The Best of the Week — plus!

The news… from the redwood forests (Jerry Brown) to the gulf stream waters (John White), from the charter school mountains (Roland Fryer) to the bridges of difference (Mike Petrilli), this land (Jeb Bush at Education Nation) is there for you and science teachers and flipped schools and the days when discipline counted…

Top Stories

Back to Kansas, Dorothy: the Fight Over a Constitutionally Mandated Education

In a case that tempts one to wonder how many angels dance on the head of a pin, the Kansas supreme court and the state’s legislature may lock horns – again – over the question of whether the court can make the legislature spend money, a specific amount of money, on education. The state’s Constitution says that “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”  What is “suitable”?  How much does suitable cost?  Good luck, Kansas.

The Especially Deserving Poor

Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute has become the latest foil for Deborah Meier onEducation Week’s popular “Bridging Differences” blog and this week stirs the waters with a post about the need to take care of our “strivers.” The efforts to help the poor have lacked “an ethos of meritocracy,” Petrilli argues.  “A good many of our policies and programs, then, should be designed to help people with the drive, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to rise. We should clear any obstacles in their path. We should empower them with opportunities.”  See also Andy Smarick’s “Closing the Other Achievement Gap,” at the Philanthropy Roundtable:

The Cost of Bad Technology

In a front-page Education Week story, Benjamin Herold reports that “a $41 million-and-counting settlement being paid to educators in New York City public schools could have big implications for school districts across the country struggling to provide adequate technology and Internet bandwidth for their employees.”  According to one expert, this is the first time districts have been held accountable, financially, for bad software technology and its impact on teachers.

What Science Teachers Need to Know – and Why

This is a nifty little essay by cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham about a study of the content knowledge of 7th- and 8th-grade science teachers and their students.  One major finding, reports Willingham, was that though most teachers (thankfully) knew more than their students on a test that was given to both groups, high-achieving students overcame their teachers’ lack of knowledge (and learned the right answer from a textbook and other sources), but low-achieving students did not (and continued to get the answer wrong).

Why do People Hate TFA?

Responding to “a small but vocal group of people speaking up against Teach For America these days,” Justin “Juice” Fong, director of TFA’s internal communications, takes on a critical Slate story by a former TFA teacher that Fong says is “full of myths.”

TFA Teachers Just as Good as Regular Teachers

This report presents findings from “the first large-scale random assignment study of secondary math teachers from several TFA and Teaching Fellows programs, comparing secondary math teachers from each program with other secondary math teachers teaching the same math courses in the same schools.” It found that TFA teachers were more effective than the teachers with whom they were compared and that Teaching Fellows were neither more nor less effective than the teachers with whom they were compared.

New York New York: Two New Studies Conclude That Its Schools Work

EdFunders, a new collaboration of the Ford Foundation, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Altman Foundation, and others follows 77,501 New York City public school students who entered high school in 2005 and concluded that graduation rates in the nation’s largest school district have grown steadily, from 50 percent to 65 percent in the Bloomberg era.  Another paper, from the Brookings Institution,  highlights the rapid changes in the composition of the district’s public schools since Bloomberg took office and concludes that the charter sector has grown from 22 to 159 schools, and approximately 60 new regular public schools have opened each year, the report finds.

Lessons from New York City’s Most Effective Charter Schools

Harvard economist Roland Fryer has a new report on the practices that separate the most effective New York city charter schools from the least effective.  What isn’t related to school effectiveness, he says, are class size, per-pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with teaching certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree. What does work are more human capital or teacher feedback, data-driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased time on task, and a relentless focus on high academic expectations.

Just in Case You Hadn’t Heard: New Yorker’s Rally for School Choice

Rethinking High School

This essay by Chester Finn hits all of the education-reform high points: standards (including Common Core), assessments, Amanda Ripley’s new book, school choice, school discipline, international competitiveness and even education governance:  “And while once upon a time American high schools had the world’s highest graduation (and college-going) rate, that’s no longer true….  Better teachers. A clear focus on learning. Higher expectations-and higher stakes for kids. Such basic alterations would reform U.S. high schools more surely than a dozen elaborate policies and government programs.”

The Good Ol’ Days: When Discipline Counted

Joanne Lipman recalls a hard-headed teacher who cracked the whip and taught his students:  “Comparing Mr. K’s methods with the latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine leads to a single, startling conclusion: It’s time to revive old-fashioned education. Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here’s the thing: It works….   Studies have now shown, among other things, the benefits of moderate childhood stress; how praise kills kids’ self-esteem; and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores.”


The flipped school and other disruptive education experiments

Two speeches worth reading: Arne Duncan and John White

According to the Education Gadfly, “Both men [Arne Duncan and John White] are very smart, very experienced, and very committed to a radically better education system for young Americans. Both were taking stock of the reform movement, education politics, Washington’s role, and much else. They shared several common themes. But they also differed in big ways.”

And an interview: Jeb Bush

The UFT and the ghost consulting firm

Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) founder Mike Antonucci continues to follow a story first reported in Crain’s Insider, that the United Federation of Teachers super-PAC paid $370,000 to a fictitious political consultant.

Common Core ignites Louisiana

California governor vetoes teacher-dismissal bill

Oldie but goodie: save the English major – or not?

And Don’t Miss This Webinar

The Driven Classroom: New Strategies to Motivate and Engage Students

October 16, 2 p.m. ET

Carol Dweck, Daniel Pink, and other experts share their methods for keeping students motivated.

According to Education Week, these “influential thought leaders in teaching and learning explore cutting-edge instructional practices and strategies designed to increase student engagement and learning potential. Attendees will come away with actionable plans for facilitating student self-direction, creating a clear sense of purpose in their instruction, and using creative sales techniques to “move” students to higher levels of achievement.

If you miss the live event, you can access it “on demand” (at the above site) for the next three months.  There is a charge for these webinars.

–Peter Meyer

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