January 15, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

After Memphis instituted universal screening for its gifted and talented programs, it saw a dramatic uptick in the number of black and Hispanic students who were identified.

Dana Goldstein’s New York Times piece on how textbooks differ across states is well done (and laid out beautifully). History may be written by the victors, but apparently it also has to cater to the whims of state boards of education.

Newark charter schools are producing large gains in reading and math achievement.

Matt Barnum has a helpful rundown of what the research says on what works (and doesn’t) to help students complete college.

Mary Wells offers five ways districts need to change to support autonomous schools.

This two-part conversation with Rick Hess about the complex nature of educational reform and philanthropy is worth your time. Here’s part one and part two. Mostly, it made me think of all the strange career incentives that are baked into our educational system.

How basketball is changing, in one graph.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


Has Common Core Failed?

The answer to the question, “has Common Core failed?” depends on what you think the goals of the Common Core movement were. In my mind, here’s a short list of what the Common Core movement accomplished:

  • More rigorous state standards;
  • More commonality across different sets of state standards; and
  • A further push on the idea that K-12 schools should prepare students to be “college- and career-ready.”

If, however, you held out hope that state standards themselves would lead to higher student achievement, well, you should read Morgan Polikoff and Tom Loveless’ columns in this Education Next debate on the long-term impacts of the Common Core.

Taking the opposing view, Mike Petrilli argues that Common Core just hasn’t had an effect yet. Ten years into the Common Core era, I’m with Polikoff and Loveless: Improving state standards may have been a worthy policy to pursue, but any downstream effects should be showing up by now. If anything, implementation fidelity is getting worse over time, not better. And, although Petrilli seems to think the opposite, I attribute the Common Core as one of several contributing factors that led to the weaker accountability systems adopted in the wake of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act.

From my vantage point, the Common Core was a perfectly good idea that got over-extended and over-hyped.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


January 13, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

The 13th annual CALDER conference is coming up in February. The agenda is here. It’s open to all who can make it in D.C. (plus free breakfast and lunch!), or there’s a webinar option for those who prefer to follow along remotely.

EdTrust has an important report looking at what’s driving inequities in access to advanced courses. They find that Black and Hispanic students perform well when given opportunities, but a lack of seats, and inequitable distribution in those seats, deny them equal opportunities. The report also comes with a nifty data tool to see how your state is doing.

Rachel Canter talks to Jennifer Schiess on the educational progress in Mississippi.

Mike Antonucci looks at how California school districts, “are approaching financial crisis even as California increased education expenditures by extraordinary amounts — about 50 percent in the last five years.”

“One of the most consistent findings in education research” is that Master’s degrees don’t make people better teachers. And yet we continue to reward teachers for earning Master’s degrees. Grace Gedye asks why, and Ben Miller looks at implications for the debt burdens we’re placing on teachers. And remember, these same useless Master’s degrees are also distorting the teacher “wage gap” data that get tossed around ad nauseam.

Taylor Swaak dives into a new report showing that 41 percent of New York City schools don’t represent their neighboring district’s student demographics.

A new policy brief by Melanie Rucinski and Joshua Goodman finds, “the lack of diversity in Massachusetts’ teacher workforce largely stems from early stages of the teacher development pipeline. Licensure exam takers and passers are substantially less diverse than the college-enrolled population, but among those who pass the exam there are few racial differences in rates of initial teaching employment or retention.” Listen to Rucinski talk about the paper on the latest Education Next podcast.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


January 9, 2020

Attainment Versus Achievement

I have a new column up at The 74 celebrating some good news on college attainment:

College attainment rates rose just 1 or 2 percentage points per decade for the first half of the 20th century and only began to pick up in the 1970s. Although the most recent data only go through 2018, the 2010s have already seen a gain of 5.1 percentage points, more than the gains in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. If the 2010s ended anything like the decade began, it will easily be the best decade we’ve ever seen in terms of college attainment.

The research is divided on whether attainment (aka years of education) or achievement (e.g. test scores) matters more. We just went through a decade with stagnant achievement scores, and ideally we’d see improvements in both, but I argue it’s still worth celebrating the attainment gains.

Read it here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


January 8, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

Conor Williams has a moving tribute to Courtney Everts Mykytyn, the founder of Integrated Schools.

Bellwether’s most-read blog posts and reports from 2019.

Matthew Yglesias summarizes new research suggesting that air filters could have an extraordinarily large effect on student achievement.

Louisiana schools chief John White is stepping down in March after eight years in the role. White has a number of accomplishments to be proud of–I’m partial to their highly-rated ESSA plan and their impressive gains in FAFSA completion rates–or Lauren Camera has a rundown of improvements under White’s watch:

Louisiana boasted a graduation rate of 81% in 2018, graduating more students than ever before and up from 72% in 2012, the year White was appointed – an increase that translates to about 5,000 students. More students also enrolled in college in 2018 than ever before, with more than 25,000 pursuing a postsecondary education.

Also since 2012, the number of students earning Advanced Placement credits increased by more than 3,800, or 167%, according to state records. And nearly 5,000 more students earned a college-going score of at least 18 on the ACT colleges admissions test.

Even on the National Assessment of Education Progress, an assessment of math and reading among fourth- and eighth-graders in the U.S. that’s showed stagnant and sometimes decreased achievement since 2015, the Bayou State has bright spots: Louisiana ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2019 for improvement in eighth grade math, the state’s pace of improvement since 2009 in all subjects exceeds national trends and it ranks among the top 10 for improvement over the last decade in all four subject-grade assessments.

Here’s an important new working paper on School Improvement Grants (SIG) from Min Sung, Alec Kennedy, and Susanna Loeb. Looking at two entire states (Washington and North Carolina) and two cities (San Francisco and an anonymous “Beachfront County”), they found large gains in reading and math achievement and high school graduation rates. Those gains grew over time, continued after the funding dried up, and were as large or larger for low-income students and students of color.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the narrative that SIG “didn’t work” is wrong or at least incomplete. The better question now is not “did SIG work?” but rather “why did it produce results in some places and not others?”

Jill Barshay has a cool story about how John Jay College improved its graduation rates by focusing extra attention on seniors who were otherwise at risk of dropping out.

Now that it’s 2020, will people stop using the, “By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education” statistic? Note that over time some people have simplified the stat to say, “65 percent will have a college degree,” but the original source for the statistic, a 2013 report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, included any “postsecondary education and training beyond high school.” As I noted on Twitter, we actually made it! As of November 2019, 68 percent of all employed civilians had attended at least some college.

If you like your apples sweet, juicy, and crunchy, I recommend trying the new Cosmic Crisp. Background story here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


January 6, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

I’m biased, but I enjoyed Greg Richmond’s interview with Andy Rotherham. It’s short, but there are lots of good nuggets in there, including this one:

My friends who are doctors and nurses, nobody is attacking them for indifference to housing or education policy. Only in education policy is focusing on a single issue as one lever for change considered a problem.

Kate Rabinowitz and Laura Meckler take a look at teacher diversity for The Washington Post. The article also includes interactive graphics that allow you to look up how teacher diversity compares to student diversity in your local school district.

“Instructions to suppress stereotypes often have the opposite effect, and prejudice reduction programs are much more effective when people are already open-minded, altruistic, and concerned about their prejudices to begin with.” That’s from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic reviewing the academic literature on implicit bias training.

Katrina Boone on how and why, “Native parents and activists saw school choice as a way to pursue justice and cultural revitalization.”

Which states have the best (and worst) teacher retirement plans? I take a look at one simple way to answer that question.

Washington schools chief Chris Reykdal is trying to address disparities in access to college-level coursework by pushing for a bill that would require school districts, colleges, and universities to cover the cost of dual credit for high school students.

Gentrification is a growing problem in all of our urban cities, right? Well, no. Here’s Will Stancil correcting the record:

Research has also tended to show that no matter how you measure gentrification in the urban core, it’s almost always more common to find neighborhoods afflicted by intensifying poverty. Out of the fifty biggest American regions, forty-four have core cities where the population in poverty has grown faster than the overall population since 2000. The only exceptions are New York City, Los Angeles, D.C., New Orleans, Atlanta, and Providence.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman


December 20, 2019

Holiday Edu-Reads

This Wall Street Journal story is worth your time. Financial companies buy their way into teachers lounges with offers of free food or other perks, only to sell teachers on expensive, fee-laded 403(b) plans. Meanwhile, state and national teachers unions are willing middlemen who get kickbacks from these deals. Lest you don’t trust the Wall Street Journal, here’s a similar story from The New York Times and many more horror stories from the nonprofit 403bwise.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is this ProPublica story from New Jersey, where health plans for school employees cover the full cost of out-of-network expenses. The results are what you might expect:

In recent months, teachers across New Jersey have been protesting, even striking, for higher wages and more affordable benefits. Meanwhile, a state analysis shows, the glut of out-of-network payments has consumed hundreds of millions of dollars in the past four years. That’s money that experts say could have helped fund the teachers’ demands. And New Jersey residents are also pitching in to pay the bills: Homeowners in the towns where the schools are located are chipping in through higher property taxes.

Health care costs can be controlled with more aggressive oversight. Here’s a story about a Boston union and how they did it:

It required union members to make a trade-off that many, at first, found unpalatable — giving up access to some of the city’s best known, and most expensive, hospitals.

In return, however, workers not only kept their insurance premiums under control, they saved so much money that housekeepers like Rajae Nouira saw their hourly pay increase from $16.98 to $23.60 in five years, a 39% jump.

 

Evan Coughenour is not Catholic, but he has a growing appreciation for Catholic schools.

Tresha Ward has some tips for principals on how to lead autonomous schools, and how that’s different than leading any other school.

Elizabeth Ross and Kelli Lakis look at licensure rules for teachers crossing state lines.

The FAFSA is about to be simplified, here’s Evie Blad on what that means for students and Lamar Alexander’s favorite prop.

Matt Chingos surveys the landscape on free college proposals and explains why, “A plan that simply pays whatever colleges are charging would bail out states like Vermont at the expense of states like Wyoming — and encourage states to raise tuition to capture more federal money.”

EdSource has a deep dive, with a cool map, into community college transfer rates in California. About 40 percent of community college students in California eventually transfer to the state’s university systems, but those rates vary widely based on geography.

Nat Malkus is worried about screen time for kids. As a parent, I wish my kids’ school would send them home with some homework this holiday season. Or at least extra library books. Instead, all I got was a reminder of my kids’ login for online learning platforms so they could spend their break with MORE screen time. No thanks…

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Posted on Dec 20, 2019 @ 11:16am

December 18, 2019

Latest Edu-News

The edTPA is “a high-stakes assessment that’s expensive, discriminates against people of color, is vulnerable to cheating, and forces schools to teach to the test.” That’s Mike Antonucci summarizing this article by Madeline Will about new research on edTPA… Oh, and the edTPA is also not a great predictor of teacher effectiveness. But other than that…

Justin Trinidad interviews Felicia Butts, the Director of Teacher Residencies at Chicago Public Schools, about their bilingual teacher residency program.

When a traditional school district is losing the competition for students to… other traditional school districts. It’s weird how the word “charter” doesn’t appear in the piece at all!

“whether they’re GreatSchools’ ratings, state ratings, or anything else, let’s make them as accurate and nuanced as possible—but let’s also focus on ensuring they are truly useful and accessible to all families.” That’s David Keeling from EdNavigator about how the families they work with interact with school ratings.

Here’s your regular reminder that colleges determine what “college-ready” means.

A new study finds that housing vouchers boosted math and reading scores in New York City.

Billions of dollars are at stake. There will be only one champion. I’m talking, of course, about the FAFSA Fast Break challenge.

After multiple pauses, Congress has finally agreed to kill the “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health care plans. This was one of the key funding provisions of the original Affordable Care Act. As I noted back in July, the Cadillac Tax was meant to address a particularly bad incentive baked into our tax policies:

I’d rather Americans didn’t have our health care benefits tied to our employers at all, but we’ve created a particularly weird incentive by not taxing employer spending on health care. That creates a system where the people using health care have little reason to help control health care costs. And, in the long run, employers spend more and more on benefits at the expense of salaries and wages. That’s bad for efficiency, bad for budgets, and, ultimately, bad for workers.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

 


December 17, 2019

The Case For Student Growth

I have a new column up at The 74 making the case for why we should measure student growth. It may be easier to judge school quality based on the students who are enrolled there, but that will likely present a misleading view of the school’s actual contributions to student learning:

The only way out of this conundrum is for states and districts to take the lead in measuring student growth rates and embedding them in a more prominent way in school rating systems. For example, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C., has run the numbers on what its “STAR” accountability system would look like both with and without growth. It concludes:

“…schools at the lower end of the STAR rating distribution tend to benefit from the inclusion of growth metrics, whereas schools at the upper end of the STAR rating distribution would tend to benefit from the exclusion of growth metrics.”

That is, the D.C. school ratings would have the same problems as the real estate agents on Long Island and the reformers in Newark if they didn’t include student growth. The D.C. example is a reminder that if we don’t measure student growth, we’ll have the wrong definition of school quality. Worse, we’ll favor student populations that are already doing well, while harshly judging schools that actually help students learn the most.

Read the rest here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


December 16, 2019