Additional Topics

Two months ago, a group of Catholic university professors signed a letter urging Catholic bishops and diocesan school leaders to reject the Common Core. “We believe that implementing Common Core would be a grave disservice to Catholic education in America,” they argued.

…we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.

The content of the letter itself is not surprising to anyone following the debate over the CCSS. Indeed, perhaps the most interesting thing about it is how closely it sticks to the typical anti–Common Core talking points we’ve heard over and over again in the past year. The authors repeat the often-cited complaint that algebra is taught too late, point to the (misguided, in my opinion) concern that adopting the CCSS will sideline great literature in English classrooms, and argue that Common Core is aimed not at college readiness but, rather, at “standardized workforce preparation.” In short, the bulk of it looked less like a thoughtful and uniquely Catholic critique of the Core than a hastily composed form letter.

The problem is not that Catholics shouldn’t weigh in on the Common Core debate. Rather, the problem is that authentic Catholic concerns get sidelined when we take our cues from actors who don’t share our interests. And by bringing these political talking points uncritically into...

Categories: 

One of education reform’s best attributes is its sense of urgency about doing better for kids. This field is not one for the complacent.

But our earnestness can come across as antagonistic. To say “we must do better” implies something unflattering about the ways things are. Since there are lots of people responsible for the way things are, this can sometimes translate into bruised egos and nasty recriminations.

I take responsibility for being among our field’s worst offenders on this score. I am pointed to a fault.

I hope folks—even when they’re frustrated with me—know I write what I do because I detest that disadvantaged kids don’t get a fair shake. I can be an insufferable cuss, but I aspire to do it without bias—hence my heartfelt appreciation for TNTP’s referring to me as an “anti-tribalist.” I try to call them as I see them, regardless of party, ideology, organizational affiliation, or anything else.

But my directness is also attributable to my subscribing to Frederick Douglass’s view that power concedes nothing without a demand. We will never bring about the changes we need if we practice nothing but gauzy, velvet-gloved diplomacy and accommodation. To paraphrase Douglass, that has never worked and never will.

I try to leaven my scolding by also drawing attention to great people doing great stuff; this was the purpose of the “By the Company It Keeps” series.

But looking back on 2013, I probably employed the wagging finger more vigorously than the pat...

Categories: 
Mike and American Girl Michelle tackle accountability in private-school-choice programs, whether people are more likely to favor reform once they know how mediocre their schools are, and how applying “disparate impact theory” to the enforcement of school-discipline rules will lead to nothing but...

For the first time since 1989, all twelve of Congress’s annual spending bills have been rolled into one 1,600-page, $1.012 trillion “omnibus” package—and it’s tearing across Capitol Hill “like a greased pig,” going from introduction on Monday night to passage by the House on Wednesday. The Senate is expected to approve the bill on Friday, and it will land on President Obama’s desk before stopgap funding runs out on Saturday. It contains significant increases for pre-K ($8.6 billion for Head Start, $1 billion more than its current allotment and $612 million over its pre-sequestration level). However, the School Improvement Grant program will not see its funding restored to its high-water mark, remaining at its pared-down $505 million (though that’s still $505 million too much).

Representative George Miller—a leading Democratic voice on education and a crafter of NCLB—has announced that he will be giving up his seat on the House education committee in favor of an armchair. Hat tip to a fine career. In other news, Senator Chuck Schumer is looking for a new roommate: must love cold cereal and rats.

StudentsFirst released its second annual policy report card on Tuesday. Once again, Florida and Louisiana took home top marks (B-minuses—StudentsFirst certainly doesn’t grade on a curve), earning their ranks by ending teacher tenure, implementing merit pay, and issuing school report cards.

With New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s rhetoric suggesting that “city schools had little to...

Categories: 

Myriad articles have pointed out that the U.S. has had very average mean scores on the recent PISA exam and that our top performers were mediocre compared to those in other countries. And while that’s true, it doesn’t tell the whole story: Size matters.

China and India didn’t participate in PISA as countries. China only submitted tests from select municipalities, and India excused itself entirely. This means that among the countries and regions that took PISA in 2012, the U.S. is the most populous—by a big margin. Below is a list of the ten most populous countries and regions that took PISA in 2012; I’ve included each of their mean scores and where those mean scores rank amongst all sixty-five.

...

Country

Population

Mean Score

Rank

1.     United States

317,000,000

481

36

2.     Indonesia

Categories: 

I am an American Girl Dad. No use hiding it, no reason to lie. A significant portion of my non-work life and my living room is occupied by AG.

My wife and I took our girls to the American Girl Place on Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Black Friday a couple of years. This past summer, I was the only solo dad standing in an enormous line at 7:00 on a steamy morning for the grand opening of AGP in Columbus. “Props to you,” all the eyes pointed at me seemed to be saying, “but you’re out of your mind mister.”

But, truly, I love American Girl. Mainly because of what it has meant to my daughters over the years.

  • I read all the Felicity Merriman (1774) books to them when they were little. When we finally made it to Williamsburg some years later, they remembered the stories and went to find the places we read about and were able to find their own way in to the living history being played out in front of them.
  • We learned a ton from the stories about Rebecca Rubin (1914) as a Russian immigrant in New York City. These characters and their well-researched fictional worlds are miles from my daughters’ life experience but the best part of a later visit to NYC was an unplanned side trip to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. Not only were the familiar touchstones of Rebecca’s story there, but the Italian immigrant experience in that same
  • ...
Categories: 

There were many important releases and developments this week—invaluable new SIG information from IES, Race to the Top audits, new Brookings “choice index”—and I couldn’t keep up! Those subjects and others will get fuller treatments from me next week. But until then, here are some worthwhile things to read over the weekend.

There has been much talk about the 50-year anniversary of The War on Poverty. Here’s the best stuff I’ve seen: This Gerson column smartly points out the federal government’s successes and failures (and though this superb Brooks column on evolving conservative policy thinking isn’t about The War on Poverty per se, it should be read in conjunction with Gerson’s). This short blurb by Checker Finn is terrific; the first-person narrative is compelling, and for history buffs and those fascinated by the intersection of politics and policy, it offers something special. This very good piece by my old high school friend (now at AEI) Josh Good echoes family-related arguments made by Finn’s mentor a half century ago.

If you care at all about Common Core, this Stephanie Simon article about conservative backlash is an absolute must read. There are several different strands in the piece worth thinking about (including the CCSS-as-a-stepping-stone strategy), but these two sentences speak volumes: “Still, (Common Core) supporters have struggled to counter the critics. They have had trouble even understanding the contours of the smoldering opposition.” As I told TNTP (see fifth paragraph),...

Categories: 

This year, Education Week’s Quality Counts report tells a story of districts facing formidable pressures, both external (such as budgetary and performance woes) and internal (demographic shifts), as well as a maturing market of expanded school options—and how this competitive environment is leading to governance change. Ed Week overhauled its long-running State of the States comparisons, paring its sets of indicators down to three: the (still-questionable) Chance-for-Success Index; the K–12 Achievement Index; and school finance. (No longer do they include standards, assessment, and accountability; the teaching profession; or transitions and alignment.) For the rundown of states at the top and bottom of the class, be sure to check out the results online—and a nifty interactive report card, which allows readers to recalculate grades using their own weights. But of particular interest is a survey analysis of the increasingly complex district governance landscapes—thanks to the rise of educational management and charter organizations and with the use of portfolio strategies in cities like Denver. Almost 80 percent of the national sample of district administrators queried agreed with the statement that “accountability pressures and technology shifts have led them to consider changes,” while 54 percent agreed that school systems need to make significant governance or structural changes. When asked about whether they think merging high- and low-poverty districts or implementing a state-led turnaround (or turnaround school district) strategy would work, the respondents seemed more optimistic about the former.

SOURCE: Education Week, Quality Counts 2014: District Disruption & Revival...

Categories: 

Earlier this week, AFT president Randi Weingarten came out against the use of value-added measures in teacher evaluations, citing recent VAM shortcomings in D.C. and Pittsburgh and launching the catchy slogan, “VAM is a sham.” VAM certainly is not perfect. But as Dara Zeehandelaar reminds us in this week’s Education Gadfly Show, teachers decades ago were concerned about being capriciously fired by principals who didn’t like them, which in turn led to the movement for a more structured and quantifiable teacher-evaluation system. Does Randi want to go back to favoritism? Or simply no accountability at all?

In a fascinating exposé of the Common Core opposition movement, Politico’s Stephanie Simon describes how a sophisticated group of strategists took a grassroots campaign, mainly populated by “a handful of angry moms,” and is milking it for political gain. With everyone’s questionable motivations out in the open, Gadfly would like to see the debate return to whether the standards are right for kids.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Eric Cantor named school choice as the best hope for the poor to escape cyclical poverty. He took special aim at New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, for planning a moratorium on charter school co-locations in the Big Apple, arguing that this could “devastate the growth of education opportunity in such a competitive real estate market.” Cantor went on to chastise President Obama for (again) refusing to fund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a successful initiative that...

Categories: 
Invigorated by the weather, Mike and Dara give cold shoulders to anti-Common Core strategists, California’s constitution, and Randi Weingarten’s “VAM sham.” Amber gets gifted. Amber's Research Minute “ Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators ,” by Harrison J. Kell, David Lubinski, and Camilla P...

Pages