Michael J. Petrilli


Yes, It Really Is Harder to Get into Highly Selective Colleges Today

Comparison of SAT scores over time tells a story

A Decade On, Has Common Core Failed?

Assessing the impact of national standards

SPRING 2020 / VOL. 20, NO. 2

Stay the Course on National Standards

Forum: A Decade On, Has Common Core Failed?

SPRING 2020 / VOL. 20, NO. 2

Put “Whole Language” on Trial

The case against reading instruction that leads to illiteracy

SPRING 2020 / VOL. 20, NO. 2

The Baby Bust Goes to School

Are falling birthrates a crisis or an opportunity?

SUMMER 2019 / VOL. 19, NO. 3

From Cat Videos and Cooking Tips to the History of the Punic Wars

Educational content comes to YouTube

WINTER 2019 / VOL. 19, NO. 1

The Case for Holding Students Accountable

How extrinsic motivation gets kids to work harder and learn more

SUMMER 2018 / VOL. 18, NO. 3

Debating Obama-Era Guidance on School Discipline

Should the Trump administration retain, revise, or rescind?

A Supposed Discipline Fix Threatens School Cultures

This wasn’t just routine guidance. Instead, by applying a shambolic version of disparate impact theory to school discipline, the letter marked an enormous shift in federal policy and set up the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to be both judge and jury.

Parenting in the iPhone Age

A review of The Art of Screen Time by Anya Kamenetz and Be the Parent, Please by Naomi Schaefer Riley

SUMMER 2018 / VOL. 18, NO. 3

Big Data Transforms Education Research

Can machine learning unlock the keys to great teaching?

WINTER 2018 / VOL. 18, NO. 1

A Common Core Curriculum Quandary

For Eureka Math, open-source leads to a revenue stream

SUMMER 2017 / VOL. 17, NO. 3

Rich Insights on Poverty

A review of “Coming of Age in the Other America,” by Stefanie DeLuca, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin

Common Confusion

Most kids in America aren’t on track for success. Why don’t they and their parents know it?

WINTER 2017 / VOL. 17, NO. 1

“Children, be quiet and watch your lesson”

The case for video time during class

Summer 2016 / Vol. 16, No. 3

America’s Mediocre Test Scores

Education crisis or poverty crisis?

WINTER 2016 / VOL. 16, NO. 1

What Twitter Says about the Education Policy Debate

And how scholars might use it as a research tool

FALL 2015 / VOL. 15, NO. 4

How Can Schools Address America’s Marriage Crisis?

Prepare young people for rewarding careers

SPRING 2015 / VOL. 15, NO. 2

A New Breed of Journalism

Education coverage is on the rise

WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

Despite Success in New York City, It’s Time for Charters to Guard Their Flanks

School districts and teachers unions are fighting charters with renewed energy.

SUMMER 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 3

Coming Soon: ‘Car-Key Kids’

What autonomous automobiles will mean for adolescence

SPRING 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 2

Equity Trumps Excellence

Among news media, competition less important than achievement gap

FALL 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 4

Pulling the Parent Trigger

Education Next talks with Ben Austin and Michael J. Petrilli

SUMMER 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 3

There’s a Better Way to Unlock Parent Power

Forum: Pulling the Parent Trigger

SUMMER 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 3

Tweet Thine Enemy

How “narrowcast” is the education policy debate?

Spring 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 2

The Newsroom’s View of Education Reform

Surprise! The press paints a distorted picture

SUMMER 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 3

Obama’s Education Record

Does the reality match the rhetoric?

SPRING 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 2

All A-Twitter about Education

Improving our schools in 140 characters or less

Fall 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 4

Pyrrhic Victories?

The following essay is part of a forum, written in honor of Education Next’s 10th anniversary, in which the editors assessed the school reform movement’s victories and challenges to see just how successful reform efforts have been. For the other side of the debate, please see A Battle Begun, Not Won by Paul E. Peterson, […]

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

Lights, Camera, Action!

Using video recordings to evaluate teachers

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

All Together Now?

Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom

Winter 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 1

School Reform Hits the Big Screen

Why 2010 is a banner year for the education documentary

Fall 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 4

Bye-Bye Blackboards

Interactive and expensive, whiteboards come to the classroom

Summer 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 3

Charters as Role Models

The charter school movement turns 14

this year, and its behavior, some might say, is “developmentally


Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Disappearing Ink

What happens when the education reporter goes away?

Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4

Linky Love, Snark Attacks, and Fierce Debates about Teacher Quality?

A peek inside the education blogosphere

Winter 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 1

Arrested Development

Online training is the norm in other professions. Why not in K–12 education?

Fall 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 4

Opinion Leaders or Laggards?

Newspaper editorialists support charter schools, split on NCLB

Summer 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 3

Wikipedia or Wickedpedia?

Assessing the online encyclopedia’s impact on K–12 education

Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2

Let’s Talk About It

Talk radio’s take on K–12 education

Winter 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 1

Teacher’s Little Helper

New technologies target teacher performance

Summer 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 3

Testing the Limits of NCLB

Implementation is not the problem

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

The Key to Research Influence

Quality data and sound analysis matter, after all

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

No Business Like Show Business

Hollywood and Hip-Hop Discover Charter Schools

Winter 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 1

Misdirected Energy

Schools get an A in resisting reform.

Winter 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 1

The Cure

Will NCLB’s restructuring wonder drug prove meaningless?

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

A New New Federalism

The case for national standards and tests

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

Blog Posts/Multimedia

The “Left Behind” Kids Made Incredible Progress From the Late 1990s Until the Great Recession. Here Are Key Lessons for Ed Reform.

A look at a quarter-century of student outcomes is a reminder of the importance of patience.


Kids Who Had Been “Left Behind” Are Doing Much Better Today Than 25 Years Ago. But What About the Middle Class?

Achievement is mostly flat, while attainment is up.


Education Policy Helped These States Beat the Socioeconomic Curve

Indiana, Florida, Mississippi show signs of recent progress.


A Rising Economic Tide + Reform + Resources = Better Results

Can a winning combination be recreated?


Perhaps Progress Against Poverty Helped Test Scores Rise

The pattern isn’t perfect. But over the past twenty years, the two lines appear to be moving generally in the same direction.


Child Poverty Is Down Sharply Since the Start of the Ed Reform Era

Let’s celebrate the fact that our country has made real progress in the War on Poverty.


Student Outcomes Have Improved in More Than Just Reading and Math

Fourth and eighth graders made progress across the entirety of the academic curriculum from the late 1990s until the Great Recession—especially our lowest performing students and students of color.


Betsy DeVos and Other Naysayers Are Wrong: Student Outcomes in the U.S. Have Improved Significantly in Recent Decades

A fair assessment of the past twenty-five years, and especially the years before the Great Recession, is that something improved outcomes for students, particularly the most vulnerable students.


The Results of Florida’s Education Reforms Are Impressive. Their Return on Investment Is Totally Off the Charts.

From the late 1990s until 2017, the reading performance of black fourth graders in Florida skyrocketed 26 points. For Hispanic students, the gain was 27 points, and for low-income kids it was an astonishing 29 points.


You Might Be Surprised Which States Prioritize Higher Teacher Salaries

The U.S. is spending dramatically more per pupil than in decades past, yet teacher salaries have barely kept pace with inflation.


What Schools Can Learn from OrangeTheory about Differentiating Instruction

Like schools, fitness studios aim to provide a great experience for twenty-five or thirty students with great variation in levels and goals.


Are Career-Tech Students Preparing for Jobs That Actually Exist?

A new analysis links data on career and technical education course-taking to employment data.


Instructional Coaches: The Heroes of the Golden Age of Educational Practice

Coaches can build capacity and teachers’ understanding in a way that will alter what they actually do in their classrooms.


We Can’t Just Invest in Building Great Curricula

We need to invest in marketing them, too.


Obstacles to a Culture of Improvement

Our traditional public school system is not always hospitable to teachers or leaders willing to take risks to get better.


How to Help Schools Use Evidence-Based Practices

Here’s how local communities, state education agencies, and philanthropists can help.


Allowing Researchers to See What Goes On in the Classroom

Technology might allow us to collect detailed information about classroom practice that would help us learn what’s working and what’s not.


As We Reach the End of Education Policy, We Need a Golden Age of Educational Practice

While policymakers might be taking a break from education policy, we cannot afford to take a break from educational improvement.


The Concern about Subgroups in ESSA Accountability Systems May Be Overblown

In Ohio, schools with poor performance for subgroups but high grades overall are quite rare.


The Case for Adding a Second 2nd Grade to High-Poverty Elementary Schools

Even with high-quality preschool, a fantastic elementary school, and longer school days and years, there’s just not enough time in the six years from kindergarten through grade five to help all low-income kids catch up to the grade-level expectations they will face in middle school.


How to Reverse Grade Inflation and Help Students Reach Their Potential

A new study looks at how easy or hard it is today to get a good grade in high school and whether that has changed over time.


Finding the Sweet Spot Between Defeatism and Utopianism When Setting School Standards

High expectations are as critical as ever. But it’s only when we combine them with a pragmatic approach that we have a chance of actually achieving them.


Where Education Reform Goes from Here

Education reform may be down, but it’s surely not out.


School Choice, Test Scores and Long-Term Outcomes: The Evidence Is Ambiguous

Review of studies finds few situations where school choice boosts long-term outcomes but not short-term ones.


Are There Schools of Choice That Hurt Test Scores but Not Long-Term Outcomes?

We know that a handful of school choice programs as a whole worsened achievement but improved graduation rates. What we don’t know is whether there was a similar mismatch at the school level.


A Closer Look at “Mismatch” in School Choice Studies

The impacts of school choice programs on test score gains and longer term outcomes are not really as out of sync as they may first appear.


What Counts as School Choice in New Study of Short- and Long-Term Outcomes?

Results for early-college high schools, selective-admission exam schools, and career and technical programs are different from those of the charter and voucher schools normally included in such studies.


Evaluating the Impact of School Choice on Short- and Long-Term Outcomes

A new paper argues that a school choice program’s impact on test scores is a weak predictor of its impacts on longer-term outcomes.


What to Watch For When the NAEP Results Are Released Next Week

Will the flat national trends continue? Did the switch to tablet-based assessments have an impact on the scores? What’s the story in D.C, Indiana, Miami, Chicago, and California?


Which Urban School Districts Have Been Moving in the Right Direction on NAEP?

These will be the school districts to watch when the newest NAEP scores are released in early April.


State ESSA Plans May Use Federal Funds to Start New Charter Schools

Texas districts can use Title I resources to start new schools rather than just work to turn around low-performing ones.


Which States Are on a Hot Streak Coming Into the 2017 NAEP Release?

The District of Columbia, Indiana, and Tennessee clearly have momentum going into the 2017 NAEP release, with the broadest gains in both subjects and grade levels


NAEP Gains Over the Past 25 Years: A Closer Look at the Trends

How have U.S. students performed over the past twenty-five years on NAEP?


2017 NAEP Scores Coming Next Month: Why the Scores Matter

NAEP scores and trends have great value and reveal much that’s important to know.


Why Disparate Impact Theory Is a Bad Fit for School Discipline

Jumping to conclusions from districts’ raw discipline data ought to end.


Education Reform Developments to Watch For in 2018

The big stories will be NAEP scores, the Janus Supreme Court case, gubernatorial elections, school discipline, and school ratings.


Empowering Parents to Help Schools

Parents are an untapped resource for reform. It’s time to give them—to give us—a voice.


Are Discipline Disparities Due to the Behavior of Students or the Responses of Adults?

Some of the disparity in suspension rates may stem from racism or variations in discipline policies but some may stem from differences in student behavior—differences driven by poverty and the other out-of-school factors.


Most States Step Up on Accountability under ESSA

When Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act, many reformers voiced concern that states would give up on rigorous accountability systems.


State Policies to Maximize the Utility of Testing Data

How assessments are administered and results are reported can make a difference.


A Surprisingly Good Year for Education Reform

We can’t let down our guard, nor can we ignore the many other problems facing our country, but we can enjoy some satisfaction in the fact that child-friendly education policies are still winning.


The New Gates Strategy: Evolution, Not Revolution (For Better and For Worse)

We can and should seek every possible opportunity to help schools improve, but we also need to keep up the pressure on the system.


Top Charter Networks Turning Attention to Curriculum

Rather than viewing curricular uniformity as a straightjacket, KIPP decided to build a coherent curriculum as a resource for its teachers.


Changing Support for Charter Schools Among Republicans

Why has support for the schools declined and what could turn that around?


No, Half of American Schoolchildren Are Not ‘Low-Income’

It might be the most common mistake in education writing today: declaring that a majority of public school students hail from “low income” families.


An Innovation That Looks Good Even Up Close

The 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Indiana is an example of a school that does “dual enrollment” right.


District Schools Aren’t Charter Schools – and That’s Ok

Let’s stop asking urban districts to try to be something they aren’t.


Top Education Policy People and Organizations on Social Media 2017

We’re back with our annual look at who is dominating Twitter and other forms of social media in the education policy world.


Support for Common Standards Has Rebounded

Local control has its place—but, as Americans told Education Next, it also has its limits.


Help Wanted: Who Is Missing From This List of Top Tweeters in Education Policy?

It’s time again to post our mostly-annual list of the top education policy people, organizations, and publications on social media.


Let’s Fight Complacency by Recognizing Excellent Schools

Mediocrity, not failure, is the greatest challenge facing American schools today.


State Accountability Plans Fix Many NCLB-Era Mistakes

The Every Student Succeeds Act grants states more authority over their school accountability systems than did No Child Left Behind — meaning that states now have a greater opportunity to design improved school ratings.


The Next Big Thing in Education Reform May Be Practice, Not Policy

So what should philanthropists do now?


What Teens Want From Their Schools

Results from a national survey of high school student engagement.


How Should Racial Disparities in School Discipline Be Investigated?

What journalists, education reformers, and everyone else should understand is that the Obama Administration turned almost everything into a potential civil rights violation.


Betsy DeVos’s Team Stumbles on ESSA

After the Secretary promised to provide states wide latitude in implementing ESSA, the DeVos team seems to be misreading the law, the substantive issues, and the politics.


Can Research Help Us Design Better Education Policies?

On Thursday morning, the Fordham Institute and the Knowledge Alliance are bringing together policy wonks and academics to discuss whether and how we can build better bridges across the research-to-policy divide.


School Vouchers, LGBTQ Rights, and Religious Liberty

What Betsy DeVos should say when asked whether schools accepting vouchers can refuse to admit LGBTQ students.


Are Private Schools Allowed to Discriminate?

And will private schools be required to follow civil rights laws if they accept vouchers?


Don’t Let Personalized Learning Become the Processed Food of Education

Let’s make sure not to break learning into little bits and scraps and bytes of disparate skills, disconnected from an inspiring, coherent whole.


Letter to a Middle-Aged Rick Hess

In the trenches of politics, the nuanced debate beloved by those of us in the think tank stratosphere just doesn’t cut it.


Debate: Should Public Funds Be Used to Support Private School Vouchers?

The opening statement for a debate between Mike Petrilli and Rick Kahlenberg.


Is a Charter School Likely to Fail? Look at the Application

What if we could predict which schools are likely not to succeed—before they even open their doors?


Schools Should Tell Parents Whether Their Middle Schoolers Are On Track for College

We can see it, clear as day, in the data, starting as early as the sixth grade. We know with reasonable precision which students are likely to leave high school ready for college, and which are not. We just don’t bother to tell the families.


Why a Trump School Choice Initiative is Unlikely to Succeed

Creating and sustaining a massive new federally-fueled voucher program will take more than a miracle. It will take three miracles.


Why Senate Republicans Should Resist the Urge to Repeal the ESSA Accountability Reguations

Repealing the regs via the Congressional Review Act will make ESSA implementation a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be.


With Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Parents and Teachers Can Focus on Changing Policies Closer to Home

During her confirmation process, DeVos promised time and again to shrink Uncle Sam’s impact on the nation’s schools.


How Might Trump’s School Choice Plan Work?

One proposal would offer individuals and/or corporations a federal tax credit if they donate to voucher programs.


Are Voucher Schools Unaccountable?

If you oppose vouchers because you think they lack accountability, it may be time to take another look.


Three Principles to Embrace in 2017

Compassion, humility, and subsidiarity should guide school reform efforts.


Undue Process: Why Bad Teachers Rarely Get Fired

The research on “what matters” when it comes to a child’s academic success has been clear for decades: more than anything else that a school can control, the classroom teacher matters most.


2016: The Year We Came Apart

Before we close the books on this vexed year, it’s important to pause and begin to understand how we got to this place, if only to help us truly leave it behind.


Take This Quiz: On School Choice, Are You a Libertarian or Do You Prefer a Nanny State?

What limits would you place on a parent’s right to choose a school for his or her child using public funds?


Twenty Questions for Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s New Education Secretary

It’s going to be important for the press, and for the Senate HELP committee, to ask a lot of questions to understand where she and the President who chose her plan to take federal education policy


Red States and Blue Cities: The Precarious Politics of Charter Schooling Today

If charter schools are to thrive, we need support from Democrats and Republicans.


How States Should Redesign Their Accountability Systems Under ESSA

States are now putting pen to paper on their accountability plans and many of them want advice about what to do.


Now What?

What does this political earthquake mean for education policy?


What a Democratic Wave Election Would Mean for Education Reform

At risk are the folks who have led the push for expanded parental choice, who held the line on the Common Core when the going got tough, and are willing to make investments in education as long as they are tied to results.


Stop Focusing on Proficiency Rates When Evaluating Schools

States should use proficiency rates cautiously because of their correlation with student demographics and prior achievement—factors that are outside of schools’ control.


How Charter School Boards Affect School Quality

A new study asks a simple but largely uninvestigated question: Do the characteristics, views, and practices of charter boards have any bearing on charter school quality?


To Improve Education, Focus on Excellence — Not Failure

School failure is no longer the United States’ most pressing educational problem—mediocrity is.


Can Research-Based Practices Improve America’s Schools?

What would it take to infuse U.S. schools with practices that actually help kids learn?


Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?

Three recommendations for policymakers in states that are wrestling to turn the rapid development of online schools into a net plus for their pupils.


Two Tweaks for ESSA Accountability Rule

Mr. Secretary, I am writing to suggest two very specific changes to the proposed rule that your department published regarding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.


Can Strong Leaders Succeed When Their Hands Are Tied?

Given the dysfunction of the larger system within which they must work, how much should we focus on recruiting great leaders for traditional public schools and school districts?


Closing the Gap in Access to Summer Camp and Extracurricular Activities

Imagine a world where the summer, weekend, and after-school experiences of the poor aren’t as radically different as they are for the rich.


College Readiness, College Completion, and Race

African American and Asian American students are doing better in terms of college completion than their twelfth-grade NAEP scores would predict.


Should Charter Schools Be Pressured to Reduce Suspensions?

At the National Charter Schools Conference, Secretary of Education John King challenged U.S. charter operators to rethink their approach to discipline.


What Teachers Think of Common Core Math

Most teachers are partial to the Common Core math standards, but they don’t think all of their students and their parents are.


A Scholarly Approach to School Accountability

States now enjoy a freer hand to decide how they want to rate their schools. What should they do?


Giving Education Reform Tools Directly to Parents and Teachers

Instead of obsessing over laws and regulations, should education reformers focus more on getting better information and resources into the hands of parents and teachers?


Could ESSA Spark an Overhaul of How We Fund Schools?

Three provisions in the new law might help states and school districts improve their systems of school finance.


Proposed ESSA Regulations Limit States on Accountability

Like No Child Left Behind, the proposed ESSA regulations are going to stand in the way of some promising approaches to state accountability. What’s the point of that?


Innovations That Bypass School Districts and Go Directly to Teachers and Students

How education reformers can work to improve learning besides pushing for policy changes.


To Change Educational Practice, Try Building a New System

Policy change is not the only path to education reform. Here’s a different approach.


Debate: Are Math and Reading Test Scores Reliable Indicators of School Quality?

And should schools with persistently low test score gains be shut down even if parents continue to choose them?


Test Score Gains Predict Long-Term Outcomes, So We Shouldn’t Be Too Shy About Using Them

Short-term test score gains don’t lead to long-term test score gains, but they do lead to long-term success.


Test Scores Don’t Tell Us Everything, But They Certainly Tell Us Something About School Quality And Student Success

For elementary and middle schools, test data should play a more central role in evaluating school quality than it should for high schools.


Shut Bad Schools for Low Performance, But Don’t Draw Conclusions from Test Scores Alone

Not that it’s easy to identify measures beyond reading and math scores that are valid and reliable indicators of school success.


Arne Duncan, Lamar Alexander, and the Rule of Law

Duncan decried the “dysfunction” in Washington. But surely impugning the “motivations” of our political opponents doesn’t help to add function.


Stop Seeing Education Policy as the Only Driver of Educational Change

Policy change alone is not going to get us to the promised land of more effective, productive, and equitable schools.


How Career and Technical Education in High School Improves Student Outcomes

A new study finds that Arkansas students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and have higher wages.


ESSA Accountability: Don’t Forget the High-Achievers

The NCLB approach signals to schools that their low-achievers should be a higher priority than their high-achievers.


Poor and Working-Class Americans Have Gotten Hammered. Here’s How To Help Their Children Do Better.

While our education system alone cannot solve the stubborn, tragic problem of persistent poverty and the growing gaps between working-class and college-educated Americans, there’s much it can do for the children entrusted to it.


What Ordinary People Know but Elites Won’t Admit about College Readiness

The biggest taboo in education today is admitting that lots of high school graduates aren’t ready for college, have virtually no shot at succeeding there, and are better off doing something else with their time.


School Policies Have Gotten Smarter in the Decade After No Child Left Behind

A decade ago, U.S. education policies were a mess. It was the classic problem of good intentions gone awry.


Great Ideas For Designing Accountability Systems for Schools

More than two dozen teams have submitted proposals that are chock-full of suggestions for designing better state accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


The Three Tribes of the School Choice Movement

The school choice movement’s “big tent” now has factions in its various folds and corners that agree on parental choice but little else.


Would Making College Free Boost Completion Rates?

Free tuition would be a needless windfall for affluent voters and state institutions that does very little to help the needy.


The Case for Maximum State Flexibility on ESSA Accountability

Officials at the Department of Education have requested public comments by January 21 about areas in the new Every Student Succeeds Act where regulation might be “helpful or necessary.” My recommendation to the feds: Tread very lightly.


Common Core Not Dead Yet

Aided by a highly misleading New York Times article, the anti-Common Core crowd is pushing the narrative that Massachusetts’s recent testing decision spells the end for the common standards effort.


What If the Government Shut Down Failing Schools and Left the Rest (Mostly) Alone

Policymakers in Washington and in state capitals nationwide should stop trying to micromanage the vast majority of schools. But on the flip side, policymakers should be much more aggressive about shutting down failed schools in any sector.


Heroism and Humility in Education Reform

If this is really to be about “the kids” and not just our own search for meaning, we need to be careful not to lapse into morality plays. We need to be particularly mindful not to malign our opponents. And we need to be humble enough to acknowledge the technical challenges in what we’re trying to achieve.


The New ESEA, in a Single Table

Capitol Hill staff have reached an agreement on the reauthorization of ESEA. What’s in the compromise? Here’s what I know.


Is America’s Poverty Rate Exceptional? It Depends On How You Define Poverty.

America’s efforts to combat poverty look very different in international comparison depending on what you count and how you measure.


District and Charter Schools Communicate More Than Before, but True Collaboration is Limited

A new report looks at district-charter engagement in five cities.


Can We Allow Some Schools To Exclude Disruptive Students?

If the Success Academies and schools like them didn’t exist, many hard-working, high-achieving students would be in chaotic, low-performing public schools.


Heartbreak on NAEP

The most honest approach is to reserve judgment until more sophisticated analyses emerge and wait for 2017 to see if these numbers are a one-time blip.


If the Obama Administration Wants Fewer Tests, It Will Have to Give Up On Test-Based Teacher Evaluations

Either you can reduce testing, or you can continue to demand test-based teacher evaluations in all subjects. It’s one or the other.


Will Declines in NAEP Scores Follow Declines in Median Income?

I’d wager that the states with big declines in median income are going to be the ones showing lower NAEP scores this time around.


So Far Only Ohio is Backing Off A High Standard for Proficiency

Outside of Ohio, most states are living up to their commitments to provide more honest information to parents. A key promise of the Common Core is being kept.


Why Did President Obama Appoint John King as “Acting” Education Secretary Rather Than Put Him Through the Senate Confirmation Process?

As Arne Duncan exits, another missed opportunity for bipartisanship


A Shocking College-Readiness Gap in the Suburbs

Montgomery County is getting just 11 percent of its low-income students to the college-ready level, and fewer than one in five of its minority students.


The Common Core Test Wake-Up Call Is Here

Parents will soon receive for the first time their children’s scores on new tests aligned to the standards. The news is expected to be sobering.


More Girls Than Boys in D.C.’s Top High Schools

What can we do to keep more boys on the path to achievement long before high school?


Why is High School Achievement Flat?

The latest SAT scores are out and seem to show that education reform is hitting a wall in high school.


Six Education Themes for 2016

Here are six education policy themes—and associated infographics—that I hope the Presidential candidates embrace.


Top K-12 Education Policy Organizations and Media Outlets on Social Media 2015

On Wednesday, I published the results of our latest ranking of top education policy people on social media. Now let’s look at organizations and media outlets.


Top K-12 Education Policy People on Social Media 2015

It’s time for my annual list of top Twitter handles in education policy.


400-Plus People and Organizations To Follow on Twitter

It’s August, which means it’s time for my annual list of top Twitter feeds in education policy.


What the Republican Presidential Contenders Should Be Saying About Education

On Wednesday, Campbell Brown and the American Federation for Children will host an education policy summit in New Hampshire with at least six of the GOP presidential contenders. Here’s what I hope they will say.


What Should States Do About School Districts In Financial Trouble?

Communities rarely embrace tough trade-offs. We need to lean on school boards and superintendents to take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously.


Why the New ESEA Won’t Embrace “Tight As To Results, Loose On How To Achieve Them”

If the ESEA renewal processes gets across the finish line, the federal government will have much less power than it does today.


Is the Friedrichs Case an ‘Existential Threat’ to the Teachers’ Unions?

The Supreme Court has a chance to strike down union agency fees.


Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration

Why is it so difficult for America’s high-impact, “no-excuses” charter schools to participate in pre-K programs?


The Contours of a Deal on ESEA Are In Sight

What will survive, what will be eliminated, and what’s still up in the air


It’s Finally Here: Our Best Chance To Update ESEA

Neither conservatives nor liberals have a realistic pathway to an ESEA bill that’s more to their liking.


ESAs Aren’t for Everyone

The value of education savings accounts is to provide a space within the K–12 system for true breakthroughs.


Want More College Graduates? Improve Our K–12 System

We have already closed the gap between college readiness and college attainment.


How Schools Can Solve Robert Putnam’s Poverty Paradox

The way to help poor children climb the ladder to the middle class and achieve the American Dream must involve rebuilding social capital.


Let’s Not Replace the Honesty Gap with a Reality Gap

Many states have been defining “proficient” at levels dramatically below the level that would indicate that kids are on track for college and career. But that is about to end.


A Turnaround District for Pennsylvania’s Lowest-performing Schools

It’s not hard to understand the appeal of these Turnaround School Districts. For one: nothing else has worked in the turnaround space, at least not at scale.


How to Make Sense of the Opt-Out Phenomenon

To make sense of the facts, we need to look closely at the role of the teachers’ unions in New York and New Jersey.


School Closures and Student Achievement

Though fraught with controversy and political peril, shuttering bad schools might just be a saving grace for students who need the best education they can get.


Teacher Layoffs Are Coming, and It’s the Great Recession’s Fault

Much like the Great Depression did, the onset of the Great Recession led to a sharp decline in the U.S. birth rate.


What’s Next on ESEA?

Today’s 22-0 vote from the Senate HELP committee on ESEA reauthorization is an amazing tribute to the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Lamar Alexander and ranking member Patty Murray.


Patty Murray and the Return of Wishful Thinking

The bipartisan bill to update the No Child Left Behind Act requires states to pledge that they will get all of their students to college or career readiness, and build those expectations into their accountability systems.


Alexander-Murray: This Is What Compromise Looks Like, in a Single Table

The language in the Alexander-Murray compromise is much less prescriptive than No Child Left Behind’s “adequate yearly progress” concoction, but it’s fairly prescriptive nonetheless.


College Preparedness Over the Years, According to NAEP

The proportion of recent high school graduates attending college is far higher than the proportion of twelfth graders who are prepared for college—and that gap has worsened over time.


Not Meeting Standards: A Warning Light, Not A Death Sentence

Here’s what the Common Core is designed to communicate: If your children are meeting the standards, it means they are believed to be on track for college and career readiness by the end of high school


Eva et al. Flunk the Fairness Test

Some education reformers and media outlets are already using the results of the new, tougher tests to brand schools as “failing” if most of their students don’t meet the higher standards.


How to End the Education Reform Wars

Advice for superintendents on how to survive the education reform wars


Marriage as a Springboard to the Middle Class

Our focus on college is too narrow because it overlooks other critically important steps on the ladder to the middle class.


Scott Walker Doesn’t Need a College Degree—And Neither Do You

Employers use college degrees as a proxy for smarts, perseverance, and other valuable skills, but this shortcut unwittingly excludes many talented people from their prospective hiring pool.


Ed Trust Midwest Report on Michigan’s Charter Authorizers: A Decent Start, But Hardly the Final Word

Charter school quality, authorizer quality, and authorizer accountability are all great topics of conversation for policymakers in Michigan.


One Size Fits Most, Even in the Suburbs

A subset of white, affluent, well-educated parents have long favored progressive education. Alternative schools are a good option for them.


Backfilling Charter Seats: A Backhanded Way to Kill School Autonomy

I respect schools that welcome students at any grade when space opens up, but whether to do this should remain the prerogative of the school, not the state or its regulators.


Nine Questions: What Does It Even Mean to Oppose the Common Core?

What does it mean when Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul, or Bobby Jindal says he “opposes” the Common Core?


The Case Against Federal Accountability Mandates in Education

Instead of demanding that states intervene in failing schools, allow students to escape the worst schools through the powerful mechanism of parental choice.


Stump Speech Contest: What Members of Congress Should Say About Testing

Here are some “talking points” that members of Congress might use when the testing issue comes up at town hall meetings and the like.


Timely Ohio Report Could Change the ESEA Testing Debate

A new report from the Ohio Department of Education looks at the number of hours students spend preparing for and taking tests.


ESEA Update: More Red Than Green in Lamar Alexander’s Reauthorization Bill

Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the HELP Committee, has released a draft bill. Here’s where it stands on various issues


Three Thoughts About Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Speech

The administration is leaving itself room to sign a bill that would give heartburn to its allies in the reform and civil-rights communities.


ESEA Reauthorization Explained in a Single Table

With Republicans fully in charge of Capitol Hill, the only question this time around when it comes to ESEA reauthorization is how much Congress will subtract from No Child Left Behind.


Common Core Standards Aren’t So Easy To Replace

For all the hoopla, just a handful of states have proposed significant changes to Common Core, and none of them has written higher standards.


How Congress Can Address Over-Testing Without Overreaching

Will Republicans eliminate No Child Left Behind’s annual testing requirement? They should eliminate the teacher evaluation mandate instead.


Charters Can Do What’s Best For Students Who Care

Schools of choice can make their discipline codes clear to incoming families (and teachers); those who find the approach too strict can go elsewhere.


Introductory Comments to “Education for Upward Mobility” Conference

The genesis of this conference was a feeling that we in the education-reform movement might be overly focused on college as the pathway to the middle class, and not focused enough on all of the other possible routes.


Predictions and Predilections for a New ESEA

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would show America that bipartisan governance is possible, even in Washington.


New Waiver Guidance Will Sink Schools Where All Boats Are Rising

Because there are achievement gaps at Sawgrass Elementary School, the folks in Washington don’t think this school deserves an A.


Last Night’s Implications for Education Reform

With a few exceptions, most of the races decided yesterday didn’t hinge on education reform. But the outcome will have big implications for education policy nonetheless.


Redefining the School District in Michigan

The Education Achievement Authority in Michigan is charged with resuscitating the state’s worst schools within the confines of a separate, autonomous district.


Arne Duncan’s Office of Civil Rights: Six Years of Meddling

There’s been no problem too big or too small for Arne Duncan’s Department of Education to tackle. His Office of Civil Rights has been a prime example of executive overreach and federal interference run amok.


The Twenty-Five Richest Elementary Schools in the Richest Region of the Country

At one elementary school, the average income is almost $250,000 per year. Is this school really more “public” than an inner-city Catholic school serving poor minority children? The public spends $12,000 per child on the former and $0 per child on the latter. Tell me again why that’s fair?


The New Education Trust Report: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

When designing accountability systems, we need to find the sweet spot between defeatism and utopianism. In my view, that’s exactly what the states are trying to do. They deserve our praise, not our derision.


New OCR Guidance on Equitable Resources: A Godsend for Charter Schools?

I’d love to see charter associations ask OCR to investigate states that don’t do enough to provide equitable funding to charter schools serving high proportions of poor and minority children.


Montgomery County’s Elementary School Curriculum: Where’s the Beef?

The MCPS curriculum is weak when it comes to content in science and extremely weak in history.


Restarting the Common Core Debate

A raucous debate has emerged over the Common Core, a debate been marked by acrimony rather than analysis, but there is hope that both sides want a reset.


We’ll Miss You, Graham Down

Graham was as close to a Renaissance man as we have known in person.


Making Sense of the Ed-Reform Backlash

Our challenge as reformers is, first and foremost, stopping the one-size-fits-all policies, the top-down mandates that apply to all schools, in all situations


What’s Behind the Declining Support for the Common Core?

Results from the annual Education Next poll are out and the news is not good for proponents of the Common Core.


Education Reform’s Most Urgent Task

How can we make sure that the major elements of the policy agenda fit well together and are not working at cross-purposes?


The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy 2014

It’s August, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for our annual list of top education-policy Twitter feeds.


A Few Reflections on the Common Core Wars

Monday’s Politico story on the messaging battle over the Common Core has kicked up another round of recriminations, particularly on the Right.


The Federal Government Is Not a State, and ESEA Does Not Give Arne Duncan Mandate Authority

Where is the “plain language” of ESEA that gives the Department of Education the authority to mandate statewide teacher-evaluation systems, particularly for states that want waivers on school accountability. Just as with ObamaCare and the question of whether the federal government is a “state,” the administration won’t have a good answer.


The Splintering School Reform Movement

Different reformers prefer different reforms, and those reforms are colliding. Something has to give. We need to either pause the move to the tougher tests or pause the stakes attached to the teacher evaluations.


On School Discipline, Let’s Not Repeat All Our Old Mistakes

President Obama’s policy will have a predictable effect: eliminating suspensions and expulsions as an option for school administrators.


The Wise Wonks’ Hierarchy of Charter School Quality

In which states and cities are high-quality charter schools thriving, and what policies make the charter sectors in those states so strong?


New Deal for Teachers; New Will by Managers

Tenure is just one part of a dysfunctional approach to human resource management in U.S. schools that needs a complete overhaul.


Individual District Schools Don’t Serve All Students, Either

It’s a myth that district schools “serve all comers.” They simply don’t. Nor should they. Every child deserves to have his or her needs met, but not necessarily under the same roof.


The Mystery that is Twelfth-Grade NAEP

One of the great unanswered questions in American education policy is why the major gains we’ve seen on the Nation’s Report Card in the fourth and eighth grades evaporate once students reach the twelfth grade.


Common Core: Too Little Change, Not Too Much

Common Core will not lead to a national curriculum. Local control is alive and well, as it should be. But that’s not to say anything goes in the Common Core era or that changes to teaching and learning aren’t needed.


Why Oklahoma Should Stay the Course with the Common Core

As legislatures wind down their spring sessions nationwide, Oklahoma is one of the few remaining states with an ongoing, unresolved debate over the Common Core State Standards


‘College and Career Ready’ Sounds Great. But What About the Kids Who Are Neither?

What should we do with these students while they are in high school? What education offerings would benefit them the most?


The Two Tracks of School Reform

Standards-based reform and school choice are interdependent, maybe even codependent.


“Kid, I’m Sorry, but You’re Just Not College Material”

Is exactly what we should be telling a lot of high school students.


The Imperfect “ObamaCore” Analogy

There are vast differences between ObamaCare and the Common Core when it comes to federal involvement.


The Common Core Sanity Check of the Day: Estimation Is Not a Fuzzy Math Skill

Those who criticize the Common Core standards for asking kids to estimate the answer to a math problem get a few things wrong.


Lies, Damned Lies, and the Common Core

If you want to understand why supporters of the Common Core are frustrated—OK, exasperated—by some of our opponents’ seemingly unlimited willingness to engage in dishonest debate, consider this latest episode.


Executive Action I Can Support: Weighted Lotteries for Charter Schools

The U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance for the Public Charter Schools Program that will allow charters to use “weighted lotteries” without forfeiting their chance to receive federal start-up funds.


Re: Flipping Out

If DCPS wants to have diverse schools among its ranks, it’s going to need some help from public policy. Controlled choice is one way.


The Problem With ‘Bad Voucher Schools Aren’t a Problem’

Students receiving publicly funded scholarships or vouchers should take state assessments and that the results should be reported publicly.


Can’t Buy Me Love

The so-called War on Poverty has been fantastically successful at eradicating poverty among the old and devastatingly miserable at eradicating poverty among the young.


2014: The Year of Universal Proficiency

No, we did not achieve universal proficiency by 2014. But that doesn’t mean that students haven’t benefited from the law and its associated reforms.


I Refuse to Feel Bad About Letting My Children Watch TV

With winter break upon us, parents face a multitude of decisions. Will we let our kids watch TV? How much? Which shows? Play video games? Which ones? Watch sports?


Little Learners Need Better Curriculum

Any gains provided by a massive new investment in preschool will quickly fade away if Mayor de Blasio doesn’t also tackle New York City’s mediocre elementary schools.


SIG’s Downfall: Judge, and Be Judged, by Proficiency Rates

The SIG analysis released by the Department of Education is completely worthless. Looking at changes in proficiency rates tells us virtually nothing about the progress (or lack thereof) of these schools.


PISA and Occam’s Razor

What’s a better hypothesis for the lackluster math performance of our fifteen-year-olds? Maybe we’re just not very good at teaching math, especially in high school.


Petrilli Testimony on Common Core in Ohio

This testimony was presented in Ohio by Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, on November 20, 2013.


Of Course We Want Instructional Change. Don’t You?

The main reason there’s been so little achievement gain over the past few decades arising from the reforms that so many of us have been pressing is precisely because neither curriculum nor instruction much changed.


How to Fight Poverty–and Win

Someday I’d like to write a book on anti-poverty efforts, and I hope it might have the title above.


What to Do About Richie Rich

Let’s not pretend that the behavior of rich parents is somehow “bad,” even if it creates an unfortunate outcome (greater inequality).


What Obamacare, ‘Supplemental Services,’ and Teacher Evaluations Have in Common

It brings me no pleasure to predict that the project to create rigorous teacher evaluations by fiat is likely to fail.


See You in the Center

There’s a simple reason why education has been in the spotlight for so long: It’s one of the few things upon which the politicians–and the Americans they represent–can agree.


Rain of Errors

In her new book, Diane Ravitch commits the exact same errors for which she lambastes reformers. She oversells the evidence; she fails to consider likely unintended consequences; she doesn’t think through implementation challenges.


The Especially Deserving Poor

Our message to young people, especially those growing up in poverty, should be clear: If you’re willing to do the work, we’ll clear your path to the middle class.


Has the Left Lost Faith in Upward Mobility?

Rather than accept a future of low-skill, low-wage work for our impoverished young people, education reformers aspire to build their “human capital”–their knowledge, skills, capabilities, talents, habits, character–so that the labor market will one day repay their contributions to society with a wage that far exceeds any minimums.


Self-Sufficient Citizens: Public Education's Job No. 1

Is there anything schools can to do to encourage their students to follow the "success sequence"?


What If Self-Interest Doesn’t Explain Everything?

A response to Deborah Meier


If You Send Your Kid to a Failing School, You are a Bad Person

A manifesto in response to Alison Benedikt.


Cities Are For Strivers

Parents of high-achieving students—whether they be rich or poor, newcomers or old-timers—deserve schools that will challenge their children. If they don’t find them in the city, they will move.


All or Nothing on Teacher Accountability

Either policymakers need to combine evaluation systems with reforms that make it plausible to fire ineffective employees, or they shouldn’t bother with high stakes at all.


The Problem with Proficiency

Proficiency rates are terrible measures of school effectiveness.


The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy (Crowdsourced Edition)

On Monday, I published my annual list of the top education policy twitter feeds. It hit a nerve. And for that, I’m grateful, because I immediately heard from the twitterverse that I overlooked some important people.


The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy

In what has become an annual summertime tradition, I present to you the top education policy twitter feeds circa 2013.


Why the ‘Opt-Out’ is Not a Cop-Out

States should allow a small group of schools to opt out of regular testing and accountability requirements and let these schools use an alternative set of metrics instead.


The Tony Bennett Flap: School Grades, Stakes, and Signals

What matters most is how reformers react to the bright spotlight now on school-grading systems.


On Tony Bennett’s ‘Grading-Gate,’ Avoid the Rush to Judgment

There’s little doubt that the media will continue to have a field day with revelations that Tony Bennett worked to change Indiana’s A–F grading system after learning that a high-performing school started by a wealthy donor would receive a C.


Paternalism and Public Policy

The most paternalist policies in place today require the closure of underperforming schools even if they are popular with parents. Who should decide if the tradeoffs are worth it?

A case to be made, but I still don’t quite buy it.


How Poverty Is Like Global Warming (& Other Parting Thoughts)

We know that childhood poverty matters a lot. Where agreement breaks down, though, is regarding what to do about it.


A Time for Humility in Federal Education Policy

A strategic retreat from an overweening federal role will help to protect the Common Core, the jewel in the standards-based reform crown—and it’s good for other reforms like school choice, too.


Poor Children Need a Hand Up, Not Hospice

Does the progressive vision of schooling work to help poor children gain the skills and knowledge and confidence and connections that will allow them to climb the ladder into the middle class?


40 Reasons to Call Harkin’s Claim of Flexibility Laughable

Here are forty policy questions which Senate HELP committee Chairman Tom Harkin could have let states or local school districts answer, but didn’t.


Use Facts, Not Courts, to Fix Affirmative Action

Higher education is spectacularly bad at “affirmative action,” as originally envisioned: reaching out to disadvantaged students and preparing them to attend good schools.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Poverty

What we need are "transformational" interventions that interrupt the insidious cycle that turns disadvantaged kids into disadvantaged parents, by giving them the hope, confidence, and skills to find a different path. I can”t think of institutions better positioned to do that than schools.


A Point-by-Point Rebuttal of Today’s Anti-Common Core Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal

There are plenty of reasons to be against the Common Core, but many of those crusading against the Common Core have been playing fast and loose with the facts and purposefully spreading misinformation.


Bad to Good and Good to Great

How can we create an accountability system that empowers excellent educators to create top-notch schools while ensuring a basic level of quality for everyone.


Am I a Part of the Cure … or the Disease?

Will testing and accountability make matters worse? No, they will make matters marginally better.


To Close the ‘Opportunity Gap,’ We Need to Close the Vocabulary Gap

Rich parents are obsessed with their children”s social and intellectual development. They are spending dramatically more time parenting. How can we help poor kids catch up?


The Open-Source School District

Imagine the creation of a virtual school district. It wouldn’t have any actual students, teachers, buses, or facilities, but it would have a school board, a superintendent, and a central-office staff.


Pell Grants Shouldn’t Pay for Remedial College

A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work.


Why Don’t Schools Embrace Good Ideas?

Could it be that they’ve never encountered the ideas?


Proud to Be a Private Public School Parent

Public schools can be just as exclusive—often more exclusive—than private schools.


The RNC on the CCSSI, OMG!

Count us as among those surprised and alarmed by the Republican National Committee’s ill-considered decision to adopt a resolution decrying the Common Core standards.


The Right Response to the Atlanta Cheating Scandal

The burden rests on those who want to eliminate testing and accountability to provide assurance that the system won’t revert back to its bad old ways.


Left-of-Center Reformers: Join the Voucher Movement Today

If the lack of accountability is reformers’ beef with voucher programs, that concern has been alleviated, at least in several states.


Why Are Elite Colleges More Selective Than Ever?

Anyone who knows a teenager understands how hard it is to get into a good college these days.


The Seattle MAP Flap

Teachers of Seattle’s Garfield High School are “boycotting” the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which is required by the district, though the MAP is precisely the type of “good” assessment that many educators claim to favor.


Indiana and the Common Core

Don’t let your frustration with President Obama lead you to lash out at the kids of Indiana. All things considered, the Common Core is the smartest path forward.


The Charter Expulsion Flap: Who Speaks for the Strivers?

Predictably, the anti-reform crowd is having a field day with Sunday’s Washington Post article reporting the relatively high rate of student expulsions in D.C.’s charter school sector.


Karen Lewis: The 2012 Education Person of the Year

If 2011 was the “year of school choice,” then 2012 was the “year of the resurgent teachers union.” And leading the comeback was Chicago’s Karen Lewis.


Charter School Penetration by City

National statistics hide the immense variation in charter school market share in cities around the nation—ranging from 0 percent in Seattle to 76 percent in New Orleans.


The 10 Fastest-Gentrifying Public Schools in the U.S.

Gentrification has supplied us with the best opportunity in a generation to create socioeconomically-mixed public schools. But is that opportunity being seized


Three Ways to Create Integrated Schools in Newly Gentrified Neighborhoods

In urban communities across America, middle-class and upper-middle-class parents have started sending their children to public schools again—schools that for decades had overwhelmingly served poor and (and overwhelmingly minority) populations.


A Not-So-Great Night for Education Reform

The results are in (well, most of them anyway) and our non-partisan candidate, Ed Reform, had a mixed performance.


Education Reform on the Ballot

Want to know if school reform is winning in the court of public opinion? Here are seven races and referenda to watch tonight.


What’s More Powerful than Hurricane Sandy? Hurricane Randi!

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a path-breaking study, How Strong are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State by State Comparison.


The Catholic School Generation

The vice presidential debate will be an historic occasion, with two Roman Catholic candidates for national office squaring off against each other for the first time.


What’s Next on the School Reform Agenda

Is there a way to a grand bargain on education funding?


What the Chicago Strike is Really About

The unions are feeling whipsawed by tectonic shifts that have occurred within the Democratic Party in recent years.


Conflict is Unavoidable

There are times when the interests of the teachers and those of the broader public are not the same.


The Chicago Strike: It’s Hard to Imagine the Teachers Winning in the Court of Public Opinion

Chicago teachers might want to show Rahm Emmanuel they can’t be “bullied.” But President Obama no doubt wants this strike over quickly.


Flap in Virginia Shows Reformers’ Fealty to Ideology over Implementation

No Child Left Behind’s aspirational aims were more effective as rhetoric than as an accountability regime.


Searching in Vain for the “Invest-in-the-Future” Ticket

At a time when we’re running a trillion-dollar deficit, are we really sure that education is the place where cuts should come first?


The 30 Top Education Policy Tweeters, 2012

Arne Duncan assumes the throne as Education Policy Social Media King


Paul Ryan and the Education Lobby’s Suicide March to Fiscal Oblivion

Paul Ryan’s “radical” reforms would free up money for education nationwide. It’s too bad that the public-education lobby remains unwilling to acknowledge it.


America’s Athletics vs. Academics: The Results Might Surprise You

Lo and behold, the U.S.A. is at the top of this medal count!


A Little Context on Racial Disparities in Suspension Rates

The Civil Rights Project is getting a ton of press attention for its new report finding that black students are suspended at much higher rates than their peers. But does that mean that our public schools are racist?


In Praise of PBS Kids

Maybe Uncle Sam should subsidize children’s television on PBS after all.


Testing and Accountability: We Can’t Rest on Our Laurels

The testing-and-accountability movement can be proud of its accomplishments under No Child Left Behind, but the strategy has run out of steam.


Alexander v. Spellings on the Federal Role in Education: A Viewer’s Guide

Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings represent two fast-diverging wings of the Republican Party regarding the appropriate federal role in education.


The Case for Public-School Choice in the Suburbs

Should parents in well-off suburban school districts be able to choose between schools that offer different approaches to learning?


Can Schools Spur Social Mobility?

Maybe Charles Murray is wrong, but we should be talking about these issues all the same.


The 50 Zip Codes With the Largest Growth in White Population Share, 2000-2010

The other day, I posted a list of the 25 “fastest-gentrifying” zip codes in the U.S.—a list that generated a great deal of commentary. Now I’m back with a new, improved, and expanded list.


Arne Scorns Iowa: Political Courage or Political Suicide?

I was amazed, befuddled, dumbstruck, bemused (choose your own adjective) to learn that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has rejected a request from Iowa for flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.


GAO and George Miller Don’t Understand How Special Education Works

Yesterday’s “exquisitely timed” GAO report has set off an avalanche of accusations at charter schools for “discriminating” against students with disabilities.


Eli Broad, Conservative Hero?

As depicted in his surprisingly affecting memoir-cum-business-advice-book, The Art of Being Unreasonable, he’s a pretty amazing guy, someone who has been wildly effective in four separate careers and who now wants to share his hard-earned experience with countless others.


How to Push for Reform without Alienating Teachers

For all of its victories, the school reform movement finds itself in a pickle. To succeed in creating world-class schools and raising student achievement, it needs teachers to feel motivated, empowered, and inspired. And yet, many teachers are down in the dumps.


The Romney Education Plan: Replacing Federal Overreach on Accountability with Federal Overreach on School Choice

A better idea might be to take a page from the Obama Administration handbook and make funding portability voluntary.


The Dilemma of Academic Diversity

Despite our student population’s diversity, the number of diverse schools, as imagined by Brown, remains limited.


Common Core Critics Want ALEC to Tell States What to Do

Which is the true “conservative” resolution? The one that tells states what to do and demands a one-size-fits-all approach (pulling out of the Common Core)? Or the one that trusts states to make up their own minds—without interference from Washington?


A States’ Rights Insurrection Led by…California?

Three cheers for California’s governor, state superintendent, and state board chair, for applying for a waiver from NCLB that doesn’t kowtow to Washington.


Have Increased Graduation Rates Artificially Depressed America’s 12th-Grade Performance?

One of the great mysteries of modern-day school reform is why we’re seeing such strong progress at the elementary and middle school levels, but not in high school.


Stretching the School-District Dollar

Rather than hope for revenue increases that are unlikely to materialize, smart leaders can turn the present budget crisis into an opportunity. Rethinking whom we hire, what they do, how we pay them, and how to incorporate technology—that’s where the big payoff is


We Don’t Judge Teachers By Numbers Alone; The Same Should Go For Schools

Why not add a human component to the process, via school inspectors like those in England?


Is the Media Biased in Favor of Reform? It Depends on the Reform

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post created a stir this weekend with an American Journalism Review article ripping mainstream education reporting for being uncritical of school reform.


Alfie Kohn’s Message: Half-Crazy, Half-True

One hundred years ago, a progressive populist barnstormed the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against the gold standard. Today another progressive populist barnstorms the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against academic standards. Meet Alfie Kohn, the William Jennings Bryan of our age.


George Miller and the Do-Gooder Caucus—A Top 10 List

If Republicans are radical, Miller and his allies must be conservative because they essentially want No Child Left Behind to stay the same.


Three Thoughts About The Future of School Integration

Let’s do everything we can to integrate the schools, and for the schools that are going to have high concentrations of poverty, let’s make sure that they are excellent as well.


Do We Need a “Virtual” Education Ministry?

Think of it as a private-sector department of education, but run much more efficiently and with higher-quality staff than the government ever could.


The “Teacher Effectiveness Gap” Was Just a Myth: Three Implications*

The finding—reported by the Times this weekend—that really good, and really bad, teachers are evenly distributed around New York City is jaw-dropping news.


Memo to the World: America’s Secret Sauce Isn’t Made in Our Classrooms

Pay attention to what American kids are doing after school and on the weekends, because that is when our special sauce is made.


Republicans for Education Reform

Race to the Top was good for education reform. But the 2010 election, it turns out, was much, much better.


ESEA Waivers: Are They Worth the Trouble?

With two weeks to go until the February 28 deadline for the second round of Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Waiverpalooza, states nationwide are studying the results of Round One to figure out what federal officials did—and didn’t—approve. And they are asking themselves a question: Is it even worth it?


America’s Reform Challenge

It’s not that the wrong people are in charge. It’s that there are so many cooks in the education kitchen that nobody is really in charge. And that is a consequence of an antiquated governance structure that practically forces all those cooks to enter and remain in the kitchen.


Obama’s Coming ‘Flexibility’ Debacle

An announcement on education waivers is anticipated this week. Don’t expect the reaction to be positive, for it appears that the President and his education secretary will renege on their promise of “flexibility” for the states.


The Test Score Hypothesis

Student achievement matters a lot. But does it matter the most?


Washington Insiders Favor ESEA Flexibility in Theory but Not in Reality

It’s not just the President’s bizarre State of the Union request that states raise their compulsory attendance age to 18. No, I’m referring to the Army of the Potomac’s reaction to John Kline’s ESEA proposal and to Chairman Tom Harkin’s and Rep. George Miller’s response to the waiver requests put forward by several states.


Negotiate From a Position of Strength

The topic of collaboration between districts and charter schools inevitably leads to Cold War imagery. Are we talking about appeasement? Détente? Trust but verify?


ESEA Reauthorization – Everyone’s cards are on the table. Now let’s make a deal.

A clear path toward a workable, maybe even bipartisan, package is still visible. In short: all roads lead to Lamar.


Five Thoughts About NCLB on its Tenth Anniversary

The federal law that everybody loves to hate turns ten on Sunday. Here’s what to think about it…


My Seven Predictions for 2011: A Scorecard

A year ago I played prognosticator and offered “educated guesses” about what 2011 would bring. So how did I do?


Closing the Achievement Gap, but at Gifted Students’ Expense

President Obama’s remarks on inequality, stoking populist anger at “the rich,” suggest that the theme for his reelection bid will be not hope and change but focus on reducing class disparity with government help. But this effort isn’t limited to economics; it is playing out in our nation’s schools as well.


In Praise of Performance Pay—for Online Learning Companies

Whether you consider yeserday’s New York Times article on a “hit piece” (Tom Vander Ark) or a “blockbuster” (Dana Goldstein), there’s little doubt that it will have a long-term impact on the debate around digital learning. So how can we go about drafting policies that will push digital learning in the direction of quality?


The Obama Administration’s War on Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson

Last week, the Departments of Education and Justice released new guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education on constitutionally-sound ways to encourage racial diversity and avoid racial isolation. The guidance for elementary and secondary education includes some odious and potentially damaging suggestions for America’s 150-odd academically-selective public high schools


Don’t Blame D.C.’s Woes on School Choice

The reduction of choice isn’t because of Michelle Rhee’s policies — it’s because of gentrification.


What Kevin Carey Didn’t Say about Diane Ravitch, but Should Have

As everyone knows, Kevin Carey has a long essay in The New Republic about Diane Ravitch’s apostasy of the education reform movement, much of it fair and on point.


The Future of Educational Accountability, As Envisioned by 11 Leading States

The states are presenting sensible alternatives to the antiquated Adequate Yearly Progress model. The challenge to Arne Duncan, his peer reviewers, and his team: Say yes to these proposals or be accused of a “Washington knows best” mentality.


Responding to Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, & Others on Education, Democracy, and Unions

The solution is not to abandon democracy, but to consider whether different iterations of it might work better than others.


Dealing with Disingenuous Teachers Unions: There Are No Shortcuts

School boards should drive a hard bargain with unions, but they don’t, because their members are so often elected with the support of those very same unions. The “no shortcuts” plan is to roll up our sleeves and engage in the fight for political control of local school boards.


We Have a Parenting Problem, Not a Poverty Problem

It strikes me as highly unlikely that we’re ever going to significantly narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” between rich and poor families, too.


NAEP 2011: The Reading First effect?

Last night was fun for the kids, but today is every education wonk’s favorite holiday: NAEP release day!


A is for Accountability*; What’s at stake in the ESEA debate**

Liberal reformers and prominent editorial pages are raging mad about the Harkin-Enzi bill’s supposedly weak approach to accountability in its ESEA update. Are they right to be? And is it true that Republicans have become teacher union stooges when it comes to federal education policy?


It Sure Wasn’t Pretty, but Harkin-Enzi’s Out of Committee

Assuming that the House bills will be even better, I would claim that reauthorization is finally heading in a hopeful direction.


Harkin-Enzi’s Hodgepodge

We finally have a serious, thoughtful ESEA reauthorization proposal in the Senate, one that should gain support from both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But here’s a warning: It’s not the bill that the Senate is currently marking up.


Accountability’s End?

If the debate around the federal role in accountability is coalescing, a much bigger question remains wide open: Could we be watching the beginning of the end for the accountability movement in toto?


ObamaFlex: Too much tight, too light on loose

Follower’s of Fordham’s work know that for the better part of three years, we’ve been pushing an approach to federal education policy that we call “Reform Realism“–a pro-school reform orientation leavened with a realistic view of what the federal government can get right in education.


Republicans for Education Reform

These bills could pass both chambers of Congress tomorrow.


When public education’s two Ps disagree

It’s long been said that public education must achieve both public and private aims. The public, which foots the bill, has an interest in a well-educated populace. Parents—schools’ primary clients—want a strong foundation for their own children. Much of the time these two interests are in perfect alignment. But what happens when they’re not?


NY Regents: Stop the madness!

Thank goodness for Fordham’s Peter Meyer, a master at turning policy gibberish into plain English. But can it possibly be true, as reported in his recent post, that the Regents and the New York State Department of Education went to court with the teachers union over whether test scores would count as 20 percent or 40 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation?


One Size Fits Most

If you step back from day to day vitriol that characterizes the current education-policy “debate,” and glimpse the larger picture, two worldviews on education reform emerge.


The Name Game

It’s silly season again, and I’m not referring to the Republican primaries. No, I’m thinking about the all-out battle for proponents and opponents of “reform” to stick a nasty label on the other side and claim the mantle of truth and goodness for themselves.


The Lesson from Education Reform Idol: Elections Matter

Getting rank and file Dems to buck their union patrons is a quixotic quest. Asking Republicans to embrace significant reform is a no-brainer.


If You Support Common Core, Oppose Arne Duncan

The only possible outcome of Secretary Duncan putting more federal pressure on the states to adopt the Common Core is stoke the fires of conservative backlash–and to lose many of the states that have already signed on.


There’s Good News, and then There’s Really Good News

Poor kids in Florida and a few other states are making HUGE gains. Let’s figure out why.


What Ed Sector Gets Wrong

Hey Education Sector, how about a little less skepticism, and a little more love, for one of the gutsiest projects in education reform history?


Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: Hess Calls for Humility

There’s no Golden Mean or Foolproof Formula. But there are better and worse ways to police quality in digital learning


Our Schools’ Secret Success

Here’s a new problem facing American education policy: Something we’re doing seems to be working.


The Myth of the “Good” School

Supporters of public education ought not make “hey parents, suck it up” their rallying cry.


Advice for Chairman Kline on “Flexibility”: Call Democrats’ Bluff

House education chairman John Kline released a bill last week that would provide “unprecedented” flexibility for states and local school districts around how they spend their federal education dollars. Predictably, liberals hate it; libertarians think it doesn’t go far enough.


Understanding Upper-Middle-Class Parents

The way to get upper-middle-class parents engaged in school reform is to leave their schools alone.


Meet Those Who Tweet

This morning, Education Next published “All A-Twitter about Education.” In it, I report on the Twitter phenomenon and how it’s impacting the education “war of ideas.” And because everyone loves lists, I also put together rankings of the top-25 tweeters in education policy and the top-25 educator tweeters–almost all of whom tweet (and blog) about education technology.


Pop Quiz on Common Core

We are days away from the end of the 2011 state legislative session, and to my knowledge, not a single law was enacted to block a state from participating in Common Core.


Charter School Pensions: The Sum of Teacher Unions’ Fears

As if the teachers unions need another reason to hate charter schools, here’s one: The finding, from a new Fordham Institute report, that when given a chance to opt out of state pension systems, many charter schools take it.


Higher Spending Associated with Higher Rates of Special-Education Identification

I can’t help but wonder whether the “New Normal” (most states finding resources much more limited) will drive down identification rates at a fast pace.


A Federal Policy Proposal that Won’t Change the World

Uncle Sam is at least three steps removed from the classroom, and all the carrots and sticks in the world won’t allow him to make everything right in our schools.


Arnius Duncanus?

Poor Arne. Nobody seems to like his warning to Congress that if it doesn’t get cracking on NCLB reauthorization he will take matters into his own hands via regulations.


Charter Start-ups Are Four Times as Likely to Succeed as District Turnarounds* (Note Big Asterisk)

Why do federal taxpayers spend 12 times as much on school turnarounds ($3 billion) as charter start-ups ($250 million) when the latter appear to be four times more likely to succeed than the former?


The Ends of Education Reform

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


When it comes to Evaluating Teachers, Trust (and Empower) the Principal

Reformers who are pushing for statewide or even district-wide evaluation systems are saying out loud: we can’t trust principals to make these decisions on their own.


Toward Less Fed in Your Ed

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.


Fordham Responds to the Common Core “Counter-Manifesto”

The “counter-manifesto” released this week in opposition to national testing and a national curriculum is full of half-truths, mischaracterizations, and straw men. But it was signed by a lot of serious people and deserves a serious response.


Margaret Spellings vs. Mitch Daniels: Ms. Hubris vs. Mr. Humble

At first blush, it would appear that former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels have a lot in common. But look closer and the similarities–on federal education policy at least–disappear.


Alfie Kohn: Read your Lisa Delpit

The question of whether affluent and disadvantaged kids need a different kind of education is a serious one. This discussion is easily demagogued. But it’s not racist to say that poor kids might need something different than their well-off, better-prepared peers. Don’t believe me? Consider African American educator Lisa Delpit’s words.


Anne Bryant: It’s “Wrong” for Unions to “Buy” School Board Seats

The defense of “the school board as we know it” just got dramatically weaker. And Anne Bryant’s place in the pantheon of impatient reformers just got more secure.


Fact-Checking Sandy Kress

Former Bush White House adviser (and NCLB drafter) Sandy Kress turned in a very compelling New York Daily News op-ed on Monday arguing that President Obama has gone “wobbly” on education accountability. In the piece, Kress presented impressive NAEP data illustrating the big gains that minority and special needs students have made since the late […]


Is it Time for “Controlled Choice” in Washington, DC?

The District of Columbia’s rapid gentrification provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create racially and socio-economically integrated public schools. But misguided public policies might be allowing this moment to slip through our hands. That was the upshot of a very interesting conversation that transpired the other day at a forum held in Fordham’s conference center (and […]


Jay Greene and Kevin Carey: The Anti-Tight Right vs. The Anti-Loose Left

Recent pieces by Jay Greene and Kevin Carey serve as effective bookends on the current ESEA debate picking up steam in Congress.


Why the GOP Budget Plan Might Be Good for Education

Before you reflexively deride this week’s GOP budget proposal consider this: it just might pave the way for greater investments in our schools.


What Would Al Shanker Do?

One of the reasons Candidate Obama was so appealing was his call for participants in our democracy to “disagree without being disagreeable.”


The Obama Administration’s Shameful Opposition to the DC Scholarship Program

The path to ESEA reauthorization just got a lot steeper, as many Republicans will refuse to play ball with an Administration not willing to compromise on a top GOP priority.


Getting Back on Track

One of the dirtiest words in American education today is “tracking.”


Why the Charter School Idea Has Stood the Test of Time

Charter schools remain at the center of the school reform conversation because they are the node that connects three disparate reform instincts with one another.


Re: Losing Their Bargaining Rights Won’t Send Teachers to the Poorhouse

Bargaining rights seem to matter a lot when it comes to benefits, seniority protections, and working conditions. But not pay.


Losing Their Bargaining Rights won’t send Teachers to the Poorhouse

Teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers.


U.S. Performance on PISA: The Rest of the Story

In advance of this week’s International Summit on the Teaching Profession, Fordham is releasing a little paper by Janie Scull and me. We analyzed the recent PISA results in reading and math a number of ways, and came up with some interesting (and surprising) insights.


The Case for Paying Most Teachers the Same

What makes the single salary schedule so pernicious isn’t just its uniformity; it’s its growth curve. Twenty-five years veterans are paid a lot more than five-year veterans even though, on average, they are equally effective. Changing that curve is at least as important as introducing more differentiation in pay.


Hey Schools: Don’t Charge Extra for Extra-Curriculars

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that one of the reasons American kids do so well in life–even though they score poorly on international tests–is because of what they pick up from sports, theater, band, student council, and the like.


Why Do Students Have Greater Free-Speech Rights Than Teachers?

Buzz is building about an Arizona charter school teacher who got fired for refusing to remove a bumper sticker from her car.


Obama’s Education Budget: It’s About the 2012 Election, Not About the Kids

Well, I have to hand it to them: The folks behind Ed in ’08 were successful after all. It just appears that the are achieving their goal–making education a central issue in the presidential election–four years behind schedule.


Please Welcome the Irrepressible, Irreplaceable A. Graham Down

We’re thrilled to announce that Graham Down has joined the Education Next family as a regular book reviewer. You can expect, several times each month, his take on recent volumes related to education policy and practice.


Have Reformers Won the War of Ideas?

Ed Next editors Mike Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr. debate whether the war has been won and what needs to happen next.


A New “Washington Consensus” is Born

This week has witnessed the emergence of a new Washington Consensus, apparent in President Obama’s education-obsessed State of the Union address, a bipartisan conference call with key Senate leaders, and a supportive column by the country’s most widely read conservative.


Stretch Yourself, Bruce Baker

Rutgers education professor Bruce Baker issued a 4,600 word rebuttal to a 4,000 word policy brief released by Marguerite Roza and me about how states can “stretch the school dollar.” For all his spilled ink, he fails to offer a single alternative to the budget cuts we recommend. And as he later admitted that’s because he doesn’t believe states should cut education spending–they should raise taxes instead.


Best and Worst of 2010

Ed Next’s Mike Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr. discuss the best and worst developments for education policy in 2010, including the release of Waiting for Superman, the publication of teacher scores by the L.A. Times, the Race to the Top, and the development of Common Core standards.


How States Can Stretch the School Dollar

The challenge for education policymakers is not only to cut carefully so as not to harm student learning, but better yet, to transform these fiscal woes into reform opportunities: to cut smart and thereby help our schools and students emerge stronger than ever.


Instead of Facing Up to the Budget Crisis, the Unions and their Friends Change the Subject

The New Year is shaping up just as I predicted, with Diane Ravitch and the teachers unions criticizing budget-cutting proposals but offering no real alternatives of their own.


The Best and Worst of the “Best and Worst of” Lists

The end (of 2010) is upon us, and edu-pundits everywhere are compiling their “best and worst” lists for the Year of the Tiger. Here’s my run-down of the lists themselves.


When the Teacher Contract is Not the Problem

Video: Emily Cohen talks with Education Next about state policies governing teacher quality that trump teacher contracts.


7 for ’11

Want to know what 2011 will bring to the field of education reform?


Liberals Want to Stretch the School Dollar, Too

In an editorial this morning on Andrew Cuomo’s tax-cap proposal, the Gray Lady explains what’s driving education costs skyward and comes out in favor of several bold cost-cutting measures.


Washington Micro-Managers, There You Go Again

Here’s my wish for the Washington policy crowd this holiday season: greater humility and patience, so that good ideas can be given a chance to blossom at the state level rather than be screwed up by over-eager feds.


Even Under the Best of Circumstances, Turnarounds Fail

There’s plenty of sobering news in Fordham’s new report, Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors. But perhaps the most depressing is this: even low-performing charter schools, which have all the right incentives to improve, and few of the constraints that might get in the way, rarely manage to do so.


In Which I Debate Diane Ravitch in 140 Characters or Less

I haven’t been blogging as much as usual lately. I’ve started wasting untold hours following thousands of mini-messages on Twitter every day, along with sending dozens of my own. But it did produce this nifty little debate between my friend Diane Ravitch and me, on the topic of school budget cuts.


What Did Klein Learn? Not Much, Apparently

I love Joel Klein. He made New York City a magnet for reform-minded entrepreneurs, sent forth more than a few excellent leaders to other big city school systems, and is never afraid to speak his truth. But his Wall Street Journal op-ed today is really lame.


Want to see ESEA Updated in 2011? Try this Approach

If the elephants and donkeys do choose to sit down at the same table, we believe they must keep two goals firmly in mind. If either gets badly violated, this project cannot have a good ending.


Echoes of Pat Moynihan

In today’s New York Times there is a piece about the alarming achievement gap between black and white males.


Disturbing Trend: Reformers as Compliance Police

Frustrated that top-down pressure for higher test scores hasn’t led to profound changes in our schools, and impatient with the plodding pace of improvement, many reformers have opted for a new motto: Push for change anywhere, anytime, anyhow—even if that means engaging in the same sort of regulating and rulemaking and program-creating and money-spending that we once abhorred.


Welcome to a New Era of Restraint

What do Tuesday’s election results portend for education? After much palaver in many quarters, I conclude that it’s pretty simple: less money, and less reform from Washington. More responsibility shouldered by states and, perhaps, districts. And that equation isn’t as bad as it may sound.


To the Victor go the Toils

It’s going to take strong leadership–from newly-elected governors especially–to prepare Americans for the discomfort of austerity. Here’s hoping our new crop of politicians is up to the job.


“Less Money, Less Reform” Goes to Washington

Everyone wants to know what a Republican-controlled House of Representatives will mean for ESEA reauthorization. Here’s my take: it will mean less money, and less reform. And on the whole, that will be a good thing.


Less Money, Less Reform?

While she’s not perfect, I’m still a huge fan of Michelle Rhee. So it’s not surprising that I found her Wall Street Journal “manifesto” to be worthy of several cheers and hurrahs.


Common Core Standards: Now What?

Everyone knows that the Common Core standards won’t implement themselves, but unless they are adopted in the classroom, nothing much will change. So we explore: What implementation tasks are most urgent? What should be done across state lines? What should be left to individual states, districts, and private markets? Who will govern and “own” these standards and tests ten or twenty years from now?


Is a Democratic Congress Good for School Reform?

Republicans want to eject Uncle Sam from education; Democrats want to micromanage everything from Washington. What we need is Reform Realism.



No Child Left Behind’s Highly Qualified Teachers provision deserves to die. I felt this way even before this week’s surprise ruling by the Ninth Circuit. The court invalidated a Bush Administration-era regulation that allowed Teach For America participants (and other alt cert teachers) to be considered “highly qualified” while they worked toward full state certification. This is a huge deal for it automatically puts schools that hire TFA teachers “out of compliance” with Title I.


Done “Waiting for ‘Superman’”? Send Your Kid to a Diverse Public School

The research is much more compelling than for charter schools or the other promising strategies outlined by the movie. Years of desegregation studies showed that African-American kids performed much better when they attended integrated schools. More recent, and more sophisticated, “peer effects” research finds much the same. Rick Kahlenberg has been shouting from the rooftops that poor kids do better in “middle class” schools–which is why, in Gerald Grant’s words, there are no bad schools in Raleigh.


Would a Republican Congress Be Good for School Reform?

In Washington, it’s fairly obvious that the GOP doesn’t know what it stands for on education anymore—partly because much of its reform agenda has been co-opted by Messrs. Duncan and Obama, partly because it has long tended (at least in Congress) to ignore this topic, partly because it has much else on its none-too-robust policy platter.


“Cracking the Code,” or Ed Reformers on Crack?

What KIPP, and Achievement First, and the other high-flying charter schools are achieving is extraordinary, worth celebrating, and worth replicating. But let me offer three sobering points that we fans of school reform ought to ponder seriously nonetheless.


DC Election: The Charter Schools–and the Bike Lanes–will Remain

It’s understandable that education reformers will go out of their way to argue that Michelle Rhee’s reforms weren’t determinative in Adrian Fenty’s mayoral re-election bid. There’s plenty of evidence that Fenty’s loss had more to do with his “leadership style” than his policies. But let’s face it: the toughest of tough-minded reforms just aren’t all that popular with the public.


Finally, Some Straight Talk on the Achievement Gap

Summers past have brought us front-page firestorms and inane back-to-school stories. But this August might one day be famous for marking the start of a fresh round of honest conversation about the achievement gap—and the relationship between race, poverty and our schools.


The Public Thinks That Poor Kids Make for Bad Schools

Sadly, this is not too surprising. We all know that when someone says they are moving to a neighborhood with “good schools,” that really means “schools without too many poor kids.”


The Problem with “School Boards are the Problem”

For two weeks now I’ve been meaning to write about the provocative Washington Post column by Montgomery County (MD) school board member Laura Berthiaume. Her Op-Ed challenges some of my basic assumptions about school boards, in particular that they are one of the big problems in education.


I3 Is “New American Schools” All Over Again

Alexander Russo nailed it this morning when he wrote that “old school reforms win big in i3.” Indeed. What hit me when I saw the list of winners–especially the groups that brought home the big bucks–was that this is New American Schools all over again.


Will We Ever Get Past Race and Class?

For the better part of a week, Washington has been consumed by the Shirley Sherrod pseudo-scandal, leading many pundits to ponder race relations in America circa 2010. A better indicator, however, might be the goings-on in Wake County, North Carolina, where civil rights advocates are angrily protesting the decision of a newly elected school board to end the education system’s long-running busing program.


Tough Love for Charter Schools

Video: Chester Finn and Terry Ryan describe the efforts of the Fordham Institute to rescue struggling charter schools in Ohio while serving as a charter authorizer.


Is the Learning Disabilities Epidemic Waning?

Almost a decade ago, Fordham and the Progressive Policy Institute published a phone book-sized treatise, Rethinking Special Education for a New Century. One of its most important chapters was “Rethinking Learning Disabilities,” written by a who’s who of cognitive psychologists and reading experts, including Reid Lyon, Jack Fletcher, Sally Shaywitz, and Joseph Torgeson. They argued that most children with learning disabilities suffered from poor reading instruction, not an underlying neurological problem.


Answering Jay Greene’s Questions about National Standards

Jay Greene is upset that nobody has addressed his concerns about the Common Core State Standards initiative. I respect Jay a lot, and thinks he raises a number of fair points, but he’s playing a typical debater’s game: attacking your opponent’s ideas, rather than defending your own.


Boys and School

Video: Richard Whitmire talks with Education Next about how K-12 schools shortchange boys and what can be done to help boys do better in school.

On May 17 AEI hosted a book forum on Richard Whitmire’s Why Boys Fail.


The Half-Broken Promise of Charter School Autonomy

Yes, we need to hold charters accountable, but we also need to live up to our promise to provide them real autonomy over their day-to-day work. So we wondered, how are policymakers and charter school authorizers doing on that score? According to a brand-new study conducted by Public Impact for Fordham, the answer is: not so great.


What Goes Up Must Come Down

I’ve been receiving angry emails from teachers who heard my sound-bytes on NBC Nightly News and Today earlier this week. I said that “our schools don’t just need to go on a diet, they need to adapt a whole new way of life. The money is gone and it’s not coming back anytime soon.” In my mind, that’s just stating the facts.


Maybe There’s No “Teacher Quality Gap” After All

It’s taken as an article of faith in the education reform community: we’re screwing poor kids by giving them less effective teachers than their more affluent peers enjoy. The evidence seems pretty much open-and-shut. Poor schools are home to more rookie teachers, those with less subject-matter knowledge, lower certification exam scores, you name it. But what if it’s not true?


Teacher Accountability: The Next Front in the School Reform Wars

The other day I floated the proposition that tenure reform, not choice, is the “Holy Grail” of education reform. Several thoughtful folks pushed back. Their comments helped to sharpen my thinking and reconsider my argument. Here’s the new version.


Tenure Reform, not Choice, is the Holy Grail

Many of us who support school choice do so because of our hope that competition will force recalcitrant districts and unions to reform. But there is a much more direct way to address the protection of bad teachers. Rather than use choice to set in motion a chain reaction that ends with the removal of bad teachers from the classroom, why not go right at the bad teachers themselves?


Helping African American Boys Succeed

Video: Kaleem Caire tells Education Next: “I was one of those young men who you would not think was ready for a rigorous education, but it was a rigorous environment that helped propel me to where I am.”


Race to the Top and Charter Schools

Video: Nelson Smith talks with Education Next about how charter-friendly the 16 Race to the Top finalists are.


Arne “Jellyby” Duncan?

That’s the charge from George Will, who picks up on Joshua Dunn’s recent blog post to give the Secretary of Education a hard time for crusading for “civil rights” while ignoring the D.C. scholarship program kids in his own backyard.


The Gates Conspiracy

A perceptive reader pointed this out to me. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation originally provided 15 states with $250,000 planning grants to help them prepare their Race to the Top applications. After a firestorm of controversy, Gates made similar grants available to the other states. But note this: Original Gates States: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, […]


Sweet Sixteen?

The news that 15 states plus the District of Columbia qualified as finalists in the first round of the “Race to the Top” is sure to anger many reformers, and for good reason.


The Future of Education Journalism

Video: Linda Perlstein talks with Education Next about what the decline of newspapers means for coverage of education.


“Public” Schools in Name Only

A new report from Fordham today identifies some 2,800 “private public schools” nationwide—public schools that serve virtually no poor students. More students attend these schools than attend charter schools. And in some metro areas, like New York’s, almost 30 percent of white students attend these exclusive schools.


Rick Hess in the House

Watch out edusphere, here comes Hess. Our good friend (and fellow executive editor at Ed Next) Rick Hess has launched a new blog, Rick Hess Straight Up on the coveted real estate of In his first post (992 words; Rick, it’s a blog, not a book!), Hess manages to skewer the NEA, the school […]


“The Research on [Insert Preferred Policy Choice Here] Is As Clear As Anything in the Field of Education.”

Here’s a general rule: when you see sentences like the one above, know to be very, very skeptical.


To track or not to track? That’s not the question

With 2010 fast approaching, I’ve been hearing from several reporters asking about the best or worst education ideas of this decade. Here’s a sleeper issue that might deserve that moniker: the trend, seen in middle and high schools nationwide, to collapse the number of “tracks” offered to students in order to push more kids into challenging courses.


The Perpetual Stimulus

The Administration is foreshadowing a second stimulus package, this one likely to focus on bailing out local and state governments, including and especially public school systems. Last year a serious argument could be made that our economy was at risk of entering a deflationary cycle, and laying off a bunch of teachers didn’t make smart economic sense. But nobody can make the case today that giving the pink slip to thousands of teachers is going to wreck our economy and usher in the second Great Depression.


A “Race to the Top” Flip-Flop

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has already taken the Administration to task for backing away from some of its tougher “Race to the Top” provisions, but check out this morsel, thanks to Education Daily…


Book Alert: Leading for Equity

This self­-described “celebration” of the Montgomery County Public Schools, a 140,000-­student behemoth in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, is no doubt meant to add the district to the list of superstar systems worthy of national attention.


The One Winner in Today’s NAEP Release: Michelle Rhee

There’s not much good news in today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress results for mathematics. But there is a silver lining for DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee: her schools, and those in just four states, were the only ones to post gains in both fourth and eighth grades over the past two years.


La crème de la crème

It’s true that charter opponents can’t look at the recent Hoxby study and claim that it unfairly compares one type of student to another. But it doesn’t prove at all that charter schools aren’t creaming. Of course they are creaming. And good for them for doing it.


High Achieving Kids Need Options, Too

On Friday, Tom Loveless and I published an op-ed in the New York Times that argued that our nation’s highest-achieving students are only making minimal gains in the era of NCLB, while low-achieving students have made huge strides since 2000.


The coming crash in school revenue?

Everyone knows that school spending has been rising at a steady clip for just about forever. But is the Era of Big Spending coming to an end?

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