A Wealth of Weekend Reading

If you were away, literally or figuratively, during the holiday season, you may have missed some important education stories.  Now is the time to catch up. Below is a quick synopsis of what the CUNY Institute has been following while you were on vacation….


School leaders matter


An important study by three respected researchers — Gregory Branch, program manager at the University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center; Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; and Steven Rivkin, professor of economics at University of Illinois at Chicago adds needed evidence to the growing acceptance of the fact that school principals have a considerable impact on student learning.  Branch, Hanushek, and Rivkin not only show that principal quality is important to student outcomes, they suggest what specific practices cause some principals to be more successful than others.

Rethinking July for principals


Mike Goldstein offers one practical recommendation to foster school leader effectiveness: take most of May off and work in July. It makes sense – except perhaps to those principals who might want sand between their toes in the summer.

The fiscal cliff, Philly style


Philadelphia is closing 37 of its 237 schools, hoping to avert a financial disaster, reports the New York Times.   “In all, 17,000 students and more than 1,100 teachers would be affected by closings, program changes and new grade configurations,” says the Times, which reports that the city of Brotherly Love faces a budget deficit of $1.1 billion over the next five years.  This may be the future of big city schooling.

We’re not out of the hoary fiscal woods yet


If you think we dodged a bullet by (pardon the mixed metaphor) not jumping off the fiscal cliff Education Week’s Alyson Klein provides a sobering wrap-up of the budgetary challenges facing Congress in the next couple of months.

Bar exams for teachers?  A special report from New York State


After Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to be chief lobbyist for students in the Empire State, he appointed a commission to advise him on what to do.  They have done so, with a just released “education action plan” titled Putting Students First. With the group’s membership including a star line-up of educators, from AFT president Randi Weingarten to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, it is not surprising that the report is comprehensive.  Also, not surprisingly, the New York Times story leads with the commission’s recommendation, as the Times puts it, “[f]orcing teachers to pass a kind of bar exam, like the ones aspiring lawyers and doctors must sit for.” Other recommendations in this first report (the group is not finished) include “extending the number of hours and days students must spend in school, to break with academic calendars formed in an agrarian age… [c]onsolidating school districts…. making schools a hub for health care and social services…., and giving 4-year-olds in the state’s poorest areas access to full-day prekindergarten.  Despite – or perhaps because of — holding public hearings throughout the state and receiving thousands of pages of testimony from “more than 300 students, parents, educators and stakeholders,” as a governor’s office statement tells it, it will take a lot of political finesse on Cuomo’s part to maintain his chief lobbyist for students role.


The new educational cliff: gifted students have special needs too


In this spirited argument for more academic programs for our most talented students, Checker Finn warns that our failure to take care of our best and brightest is a catastrophe waiting to happen.


Trends in debt for first year college-goers


Read it and weep.


Pay-as-you-earn college loan


The U.S. Department of Education recently unveiled a new college loan repayment plan that could, says a press release, “lower their monthly federal student loan bills” by capping monthly payments “for many recent graduates at an amount that is affordable based on their income. This new option follows through on President Obama’s promise to provide student borrowers with relief on their student loan payments and help them responsibly manage their debt.”


Remedial education statistics


It could be worse.


A veteran teacher talks teacher retention


Some very sensible advice.


Computer labs?  A pencil room, anyone?


Rocketship rethinks its approach to technology.


School choice: top stories of 2012



The Ed Next poll: top stories of 2012



Administrative bloat


Jay Greene calls attention to a recent front page Wall Street Journal story “detailing how administrative bloat in higher education is causing costs to spiral higher.”  The number of employees hired by colleges and universities, reports the Journal,  “to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It’s part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.”

Following Finland – but which one?


For all the talk about how great Finland does public education, this excellent analysis by Fordham’s Kathleen Porter-Magee provides needed nuance to the Finland story.


The vocabulary debate continues


This continues a fascinating discussion about the role of vocabulary in laying groundwork for future success – and the best way to get that vocabulary.  Of special interest is “comment” (#27) by “palisadesk” and the reply (#28) by E.D. Hirsch.  Says Hirsch, “You are right that the evidence clearly shows that explicit word study is helpful. One-sided emphasis from either the implicit or explicit school in vocabulary study is unwarranted. I have become persuaded by the as yet unanswered deductive argument that one needs to learn between 25 and 60 thousand words by grade 12 to have a fair chance of graduating from college, and yet one does not, cannot learn that many words by explicit means.”

California denied NCLB waiver



MasteryConnect: how to make good use of the digital revolution



Gotham’s next (Republican?) mayor


Though a heavily Democratic town, New York City has not had a Democratic mayor since 1993. And in this nicely-written New York Times story, former City Hall bureau chief Michael Powell suggests why the GOP may keep the reins.

The education gap moves to college – and back home




 Three very important stories about how socio-economic and class gaps (including the disadvantages of single-parenthood), are impacting life on college campuses. “But a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night,” says the Times in a front-page story, “and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides.”


Finally, are our colleges really so good?


One more from Mike Goldstein.


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