, the state’s efforts to support young adults in dire straits is admirable. But Ohio’s House Bill 343, which would extend access to a free and public education to young adults ages twenty-two to twenty-nine, doesn’t get the remedy right. In fact, the bill may provide an antidote more toxic than the ailment it intends to treat.

The legislation would allow up to 1,500 young adults to enroll in a dropout-recovery charter school or a school in a “challenged district” if the adult resides in the district. These students would be allowed to attend the school up to two cumulative years with the purpose of obtaining a high-school diploma. Public aid would fund the enrollment expansion at $5,800 per pupil for fiscal year 2015. The bill requires the State Board of Education to develop reporting and accountability standards for any school that enrolls young adults aged twenty-two to twenty-nine in a dropout-recovery program.

For three reasons, the legislature should think twice before enacting this bill or an omnibus bill that includes the provisions contained in House...