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July 2010 Archives

Don't Lose Sight of the Big Picture: Harlem Children's Zone Research, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Broader Education Debate

Kudos to Russ Whitehurst and Michelle Croft for taking seriously some of Geoffrey Canada's valid complaints about their study on Harlem Children's Zone's effectiveness compared to other NYC charters, and for issuing a new analysis that includes data on HCZ's second Promise Academy Charter School, as well as updated demographic data. The new analysis, by the way, yields findings quite similar to the first one. Not quite so sure about their assertion that this finding is an argument against the Obama administration's proposed Promise Neighborhoods program, which would provide funding to communities to replicate HCZ-like initiatives. It's not that I ...


Phase 2 RTT Finalists: Guess It Really Wasn't About Buy-In After All

When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named the two Race to the Top Phase 1 winners earlier this year, his announcement speech emphasized the extent to which winners Delaware and Tennessee had received near universal buy-in from districts and teachers unions for their state Race to the Top plans. That, combined with comments from some RTT reviewers, led many observers to conclude that achieving widespread buy-in was a requirement for states to win RTT, and that, when it came to making trade-offs between bold reforms and widespread buy-in, states might do better to fall on the side of buy-in. Other ...


The Real Problem with NY's "Gifted" Tests for Kindergarteners

Given the anxieties and aspirations of their target audience of readers, its no surprise that publications like the New York Times and New York Magazine never tire of writing about the concerns raised by New York City's system of identifying "gifted" students for special gifted programs. Today, the NYT looks at how the city's gifted assessment serves to lock in educational inequities between low-income children and middle-class and affluent families who can pay to prep their youngsters for the test. But the core issue here is NOT the use of test prep providers by middle class parents, the validity of ...


Can We Please Put the 'Agrarian Roots of Summer Vacation' Myth to Bed?

David Von Drehle's TIME cover story on summer learning loss is interesting as these things go, and gives attention to both a serious problem and some praiseworthy initiatives to address it. But this line just about drove me bonkers. Long summer holidays are the legacy of our vanished agrarian past, when kids were needed in the fields during the growing season. This is one of those things that "everyone knows" but is just not true. As my former colleague Elena Silva has written: Time in school has been added and subtracted in many ways throughout our country's history, although not ...


Social Innovation Fund Grantees Announced

The Corporation for National and Community Service today announced that 11 organizations have been selected to receive $50 million in Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grants. SIF is intended to support innovative solutions to social problems and leverage private investment, by investing federal funds in non-profit intermediary organizations who will in turn identify and invest in the work of entrepreneurial organizations working to address social problems. Three of the 11 SIF grantees will focus on youth services and education: New Profit, Inc. received a $5 million, 1 year grant to partner with 5 to 6 youth-focused organizations to help some 8,000...


Everybody Loves i3?

Alyson Klein's got an interesting post up asking why approps Committee Chairman Obey's edujobs bill targeted RTT, TIF and charter schools programs for grants, but not i3--an ARRA-funded Obama initiative that would seem like a shoe-in for inclusion to the list. The always-smart Charlie Barone offers some good perspective here. Three additional points I think are worth noting on this: Because RTT is a state-level competition, with clearly defined criteria, and will give out relatively few awards, lots of members of Congress know their states aren't going to benefit from RTT, making it easy for them to support cuts. i3 ...


Are We in the (Harlem Children's) Zone?

A new report from Brookings' Russ Whitehurst and Michelle Croft concludes that high-quality charter schools--not community, social and family services--are responsible for the success of Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) in improving student achievement. And, based on this finding, the report argues for skepticism about the potential of Broader, Bolder type efforts to improve student achievement through social and community services, as well as President Obama's Promise Neighborhoods program to replicate HCZ-like initiatives elsewhere. There's an important point here: HCZ has gained national attention, plugs from President Obama and Secretary Duncan, and praise from across the political spectrum--sometimes it seems like ...


Charter School Odds and Ends

Nice piece on charter schools in the Charleston (WV) Gazette. West Virginia is one of 11 states nationally that do not allow charter schools; efforts are underway to enact a charter school law in the state. But NAPCS' Todd Zeibarth is skeptical of the proposed legislation, which would create a weak law granting charters only limited autonomy and restrict authorizing to local school boards and the state board of education. Reporter Davin White does a nice job summarizing the national research evidence on charter schools, as well as what's been learned about the state policy conditions that lead to higher ...


Markups to Watch this Week on the Hill--UPDATED

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee is marking up the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act, which reauthorizes funding for the federal school lunch program, as well as WIC and the child and adult care food program. Funded at about $12 billion in the current year, the federal school lunch program is one of the largest federal funding streams for education, and the proposed legislation would make some significant changes, including streamlining bureaucratic and paperwork requirements to enroll children in high-poverty schools, expanding access to school lunch and out-of-school food programs, and improving nutritional and safety standards for school ...


Charter School Boards—Not Boring, Very Important!

Greg Richmond has a great and important commentary about charter school board independence in this week's EdWeek. And while "charter school board independence" may sound like a snoozer of an issue, it's actually critically important. I've found that most people not closely engaged in charter school issues don't really understand the importance of charter school boards. The public imagination tends to identify charter schools with visionary school leaders and founders, or well-known EMOs and CMOs, such as Edison or KIPP. But it's the independent governing boards of charter schools who are actually central to what makes public charter schools, public ...


What Can and Can't American Education Learn From Singapore?

In a recent New Republic column, renowned philosopher Martha Nussbaum criticizes liberal education reformers for being too enthusiastic to embrace the education systems of China and Singapore as models for reform stating that, "Singapore and China are terrible models of education for any nation that aspires to remain a pluralistic democracy." Her argument focuses on three points: First, education in Singapore in China focuses heavily on "rote learning"* and "teaching to the test." Second, the education bureaucracies in Singapore and China have themselves found their model lacking in developing students' creativity and analytical abilities, and are implementing reforms designed to ...


Hot Lifeguards, Child Care, and AFT's Growing Membership

Now that I'm blogging at Education Week, can I still say that Education Week's Stephen Sawchuk is doing an awesome job covering the AFT convention? Well, I'm going to anyway, because he is. Lots of interesting stuff on teacher evaluation, resolutions, and the like. But I found this post, on AFT's growth to 1.5 million members particularly interesting. As Sawchuk notes, AFT's added some 70,000 members in the past two years, with 85 successful organizing campaigns and 53 new local affiliates. Many of these new members are from fields outside of education: In her speech alone, AFT President ...


Welcome to My Policy Notebook

Hi there. Welcome to my education policy notebook. A few things about me: I'm a D.C.-based education policy analyst who's been working in education policy for a little more than 10 years. Currently, I'm a senior associate with Bellwether Education Partners, a new non-profit organization that works to build the field of organizations accelerating achievement for low-income students. I work directly with some of the awesome organizations you see listed here (don't worry, I'll disclose when I write anything about anyone we work with), and contribute to Bellwether's policy and thought leadership work. Previously, I directed the New ...


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