Top Stories 1 | 21–27 | 2014

Has David Brooks gone soft?….  Should we throw  out testing?…. Why aren’t girls taking AP courses?…. Are early college high school programs the way to go?… This is the week of questions.…  Just ask Arne….  Or Rocketship.…  Tired of the Pre-K battles in NYC ….  Check out the report from China….

Top Stories

Testing and Its Discontents

At Brooklyn New School, a public elementary school in Carroll Gardens, standardized testing has long been considered a necessary, if not entirely welcome, rite of spring. But last spring’s state tests were a tipping point for both students and teachers, reports Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker. Some teachers were “shocked by ambiguous test questions, based, as they saw it, on false premises and wrongheaded educational principles,” Mead writes. “Others were dismayed to see that children were demoralized by the relentlessness of the testing process.” Throughout the state, there is a burgeoning opt-out movement. More than five hundred New York State principals have signed a letter of protest against standardized testing, which is straining already stretched school budgets.


High-Stakes Testing: A Debate Between Joshua Starr and Margaret Spellings

Two opposing points of view: Joshua Starr, superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, makes the case for a three-year moratorium on testing, while Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of education from 2005 to 2009 and now president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, argues for holding the line.


Minorities and Girls Still Not Taking AP Courses

In Mississippi and Montana, zero female, African-American or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam for computer science in 2013. What’s more, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to an analysis of test-taking data compiled by Barbara Ericson, senior research scientist at Georgia Tech.


Early College High Schools Are Working

“Early college” high school students—who can get a jump start on their college education by earning up to 60 credits at nearby colleges and universities—are significantly more likely to enroll in and graduate from college, according to a new study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Rocketship Stumbles

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Rocketship Education rose to national prominence through its innovative use of technology to help students achieve. It was often cited as a national model. It looks like the bloom is off the rose.


Arne Duncan: Improving Education Takes Courage

“In education, it sometimes takes courage to do what ought to be common sense,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a recent Washington Post op-ed piece. That’s a key lesson from several recent national and international assessments of U.S. education (which include the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a.k.a. “the Nation’s Report Card,” and the international rankings on the PISA test).


Ask Arne: Teachers Pose Questions about Private Funds in Education

Secretary of Education Duncan recently sat down with two Teaching Ambassador Fellows—teachers who spend a year with the Department of Education and help drive policy discussion—to talk about the role that corporate-based philanthropists are playing in public education.


Superintendents From 34 States Worry about Student Data Privacy

As concerns about student data privacy mount, schools chiefs from 34 states have united to publicly declare that they will not share personally identifiable student information with the federal government.


Cuomo v. De Blasio in the Pre-K Arena

Take two distinct and dueling pre-K plans from two powerful New York Democrats—the city’s liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio and a more centrist Gov. Andrew Cuomo—“and you can guarantee macho posturing and headlines to match. Most of it is over which politician has the better or more promising plan, instead of the merits of high-quality early childhood education,” writes Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report and director of the Hechinger Institute.


The Charter Sector Takes a Huge Hit in Columbus

With the news out of Ohio that local charter schools in Columbus are closing at an alarming and unprecedented rate, hundreds of children “are caught in a no-man’s land,” writes Paul Hill, founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and professor at the University of Washington Bothell.


The Columnists & Editorials

Educating Parents: Is David Brooks Moving Left?

In the debate over how best to expand economic opportunity for underprivileged children, we’ve made two major mistakes, says New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks—placing too much emphasis and weight on early education and school reform. “Human capital development takes a generation. If you really want to make an impact, you’ve got to have a developmental strategy for all the learning stages, ages 0 to 25,” Brooks writes—including teaching “the weakest parents to behave like average parents—by reading more to their kids, speaking more, using consistent, encouraging discipline”—and spending “a lot more time and money figuring out how to help people from poorer families chart a course through the teenage years.”


Saving Catholic Schools

The adoption of an Education Investment Tax Credit, a bill now working its way through the New York State Legislature, would encourage more charitable donations for students to attend Catholic, Jewish and other private schools, Antwan Allen of the New York Post reports.


Diane Ravitch and the Common Core

Educators should “own up to” the failures of public education, writes University of Illinois at Chicago professor Gerald Graff in the Washington Post. Responding to comments that education historian and activist Diane Ravitch made earlier this month about the Common Core State Standards, Graff writes: “Ravitch is right, I think, that the solutions proposed by today’s reformers—more charters, more standardized tests and fetishized test data, all of it used punitively, more privatization—are not working to improve schools and students. But Graff, a former president of the Modern Language Association, also says, “The American educational system has always been good at educating the small minority of students who are already relatively well educated when they start.”


Poverty v. Education: Can We Find Common Ground

When it comes to discussing the link between poverty and education, the debate often diverges into two “corners”: the “poverty is not an excuse” blue camp v. the “poverty is an explanation” red group. “The good news is that both corners are right,” writes social studies teacher Angel L. Cintron Jr., a guest blogger for Education Week. “The bad news, however, is that both are also wrong.”


From The Journals & Thinktanks

Knowledge at the Core

“A Tribute to the Work of E. D. Hirsch, Jr.” took place at the Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., on December 4. “It’s an incredible honor for me to lead off the celebration today of the man who I believe to be the most important education reformer of the past half century, and I think a lot of people here would agree,” Sol Stern, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said in his opening remarks. Watch selected panels and speeches from the celebration. You can also download a copy of the ebook, Knowledge at the Core: Don Hirsch, Core Knowledge, and the Future of the Common Core.


Would More Financial Literacy Improve the Federal Budget Process?

While the federal budget and rising national debt are debated every day, they are not subjects that are given much time to in the classroom. A new study sought to address the question: How do you teach students about the federal budget process, an issue that many young citizens have limited knowledge of, and oftentimes, little interest in?


Early Childhood Education in China;dn=819089339088428;res=IELHSS

A new study analyses the difficulties for the Chinese government to reach a balance between the equity and quality of early childhood education, especially in rural areas and for migrant children.


Information Fuels Support for School Reform

According to experimental results from the 2013 Education Next poll, Americans are more likely to support school choice and other education reforms when told how students within their local district compare to students elsewhere.


New Harvard Study Questions “Social Mobility” Fears

Is America still the land of opportunity? While Americans have always placed great faith in economic mobility, a new study suggests that the chance that intergenerational mobility doesn’t change much over time. “Children growing up in America today are just as likely—no more, no less—to climb the economic ladder as children born more than a half-century ago,” writes Jim Tankersley, reporting on the study in the Washington Post. “If you are growing up poor today, you appear to have the same odds of staying poor in adulthood that your grandparents did.”


The Friedman Foundation Releases Annual Report on School Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice just released its annual report cataloging various school choice programs operating in 23 states and Washington, D.C., such as vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits/deductions. This year’s report also includes a graph comparing the eligible population versus purchasing power of each program.


Liberal Arts Majors Close the Earnings Gap

According to a new study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the wage gap between liberal arts and professional majors narrows considerably in the long run.


Study Finds Benefit of Teacher-Parent Communications

Casual “hello” phone calls made by teachers can have a huge positive effect on students, parents and teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.



Common Core Meets Education Reform

Since the Common Core Standards were unveiled in 2010, advocates have insisted that they are a “state-led” effort. However, the Common Core actually “opens the door much wider for Washington to meddle in schooling,” say Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane of the American Enterprise Institute and coeditors of a new book, Common Core Meets School Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013). “Instead of dismissing concerns about slippery slopes as ‘misinformed’ or ‘misleading,’ Common Core boosters should find the courage of their convictions,” the two write on the AEI website. “Honest talk could yield a healthy debate, in lieu of today’s bitter, distrustful sniping. Common Core boosters might lose a more open debate. But if they win, their stance would give them a fighting chance to make the program work as they intend.”


A Guide To Carmen Fariña: Her Book

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña “has a playbook, and she’s sticking to it,” writes Sarah Darville, a reporter for Chalkbeat New York. In a 2008 book—A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating our Way to Better Schools (Heinemann)—co-written with Laura Kotch, her longtime partner in education leadership, Fariña demonstrates her belief that problems can be solved by making teachers and principals feel supported. “The book is more of a guide for an individual principal than a blueprint for running a huge system of diverse schools,” writes Darville. “But Fariña seems ready to apply many of its principles, and the book’s table of contents reads like a list of the new chancellor’s recent plans and promises.”










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