The nation's leading teacher educators made a startling admission last year in their tome, Studying Teacher Education, by conceding there's little evidence that what happens in ed schools helps in the K-12 classroom. Kate Walsh explores why teacher educators are ignoring the achievement gap and, thus, consigning their field to irrelevance.
Science education in America is under attack, with "discovery learning" on one flank and the Discovery Institute on the other. That's the core finding of this comprehensive review of state science standards, the first since 2000. Written by pre-eminent biologist Paul R. Gross, The State of State Science Standards 2006 finds that even though the majority of states have reworked, or completely re-written, their science standards over the past five years, we're no better off now than before. The good news is that many of the standards are easily fixed. The public's anxiety about the future of our nation's scientific prowess is palpable,and reasonable. How serious are we in addressing their concerns?
What do ordinary Ohioans think about the myriad education reforms enacted in the Buckeye state over the last half-decade? How do parents, taxpayers, and citizens view public schooling in 2005? Do they like these reforms? Seek more or less of them? Have confidence that they'll succeed? Fordham decided to enlist veteran analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett to examine the attitudes of Ohio residents toward their public schools. The results? Ohioans are frustrated with their K-12 education system on a number of fronts, and feel the state is in dire need of stronger, better leadership when it comes to education. Policymakers would do well to pay attention.
Almost every week a new report or commission decries the decline of America's preeminence in science, and calls for the nation's education system to raise standards in order for our economy to remain competitive with the rest of the world. Within this context, the National Assessment Governing Board is preparing to launch a new science assessment for 2009. Curriculum developers and textbook writers are likely to follow its lead. Fordham couldn't help but wonder: is the draft science Framework up to the challenge? Using much the same criteria applied in the Foundation's state science standards reviews (due out this December), our reviewers answered: no. As author (and esteemed biologist) Paul R. Gross wrote, The Framework is an interesting start, but there is much work to be done if it is to achieve its potential usefulness.
How are charter schools in Ohio truly performing when compared to their district counterparts? The latest Fordham Foundation report, School Performance in Ohio's Inner Cities: Comparing Charter and District School Results in 2005 provides a rare apples-to-apples comparison of charter school and district school achievement in four of Ohio's cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton. The results reveal that the performance of charter pupils isn't as dismal as Ohio's charter opponents want you to believe. However, the findings also illuminate the larger problem: ALL public schools in the Buckeye State still have a long way to go to reach academic success.
American middle schools have become the places "where academic achievement goes to die." So says Cheri Yecke, K-12 Education Chancellor of Florida and author of the new Fordham report Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work. Today's middle schools have succumbed to a concept of "middle schoolism" in which a strong academic curriculum is traded for one that focuses more on emotional and social development, and less on learning the basics. And the achievement data reflects "middle schoolism's" results. In 1999, U.S. eighth graders scored nine points below average on the TIMSS assessment of math. What's more, these same eighth graders had outperformed the average by 28 points as fourth graders in 1995! According to Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., "Trying to fix high schools while ignoring middle schools is like bandaging a wound before treating it for infection."
The standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Excellence (NCATE) are of critical import for America's future teaching corps and will wield disproportionate influence for decades to come. Over the past fifteen years, 25 states have outsourced the approval of teacher preparation programs to NCATE by adopting or adapting its standards as their own; the other 25 have various 'partnerships' with the organization. Which makes it all the more disturbing that central to these standards is the call for teachers to possess certain 'dispositions' such as particular attitudes toward 'social justice.' As Professor William Damon of Stanford University explains in Fordham's latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education, NCATE's framing of the 'dispositions' issue has given education schools 'unbounded power over what candidates may think and do.' This is leading to (understandable) charges of ideological arm-twisting and Orwellian mind-control.
Of all the controversies swirling around the nation's charter schools, none is more hotly contested than the debate over funding. Into the fray leaps Charter School Funding: Inequitys Next Frontier, the most comprehensive and rigorous study ever undertaken of how public charter schools are funded, state by state, and how their revenues measure up to dollars received by district-run schools.
In just more than five years, Mary Anne Stanton has led 13 Catholic schools from high-poverty Washington, D.C. neighborhoods into a consortium that has not only strengthened each school's financial health, but has also greatly improved the academic performance of the children the schools are charged with educating. To get there, she's installed a new standards-based curriculum, shaken up old bureaucratic approaches, and streamlined operations. In its latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation presents a compelling story of just how much change can be made by one determined school leader with a vision.
In 2002, when its voters approved a ballot measure calling for universal pre-Kindergarten by 2005-06, Florida joined a handful of states in which all children are eligible for free, publicly funded education in the year prior to Kindergarten. The passage of the referendum was cause for great optimism among those aware of the power of high-quality pre-K programs to prepare children, particularly low-income children, to meet the challenges of K-12 education. But as with any public policy initiative, the devil is in the details. In designing the half-day Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program (VPK), the Florida legislature faced competing demands. How did they balance the trade-offs? Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust lays it out in Fordham's latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education.