The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly A Bulletin of Weekly News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 11, Number 22. June 9, 2011.

In This Edition

New from Fordham: Standards Central: Fordham’s Reviews from the U.S. and Abroad

Standards Central image

Do you want to learn more about the quality of academic standards across America and beyond? Then visit Standards Central—a one-stop-shop for all of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s recent reviews of state, national, and international curriculum and testing standards. This online clearinghouse presents a wealth of information about individual state standards, the Common Core State Standards, and sundry national and international assessment frameworks including NAEP. The Fordham Institute’s Standards Central includes a “Best in Class” page highlighting states with the strongest standards in English language arts (ELA), math, and U.S. history. And a map of the United States makes it a cinch to find our reviews for each state’s standards in these three subjects, with the Common Core State Standards for ELA and math available too. Further, the website includes reviews of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the ACT, and College Board (SAT) frameworks. While much of the site’s content is drawn from previously-released Fordham Institute reports, you will find here six new reviews: the ACT and College Board assessment frameworks for ELA and math, PISA for ELA, and TIMSS for math. Explore! We hope you find this clearinghouse to be a valuable new tool.

The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly
Listen to the Podcast Subscribe to the Gadfly

Read Fordham's blog Flypaper

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
Opinion and Analysis

Charter start-ups vs. district turnarounds: Attempting to settle the debate
Let's look at the evidence
Opinion | David Stuit

The ends of education reform
Laying out some “stretch” goals—those that are challenging but attainable
Opinion | Michael J. Petrilli

Let not the good be the enemy of the perfect
Keep the ball rolling, Montgomery County
News Analysis

Something's got to give
Motown reminds us: There’s a finite amount of funds
News Analysis

Short Reviews

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform
Forget Finland, look at Ontario's governance structure
Review | Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education 
They work, but could work even better
Review | Janie Scull

Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate: Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree 
Putting the “career” back in “college and career” readiness
Review | Daniela Fairchild

From The Web

Nothing says "gifted" like "Welcome Back, Cotter"
If you want to get re-elected, whatever you do, don’t follow Rick’s advice
Education Gadfly Show Podcast | Hosts: Mike Petrilli and Rick Hess

Questions about a charter network in Texas
Philanthropy, Islam, accountability, and intrigue
Flypaper's Finest | June 7, 2011 | Peter Meyer

The qualities of a good teacher: A student’s perspective
One Cristo Rey student explains her peers’ views on solid teaching
Flypaper's Finest | June 6, 2011 | Penelope Placide

IMPACT: Teachers' perspectives, part II
Dispelling myths and fears about evaluations
Gadfly Studios | June 8, 2011


Step one: Collect data; Step two: Actually use it 
And India's benevolent dictator
Briefly Noted

Want less fed in your ed?
Join us on June 15 for a discussion of Uncle Sam’s future role in edu-accountability

Get on the Hess express
AEI’s education shop is hiring

Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors 
Stubbornly resistant to significant change
Featured Fordham Publication

Opinion and News Analysis

Opinion: Charter start-ups vs. district turnarounds: Attempting to settle the debate
By David Stuit

Come September, Celerity Educational Group will start a new K-5 charter school, to be christened Celerity Sirius, in a neighborhood church in Compton, CA. It will open its doors just a few blocks from McKinley Elementary, a K-5 school, famous for being ground-zero in the “parent trigger” wars. McKinley is a chronic low-performer that has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) only once since 2003. Its test scores consistently fall in the bottom 10 percent of all California schools (of which there are nearly 10,000). That persistent failure has afforded McKinley the right to gobs of federal and state resources, all bestowed in the hope of turning around this troubled school.

Scenarios like this, which pit a start-up charter head-to-head against a neighboring district school deep into a turnaround effort, offer an ideal lab for re-examining the lively and consequential debate among ed reformers: Are charter start-ups more likely to yield successful schools than district turnaround efforts? And if so, why don’t we divert a big chunk of the $3 billion in federal “school improvement grants” to starting new charters instead?

Even if start-up charters are more likely to succeed than turnarounds, there currently are not enough of them available to kids stuck in failing schools.


Historically, few low-performing schools (in either sector) have made the quick and dramatic leaps in performance that satisfy experts’ criteria for a full-fledged “turnaround.” A recent study I conducted for Fordham defined a “turnaround” in reasonably strict terms: To earn that designation, a school must have moved the needle on student achievement in both reading and math from its state’s bottom decile to above the state average (from 2003-04 to 2008-09). Alas, I found that only 1 percent of schools made the cut. Mindful of how dismal this track record is when it comes to turning around weak schools, we wondered whether start-up charters in the same neighborhoods have fared any better.

To fill this evidence gap, I examined situations such as the one described in Compton. Across ten states (Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin), I located all incidents (between 2002-03 and 2006-07) of a charter school opening in close proximity to a district school that had reading and math proficiency rates in the bottom 10 percent of its state at the time the charter appeared in its neighborhood. To qualify as a fair match-up, the charter and district schools had to be the nearest neighboring public schools of the same type (elementary or middle) and be located less than three miles apart as the crow flies. The schools also had to be demographically similar, with no more than a 10 percentage point difference in their subsidized lunch and minority enrollments. After identifying these matches, I examined the reading and math proficiency rates of the schools in 2008-09 to determine how many schools had become “successes” by that year (success defined here as performing above the state average).

In most of the showdowns, the charter start-ups emerged victorious. Of the eighty-one head-to-head matchups I identified, 19 percent of the charter schools (i.e. fifteen schools) tested above the state average in 2008-09, compared with 5 percent of district schools (i.e. four schools).* Neither of those numbers is what one would hope—and what kids need—but let’s at least recognize that the success rate of start-up charters was almost four times greater than the district turnaround rate.

This is good sign for charter start-ups, and for the kids who gain admittance to them. But caveats abound. Because of the small sample, the difference in charter and district success rates was not statistically significant. And even if it was, this analysis can’t rule out the possibility of selection bias. It might be that the charter schools were more successful simply because they attracted better students.

urban school

Photo by SqueakyMarmot

Yet there’s one important finding that I can state with utmost confidence: Surprisingly few start-up charters opened in close proximity to one of their states’ lowest performing schools. Of the 530 charter schools tagged and analyzed, only eighty-one set up shop as nearest neighbors to one of the 2,000-plus low performing district schools. The implication? Even if start-up charters are more likely to succeed than turnarounds, there currently are not enough of them available to kids stuck in failing schools. Big cities don’t have a bulging pipeline of KIPP or Achievement First or Aspire schools just waiting to be tapped. (Many big cities, of course, have none of those.) Districts and states need to find better incentives for quality charters to open up in their neediest neighborhoods. At the same time, they need to turn around their turnaround efforts—so that these actually work a whole lot better (at least four times better) in the future than they have in the past.

Note, too, that, for every start-up charter that met our criteria for success, there were two that continued to exhibit consistently low performance. While fifteen charter start-ups (of the eighty-one we started with) ended up above the state average in 2008-09, thirty-three landed in the bottom quartile.

So what’s the takeaway? When contemplating whether to put one’s energy and resources into turning around failing schools or closing them and replacing them with charter start-ups, the answer for most cities will probably be “both, and” rather than “either, or.” My preliminary evidence suggests, however, that the charter start-up route is somewhat more promising. Still and all, reformers will need to get a whole lot better at implementing both strategies successfully lest all of this add up to “nothing much.”

David Stuit is a partner at Basis Policy Research, where he conducts quantitative research on policy and finance for school districts, state departments of education, and other education-related organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in leadership and policy studies from Vanderbilt University. He is also a Thomas B. Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Institute Emerging Education Policy Scholar.

* This percentage, which comes from a small sample of only 81 schools, is a less precise gauge of turnaround success than the 1 percent of schools found in the overall study, which examined 2,025 schools.


Opinion: The ends of education reform
By Michael J. Petrilli

Diane Ravitch’s New York Times op-ed last week stuck in the craw of many a reformer, including Arne Duncan himself. What really got peoples’ goats were Ravitch’s “straw man” arguments: that reformers say poverty doesn’t matter, or that they only care about gains in student achievement. In a rebuttal last week, Jonathan Alter argued: “No education reformer has ever challenged the idea that conditions in the home and in the larger society are hugely important. They merely insist that such conditions not be used as an excuse for inaction.”

That would be swell. But it’s not exactly true. Remember the old adage, actions speak louder than words? The No Child Left Behind act is still the law of the land, and it most definitely rests on the principle that poverty is “no excuse” for low achievement. And it absolutely punishes schools for bad test scores alone. Diane is on firm ground when she writes:

Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.

Rather than get defensive at Diane’s defeatism, we reformers should clarify the ends that education reform can achieve. If not 100 percent proficiency, then what?

Try this exercise. This fall, about 1 million very poor children will enroll in Kindergarten in the U.S. The vast majority of them will live in single-parent families headed by women in their late teens or early twenties. Most of their mothers will have dropped out of high school; most of their fathers are nowhere to be seen. Most live in urban or rural communities hit hard by the recession, places where unemployment, addiction, and violence are all too commonplace.

Still, not everything is bleak. Almost all of these children participated in some form of pre-school program, though the quality and effectiveness varied dramatically. Many were in Head Start; others in church-based or community-based programs. They generally have access to basic health-care and, thanks to food stamps, basic nutrition.

Rather than get defensive at Diane’s defeatism, we reformers should clarify the ends that education reform can achieve.


Now, try to “see like a state” and play policymaker. When designing a school accountability system, what should its objectives be with respect to these 1 million tykes? On one extreme, you might expect them all to be catapulted into the middle class between the ages of five and twenty-two. First, the K-12 system should prepare them for the rigors of a four-year-college experience, and then higher education should get them across the finish line and into the Promised Land. No excuses!

On the other extreme, you might merely expect them to do no worse than their own mothers did. You don’t want to see the graduation rate go down, or test scores fall, or teen pregnancy rates climb. But you accept that, as long as poverty remains entrenched, a flat line on student outcomes is all we can expect.

I would bet that your own views fall somewhere in between. You acknowledge—privately at least—that it’s unrealistic to expect all kids growing up in poverty to be able to “beat the odds” and graduate from college. (That’s why they’re called “odds.”) You recognize that, for most middle-class families, the path from poverty to prosperity has been a multi-generational journey. (And don’t overlook how many middle-class kids don’t graduate from college!)

But you also believe in the promise of social mobility, and can point to examples of schools—even mediocre ones—that have helped (at least) some kids escape the ghetto or the barrio or the reservation. To accept the status quo is to accept perpetual injustice and inequality.

So let’s get specific. Assuming that these 1 million kids remain poor over the next twelve years, what outcomes would indicate “success” for education reform? Right now the high school graduation rate in poor districts hovers around 50 percent. What if we moved it to 60 percent—without lowering graduation standards? Right now the NAEP reading proficiency rate for the most disadvantaged twelfth graders (those whose parents dropped out of high school) is 17 percent. What if we moved that to 25 percent? The same rate for math is 8 percent. What if we moved that to 15 percent?

To my eye, these are stretch goals—challenging but attainable. Yet to adopt them would mean to expect about 400,000 of this new crop of kindergarteners not to graduate from high school thirteen years on. And of the 600,000 that do graduate, we would expect only 150,000 to reach proficiency in reading (25 percent) and just 90,000 of them to be proficient in math (15 percent).

90,000 out of 1 million doesn’t sound so good, but without improving our graduation or proficiency rates for these children, we’d only be talking about 40,000 kids. So these modest improvements would mean more than twice as many poor children making it—9 percent instead of 4 percent.

And what about the other 91 percent of our bumptious new kindergarteners? We don’t want to write them off, so what goals would be appropriate for them? Getting more of them to the “basic” level on NAEP? Preparing them for decent jobs instead of the lowest-paid kinds? Driving down the teen pregnancy rate? Lowering the incarceration rate?

Is this making you uncomfortable? Good. If we are to get beyond the “100 percent proficiency” or “all students college and career ready” rhetoric, these are the conversations we need to have. And if we’re not willing to do so, don’t complain when Diane Ravitch and her armies of angry teachers say that we are asking them to perform miracles.

This piece originally appeared (in a slightly different format) on Fordham’s Flypaper blog. To subscribe to Flypaper, click here.



News Analysis: Let not the good be the enemy of the perfect

Montgomery County, Maryland finds itself playing bumper cars with federal prescriptions and state mandates, thanks to the district’s Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) system. A collaborative effort between the teacher unions and district leaders, PAR is an educator-evaluation system which uses eight-member committees (consisting of mentor teachers and principals) to appraise, mentor, and, when necessary, fire instructors. What it does not do is use student-achievement data in teacher evaluations. And that’s exactly where its car gets jostled by state law and federal incentive. Maryland’s Education Reform Act of 2010 (catalyzed by Race to the Top) compels all districts to make student achievement a “significant” share of teacher evals—from recent activity in the state board, that portion is likely to be as high as 35 percent. The incorporation of student test results is also a stipulation for receiving Race to the Top aid (of which Montgomery County qualifies for $12 million). Even though implementation of this new state system has hit bumper walls, the district will eventually be forced to alter its decade-old evaluation system. Until then, Montgomery County’s current PAR system (which, though flawed, is better than most) will continue to function. Surely that’s not a bad thing; but neither is revving up the current system to make teacher evaluations even better in the future.

Click to read

Read more about Montgomery County and Winerip's article on Flypaper.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Montgomery County from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Helping Teachers Help Themselves,” by Michael Winerip, New York Times, June 5, 2011.

Md. teacher evaluation redesign bogs down,” by Michael Allison Chandler, Washington Post, June 4, 2011.

Up to PAR?,” by Staff, National Council on Teacher Quality: Pretty Darn Quick, June 8, 2011.


News Analysis: Something's got to give

Across metro Detroit (from the wealthy Grosse Pointe School District to the perennially struggling Detroit Public Schools), school systems are having to dip further into their general-education budgets to cover their unfunded special-education costs. This predicament has an extensive root structure, starting with Michigan’s unique special-ed funding set-up. In addition to state and local monies, each of Michigan’s intermediate school districts provides a separate special-education millage (on average 2.4 mills) to offset district special-education costs. (The more money brought in from the millage, the less financial burden owned by the district.) Recent slackening of these millages has caused shallow waters for special-education funding. And, thanks to federal “maintenance of effort” provisions (which enforce constant funding of special ed), when special-education funding streams slow, monies must be redirected from the general-education funding reservoir. This strikes us as unfair and unwise; kids in “general education” (especially disadvantaged children) deserve their share of school spending too. Furthermore, by walling the special education budget off from financial stringency, we’re stifling potential breakthroughs in productivity. As the funding tide goes in, let’s not maroon “regular” education on the rocks just so special ed spending can sail on.

To preserve special education, big sacrifices loom,” by Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, June 7, 2011.


Short Reviews

Review: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Though American education has taken few actual steps to pattern itself on other countries, in recent years we’ve displayed a near-obsessive interest in how we’re doing in relation to them (e.g. on TIMSS and PISA results), and in what they’re doing and how they do it. We at Fordham have worked our way into this mix a couple of times and we’ve periodically reviewed major analyses of “education success stories around the world” by the likes of McKinsey. We’ve also read our share—OK, more than our share—of paeans to Finland, Singapore, you name it. (At the U.S. Education Department, I helped lead a study of Japanese education as far back as 1988.) I’ve also long admired Marc Tucker’s tireless efforts to get American educators and reformers to understand and appreciate how other nations address challenges that often resemble our own.

Which isn’t to say I always agree with him. And that’s true of his latest paper, too—drawn from a book coming out in September. He seeks to determine “what education policy might look like in the United States if it was [sic] based on the experiences of our most successful competitors.” In that role, he casts Canada (Ontario), Finland, and three East Asian lands (Japan, Singapore, and the Shanghai region of China.) And in fifty pages he offers a wealth of insights that, while perceptive, are not fully applicable on these shores—much as Marc would have us think otherwise.

Some are both familiar and broad enough to be apply just about everywhere, such as “set clear goals,” have checkpoints along the way to gauge (and control) student progress, worry a lot about teacher quality (principals, too), finance schools equitably, strike the right balance between autonomy and accountability, and strive for a coherent “system.” Such observations are not new to readers of McKinsey’s work and that of others who have gone down this path.

Where Marc gets into trouble (with me, anyway) is when he tries to convert some of these lessons for American domestic use—especially the part about “consider[ing] the education system as one coherent whole.” Four of his overseas “benchmark” examples have national education systems, run by the central government; and he seems at ease with America moving in that direction, not just via voluntary comings-together of states (e.g. the Common Core) but also through forceful actions by Uncle Sam.

The more useful example for us among those he has examined is Ontario, for Canada has no federal education department nor (to my knowledge) any involvement by the national government in the delivery, financing, or even policy-setting for primary-secondary education. Marc never quite resolves the extent to which Ontario sticks out from his other exemplars like a structural sore thumb, nor does he quite get to the lesson that might be most applicable here: American education surely needs a major overhaul of its education governance before it can successfully put into place the other changes in policy and practice that Marc urges (and that these other countries have and do). And yes, that will lead us away from “local control” as traditionally defined and operationalized in U.S. education. (They don’t have that kind of local control in Ontario, either.) But it will and should lead us not to Washington but to a proper redefinition of the role of states (akin to Canadian provinces) and to the roles of individual schools, parents, and choice. Marc’s biggest blind spot, at least within the context of U.S. education reform today, is his “system knows best, just get the system right” mindset and his dismissal of the potential of competition and choice, properly structured and appropriately accountable, for accelerating the change we need in American education.

This piece originally appeared (in a slightly different format) on Fordham’s Flypaper blog. To subscribe to Flypaper, click here.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Tucker's report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Marc S. Tucker, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform,” (Washington, D.C.: National Center on Education and the Economy, May 2011).


Review: Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education
By Janie Scull

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability coverWhile critics of test-based accountability systems are raising a glass to this recently released National Research Council report, they may want to cork the bottle while some bubbles remain in it. Authored by the NRC-established Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability, this report set out to examine the nature of incentives and to determine the extent to which existing state accountability programs have raised student achievement. It begins with an overview of successful incentive-based structures (explaining their key aspects, like targeting incentives to those with the authority to make a difference). From this overview, the authors conclude that current accountability systems are not designed to make the most of their incentive structures. As such, state-based accountability systems a la NCLB produce only modest gains in student performance (the equivalent of a student moving from the 50th to the 53rd percentile). But, as Eric Hanushek points out, even these modest gains can produce big results in productivity; if history holds, such gains would translate into an additional $13 trillion in future GDP. The NRC report correctly declares that there is much room for improvement in test-based accountability systems, and calls for further experimentation and research. All in all, the report’s analysis (if not its promotional materials) conclude that test-based incentives could—with tweaks—work much better. And Gadfly can drink to that.

Click to read

Read more about this report on Flypaper.

Michael Hout and Stuart W. Elliott, Eds., “Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education,” (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2011).


Review: Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccelaureate: Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree
By Daniela Fairchild

Diplomas Count coverAs college graduates, many burdened by tens of thousands of dollars of debt, venture forth into the job market, they continue to be confronted by the painful reality that stimulating, well-paying jobs are hard to come by. (Indeed, there aren’t many of the other kind of jobs, either.) This truth has rekindled the “college-for-all vs. pathways to success” debate around college and career readiness. Which is to say, career readiness can surely follow from something less than a four year college degree—if it’s done right. As Arne Duncan explains, “There’s an urgent need to reimagine and remake career and technical education. CTE has an enormous, if often overlooked, impact on students, school systems, and our ability to prosper as a nation.” To that end, this year’s edition of “Diplomas Count” (the seventh annual) offers a detailed look at the space between high school diplomas and four-year college degrees, including community colleges, and early college and improved tech-ed programs at the high school level. (It also reports a national high-school graduation rate for the class of ’08 of 72 percent—the highest it’s been since the 1980s.) It examines a number of initiatives and offers thoughtful commentary on the career-readiness debate. One article, exampling the partnership between a school district and a health network in Michigan, showcases how programs can simultaneously guide students toward well-paying jobs while providing local businesses with a needed workforce. Other articles focus on collaborations between districts and community colleges, which provide support to school counselors and students as they navigate their post-high-school options. Two main threads emerge from the report as a whole. They’re obvious yet worth repeating: To be successful, career- and technical-education programs must be rigorous and relevant. And students must be made aware of all options available to them—basic information too often not afforded today’s high schoolers, who are either pushed onto the four-year college track, or left to flounder in “general education.” There’s got to be a better way.

Education Week, “Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate: Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree,” (Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education, June 2011).


From The Web

The Education Gadfly Show Podcast: Nothing says "gifted" like "Welcome Back, Cotter"

After some good old-fashioned low-brow fun, Mike and Rick launch into an erudite conversation on teacher evaluations and Race to the Top, the political perils of tough-love school reform, and the correct role of education philanthropies. Amber finds benefit in gifted-education programs, and Chris tells overbearing parents to get off Facebook—and get a life.

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


Flypaper's Finest: Questions about a charter network in Texas
By Peter Meyer

The Harmony Charter school opus in today’s Times is a great read. It’s very long (over 4,000 words), starts on the front page, and covers two full pages on the inside of the paper. But its author, Stephanie Saul, is a crack “investigative reporter” and a 1995 Pulitzer winner—not an education writer. The headline is a grabber: “Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas,” as is the subhead: “Some Founders Belong to Islamic Movement.”...

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.


Flypaper's Finest: The qualities of a good teacher: A student's perspective
By Penelope Placide

Hi! I am a ninth grade student who has worked at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute since September 2010. Recently, I was given one of the coolest research projects ever! I was asked my opinion of what makes a good teacher, a mission that had never crossed my mind until now. To me the top three qualities that make a good teacher are: Answering all questions and making sure every student understands the material; taking time aside from school time to give extra support and help; and a fun and enjoyable personality. Instead of just writing about my own opinion, I decided to ask some of my classmates and then explore the question of what makes a good teacher.…

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.



Gadfly Studios: IMPACT: Teachers' perspectives, part II

Click to play video of IMPACT (1) Click to play video of IMPACT (2)

In these two short videos, D.C.’s educators explain how they benefit from IMPACT, the District’s teacher-evaluation system. This pair is the second release in a series; the first, which explains IMPACT in greater detail, is here.



Briefly Noted: Step one: Collect data; Step two: Actually use it

  • Pittsburgh may be the Steel City, but if Aspen’s new paper is any indicator, it’s got a heart of gold. “Forging a New Partnership” documents how the city’s breakthrough labor-management collaboration in education has aided the district. The recommendations are commonsensical. But the story is uplifting.
  • Ron Tupa, Director of State Legislatures for Democrats for Education Reform pops the bubble of Illinois’s much-praised SB7 legislation. That statute is rife with loopholes and escape clauses, among other things, he explains. Tell us again about collaboration?
  • The latest addition to the “cool interactive map” gang is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce. It displays how states fare on nine indicators, from standards, data systems, and charter laws, to student achievement and graduation rates. Interesting—and depressing—stuff.
  • No quippy words are needed to entice readers to the Wall Street Journal’s recent article explaining the consequences of a government “diversity” program in India, which forces private schools to accept a quota of underprivileged youth. It’s just that interesting.
  • The New Yorker reminds us of an important point: States have made great strides in data collection (especially surrounding individual student achievement). But for the data to be worthwhile, policymakers will actually need to use it—which they have, historically, been remiss to do.
  • The shroud of conspiracy is lifted, revealing that there is no conspiracy. Three original signers of the controversial Shanker Institute manifesto, Randi Weingarten, Tom Kean, and Susan Neuman, explain in the New Jersey Star-Ledger: The manifesto has been misrepresented by its critics. It calls for many sets of voluntary national curricular materials—not lesson scripts, pedagogical formulae, or even one national curriculum.


Announcement: Want less fed in your ed?

Been racking your brain wondering how (and indeed whether) Congress should address AYP, school interventions, and all the rest when it reauthorizes NCLB? Fret no longer. Instead, join Fordham and a panel of dynamic thinkers to tackle the accountability issue on June 15 from 4:00PM to 5:30PM. We’ll hear from Cynthia Brown of the Center for American Progress, William Hite of Prince George’s County Public Schools, Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation, and Fordham’s own Mike Petrilli. Checker Finn will moderate. To RSVP, click here.


Announcement: Get on the Hess express

Rick Hess, AEI’s Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, has an opening on his staff for a research assistant. Those with first-rate writing skills, a keen editing eye, and a thumb on the pulse of education reform can read the full job description and apply here.


Featured Fordham Publication: Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both District and Charter Sectors


This study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that low-performing public schools—both charter and traditional district schools—are stubbornly resistant to significant change. After identifying more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states, analyst David Stuit tracked them from 2003-04 through 2008-09 to determine how many were turned around, shut down, or remained low-performing. Results were generally dismal. Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later. So did 80 percent of district schools. Read on to learn more—including results from the ten states.



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., Alicia Goldberg, 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 Find archived issues or other reviews of reports and books here.

Follow the commentary online:  Twitter Facebook YouTube

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.

Unsubscribe here.

powered by CONVIO
nonprofit software