Latest Edu-Reads

If you have kids hopping on a bright yellow bus this month, I encourage you to check out Bellwether’s latest work on school buses.

I’ll be talking pensions and health care costs at this October event on education budgets hosted by AEI and Fordham. I’m biased, but it looks like a great line-up of panelists.

“…US births in 2018 totaled just 3,788,235, the lowest annual number of births in 32 years…” That’s part of this detailed look at U.S. Census projections. Schools will start to feel the effects of these trends in a couple years.

In the college remediation space, there was lots of hope for California’s Early Assessment Program (EAP), which provides information to 11th graders about whether they would need remediation at Cal State universities. If students score above a certain threshold on the EAP, they are automatically exempt from remedial classes. If they score below the threshold, they are encouraged to take additional coursework in 12th grade. In theory, it’s a nice way to provide earlier, actionable information to students, and a preliminary study of one CSU institution found that the EAP program reduced the need for remediation by 6.2 percentage points in English and 4.3 percentage points in math. However, a new, larger study found smaller effects across all 23 CSU institutions. The authors estimate that the EAP program leads to 1,200-1,400 fewer students placed in remedial math or remedial English annually. However, the effects seem to be driven by providing students just above the threshold an exemption from remedial courses. This testing effect appears to be more powerful than the informational aspect of the program.

We’re going to be hearing a lot about Success Academy this fall thanks to Robert Pondiscio’s forthcoming book* on the New York charter school network. In the meantime, check out this news: Every single student at Success Academy Flatbush passed state reading and math tests last year, a feat achieved by only two other NYC schools since 2013. Robert Bellafiore suggests Democratic presidential candidates should spend more time in schools like this.

This blog post by David Evans is a short, accessible entry point to Matt Kraft’s important work on interpreting effect sizes. As someone who straddles the education research and policy worlds, for me it was a helpful reminder of just how hard it is to “dramatically” move the needle in education. Education reform is a long game that will require lots of incremental improvements rather than one magic pill. Funders and ideologues looking for a quick fix are likely to be disappointed.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

*Disclosure: I got my hands on an advance copy of the book and am about 50 pages in. It’s good so far! I’ll share more thoughts after I finish.