Five Edu-Reads to Close Out the Year in Style

Tomorrow morning, some of you are going to feel bad about yourselves for tonight’s debauch. Not much I can do for headaches and queasy stomachs, but I can help you insulate your self-esteem: Read these five things before the festivities. You’ll head into the evening knowing you smartened yourself up. And tomorrow, when someone looks at your haggard visage and says, “Last year went out with a bang, huh?” you can say, “Yes, indeed. I did some high-quality edu-reading.”

*Those who reflexively oppose school closures think they are doing communities a favor. Putting aside for a moment the issue of shuttering persistently failing schools, we must come to grips with the consequences of opposing closures when an urban district’s enrollment plummets. This short editorial from the Chicago Tribune explains it perfectly. It’s not just taxpayers who lose; it’s also teachers. Adamant closure opponents aren’t doing us any favors.

*Though the top of this short article from the Atlantic Cities is about the concentration of wealth in the Northeast, the second and third maps show why ed reformers needs to look beyond our cities. The poorest areas are in Appalachia, the Southeast, the Mississippi Delta, south Texas, and bands in Arizona, New Mexico, and the Dakotas. Bellwether’s work on rural ed reform via the ROCI initiative will hopefully draw more attention to the needs of students in these destitute areas.

*Take a look at some interesting (and startling) graphics on economic mobility, including the influence of education and other factors. Then consider new research suggesting that schools can improve tests scores but not “cognitive ability.” Sobering stuff all around.

*Tom Vander Ark has written a very smart and important brief for NACSA that spells out his vision for the next generation of charter authorizing. Arguing that the charter sector has diversified greatly (and promises even more innovation in the future) since chartering’s inception, Vander Ark offers a new framework for differentiated authorizers—new types of bodies to approve and oversee schools falling into different categories, such as charters in a successful network, online schools, and conversion schools.

*The smart folks at Brookings’ Brown Center have an interesting report out on the actual influence of ed-reform advocacy organizations. They studied successful school-choice legislation in Louisiana. They found that a number of reform-minded organizations exerted influence, though in different ways. The research team also found (by using a fictional “placebo” organization) that traditional surveys designed to measure influence might inflate the actual standing of many organizations.

-Andy Smarick

This first appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

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