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 


Latest Edu-Reads

Check out FAFSA completion rates by poverty rate in your state, via this cool tool by Bill DeBaun for the National College Access Network. In my home state of Virginia, for example, students in the highest-poverty schools have FAFSA completion rates that are about 15 percentage points lower than in the lowest-poverty schools. That is, the students who could benefit from the FAFSA the most are the least likely to complete it. Check out how your state looks.

99 percent of public community colleges use standardized tests to determine which students are ready for college-level math, and 98 percent do so in reading and writing, finds a new survey by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness.

Mike Antonucci finds that the number of people working in education employed by local governments increased by 8.5 percent last year. That’s not all teachers, but the public education system as a whole is growing much faster than student enrollment.

Do teachers value all forms of compensation equally? I have an interview up today with Barbara Biasi, a Yale economist with a recent paper looking at what happened in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10. That bill cut teacher take-home pay (by increasing pension contributions) and made it illegal for districts to negotiate over salary schedules, leading districts to introduce new forms of performance pay. It also led to a wave of teacher retirements, but Biasi was able to exploit variation in the timing of the policy changes to analyze whether the salary or pension changes were most responsible. Perhaps not surprisingly, she found that even late-career teachers were much more sensitive to salary changes than they were to pension changes. While this was an instance where the state was trimming spending, it provides another piece of evidence that teachers value $1 in salary spending much more than they do $1 in benefit spending.

I also have a new column up today for The 74 about New York City’s teacher retirement plans. The city automatically enrolls all new teachers in a defined benefit pension plan with all the typical problems–it’s under-funded, back-loaded, and has a 10-year vesting requirement (which would be illegal in the private sector). Meanwhile, the city also offers teachers a voluntary retirement plan which could offer the city a path forward for a more fiscally responsible, portable benefit for workers.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Latest Edu-Reads

Texas is in the midst of redesigning remedial courses at the state’s colleges and universities. This Dallas Observer piece has a good overview of what they did and how it’s going. Here’s the key quote: “During the fall 2018 semester, the first after the new model went into effect, the state saw 10,000 more students pass their first college-level course than during the fall 2017 semester.”

This is a super cool data visualization tool on FAFSA completion rates from Ellie Bruecker. You can narrow in on certain geographic regions or search by school name and see how FAFSA completions are trending over time.

“UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison lie just 80 miles apart, but they might as well be on different planets when it comes to access and outcomes.” That’s from James Murphy in a new brief for Education Reform Now.

Florida has been a leader on teacher retirement policy, but I suggest a couple ways they could do even better.

“The key argument against exit exams—that they depress graduation rates—does not hold for [end-of-course exams].” That and more in this Fordham report on end-of-course exams.

Speaking of Fordham, I’ve enjoyed Mike Petrilli’s summer blog series on big-picture trends in education over the last 25 years. The whole thing is worth reading, but this paragraph from his series finale provides a nice summary:

The achievement of low-performing kids and children of color rose dramatically from the late 1990s until the Great Recession. That was mostly because of improving social and economic conditions for these children, but accountability reforms and increased spending played a role, as well. Over the last decade, that progress has mostly petered out. And the gains we made were, of course, not nearly enough, as they mostly meant getting more kids to a basic level of literacy and numeracy and walking across the high school graduation stage—nowhere near the goal of readiness for college, career, and citizenship that is the proper objective of our K–12 system.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

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.