Over- and underachievers

The D.C. Charter Board recently released its annual ranking of charter schools in the nation’s capital, showing that one-third of the schools it sponsors deserve a top-performing, or Tier 1, status. Five schools attained Tier 1 status for the first time this year, bringing the total number of high flyers to twenty-three among sixty-eight that were ranked (at least four schools dropped from Tier 1 status to Tier 2 this year). Most schools were in the middle, and eight dwelled at the bottom, where they risk getting shut down. Still, hurrah for the progress the Board can claim. And hurrah for D.C. kids, who can enjoy the fruits of this endeavor.

The fourth round of the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) initiative has concluded with twenty-five applicants in the winner’s circle. Seven are validation grants (larger awards for ideas with the strongest evidence base) and eighteen are development grants (smaller awards aimed at supporting up-and-coming ideas). The grantees ranged from teacher-collaboration ideas to ed-tech groups, from proposals creating free Common Core instructional resources for teachers to parental-engagement plans. For a take on a past grantee, the Reading Recovery program, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show podcast.

On Wednesday, Rep. George Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin introduced legislation in the House and Senate to expand access to pre-K programs for four-year-olds. The bill largely adheres to President Obama’s proposal (states will have to promise to link pre-K data to K–12, provide state-funded Kindergarten, and ensure that early-education teachers have bachelor’s degrees). But there are some key differences: states would have the option to set aside 15 percent of the funding to serve infants and toddlers from poor families; the program would be slightly cheaper for states in the long run, as states would have to contribute less of their own dollars during the ninth and tenth years of the program; and instead of relying on a tobacco tax to pay for the program, regular appropriations would be used. We’re not crazy about creating a new federal entitlement, but as a model for new state pre-K programs, this proposal has a lot going for it.

Open season on Pearson continues (and is mostly well deserved). The latest gaffe: In addition to delivering their new Common Core–aligned textbooks to New York City after the school year had commenced, teachers complain that the texts are poorly sequenced and “loaded with errors.” For example, one workbook page has questions about the wrong reading, another page is printed upside down, and teachers’ manuals don’t match students’ textbooks. Pearson staff: Perhaps it’s time for a little remedial education.

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