• Carr Makes It 19-0
    this new empirical study of Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program, by my old colleague Matt Carr, finding that – guess what, you’ll never believe this – vouchers improve outcomes at public schools! Building on a large body of previous studies, this makes it nineteen (19) high-quality empirical studies finding school choice improves public schools and zero (0) studies finding it harms public schools.
  • Treason on schools
    “Where’s the outrage?” is always the last cry of those losing a political argument, but when it comes to Americans’ complacency over mediocre schools, things get more complicated. Poor families know perfectly well that their kids are getting the shaft, but they lack the clout to demand (and pay for) better teachers and facilities. And when middle-class parents hear that U.S. schools fare poorly in global assessments, it’s been easy for local leaders to claim they’re exempt from these trends while pointing to modest steps that create the illusion of progress. Some note that low-performing minority children drag down U.S. scores, but, as the report shows, white kids in America are getting trounced, too. Isn’t it clear that decades into the school-reform movement, the emperor still has far too few clothes? As Steve Brill’s important and exhaustively reported new book, “Class Warfare,” documents, we’re bogged down in trench warfare between reformers and teachers unions over incremental changes, when we need a full-blown, presidentially led crusade to dramatically up our game.
  • Americans love teachers but split over teachers’ unions, poll shows
    Forty-seven percent of respondents say unionization has hurt the quality of public education in America, compared with 38 percent in 1976, the last time the question was asked. The number of Americans who say unionization has helped has jumped slightly, too – from 22 percent to 26 percent – and far fewer Americans (just 2 percent, compared with 13 percent in 1976) have no opinion on the subject.
  • Slate.com vs. Tea-Party/Christians/Bachmann
    Though it might come as a surprise to Slate‘s writers, our nation was not founded on state-run schooling. And, until very recently in historical terms, the idea that the federal government had a role to play in the classroom was unthinkable.
  • One in Five Children Poor—but What Does That Mean?
    Today a new report was released indicating nearly one in five children in the U.S. is poor. The report, from the Annie Casey Foundation, was technically correct; it followed conventional Census procedures for identifying poor children. But what does it mean to be “poor” in the U.S.? Government data show that the typical poor family with children has a computer, cable TV, air conditioning, a car, multiple TVs, a microwave, and an Xbox in the home. According to the USDA, during the full 12 months of 2009, only one child in 67 was reported “hungry”—even temporarily—because the parent couldn’t afford enough food. It said 99 percent of children did not skip a single meal during the year because of lack of financial resources in the home. USDA also reports there is no difference in quality of diet between children from high- and low-income homes. Another important but neglected question is: Why are children poor? Answer: The main causes of child poverty are low levels of parental work and the absence of fathers.
  • Can the US compete if only 32 percent of its students are proficient in math?
    The US ranked 32nd out of 65 countries (or cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong) that participated in the latest international PISA, an exam administered to representative samples of 15-year-old students by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Their work suggests that raising math proficiency rates to the level of Canada or Korea would eventually increase annual GDP growth rates by 30 to 50 percent. The new report also looks at reading comparisons. The US, with 31 percent of students proficient in reading, ranks 17th.
  • ‘Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning’: A Stimulating, Quality Read
    At the end of July, the Fordham Institute launched an important new series to examine how to create healthy policy for the emergent and disruptive force of digital learning that is sweeping through our education system… As Hess contemplates how we might shape this latest technology, he suggests three framing mechanisms by which one can judge quality: input regulation, outcome-based accountability, and market-based quality control. If we really, truly held schools accountable for results in exchange for public dollars and gave them significant freedom around their inputs, one wonders if they wouldn’t have the incentive to reach out for different solutions and providers to educate the children they serve.
  • Implications of voucher ruling not clear
    Denver District Judge Michael Martinez granted the preliminary injunction and went even further, declaring the evidence presented in a three-day hearing warranted the injunction stopping the Choice Scholarship Program be made permanent. But he also noted the plaintiffs “have expressly not asked the court to direct the disenrollment of scholarship recipients already attending private partner schools or the return of funds already expended.” That sounds as if students already enrolled in private schools can keep the payments – equaling one quarter of the $4,575 total voucher – already made.
    In other words, that’s it, the legal argument is over unless the district decides to appeal.
  • Local schools work hard to combat jump in poverty
    According to the annual Kids Count survey released recently, the number of children living in poverty in Rutherford County increased by about 2,300 during that time. More than a fourth of the county’s minor residents — 25.5 percent — receive food stamps, up 18.6 percent from 2008, the report indicated. The 2010 state report card on education shows that 60 percent of Tennessee students were economically disadvantaged, meaning they received subsidized meals. Murfreesboro City Schools reported 63.4 percent of its students received meal assistance, compared to 43.6 percent in Rutherford County Schools.
  • ACT scores dip in Tennessee; Memphis, Shelby County schools lose ground
    Tennessee students scored slightly lower on the ACT test this year, a disappointment for a state trying to climb steep hills in education reform and spending tens of millions of dollars to do it. Shelby County Schools’ score dropped from 21 to 20.7. School officials attribute it in part to a larger population of special-education students taking the test. Memphis City Schools’ score dropped from 16.6 to 16.2. Students in the city schools lost ground in every tested subject.
  • Leaders of Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools vow cooperation
    As superintendents of Shelby County’s separate (for now) school systems pledged Wednesday to accelerate collaborations aimed at merging Memphis City Schools and Shelby County schools by 2013, attorneys for all parties involved in the merger lawsuit were evaluating settlement offers. The two sides will set up working groups to address big issues such as transporting students, combining technology systems and dealing with personnel questions, Cash said.
  • TN High School ACT Scores Drop Slightly
    Today ACT is releasing “The Condition of College and Career Readiness,” a report which highlights statewide data on ACT scores, academic achievement and post-secondary aspirations. Tennessee’s results from the April 2011 test show the state’s public high school students’ composite ACT score dropped from 19.1 in 2010 to 19.0 out of 36 in 2011, highlighting the ongoing need for education reform to achieve the state’s Race to the Top goal of broader college readiness.
    Across the state, 24 percent of students are college-ready in math, 55 percent in English, 38 percent in reading and 17 percent in science.
  • Imposing National Standards
    A broader recognition that the Constitution grants neither Congress nor the President any role in education would go a long way toward fixing these problems. NCLB may be, to quote Arne Duncan, “a slow-motion train wreck,” but using that law to transfer power away from parents, states and Congress is easily a solution worse than the problem.

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