"Don’t think about elephants," skoolboy’s father used to joke, long before George Lakoff’s manifesto with a similar name. The joke, of course, is that by trying not to think about elephants, all that you can think about is elephants. The harder I tried not to think about elephants, the more I thought about them. The New York City Department of Education has its own variation. This month, the DOE is sending Teacher Data Reports, which purport to estimate the effect of individual teachers in grades 4-8 on students’ test scores, to school principals, who will then distribute ...

A thought experiment: If Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, was to jello wrestle his alter ego on central matters of public education, who would come out on top?In his article in the New Yorker this week, Gladwell's argument is that it's hard to predict who will become a great pro quarterback or teacher before job candidates start playing or teaching. Like most engaged in the teacher quality debate, Gladwell assumes that there are "good" and "bad" teachers, and this quantity exists a priori. But it's just impossible to observe it before a teacher steps into the classroom. It's not ...

Hilary Levey is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Princeton University. Below, she shares findings from her dissertation, "Playing to Win: Childhood, Competition, and the Credentials Bottleneck."Many parents work more hours outside of the home and their lives are crowded with more obligations than ever before; many children spend their evenings and weekends trying out for all-star teams, travelling to tournaments, and eating dinner in the car. What explains the increase in children’s participation in activities outside of the home, structured and monitored by their parents, when family time is so scarce? As the parental “second shift” continues ...

I promise that this whole week won't be deadly depressing, but Alexander Russo threw down the gauntlet about the media's lack of attention to results in Chicago Public Schools under Arne Duncan. So I took a look at Chicago's NAEP performance.Have gaps separating white/black and white/Hispanic students in Chicago shrunk in the last 5-6 years?Nah.There are no statistically significant declines in these gaps in 4th or 8th grade reading or math. In many cases - for example, 4th and 8th grade math and 8th grade reading - it's not that the black-white achievement gap is ...

We hear a lot about "gap closing" schools these days, though this term often gets tossed around loosely. Consider Steven Wilson's recent report on "gap closing" Boston charter schools, in which gap closing schools are defined as, "schools that serve students of color from economically disadvantaged families and post achievement levels that rival - and sometimes exceed - suburban school districts."Gap closing, according to Wilson, refers to proficiency rates on state tests, and herein lies the rub. It's possible for gaps to appear to be closing on state tests if we rely on proficiency levels, even as wide gaps ...

The recent flurry of attention to high school completion rates has revived interest in early warning systems designed to identify students at risk of dropping out of high school. The idea behind these early warning systems is that, through the analysis of administrative data, schools and school districts can develop models of risk factors which predict a high probability of dropping out of high school. If the models successfully distinguish probable dropouts from probable graduates, students at high risk of dropping out can be identified, and support resources can be focused on these students identified as at risk of dropout. ...

A month ago, Flypaper asked us to come up with appropriately silly backdrops for Margaret Spellings' portrait, which will be unveiled on December 18th.All you lame duck Department of Education staffers - here's something to post on the water cooler tomorrow morning. Enjoy....

Sean Corcoran is an economist who teaches at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU. One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers is the now-classic: To my knowledge, the Air Force has yet to experiment with bake sales. But—according to three papers presented at last month’s National Tax Association meeting in Philadelphia—private contributions through local education foundations have become a significant source of operating funds for many of the country’s public schools. Education foundations are not your grandmother’s PTA. School foundations organize as 501(c)(3) corporations, and in some cases ...

DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is on the cover of this week's Time magazine. The accompanying article features a striking statistic: according to her office, she answered 95,000 e-mails last year. Allow skoolboy to speculate about this figure. Let's suppose that Chancellor Rhee responds to e-mail seven days a week, and that she worked 50 weeks last year. (skoolboy would hope that she worked less, because that's a grueling pace.) 95,000/350 is about 270 e-mails per day to which she responded. Suppose further that it takes one minute to read and respond to an e-mail. (Some will ...

This week's COWAbunga award, i.e. comment of the week award, goes to Rachel, who has been commenting here since the very beginning. It turns out that she and I share a ed policy pet peeve:While we're on the subject of "causal connection" I'll bring up one of my pet peeves in the correlation-does-not-imply-causality department that I worry is becoming almost endemic in ed-policy discussions.Even if SAT scores are a good predictor of graduation rate, focused efforts to raise SAT scores (like sending all high school students to test prep classes) will not necessarily improve overall graduation rates. ...


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