Going the extra mile

A study out of Britain’s Institute of Education (IOE) has found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in mathematics, vocabulary, and spelling between the ages of ten and sixteen than their peers who rarely read. In fact, the study found that whether or not a child likes to read is a greater predictor of classroom success than parents’ educational levels.

A Chicago Tribune article follows Jailyn Baker, a teenager in Chicago, on her seven-leg, hour-and-a-half-long commute to the Josephinium Academy, her school of choice and one of the few private schools in the city that her family can afford. Her story illustrates not only the lengths to which folks will go to exercise school choice but also a great irony: Jailyn lives closer to Indiana, a state that has one of the “most liberating” school-voucher programs in the land, than she does to Josephinium; were she living in Indiana, she would be eligible for a voucher worth nearly $6,000, which could allow her to attend a private school that she didn’t have to torture herself to get to.

Kudos of the week go to Jeb Bush, who—in what seemed like a moment of frustration—struck back at Common Core critics: “If you’re comfortable with mediocrity, fine.” He followed his comments, made at an appearance in Washington in support of Louisiana’s school-voucher program, by calling opposition “purely political.” Read more here.

A month after publishing two pieces blasting the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) methodology for evaluating ed schools’ primary reading programs, Valerie Strauss has granted column space in her Answer Sheet to a group letter defending the NCTQ. Written by the Wisconsin Reading Coalition’s Steven Dykstra and signed by many scholars, the letter states that the detractors’ criticisms are largely political innuendo and are a distraction from the real issue: “the need to improve the effectiveness of teacher education in the United States.” What’s more, it asserts that the NCTQ was right to promote the alphabetic approach to learning to read over the “guessing” approach—one that has been scientifically invalidated but is still commonly taught in teaching colleges. This letter is a powerful vindication and a worthy read.

According to Thomas Cousins of Purpose Built Communities in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the standard approach to addressing the issue of poverty—a “scattershot” method of pouring money into individual issues plaguing the poor, “as if there is no connection between a safe environment and a child’s ability to learn”—is not working. Rather, he highlights his organization’s success with a comprehensive-investment strategy in a small, geographically defined area: a public-housing project in southeast Atlanta, which has seen violent crime go down by 90 percent since 1993 and employment among those on welfare increase from 30 percent in 1995 to 70 percent. Their success has prompted the group to make an attempt at scaling up to other area—and we wish them luck.

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