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 

Latest Edu-Reads

Six years ago, California shifted its school funding approach from categorical funding targeted to specific programs and populations, to a flexible approach granting districts significant autonomy in how they served English learners, youth in foster care, and students from low-income households. A new state audit concludes, “In general, we determined that the State’s approach… has not ensured that funding is benefiting students as intended.”

California is also considering making FAFSA completion a high school graduation requirement.

Senator Kamala Harris is introducing a bill this week to help expand before- and after-school programs at 500 low-income schools. Other candidates have similar proposals, but it’s a good idea to address a real need for working parents.

Aaron Churchill looks at Ohio’s progress compared to its long-term goals. So far, the state is mostly meeting its goals in English language arts, but it’s already behind in math, and it’s rate of growth will need to pick up markedly to meet its long-term goals.

This new study by Briana Ballis and Katelyn Heath found HUGE negative effects of special education enrollment targets in Texas. But Matt Barnum has an important caution about how to interpret those results:

But Ballis and Heath identify another potential cause. Texas policy at the time allowed students with disabilities to graduate high school without having passed an exit exam. That meant losing a special education label also raised the bar for earning a high school diploma. And since since finishing high school is a precondition to college enrollment, higher graduation standards could affect college enrollment, too.

Ballis and Heath found some evidence that points to the higher graduation bar being the main culprit. Students who lost their special education status didn’t see test scores fall, attendance rates decline, or their likelihood of repeating a grade increase. That’s surprising: if the loss of services translated to immediate academic struggles, you would expect to see changes in those metrics [emphasis added].

That doesn’t mean the harmful effects of the cap aren’t real. Those students really did have much lower odds of graduating. But the results don’t clearly show what effect the special education services were having.

Speaking of tales of caution, Mike Antonucci has a rundown of the what changed before and after the Chicago teacher strike.

“The nation is stuck with a bad deal on teacher salaries: salaries insufficient to attract new teachers who can fuel improved schools and yet not even high enough to satisfy current teachers.” Eric Hanushek on how we might strike a better deal on teacher pay.

And did you know counselor quality matters?

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Weekend Edu-Reads

Caprice Young is a must-read on the new reality facing California charter schools.

Robin Lake bakes a bread metaphor into this piece on school districts and charter schools. It turns out that recipes involving living organisms can be hard to follow. She concludes, “let districts be districts, when they work. But when they don’t, try something else.”

Aaron Churchill has a new report on college readiness in Ohio. He looks at ACT scores, dual enrollment, AP, and industry credentials overall across the state, by county, and by race. While all of these indicators are trending upward across the state, the black-white gap remains large:

Dolly Parton is awesome. And so is this D.C. program she’s involved with that sends free books to kids under 5.

Phillip Burgoyne-Allen says, “Do the electric!” Bus, that is.

How tax policy gave us White Claw and other hard seltzers.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

Weekend Reading List

Fun graphs on the change in educational attainment over time by state.

Teach for America keeps getting better.

Hailly Korman and Kelly Robson on the fragmentation between schools and social service agencies.

Max Marchitello on how Arizona keeps cutting teacher retirement benefits.

Bellwether has two new short briefs on charter schools in California, on special education and facilities. In particular, the special education brief addressed one common myth: That California charter schools enroll fewer special education students and thus force traditional school districts to carry a disproportionate burden for educating those students. As the brief outlines, California uses a regional, census-based model that shares special education costs across entities and helps address this problem:

This structural arrangement for special education upends the commonly held belief that charter schools, through a kind of selective enrollment, choose not to enroll their share of students with disabilities, and thereby overburden traditional school district budgets. Instead, districts retain special education funding that is based on enrollment across both district and charter schools and determine how to best deploy those resources.

That funding arrangement system is still far from perfect, but it’s not as simple (or as bad) as the raw statistics might lead you to believe.

Today marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. If you haven’t already, I recommend listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast episode on the specific direction and argument the Court took in deciding the case, as well as the subsequent impact on black teachers.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Money > Complicated Loan Forgiveness Programs

California Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing to revive a teacher loan forgiveness program. Here’s a brief description of the proposal via EdSource:

The college loan repayment program would provide up to $20,000 to an estimated 4,500 newly credentialed teachers who commit to teaching at least four years in high-demand fields in districts having the hardest time hiring credentialed teachers. Newsom suggested the program would make inroads in reducing the 6,000 to 8,000 emergency, uncredentialed teachers who have been hired annually to fill California classrooms.

Spot how many rules are buried into this paragraph? Candidates must:

  • Be newly credentialed teachers
  • Have loans
  • Teach in high-demand subjects
  • Teach in districts struggling to staff their schools
  • Verify said teaching for four years

Prior versions of this program required four consecutive years of teaching, and the loan forgiveness was all-or-nothing.

There are simpler, fairer ways to address teacher shortage areas. For example, a Georgia program offering supplemental pay for math and science teachers had large positive effects on retention. When Florida offered a combination of loan forgiveness and direct bonuses, both components seemed to have an effect on retention, but the direct bonuses were more cost-effective.

Instead of a convoluted loan forgiveness program, California should just send the money directly to teachers. Money should be paid out annually, not as some sort of promise if teachers complete all the requisite paperwork. Not only would this be more fair and simple for teachers, it also might just work better.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman