The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly A Bulletin of Weekly News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 11, Number 20. May 26, 2011.

In This Edition

New from Fordham: Shifting Trends in Special Education

Shifting Trends in Special Education coverIn this new Fordham Institute paper, analysts examine public data and find that the national proportion of students with disabilities peaked in 2004-05 and has been declining since. This overall trend masks interesting variations, however. For example, proportions of students with specific learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbances have declined, while the proportions of students with autism, developmental delays, and other health impairments have increased notably. At the state level, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts have the highest rates of disability identification, while Texas, Idaho, and Colorado have the lowest. The ratio of special-education teachers and paraprofessionals to special-education students also varies widely from state to state—so much so that our analysts question the accuracy of the data reported by states to the federal government. Read on to learn more.

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Opinion and Analysis

Pulling back the special-ed data mask 
Why are some states identifying twice as many students as disabled as others?
Opinion | Janie Scull and Amber M. Winkler

Toward less Fed in your ed
The "federal intrusion" threat is real, but has little to do with a "national curriculum"
Opinion | Michael J. Petrilli

A test too far
When the ends don’t justify the means
News Analysis

Those who forget the past
The social studies strike again
News Analysis

Short Reviews

Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard? 
Self-promotion or research? It’s hard to tell
Review | Marena Perkins and Amber M. Winkler

Reforming Districts Through Choice, Autonomy, Equity, and Accountability: An Overview of the Voluntary Public School Choice Directors Meeting 
A smart guide to, for, and by portfolio districts
Review | Gerilyn Slicker

Baseline Analysis of SIG Applications and SIG-Eligible and SIG-Awarded Schools 
More than you ever thought you wanted to know about School Improvement Grants
Review | Chris Irvine

From The Web

Testing, testing, 1-2-3 
Entrepreneurship abroad—and assessments on both coasts
Education Gadfly Show Podcast | Hosts: Mike Petrilli and Janie Scull

Bill Bennett, James Madison, and national curricular materials
Historical precedents for federal involvement in curriculum
Flypaper's Finest | May 25, 2011 | Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Truthiness, adequacy, and the New Jersey Way 
Money, the courts, and NJ’s Abbott districts
Flypaper's Finest | May 24, 2011 | Chris Tessone

Extras

How would you like to pay for ninth grade? 
Cash, check, or credit card?
Briefly Noted

Time to turn the page on federal accountability in education?
Join Fordham on June 15 for a conversation about Uncle Sam’s future in education
Announcement

Make your mark with TFA 
TFA is hiring a new VP
Announcement

Rethinking Special Education for a New Century 
Smart alternatives abound
Featured Fordham Publication

Opinion and News Analysis

Opinion: Peeling back the special-ed data mask
By Janie Scull and Amber M. Winkler

Last summer, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger ran a hard-hitting piece about the condition of education finance in the Garden State. It bemoaned a dismal school-system budget in which teachers had been laid off, extracurricular activities scrapped, and free transportation curtailed. But one budgetary category had been spared: special education.

“This is an area that is completely out of control and in desperate need of reform,” said Larrie Reynolds, superintendent in the Mount Olive School District, where special-education spending rose 17 percent this year. “Everything else has a finite limit. Special education—in this state, at least—is similar to the universe. It has no end. It is the untold story of what every school district is dealing with.”

And so it is. Special education consumes a caloric slice of the education pie, comprising an estimated 21 percent of all education spending in 2005. That slice is growing, too. Forty-one percent of all increases in education spending between 1996 and 2005 went to fund it.

As Superintendent Reynolds indicated, special education is a field in urgent need of reform. Not only is its funding widely seen as sacrosanct—due to federal “maintenance of effort” requirements, strong lobbies, nervous superintendents, entrenched habits, and a collective sense that nothing is quite enough for these kids—but America’s approach to it is also antiquated. Despite good intentions and some reform efforts, the field is still beset by a compliance orientation that values process over outcomes. Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA), the rigidities and shortcomings of yesterday’s approach have become overwhelming, as have the dollar costs.

Click to read Shifting Trends in Special EducationWe hope the next iteration of that law will benefit from fresh thinking amid changed realities. But before we can seriously re-imagine the field of special education and its funding, we need a better understanding of this enterprise today—and how it’s changed in recent years. Many are aware, for instance, that the number of students who received special-education services rose steadily between IDEA’s enactment in 1975 and the turn of the century. But is this population still growing? Are particular types of disabilities responsible for overall trends? What types of personnel do schools employ to teach these students? Accurate descriptive data on questions like these are desperately needed if we’re to wrestle with the more complex questions that vex the field, questions such as: To what extent do special-ed enrollments and expenditures vary by state? Are states correctly identifying special-needs youngsters and providing them with appropriate services? What types of interventions are most effective with which children?

Fordham’s newest report, Shifting Trends in Special Education, begins to lay the groundwork. It’s quantitative. It looks for patterns—and differences—in participation, in spending, etc.

And it finds that, after decades of increases, the overall population of special-education students peaked in the 2004-05 school year and has declined since. But within this population, individual categories of students differed markedly in their trajectories:

  • The number of students identified as having “specific learning disabilities,” the most prevalent of all disability types, declined throughout the decade, falling from 2.86 million to 2.43 million students, or from 6.1 to 4.9 percent of all students.
  • Other shrinking disability categories included mental retardation (down from 624,000 to 463,000 students) and emotional disturbances, down from 480,000 to 407,000.
  • Meanwhile, autism and “other health impairment” (OHI) populations increased dramatically. The former quadrupled from 93,000 to 378,000, while OHI numbers more than doubled from 303,000 to 689,000. (Even so, autistic and OHI populations constituted only 0.8 and 1.4 percent, respectively, of all students in 2009-10.)

State-level trends varied dramatically too:

  • Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts reported the highest rates of disability identification in 2009-10; Rhode Island was the only state with more than 18 percent of its students receiving special-education services.
  • Texas, Idaho, and Colorado reported the lowest rates. Percentage-wise, Texas identified half as many students with disabilities as Rhode Island—9.1 percent of its total student body.

States also varied in their special-education personnel practices, so much so that the accuracy of the data they report to Washington is in question. Nationally, schools ostensibly employed 129 special-education teachers and paraprofessionals for every thousand special-education students in 2008-09, up from 117 per thousand in 2000-01. At the state level, this ranged from a reported 320 per thousand in New Hampshire, to thirty-eight per thousand in Mississippi. (We don’t find this credible—but that’s what the reported data show.)

Special education is a field in urgent need of reform.

 
   
 

What to make of these data? We see at least three key takeaways.

First and most obviously, we need far better data in this realm. Though states must report data across particular categories of disability as delineated by Washington, they can and do alter these definitions—and how they are operationalized—for their own purposes. When states make up their own definitions and procedures, we have no way to compare disability data across state borders.

Second, we need better understanding of what’s driving the recent decrease in students identified for special-education services. Is it due to more sophisticated understanding of which students need such services? Federal, state, district, or fiscal incentives that encourage states to identify fewer students with disabilities? Programs like Response to Intervention (RTI)?

Third, we need to do a better job of differentiating learning for all students. Education should be “special” for every pupil, reserving unique services for the small percentage of severely disabled children who need them. Surely the advent of new tools, service providers, and customized technology packages can help on this front.

Special education, like all of K-12 education, needs a makeover for the twenty-first century. Its service models, instructional strategies, funding, identification methods, categories, and protocols no longer serve the needs of truly disabled youngsters, much less the larger enterprise. But we can’t get there until we peel back the layers of financial and operational opacity that currently shroud the field and hinder our efforts to make it more transparent, efficient, and effective in the future.

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Opinion: Toward less Fed in your ed
By Michael J. Petrilli

For the last couple of years—ever since the nation’s governors and state superintendents started working on common academic standards in reading and math—conservative education analysts have engaged in a spirited but polite debate about the wisdom of this development. The last month has seen the discourse turn nastier, with charges and counter-charges, name-calling, and quasi-apocalyptic warnings about federal bureaucrats wanting to “control your children’s minds.” Particularly at issue in this latest round of recriminations is Uncle Sam’s role in all of this; are we witnessing a federal take-over of our schools? A push for a federally-controlled national curriculum for all public schools?

Some of these concerns are not entirely unfounded; the Obama Administration and other supporters of the move to “common” national standards (Fordham among them) have made some unforced errors that have helped to fuel the paranoia. But for conservatives worried about federal interference in our schools, this debate is mostly a sideshow. What should really keep them up at night are the myriad proposals for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act that would push Washington’s hand ever deeper into the day-to-day operations of America’s schools—proposals that are coming from both sides of the political aisle.

Before diving into the No Child Left Behind debate, let’s mitigate some key concerns about a “national curriculum” with a review of the facts.

The effort to get states to agree to common standards started well before the 2008 election, with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Associations leading the charge, largely with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A year later, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his team created a Race to the Top application (thanks to funds earmarked for the competition by Congress) that would incentivize the adoption of their preferred reforms, including common standards. Suddenly what started out as a state-led (and privately-supported) effort had become tinged with federal involvement.

Team Obama went even further, setting aside $350 million to fund the development of tests linked to the common standards. Now the feds had gotten into the “national testing” business, too.

Perhaps the most fateful decision came in the fall of 2010, when, faced with the prospect of leftover stimulus funds, Arne Duncan decided to hand out, to the two groups of states charged with creating the common tests, millions of extra dollars to develop teacher-friendly materials to be used to help students reach the new standards. Now it appeared that the U.S. Department of Education might be trying to control “curriculum” itself—something it is expressly prohibited from doing.

All of this left many conservatives—in think tanks but also on Capitol Hill—with a sour taste. And it didn’t help when the Shanker Institute—named after legendary teacher-union leader—released a manifesto that some read as calling for a single national curriculum.

So is this a federal plot to control Johnny’s thoughts? No, not really. Consider this: States learned last fall whether they had won the federal Race to the Top competition; two-thirds of the forty-four Common Core adopters did not. Those states are free to bail out of the common standards effort at any time, but they haven’t. Why not? Perhaps it’s because their leaders (including rock-solid governors like Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Scott Walker) actually believe the standards are quite good, and see the value in being able to make comparisons across state lines.

Critics like Cato’s Neal McCluskey, who says that the “nationalizers” are like “kidnappers” demanding ransom, charge that the Obama Administration and others want to link federal funding to state adoption of the common standards and tests. Nobody is proposing that, nor would Congress ever go along. Nor does anyone seriously think the U.S. Department of Education would succeed in enforcing a single curriculum on the nation’s 100,000 public schools.

There’s a better way. We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute call it 'reform realism,' and it's an approach to federal policymaking based on a few commonsense principles.

 
   
 

What many groups are proposing, however, external to this raucous and distracting “national curriculum” debate, is to get the federal government intimately involved in other crucial aspects of our schools. That’s where McCluskey and his colleagues ought to be directing their ire.

The influential liberal organization The Education Trust, for example, wants to require that school districts redistribute their most effective teachers in order to give poor kids an equitable shot at good instructors. That sounds laudable on its face but would embroil the feds in virtually every school board’s decision around teacher pay, placement, and transfers.

Or take a look at what former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is proposing in her role as education advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She wants to cement in place all of the No Child Left Behind act’s onerous one-size-fits-all regulations for another decade, and then some, with greater intrusion into high schools and federal mandates around teacher evaluations.

There’s a better way. We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute call it “reform realism,” and it’s an approach to federal policymaking based on a few commonsense principles. First, the federal government should be much “tighter” about what states expect students to know and be able to do, and much “looser” about how states (and districts and schools) get there. If states don’t want to participate in the common standards that’s fine, but they do need to demonstrate that they are aiming high enough. (Most states to date have aimed way too low.) Second, federal policy should focus on transparency instead of “accountability.” Empower states and local communities by releasing mounds of information about how schools are performing and how much they are spending. And then step away. And third, if the feds can’t help but promote a particular reform idea, they should do it through carrots (via competitive grant programs, like Race to the Top) rather than sticks (via new mandates).

In other words, we want a much smaller federal role in education—albeit one that ensures that the benchmarks we use to measure our schools are rigorous and trustworthy.

We might never see eye to eye with all conservatives about national standards and tests. But we should be able to agree about reining in Washington’s involvement in other aspects of education. How about we drop the infighting and spend some of our energy working together on that?

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News Analysis: A test too far

When it comes to teacher evaluations, states have been making good progress in creating relevant, deliberate, and rigorous appraisal systems that combine test data, classroom observations, and other smart metrics to weigh teacher effectiveness. But have you ever heard of too much of a good thing? New York City is now developing over a dozen pre- and post-course standardized tests for students in elementary through high school, the scores of which will constitute 40 percent of teachers’ evaluations. These tests are for subjects and grades not currently assessed by the statewide Regents system, thereby addressing a serious data shortfall under the present system. Surely tying student results to teacher ratings is a swell idea. But testing overload, and the resulting testing backlash, are serious causes for concern; we worry that this initiative could be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. Experimentation and variation in teacher evaluation models is certainly in order, but this particular version gives us pause.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on NYC's new tests from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Tests for Pupils, But the Grades Go to Teachers,” by Sharon Otterman, New York Times, May 23, 2011.

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News Analysis: Those who forget the past

"Social studies standards that fail to name people, places, and ideas would be useless."
—Lynne Munson, President and Executive Director of Common Core

In the early 1990s, the National Endowment for the Humanities and Department of Education moved to create a set of national history standards, which ended up being controversial for their content and presentation of material. (NEH chairman Lynne Cheney, who helped launch and pay for this initiative, later called the resulting standards “grim and gloomy” because they favored political correctness over accurate historical presentation.) Could this happen again? A new group of experts (unnamed, as of yet) from eighteen states recently gathered to discuss common standards for social studies. And red flags are rightfully being raised. For starters, this initiative is not one borne of the states themselves—as were the ELA and math common-core standards. Further, this focus on the amorphous and interdisciplinary “social studies” is sure to block any disciplinary rigor or intellectual integrity from entering the would-be standards. As Lynne Munson of Common Core points out, the group’s “sole product so far is a one-sentence definition of social studies—so concerned with inclusiveness that it contains eleven commas.” If and when states come together to create smart and specific U.S. history, or economics, or world history, or civics standards, count Gadfly on board. But to these vague umbrella standards, he says, “Buzz off.”

Specialists Weigh Common Social Studies Standards,” by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, May 18, 2011.

Next! Social Studies,” by Lynne Munson, Common Core Blog, May 18, 2011.

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Short Reviews

Review: Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?
By Marena Perkins and Amber M. Winkler

In this report, ACT researchers show that “college and career readiness,” at least as defined by the ACT itself, is indeed an internationally competitive standard. (They speak of the level of preparation a student needs in order to succeed in a first-year, credit-bearing course at a two- or four-year institution.) To prove this point, researchers conducted a linking analysis of PISA scores for fifteen-year olds in reading and math and college and career readiness benchmark scores for fifteen-year-old tenth-graders taking ACT’s PLAN test. The purpose was to determine whether the standard of college readiness for U.S. students is competitive with those of other high performing nations. (In other words, if we succeed at getting our average student to college and career readiness, will we then be holding our own with the world’s academic leaders?) They find that the benchmarked scores in both reading and math fell within the average scores of most of the highest performing nations, and thus college and career readiness is in fact an internationally competitive standard. The researchers then unfortunately insinuate that, since the Common Core’s definition of college and career readiness was informed by that of the ACT, and the ACT and Common Core standards have been mapped onto one another, the Common Core standards are also internationally competitive. This conclusion might be true but it’s problematic on several levels: The ACT is attempting to compare assessment frameworks (ACT/PISA) with standards (Common Core); we don’t have tests, much less cut scores, for the Common Core yet; lots of folks (including Fordham) think that PISA leaves a lot to be desired, hence isn’t worthy of benchmarking; and ACT—though well respected in education—clearly has skin in the Common-Core game. Bottom line: this paper appears to be more about advocacy and self-promotion than research.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on the ACT report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

ACT, Inc., “Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?” (Iowa City, Iowa: ACT, Inc., 2011).

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Review: Reforming Districts Through Choice, Autonomy, Equity, and Accountability: An Overview of the Voluntary Public School Choice Directors Meeting
By Gerilyn Slicker

Reforming Districts cover imageA few months back, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (as part of an ED grant) assembled district, charter, and nonprofit leaders from public school “portfolio districts” for its Voluntary Public School Choice Directors Meeting. This paper offers an overview of the most pressing issues discussed at the two-day meeting—as well as some lessons pulled from it. Public school portfolio districts are those that offer students an array of diverse schools—from neighborhood to magnet to charter to contract schools—that are all held to account for performance. (Today, twenty urban districts qualify, including Denver, New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.) The paper focuses on five key issues discussed at the conference: how to manage the supply of schools, allocate resources, build fair and transparent enrollment systems, communicate effectively with parents, and invoke creative solutions for different learners. In order to frame each issue—and offer how-tos for dealing with each—panelist insights and best-practice case studies are presented. Panelists Tom DeWire from BCPS and Neil Dorosin of the Institute for Innovation in Public Schools explain, for example, how to build better assignment systems by first determining district priorities (magnet schools, socio-economic integration, geographic proximity, etc.) and then coordinating four streams of work: logistics, placement algorithm, parent communication, and system evaluation. One example of a best-practice case study comes out of Hartford, CT. The report explains Hartford’s tactics for parental communication—including community meetings and visits to libraries. Though much of this process seems straightforward, the interconnectivity of these elements makes fluid adoption of the portfolio approach difficult—and makes the lessons described in this paper all the more helpful.

Betheny Gross and Robin Lake, “Reforming Districts Through Choice, Autonomy, Equity, and Accountability: An Overview of the Voluntary Public School Choice Directors Meeting,” (Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education, May 2011).

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Review: Baseline Analysis of SIG Applications and SIG-Eligible and SIG-Awarded Schools
By Chris Irvine

Just weeks after Ed Sector’s “Portrait of School Improvement Grantees” comes this IES-funded report on the federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs). (For more information on SIG, look here and here.) While much of the information presented here mimics that delivered by Ed Sector, some valuable new insights emerge, especially regarding state differences. For example, Kentucky awarded funding to 105 of its 108 qualifying schools, while Illinois funded only ten of 738. Further, planned approaches to SIG evaluations vary dramatically between states. Eight plan to monitor their grants monthly, whereas thirty-three will do so on an annual basis. How states choose to evaluate their grantees range from conducting site visits, designating staff for monitoring, holding “check-in” meetings, and using electronic/online tools. As is common with many large-scale IES-funded reports, this report offers much data and little analysis, making policy implications difficult to determine. But the groundwork it lays—especially regarding state differences in funding distribution and implementation tactics—will surely provide helpful background and insight in future years as SIG begins to be evaluated.

Steven Hurlburt, Kerstin Carlson Le Floch, Susan Bowles Therriault, and Susan Cole, “Baseline Analysis of SIG Applications and SIG-Eligible and SIG-Awarded Schools,” (Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research, May 2011).

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From The Web

The Education Gadfly Show Podcast: Testing, testing, 1-2-3

Mike’s back in the saddle; he and Janie fire off points on international comparisons and testing-for-evaluation in L.A. and NYC. Amber shoots holes in a new ACT study and Chris exercises his first amendment rights.

The Education Gadfly
Click to listen to the podcast on our website. You can also download the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes here.

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Flypaper's Finest: Bill Bennett, James Madison, and national curricular materials
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The big fuss about “national curriculum” has lately slid into an argument about whether the federal government may—and should—have anything to do with “curriculum.” …

I guess people were born too late—or have short memories. Arne Duncan has plenty of precedents in both parties—and none of them were jailed, impeached, or even criticized, save perhaps for their curricular judgment. Because there have been umpteen earlier efforts by the federal Education Department to develop, foster, encourage, and evaluate specific academic standards and curricular materials for U.S. schools. Consider, just for starters, the old National Diffusion Network and the dollars that Secretaries Lamar Alexander and Dick Riley committed to the early-1990’s development of national academic standards in history, English, etc.…

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.

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Flypaper's Finest: Truthiness, adequacy, and the New Jersey way
By Chris Tessone

New Jersey’s Supreme Court ordered Chris Christie to cough up another $500 million in funding for the state’s schools in a 3-2 ruling [on Tuesday]. Very few other people (aside from the three justices in the majority and Mark Zuckerberg) would argue that the Garden State’s ample stock of low-performing schools can be fixed with more money, however.

Nevertheless, I agree with Bruce Baker that the court’s rather narrow decision was the correct one. (This may be one for the record books.).…

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.

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Extras

Briefly Noted: How would you like to pay for ninth grade?

  • It’s not just “pay to play” nowadays. Districts are now charging students enrollment fees, locker fees, registration fees, etc. In Littleton, CO, chemistry costs $10, honors chem costs $20 and AP chem twice as much. Whatever happened to “free and appropriate public education”? Way to pass the buck to your customers.
  • The implications of last week’s Georgia Supreme Court decision to ban the state’s charter-school commission go beyond charter policy. As Douglas Blackmon powerfully explains in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Court’s ruling solidifies power with the local school board—long used as a segregating tool, and long a cause of continuing racism. The full article will disturb you, but is well worth the read.
  • Move over Rick Hess, Wendy Kopp, and Michelle Rhee. Sarah Mead identifies and interviews fifteen young up-and-coming leaders—those who will take the reins of the education-policy wagon in the decade to come. Congrats to Fordham alum Mickey Muldoon, now at New York’s School of One, who made the list!
  • In what Sam Dillon calls a “strange-bedfellows twist,” Michelle Rhee announces that former D.C. teachers’ union president George Parker will serve as a senior fellow for Students First.
  • If turning around a failing school is akin to working through a labyrinth while someone is chasing you in the dead of night, then think of Public Impact’s two recent reports as a flashlight and a map of the maze. Helpful stuff, indeed.
  • LAUSD is piloting a program whereby students may see their course grades jump significantly higher if they show gains on the relevant subject’s standardized test. Good on the surface—but it carries risks for teacher autonomy and accountability.
  • It’s official: Race to the Top 2.0, with monies for early education and for states that narrowly missed the cut-off last time around, has launched.
  • Pandering to the through-course assessment crowd, ETS released a summary report from its February research symposium detailing their positives. Let’s be frank: Testing multiple times a year might be good for instruction, but it’s a terrible idea for educational diversity and choice.
  • Joel Klein is already influencing the private sector, if not the global economy. At the e-G8 summit (held just before today’s G8), his boss, NewsCorp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch pushed all parties to reinvent schooling for the digital era.

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Announcement: Time to turn the page on federal accountability in education?

With ESEA reauthorization looming, is it time to say goodbye to federal accountability in education? Join Fordham on June 15 from 4:00PM to 5:30PM for a lively debate on the question across a range of perspectives, including Fordham’s Mike Petrilli, the Center for American Progress’s Cindy Brown, the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall, and Prince George’s County (MD) superintendent William Hite. For more information or to RSVP, click here.

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Announcement: Make your mark with TFA

Teach For America is on the hunt for a vice president of community, learning, and engagement to lead its new national teacher preparation, support, and development team. Interested individuals who possess strong communication, research, editing, and leadership skills will find more information, including how to apply, here.

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Featured Fordham Publication: Rethinking Special Education for a New Century

Rethinking Special Education cover

Recommending sweeping changes in federal special-ed policy, this 2001 volume of fourteen papers scrutinizes the education being received by 6 million U.S. children with disabilities. Jointly published with the Progressive Policy Institute, the report helped shape discussion of the last reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It identifies the problems that beset this important program, analyzes their causes, and suggests solutions. All who care about the education of children with special needs will want to read it for themselves.

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The Education Gadfly is published weekly (ordinarily on Thursdays), with occasional breaks, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Regular contributors include Daniela Fairchild, Amy Fagan, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Chris Irvine, Jamie Davies O’Leary, Emmy Partin, Marena Perkins, Michael J. Petrilli, Terry Ryan, Janie Scull, Gerilyn Slicker, Chris Tessone, and Amber Winkler. Have something to say? Email us at thegadfly@edexcellence.net. Find archived issues or other reviews of reports and books here.

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a nonprofit organization that conducts research, issues publications, and directs action projects in elementary and secondary education reform at the national level and in Ohio, with a special emphasis on our hometown of Dayton. (For Ohio news, check out our Ohio Education Gadfly, published bi-weekly, ordinarily on Wednesdays.) The Institute is neither connected with nor sponsored by Fordham University.

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