Virtual School Meanderings

December 10, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

New International Assessment Results Compare U.S. Students’ Reading Literacy with Their International Peers

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a new report on international fourth-grade reading achievement. The report, ‘Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context,’ compared the performance of U.S. students against 57 other countries. “Results from PIRLS 2016 show that the U.S. average overall score for reading was higher than the averages for 30 education systems, lower than the averages for 12 education systems, and not significantly different from the averages for 15 education systems. In addition, 16 percent of U.S. fourth-graders performed at or above the Advanced international benchmark, which represents the highest level of reading literacy skills. This was higher than the international median of 10 percent.”

Will America’s Schools ever be Desegregated?

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

Rachel Cohen and Will Stancil cover school segregation and housing: “If anything, research suggests leaders aren’t worrying enough about effects in the other direction: Segregated schools creating segregated cities.”

Ending the Revolving Door of Minority Teachers

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

Joseph Darius Jaafari writes about efforts to diversify the teaching force in New York. “New York might be one of America’s most racially diverse cities, but its teacher pool is decidedly not. In a city where 85 percent of the public school students are racial minorities, 60 percent of the teachers serving them are not. Only a quarter are male, and of that group, less than 8 percent are men of color — a concern because, as multiple studies have shown, the more diverse the teaching population, the better the outcome for minority students. In one such study, for example, black teachers were more likely to have higher expectations of black students compared to white teachers.”

How Effective Is Your School District? A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy write about new data from Sean Reardon, Stanford University, who used elementary school test scores to explore urban school district disparities. “This new data shows that many [schools] do overcome them [obstacles related to poverty]. It also suggests that states that rate schools and select which ones to reward or shutter based on average test scores are using the wrong metric, Mr. Reardon argues. And so are parents who rely on publicly available test scores to identify what they believe are the best school districts — and so the best places to live.”

Montanans not lining up for school choice tax credit, even though some could make a buck

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

Matt Hoffman discusses ‘Big Sky Scholarships,’ a school choice tax credit program in Montana. “The program in Montana works like this: a taxpayer can make a donation to a student scholarship organization, which in turn provides scholarships to students attending private schools. Up to $150 of that donation is eligible for a one-to-one tax credit in Montana, slicing 100 percent of the eligible donation off a tax bill.”

Despite gains, Mich. schools among most segregated

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 09:00 PM PST

Jennifer Chambers and Christine MacDonald wrote about an Associated Press (AP) analysis of segregation in charter schools. “Research has shown high levels of segregation correspond with low achievement, including the Associated Press analysis that found highly segregated schools on average had fewer students reaching state standards for proficiency in reading and math. Michigan’s ranking for black students, including those in charters, isn’t surprising given Metro Detroit’s historic high level of residential segregation and that charters tend to locate in higher minority areas, said Joshua Cowen, an associate professor of education policy at Michigan State University.”

December 3, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

Students Hang In The Balance While GOP House And Senate Bills Await Reconciliation

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Barbara Hou and Rachel Montgomery write about a controversial tax reform bill making its way through Congress that includes a significant tax change for graduate students. A key provision in the proposed bill would tax student tuition waivers as income. “In addition to student concerns, educational leaders are further concerned that both House and Senate versions of the tax reform legislation would impose a new 1.4 percent excise tax on endowments at private colleges and universities with endowments worth at least $250,000 per full-time student. Some believe this is provision reflects shots fired in a culture war over the role and privilege of colleges. Harvard administrators claimed the proposal would have cost the university $43 million last year. Charitable contributions to institutions, such as colleges and universities may also be at risk because of another provision that doubles standardized deductions. Since taxpayers can only choose to claim standard deductions or to itemize deductions and charitable deduction can only be itemized, contributions to institutions may decline.”

A fight for teachers weakens Detroit schools.

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Published as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit, discusses the scramble for teachers in a decentralized school system with a shrinking pool of teachers. “Experts say the teacher churn is driven in part by the fierce competition between schools in Detroit that has intensified as charter schools have expanded — they now comprise nearly half of the city’s schools — and as more suburban schools actively recruit city kids. Parents often enroll in multiple schools while weighing their options and schools are left to guess how many students they’ll have and how many teachers they’ll need.”

Letter: Real education policy solutions needed

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Daniel J. Quinn, Ph.D., executive director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, responds to a recent Detroit News Editorial that cited a think tank report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Quinn highlighted an academic review produced by the National Education Policy Center that was critical of the report. Regarding teacher absences, Quinn writes: “Fostering a nurturing and welcoming learning environment for students starts with making sure teachers have the supports they need to provide a quality education for their students. We need to support teachers and school employees who need occasional time off like other professionals. No one, teachers included, can perform at their best when they are burned out, exhausted or sick.”

A Punishing Decade for School Funding

Posted: 28 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, and Eric Figueroa completed an analysis of public investment in K-12 schools. “In most states, school funding has gradually improved since 2015, but some states that cut very deeply after the recession hit are still providing much less support.  As of the current 2017-18 school year, at least 12 states have cut ‘general’ or ‘formula’ funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade, according to a survey we conducted using state budget documents.”

School Choice Creates Challenges for Parents. What Are Cities Doing to Help?

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Arianna Prothero writes about a new single application and enrollment system being launched in Indianapolis. Her blog shares a data from a report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) that examined 18 city-level policies designed to help parents wade through complex school choice options. “The original motivation behind school choice policy is that market-style competition among schools would raise their academic performance. For that to happen, however, parents must know which schools are academically the best, and they must choose them. But when given the chance to pick schools, do parents actually become more informed consumers?”

The Impact of Charter Schools on Traditional Public Schools: Impact and Fiscal Analyses

Posted: 16 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

From IU’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (CEEP): “Using publicly available data from the New Jersey Department of Education and U.S. Department of Education, CEEP conducted two studies comparing traditional public schools and charter schools in New Jersey. For the impact study, CEEP examined enrollment, grade promotion and disciplinary rates, and student achievement data. The fiscal analysis examined the amount of funds transferred to charter schools as well as potential expenditure savings and the net impact on traditional districts.”

December 1, 2017

Report Addressing Gaps In Access To Strong Teachers Misses Opportunity To Tackle Root Causes Of Teacher Recruitment And Retention Problems

From the inbox a couple of days ago…

November 28, 2017

Doris A. Santoro, (207)
Daniel J. Quinn, (517)

Report addressing gaps in access to strong teachers misses opportunity to tackle root causes of teacher recruitment and retention problems

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 28, 2017) — In October, The Education Trustpublished a report that called on state leaders to embrace new flexibility available under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to address inequities in teacher and leader quality in schools. The report drew on state-level examples of promising practices and made recommendations. An academic review released today finds significant omissions in the report, which fails to engage with issues around alternative pathways into teaching or incentives for supporting recruitment and retention efforts in hard-to-staff schools.

Doris Santoro, Bowdoin College, reviewed the report, Tackling Gaps in Access to Strong Teachers: What State Leaders Can Do, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

According to the reviewer, the report relied primarily upon submitted ESSA state consolidated plans and state teacher equity plans for the purpose of providing guidance to state education agency leaders. Santoro in her review notes that the report included some sound advice for education agency leaders, but cautions that the report might not help them better understand how they could build incentives and cultures in schools in order to draw strong teachers and leaders into high-need schools.

Santoro says that state leaders reading this report will likely be left with an incomplete, insufficient set of tools to ensure equitable access to excellent educators. She finds that the report primarily casts the problem of recruiting and retaining excellent teachers as a labor supply problem without addressing the root causes of teacher recruitment and retention problems.

Specifically, she says the report relies on advocacy sources instead of scholarly research, which fail to capture the impact of past federal and state policies on teachers. Moreover, she writes that the report has too few references to be useful to policy makers.

Positively, she says that readers will find the report understandable and accessible.  Despite the report’s attempt to fill a knowledge gap, Santoro concludes: “State leaders will likely come no closer to understanding how they might build incentives and cultures that draw strong teachers into high-need schools.”

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the original report on the Education Trust website:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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November 26, 2017

Worth A Read

A regular Sunday feature.

Worth A Read

Here’s why two Indiana school systems went broke. And others are in danger.

Posted: 20 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Arika Herron and Emma Kate Fittes investigate school choice in Indiana. “Starting in 2001, the state began rerouting money for public schools to remake itself as a champion of school choice. First, lawmakers created a public charter school system. Second, they started what would become the largest voucher program in the nation — arguably the most hotly-contested change of the decade. The idea was to give children in failing schools a way out, through privately-managed public charter schools or the voucher program that funnels public education money to private, often religious, schools in the form of scholarships for students from low- and middle-income families. What started out small — just 11 charter schools in 2002, and a drop out of the deep bucket of public money going towards schools — became huge.”

This Is Just How Badly Scott Walker Has Decimated Public Schools in Wisconsin

Posted: 19 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Patrick Caldwell covers a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), which studied the impact of Act 10 in Wisconsin. “In the six years since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the union-busting Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining rights for public employees, the state’s labor movement has been decimated. Wisconsin was once a leader in organized labor, but its share of workers belonging to unions plummeted from 14.2 percent in 2010 to 8.1 percent in 2016. In 2015, the state’s unionization rate dropped below the national average for the first time. Now a new study highlights the unintended consequences of Act 10, which has proven catastrophic for Wisconsin’s public schools.”

‘Precious Little Evidence’ That Vouchers Improve Achievement, Recent Research Finds

Posted: 16 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Arianna Prothero discusses private-school-voucher programs in a DeVos/Trump policy context. “There’s been surging national interest in private-school-voucher programs with the Trump administration’s embrace of the idea. But newer research on large-scale voucher programs has complicated the debate over private-school choice—policies which allow families to use public money or aid to attend private schools, including religious ones. What does the research say? In a nutshell: The most recent findings are mixed, but they lean more toward negative. I spoke at length with researchers from most of these studies for a story I did on how private schools receiving public money in Florida face little state oversight.”

50-State Comparison: K-12 Governance Structures

Posted: 13 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) completed a 50 state comparison of state education governance. “Every state has the same or similar policymaking roles; however, each of the roles operate differently in the context of each state’s governance model. This resource provides a national overview of the key policymaking roles in K-12 education policy, a summary of each role’s general powers and duties and some information on how they relate to other policymaking roles.”

When Unions Lead Education Reform

Posted: 13 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Rachel Cohen writes about a new report from the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN). “Funded by the Ford Foundation, the report has four lead authors with deep ties to the labor movement. Adam Urbanski is still president of the Rochester Teachers Association, and Ellen Bernstein is president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. Tom Alves is the executive director of the Sun Juan Teachers Association, and Richard Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.”

Why Addressing Teacher Turnover Matters

Posted: 12 Nov 2017 09:00 PM PST

Linda Darling-Hammond, Leib Sutcher, and Desiree Carver-Thomas respond to criticism published in ‘The 74’ by Chad Aldeman. “There is no denying that there is a teacher turnover problem in many communities and that it is harming hundreds of thousands of students daily. Policymakers and practitioners can work together to improve the key factors associated with teacher turnover through stronger teacher preparation and support, competitive and equitable compensation, and supportive teaching conditions”

November 24, 2017

Survey Does Not Add To Our Knowledge About School Choice In Indiana, Review Finds

From Tuesday’s inbox…

November 21, 2017

Jeanne M. Powers, (480) 965–
Daniel J. Quinn, (517)

Survey does not add to our knowledge about school choice in Indiana, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 21, 2017) — A recent report published by EdChoiceattempted to examine parents’ experiences with school choice in Indiana through a survey. Hanover Research compiled the survey results with the report authored by staff at EdChoice, an advocacy organization that favors school choice. An academic review of the report finds problematic data and weak statistical analyses that limit the usefulness of the report for policymaking.

Jeanne Powers, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University, reviewed the report, Why Indiana Parents Choose: A Cross-sector Survey of Parents’ Views in a Robust School Choice Environment, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Based on the survey, the report claimed that parents were highly satisfied with voucher and tax credit scholarship programs. Moreover, the report suggested that the findings support the expansion of school choice programs.

Powers writes that the findings from the report should be cautiously interpreted, because parent-satisfaction survey data almost always yield strongly positive findings. She also notes that a large sector of the population in Indiana do not participate in school choice.

In a review of the report, Powers finds that the report falls short in several ways, including:

  1. The survey utilized three incompatible data collection methods;
  2. The statistical analyses are too week to draw clear conclusions;
  3. The report seems designed to advance an agenda rather than provide substantive answers to important policy questions; and
  4. It provides little new information about parents’ experiences with their children’s schools.

In her conclusion, Powers writes: “While organized using the format of a research study, the report’s failure to ground its analyses in the broader research literature, employ conventional sampling techniques, and provide relevant statistical details renders the report of little value for advancing educational policy and practice.”

Find the review by Jeanne Powers on the GLC website:

Find the EdChoice report on the web at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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