Once upon a time, there was a train company that was experiencing a lot of accidents. The company commissioned an investigation which revealed that when accidents happened, damage was usually sustained to the last car in the train. As a result, the company sent out a memo to all station masters: Before each train left the station, the last car was to be removed. The point of this old story, of course, is that the problem was not the last cars, it was the whole train system that allowed the accidents. In education, children with serious difficulties are the "last ...


Everyone reading this blog knows how important it is that every child become a confident, skilled, and motivated reader. The latest NAEP results, released this month, remind us that there are far too many children who do not read well, that disadvantaged and minority children are overrepresented among poor readers, and that the inequalities in academic outcomes by race and class--our most serious social as well as educational problem--begins with reading inequalities in the early grades. Everyone knows that children who don't read well will incur huge expenses over time in remediation, special education, repeated grades, and ultimately delinquency, dropout, ...


In education reform circles, people often express deep concerns about the mediocre performance of American students on international assessments such as PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS. There is good reason to be concerned that U.S. students score behind peer nations such as Finland, Netherlands, and Canada, and the international comparisons do provide a useful benchmark to tell us how our students are doing overall. However, while we can learn from the practices of other countries with high scores, we also need to maintain perspective. First, there is great variation within our own country; representative samples of students in Massachusetts and ...


The best argument for emphasizing evidence in educational policy and practice is what happens when evidence plays no role: Practice and policy swing like a pendulum from one enthusiasm to the opposite, and then back again, but no progress is made. This is typical in fashion, where hemlines rise and fall and ties get wider or narrower just because people get tired of the previously prevailing hemline or tie width, or whatever. Similar swings are common in any field where taste, rather than evidence, is what drives change: Art, architecture, cooking, and so on. There are also fads and fashions ...


From time to time, I will use this space to share research I am reading. Listing it here should not be interpreted as an endorsement, but as worthwhile reading. I hope you find this to be a useful resource and I welcome your own analysis or insights Starting out right: pre-k and kindergarten (Center for Public Education) Students who attend pre-k and half-day kindergarten are more likely to have higher reading skills by the third grade than students who attend full-day kindergarten alone. Student Victimization Survey (NCES) According to the latest national statistics, nearly 4 percent of 12 -18-year-old students ...


Yesterday's release of the NAEP scores revealed that, as a nation, we have made little progress in the past 20 years in helping our 4th graders read on grade level. Now, writing about flat NAEP scores is like writing about the sun rising. There is nothing new or exciting about this news. We can predict the cycles of the sun, plan for it, react to it, but we cannot impact whether the sun will rise every day. We can impact reading outcomes for 4th graders, as a nation, we have so far failed to do so. Recent research from Don ...


Last week, I wrote about the "Struggling Schools and the Problem with the 'Shut It Down' Mentality." The post seemed to strike a chord, so I would like to encourage my readers to consider the same framework for struggling charter schools. Most people who follow research on charter schools would agree that there is little evidence that, on average, students in charter schools gain any more than similar children in non-charters. Charter advocates admit this to be true, but point to positive effects documented for outstanding charter networks, such as KIPP, and often vow to "weed out" failing charters from ...


Whole school (or comprehensive) reform models are making a remarkable comeback in policy and practice. Popular in the 1990's, with as many as 6,000 schools using whole-school models by 2001, the Bush administration tried to eliminate the approach in the 2000s, despite strong positive effects in evaluations of several of the most popular models. Recently, whole-school reform has re-appeared in the Senate's proposals for reauthorization of ESEA. Here's the proposed language: (iv) WHOLE SCHOOL REFORM STRATEGY- A local educational agency implementing a whole school reform strategy for a school shall implement an evidence-based strategy that ensures whole school reform. ...


One of the solutions often proposed for schools in which students perform poorly is closing down the school. It's one of the four options required for schools to receive School Improvement Grants in the current administration and has been an option for consistently low-achieving schools under No Child Left Behind. The Senate HELP Committee's proposal for reauthorizing ESEA maintains school closure among seven options for persistently low-achieving schools. "Shut it down" sounds like a logical, if extreme, option when all else has failed, but a study by John Engberg from RAND and his colleagues presented some disturbing data about school ...


Tutor students after class? No! says every lad and lass Yes! replies the ruling class But will it help the children pass? My colleague Steve Ross, writing in yesterday's guest blog on Sputnik, refers to the noble intentions and disappointing outcomes of Supplemental Educational Services (SES). I wanted to add some additional perspectives on what we can learn from the many SES evaluations and their larger meaning for policy. Ross notes that most would raise participating students from the 25th to the 28th percentile, and a recent review of SES evaluations from Old Dominion University suggests the effect is even ...


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