Talented Tenth

In Ohio, there were 368 charter schools open during the 2011-12 school year. Of these charter schools, there were 26 e-schools, 87 drop-out recovery schools, and 35 special education charter schools. And, there was one charter school dedicated to serving gifted students.

Menlo Park Academy, located in Southwest Cleveland, is the Buckeye State’s lone public charter school for the gifted. The school has consistently earned strong academic marks from the state, rated “Excellent” (A) for the past three school years. Menlo Park enrolls over 300 K-8 students, who come from forty plus school districts. The student body is nearly entirely White and Asian (over 90 percent).

Yesterday, at the invitation of school director Mrs. Paige Baublitz-Watkins, Checker Finn presented findings from Fordham’s 2011 study Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? and fielded questions about gifted education from a group of Menlo Park parents and educators. In the High Flyers report, Fordham found that nearly half of America’s top-shelf students “lose altitude”—failing to remain at or above the ninetieth percentile in test scores—from third to eighth grade.

From left to right: Assistant School Director Jim Kennedy, Board Member Michael Love, School Director Paige Baublitz-Watkins, Fordham President Checker Finn

Can opening more schools such as Menlo Park provide an antidote to the declining opportunities that Ohio’s gifted students have to reach their full potential? It very well could. But, of course, it will require...

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Dara and Kathleen put on their thinking caps to discuss Common Core implementation, ability grouping, and pre-K absenteeism. Amber joins in for some March Madness dishing—and some tough love for eighth-grade Algebra.

The Advanced Placement (AP) exams have become an iconic institution in American high school education. Administered by the College Board since 1955, the AP courses and accompanying exams have given precocious high-school students the opportunity to take college-level courses and earn college credit. In spring 2012, over 2 million students in the U.S. took at least one of the thirty-four exams offered by the College Board. In Ohio alone, over 53,000 high-school students took an AP exam in 2012, more than double the number of students in 2000 and nearly five times the number of students in 1990.

As a growing program, in Ohio and nationally, AP scores should provide an increasingly accurate picture of the college-readiness of high school students, while also providing a comparison to their peers in other states. So how are students in Ohio measuring up to their counterparts in other states?

Consider the chart below, which shows the 2012 average scores for AP Biology, U.S. History, Calculus AB, and English Literature. Of the AP exam offerings, these four exams are among the most popular exams—both nationally and within each of these states. The results for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and the United States are displayed. AP exams are scored on a scale of one to five, five being the highest score possible. A score of three or higher is generally considered sufficient to receive college credit (though, university policies on granting AP credit vary considerably).

Chart 1: Ohio’s AP scores mostly above...

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Wondering what Congress should be doing about pre-K, why Boston has switched to a new school-assignment system, or why an Alabama judge doesn’t seem to care about the separation of powers? Mike and Daniela are, too! Amber talks tenure reform—and Mike has a great new show to pitch Donald Trump.
Education Next

In this edition of the Ed Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli sits down with Tony Wagner to discuss his new book, Creating Innovators.

Business leaders, pundits, and politicians all seem to agree: America needs to get much better at nurturing innovation if we are to rebuild our economy, expand opportunity, and win a secure future for our children. But what exactly is innovation? And more importantly, how can parents and educators develop it in our young people? What can we learn from young adults of the Millennial generation who themselves are highly successful innovators and entrepreneurs? And what does all of this imply for education policy?

To answer these questions and more, Tony Wagner, the author of The Global Achievement Gap, and the first innovation education fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University, interviewed more than 150 people. The result is his acclaimed and commercially successful recent book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. In today’s edition of the Education Next Book Club, we speak with Tony about his book, innovation, and how schools across the world can help to light the spark of innovation within their students.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here....

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Mike and Dara talk about Louisiana’s ed-reform disappointment, anticipate the effect of big money in L.A. (or not), and plan for the Snowquester that wasn’t. Amber puts her teacher hat back on with a study on student ability grouping.

wise wonk once wrote that the biggest challenge facing America’s schools is the enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom. The subject of this NBER working paper is one proposed solution to this quandary: sorting students by ability. And though conventional wisdom (and some prior research) suggests that kids in the lower-achieving groups would fare worse with such an approach, the researchers in this study concluded that sorting is beneficial for both high and low achievers—though high achievers did see larger gains than those of their lower-scoring peers (approximately 1.6 times greater). The analysis used student- and classroom- level  data linked to one cohort of Dallas elementary students—amounting to roughly 9,000 children in 135 schools who progress from the third to fourth grade (in 2003–04 and 2004–05). Analysts attempt to account for unobservable ways that schools might sort (say, by student behavior) and ultimately find that three-quarters of the schools organize students along at least one dimension: Nineteen percent by prior math scores, 24 percent by prior reading scores, 28 percent by “gifted” status, 57 percent by LEP (limited English proficiency) status, and 13 percent by special-education status (further, around 40 percent sort by at least two dimensions). If schools began perfectly grouping by ability, they would see a 0.4 SD gain in student learning. While this small-scale study provides evidence that sorting is beneficial for increased test scores, school leaders must bear in mind the importance of other factors, such as the impact of...

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Andy Smarick and Kathleen Porter-Magee rock this week’s podcast. Find out why AP Calculus has such high pass rates, why being overwhelmed with choices can be a good thing, and why rising grad rates may be a red herring. Amber is hip to KIPP.
Mike and Checker talk about the ethics of prepping kids for gifted tests, charter selectivity, and overpriced congressionally mandated commissions, and Dara gives fresh ammunition to helicopter parents.
Mike and Adam discuss school-choice regulations with John Kirtley of Step Up for Students. Amber talks up the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

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