Worthwhile Reads for your Thanksgiving Journey

Recently, 2013 NAEP results were made public, and, as is typical for such bi-annual releases, there was lots of excitement, somberness, and everything in between. Enter the always smart, always temperamentally sound Tom Loveless, who sought to simmer down the hyping of some states’ scores. Talk of statistical significance and p-values is Greek to some, but Loveless’ accessible explanation and color-coded charts will have you saying both, “A-ha!” and “Well, that’s not what I’d been told.” Here’s the upshot: Yes, some states did quite well, but both the number of such states and the extent of their gains have been oversold. (And, no, Tom, we don’t think you’re a skunk at a picnic.)

Emily Richmond from The Educated Reporter writes up an excellent summary of TBFI’s new report on teacher effective vs. class size. In short, getting kids in front of more effective teachers is valuable even if it means making those classrooms more crowded. Sad finding: Schools are not currently putting more kids in the best teachers’ classrooms; instead, they just evenly distribute the number of students among teachers. This report is classic Fordham: Ask an interesting question, the answer to which could quickly influence policy, get sharp people to study it, then package the findings in an accessible report.

It’s a day of the week, so Rick Hess has a new book out! This time, it’s with my boy Mike McShane, and it’s about Common Core implementation. Even if Secretary Duncan hadn’t gone after white suburban moms, this would still be the timeliest of subjects. In full disclosure, I haven’t read the book yet, but I went to the conference during which its papers were presented (most of which I did read), and I was impressed by the authors, the findings, and the healthy skepticism about the new standards—a skepticism that seems to be largely missing from most of ed-reform-opolis. Whether you read the book or just take part in the online Google Hangout on November 25, you’ll be smarter on this important subject.

There are some interesting things going on in Catholic education related to blended learning. I’m a huge fan of the former and skeptical of the latter, but I hope the combination will help Catholic schools become financially sustainable and enable technology to better educate the whole child. The Archdiocese of Seattle is getting its feet wet, and Seton Education Partners’ “Phaedrus Initiative” has a number of such schools and is looking for more partners. Watch this space.

You should read Robin Lake’s latest post on the nitty gritty of implementing the “portfolio district” approach. The prime graphic is great and shows that this strategy really depends on district leadership and staff to be bought in. I’m still in favor of the TUUSotF and NOLA approaches, which seek to bring about a similar end state but without relying on the district to get us there. But CRPE is making the kind of progress with old-style districts that most probably thought impossible a decade ago. Keep it up.

For those of you somewhere between interested and obsessed with social media (including how to raise your Klout score!), this long-ish article might be worthwhile. The author attempts to divine why certain articles and posts get more attention than others (comments, shares, etc.). Her empirical analysis, including a bevy of fascinating visuals, is compelling, and her use of the Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow framework is helpful. Not that I constantly check my Twitter analytics or anything. H/T Chad Aldeman.

-Andy Smarick

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

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