As the debate over Betsy Devos’s nomination plays out, I’m struck by how much of the back-and-forth seems to have the combatants standing in the wrong places.
If I was a passionate opponent of school choice, I think I’d be ecstatic at the prospect of having Donald Trump’s administration champion a big, visible, controversial school choice bill. I’d love to turn the localized, diffuse campaign for choice into a prominent part of Trump’s federal agenda. I’d welcome the chance to frame school choice as a debate about whether Washington ought to be telling states and communities how to run their schools, and to turn the issue into a referendum on how one feels about Trump.
As someone who favors efforts to expand educational choice, I can’t think of anything less helpful than making this broad-based, decentralized effort feel more like a creature of Washington. That would be true in any event, but especially when the president in question is as polarizing as Trump. I see real value in having Washington make it easier for states and communities to more readily expand options if they’d like, but that calls for a clear-headed discussion of Washington’s role—not reflexive cheerleading for school choice.
Rather than discuss what Washington should or shouldn’t do when it comes to school choice, though, the debate is playing out as an exchange of school choice talking points. Much has been said about charter schools in Michigan and Detroit, about accountability for voucher programs, and even the views of DeVos’s family members!—but all of this has been almost comically removed from the question of what any of this means for federal policy.
Whether one thinks DeVos’s views of school choice are “right” or “wrong,” the most important question for a U.S. Secretary of Education is how she intends to use that office to promote the things she believes in. And that question has received astonishingly little examination—at a time when it should be the center of attention.
After all, we’ve just witnessed the biggest Pyrrhic victory in the annals of federal education policy. I’m referring, of course, to the Common Core. Recall that, back in 2009 and 2010, Common Core advocates thought they had a slam dunk on their hands. Once, it was laughable to suggest that the Common Core might wind up being controversial. (I know, because I used to get laughed at when I’d suggest it.)
Many things went south. But the most costly may have been the energetic boost they got from the Obama administration—assistance that, at the time, struck Common Core proponents as such a remarkable gift. The Obama team made the Common Core a key part of Race to the Top, earmarked $350 million to create new Common Core-aligned tests, and pushed states to adopt the Common Core if they wanted relief from NCLB. This didn’t make the Common Core a federal program, but it did mean that Washington’s fingerprints were all over it. As a result, the Common Core got enmeshed in partisan debates and …read more
21/09/2018 | awesome
20/09/2018 | awesome
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
When I became involved in education reform more than two decades ago, the movement was about empowering parents to make choices for their own children rather than having choices made for them by well-meaning but distant bureaucrats and professionals. At its heart, ed reform was about decentralization of control.
In the last quarter-century this effort to expand choice in education has been amazingly successful. We’ve gone from the first charter school in 1990 to more than 4% of all students enrolled in charters. We’ve gone from two, century-old voucher programs in Maine and Vermont to having private school choice in more than half of the states. And the beauty of expanding school choice is that it generates its own advocates as families that benefit from these programs lobby to protect and expand their choices.We are almost at the point where ed reform organizations don’t have to do very much other than to coordinate choice families pushing for more choices.
But just as choice is achieving escape velocity, a groupthink gang of petty little dictators are grabbing the reins of ed reform organizations to advocate for greater restrictions and regulations on choice. They are beginning to make arguments and advocate policies that are essentially the same as the ones favored by the traditional education establishment. Like their rivals in the traditional ed establishment, this new ed reform establishment mistrusts parents to make choices. Parents, in their view, are not capable of making good choices without the guidance and restrictions imposed by experts and policymakers. And children need to be protected by regulations and bureaucrats against the errors and abuses of their parents or schools.
It has gotten to the point where, like in Animal Farm, it is difficult to tell the difference between the nanny-statism of the old ed establishment and the new ed reform establishment. The new ed reformers are no longer fighting for parental empowerment, they are just struggling with the old establishment over who will be in control. Will it be the smart and righteous reformers, as they imagine themselves, or the stupid and self-interested old establishment, as they imagine the unions and their allies? The reformers are convinced they can do it better, but the arrangements they favor are not all that different from those championed by the old guard.
Reformers are currently gathered in a groupthink frenzy over the need to regulate how charter schools discipline their students. You know who else issues detailed policies on school discipline? Traditional school districts. Last year they were in a frenzy over the need to force charter schools to “backfill” so that they can take more students in more grades that are assigned to them. You know who else is pre-occupied with filling seats in schools with assigned students? Traditional school districts.
It is currently …read more
19/09/2018 | awesome
Education reformers and academics calling for greater regulation of private school choice programs have good intentions. They want all kids to get the best education possible and they believe that they can achieve that goal by preventing disadvantaged families from making bad choices. After all, if parents are only allowed to make good choices, shouldn’t their children get good educations?
If only it were that easy.
My just-released study – co-authored with George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty – suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program.
The data suggest that school choice regulations reduce the quality of private schools participating in voucher programs, with quality measured by tuition and customer reviews. Specifically, we find that an increase in tuition of $1000 is associated with a 3 to 4 percent decrease in the likelihood of participation in a voucher program. We also find that a one-point increase (out of five points) in a school’s GreatSchools review score is associated with around a 15 percent decrease in the chance that a school participates in the Milwaukee voucher program.
But this isn’t the first study to find that voucher regulations could inadvertently reduce the quality of options available to families in need. A recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with colleagues at the University of Arkansas also finds that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in voucher programs in three other locations: Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana. And another recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke finds that voucher program regulation likely leads to less private school specialization.
Why does regulation reduce the quality of private schools that participate in voucher programs?
Individual private school leaders decide whether to participate in voucher programs each year. The decision is made by comparing expected benefits to expected costs. The primary benefit associated with voucher program participation is, of course, the additional voucher funding. The main cost of participation is additional red tape. Private schools that participate in voucher programs have to comply with many regulations such as admitting students on a random basis, requiring all teachers to have bachelor’s degrees, and administering state standardized tests. These types of regulations are costly to participating schools for at least three reasons: (1) private schools must allocate additional resources to comply with them, (2) private school leaders lose autonomy, and (3) private schools may lose revenue if families don’t like the way that regulations change the educational services their children receive.
Lower-quality schools that are more desperate for financial resources have stronger incentives to accept voucher program regulations. On the other hand, higher-quality private schools are more likely to turn down the voucher offer if they have an educational model that is already working for their students.
No one doubts that school choice regulators wish to help kids. But …read more
17/09/2018 | awesome
17/09/2018 | awesome
Last week, in a fiercely contested, closely watched referendum, Britain elected to leave the European Union by a 52 to 48 vote. The vote rattled financial markets, shocked experts, and surprised pollsters who had expected a narrow victory for Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to stay in the EU. Lots of ink has been spilled on this elsewhere, so I won’t get into any of this. But as I watched the coverage and read the analysis, it did strike me that there are four cautions to pull from the fray that America’s school reformers would do well to heed.
Don’t put too much faith in loaded poll questions. Polls generally underestimated the “leave” vote by about five points. This isn’t too surprising. When Brits were told time and again that voting “leave” was a xenophobic, moronic, racist position, it turns out that leave voters were telling pollsters what they were “supposed” to say. I find that school reformers, too, overestimate the significance of poll results that tell them what they want to hear—and forget that pollsters eliciting a desired response is no assurance that people will actually vote or behave accordingly in the real world.
It’s hard to persuade people if you don’t address their actual concerns. In the run-up to the vote, a host of financial, political, and diplomatic luminaries bombarded the British with the case for “remain.” Much of the case argued that catastrophe would befall Britain if it left the EU—a prognostication that may or may not be true. Yet, it turns out that all the arguments and dire warnings didn’t do much to address the actual concerns about immigration, jobs, and loss of national autonomy that motivated the “leave” voters. When it comes to teacher evaluation, accountability, the Common Core, and all the rest, school reformers might ask themselves if they’re responding to concerns or are just rehashing talking points slower and louder.
What seems good to urban elites may not appeal equally elsewhere. London supported “remain” 60-40, while pretty much the whole rest of England and Wales strongly went the other way. Londoners like their cosmopolitan culture and their array of eateries, and are more likely to traipse to the continent and back. That means that they place more value on the benefits of EU membership and are less troubled by potential trade-offs than the Brits who reside in the British equivalent of “flyover country.” When it comes to school reform, the cities and the coasts tend to dominate our attention, but what may be useful or popular there may play out quite differently in other communities.
It’s important to talk to people who don’t agree with you. It was remarkable to watch how befuddled analysts, reporters, and public officials were by the vote results. They knew that any sensible person would vote “remain,” and all of their friends and colleagues felt the same—so who were these yahoos actually voting to leave? When you don’t really talk to your opponents, you wind up turning them into caricatures. …read more
15/09/2018 | awesome
This 3-year qualitative study examined how 26 teachers in four U.S. secondary schools addressed the literacy demands of curriculum materials based on standards from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. It was grounded in sociocultural perspectives that encourage study of language in local contexts, including classrooms, communities, and disciplines. The research question asked, “How do secondary mathematics teachers in a teacher–researcher collaboration understand and address the literacy demands of standards-based curriculum materials?” An interdisciplinary team of literacy and mathematics education researchers and graduate students worked with teachers to examine required curriculum materials, plan lessons, and share resources, while collecting qualitative data to capture teachers’ understandings and actions. Findings indicated that teachers responded in three ways to the materials’ literacy demands: (a) they used the materials selectively to bypass or reduce the literacy demands, (b) they augmented use of the materials with literacy support, or (c) they integrated use of the materials into long-term frameworks to develop mathematics and literacy learning simultaneously. The study suggests the value of using insights from mathematics and literacy to inform mathematics curriculum design and reminds us to take teachers’ perspectives toward such materials seriously, particularly when they collaborate to address issues about the materials’ use in their own school contexts.
Source: Journal of Literacy
The post Bypass, Augment, or Integrate: How Secondary Mathematics Teachers Address the Literacy Demands of Standards-Based Curriculum Materials appeared first on GMM Kindergarten | Learn. Grow. Become.
15/09/2018 | awesome
Late last year I wrote about how the Upper West Side rezoning plan intended to desegregate a handful of elementary schools could end up resegregating them in a new way through the addition of a Gifted & Talented program to PS 191, currently serving over 70% Black, Hispanic, and Free Lunch students. Bringing in a G&T program starting in the 3rd grade by using a screening method proven to discriminate against minority applicants is an obvious attempt to attract an affluent demographic to the traditionally low-performing school. Now, Principal Lauren Keville is floating the idea of a Dual Language Mandarin program, one of less than a dozen such public elementary programs.
But this strategy, one celebrated by Chancellor Carmen Fariña, will only exacerbate NYC’s failure to serve a large demographic — English Language Learners who benefit most from full inclusion in English-only classrooms.
Fariña is a huge proponent of Dual Language programs. She is constantly adding new ones, despite the city admitting they are having a hard time finding adequate, dual language-certified teachers for programs they already have, especially Mandarin. (Some schools have even forced students to switch languages mid-year.) This is disturbing, as teacher quality has been proven to be the main influence on student achievement. It’s arduous enough to find an excellent teacher. What are the odds of finding an excellent teacher who is also equally fluent in English and the second language?
In promoting her expansion, Fariña stated, “as a former English Language Learner [ELL], I know that a strong education makes all the difference, and these new bilingual programs will give students the foundation to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
Her comment suggests that ELLs are intended to be the main beneficiaries of these programs. But is that the case? In many top-performing public schools, the Dual Language programs are filled with native English speakers whose parents are looking to give them another advantage. Mandarin is definitely the hot ticket, although an administrator at a school which offers both Spanish and Mandarin told me, “white parents want Mandarin, while Asian parents point out it’s only spoken in a few places, places where everyone also does business in English. They want Spanish. They think Spanish is the true global language!”
At another school with a Dual Language Spanish program, a Kindergarten class didn’t have a single native Spanish speaker. All those parents wanted their kids learning English!
Alternately, due to the lack of Gifted & Talented seats, savvy parents are opting for Dual Language programs as a way to make the standard curriculum more challenging in schools they would never attend otherwise.
One parent boasted to me, “We’re really the G&T, here.”
So where do the ELLs that Chancellor Fariña touted as having the most to gain from Dual Language programs fit into her strategy?
NYC is proudly publicizing a recent study that observed, “approximately half of the students who entered kindergarten in New York City public schools as …read more
11/09/2018 | awesome
10/09/2018 | awesome
In early January, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced his intention to make a public college education tuition-free for most students in the state. The proposal has breathed life back into the free college movement, which supporters feared would lose momentum under the incoming presidential administration. Instead, momentum has simply relocated (back) to the state level. Tennessee and Oregon already have their own “free college” initiatives, and just this week, Governor Gina Raimondo proposed a version for Rhode Island.
Cuomo’s plan, however, would be the first to make up to four years of college tuition-free, not just the first two years at community colleges. It would do this by covering the gap between tuition and existing financial aid (not including mandatory fees) for full-time students from families earning less than $125,000 per year, who have not exceeded their program’s designated time to completion.
The ambitious proposal has roused proponents and skeptics to their battle stations. Skeptics have noted that Cuomo’s proposal provides no additional support for low-income students whose tuition is already covered by Pell Grants and existing state aid, and have argued that the money would be better spent to augment institutional resources for successful programs and services, like the well-documented ASAP program at CUNY community colleges. Proponents have argued that the simple message of “free college” will grab the attention of prospective students—including low-income students who may not even know about existing aid—in a way that “fill out your FAFSA!” does not, and that reducing prices across the board will have more political durability than programs limited only to poor students.
The contours of this debate suggest a relatively strong consensus around the importance of making new state investments in higher education (or, alternatively, the estimated $163 million price tag is so absurdly low that cost hardly seems an issue—a point I discuss further below). Rather than focusing on whether or how much to invest, the discussion has increasingly focused on whether free tuition is the most effective use of additional funds for higher education.
Specifically, does the marginal dollar spent on higher education have a bigger impact on enrollment and completion if it is used to reduce the sticker prices students face, or instead to increase institutional expenditures that affect the experience they receive once they enroll? Just a few days after Cuomo’s announcement, David Deming of Harvard University and Christopher Walters of the University of California at Berkeley presented a new study at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, using a national database of state funding levels, tuition policies, institutional expenditures, and student outcomes over time to ask precisely this question.
The tradeoff is real: the marginal dollar invested cannot be spent in two places at once. Tellingly, the authors find large effects when state funds are used to increase institutional expenditures but virtually no effect when they are used for across-the-board reductions in sticker price.
The Deming and Walters study is not the only piece of relevant research.<a class="colorbox" rel="nofollow" …read more
31/08/2018 | awesome