January 22, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

Howard Blume and Sonali Kohli look back on what’s happened in the wake of last year’s teacher strike in Los Angeles.

Educators for Excellence surveyed teachers on their opinions on pay, the profession, and performance.

Phyllis W. Jordan on the risks of including surveys in formal accountability systems.

Alex Spurrier on Blaine Amendments and why the Supreme Court may rule against them.

EdBuild identifies the 50 most segregating school district boundaries.

Nick Allen on helping low-income students succeed in postsecondary education by focusing on “match” and “fit.”

“Most predictions on the future of work suggest sustaining employment will depend on workers’ abilities to master new skills on the job. Short-term training programs tend to develop specialized skills, which may get an individual a job in the near term, but not necessarily include the foundational competencies that can affect income mobility — where it counts — on the job.” That’s Jim Jacobs on the pitfalls of short-term training programs.

Andy Rotherham on whether we’re asking textbooks to do too much on their own.

Buried in this Chicago Sun-Times dive into the Chicago Teachers Union finances is this sentence:

Asked about the union’s political activities, Jennifer Johnson, the CTU’s chief of staff, says the CTU’s work is “inherently political.” But she notes that members can decide whether their dues go to the union’s PACs.

Um, isn’t Johnson totally giving up on the unions’ argument in the 2018 Janus case? If all teachers union work is inherently political, as Johnson seems to admit here, then the court made the correct decision in Janus.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has an update on school district budgets, student enrollment, and staffing:

Overall Teacher Workforce Has Been Increasing. School districts had about 295,000 full‑time equivalent (FTE) teachers in 2018‑19, an increase of about 18,000 (6.4 percent) over the 2013‑14 level. Coupled with the effects of declining student attendance, the statewide student‑to‑teacher ratio, in turn, has been dropping over the past several years. In 2018‑19, it stood at about 21:1—comparable to the level prior to the Great Recession. Similarly, by 2018‑19, the statewide student‑to‑administrator ratio (237:1) had dropped below pre‑recession levels. Given the return of staffing levels to pre‑recession levels, coupled with declining student attendance, the pressure to hire additional teachers and reduce class sizes is likely to subside over the coming years. 

The LAO recommends that California use one-time budget surplus money to pay down pension and healthcare obligations, while the Governor’s office has other ideas. John Fensterwald digs into that dynamic.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


A Few Thoughts On Espinoza v. Montana


January 21, 2020


January 17, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

Beth Hawkins has your must-read of the week with the incredible true story of the Rosenwald schools. Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, partnered with Booker T. Washington to build more than 5,000 schools for black communities across the South. Researchers from the Federal Reserve “concluded that the Rosenwald schools significantly bolstered literacy, earnings and South-to-North migration among rural blacks.” Check out the full story here.

“Dallas ISD is in fact retaining its best teachers at rates above the state’s and the district’s retention rates before the implementation of TEI. Overall, the district has kept 93% of teachers rated “Proficient II” or above. The district has retained 100% of its master-level teachers.” That’s from an update on how Dallas is doing on retaining its best teachers.

Education Strategy Group has a new resource on how states can boost FAFSA completion rates.

InsideHigherEd reports on a new study finding that many programs at public and nonprofit colleges would also fail the “gainful employment” test.

A new brief by John V. Winters concludes, “Working in a locality where a greater share of the population has a college degree is correlated with higher wages and better employment outcomes even controlling for individuals’ own education and other characteristics. Studies based on various natural experiments suggest that this positive relationship is causal.” That is, education is not just a benefit to individuals, it also has wider societal benefits.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 


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