January 2017 Updates–Charters, Vouchers, Content, and Build and Support.


More Damaging Examples of Charter and Voucher Excesses

Many vouchers don’t improve education, some fund discriminatory schools, exacerbate segregation, and drain public school funds.  https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/01/can-vouchers-save-failing-schools/515061/

A study in Indiana found that discrimination is rampant in voucher supported schools. https://inschoolmatters.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/study-confirms-voucher-programs-discriminate/https://inschoolmatters.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/study-confirms-voucher-programs-discriminate/

A study finding widespread exclusions of students from religious schools in North Carolina’s voucher program. https://tcf.org/content/commentary/second-class-students-vouchers-exclude/

Chapter and verse of financial and other scams in Arizona’s non-accountable charter schools sector. http://www.azcsa.org/

A study of a Pennsylvania district severely harmed by charter expansions. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/09/a-disturbing-look-at-how-charter-schools-are-hurting-a-traditional-school-district/?utm_term=.3c04fa05378e

New Orleans bloated charter school bureaucracy http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/02/nola-charters-and-bloated-bureaucracy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

Consistent with this website, an article by Henry Levin finds across the planet vouchers and choice have not improved educational performance and have resulted in a marked increase in segregation. http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-01-30/little-global-evidence-suggests-school-choice-helps-performance

For a balanced article on other countries use of choice strategies see Marc Tucker’s comments. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/01/choice_vouchers_and_the_trump_education_agenda.html  Here is a quote: Summing up to this point, we can say that there is no evidence anywhere that a country, state or province can enter the ranks of the top performers using choice strategies alone.  There are certainly countries that have both high achievement and strong policies favoring choice. However, there appears to be a trade-off between choice and equity, and, crucially important, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find examples of countries that have high achievement at scale in which government does not play a very strong role in both designing and running the system using a broad spectrum of strategies.

A powerful video showing the damage DeVos’s choice policies wreaked on Detroit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47OC7wZbwzM&feature=youtu.be

Low performance by many of Texas’s Kipp charter schools. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-student-progress-at-kipp-is-small-and-dim-clap-clap-clap-clap-deep-in-the-heart-of-texas/


Build and Support

Build and Support strategies have substantially improved schools in New Zealand. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/02/the_new_zealand_way_an_interview_with_minister_of_education_hekia_parata.html?r=204686366&utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers


Content Knowledge is a Key to Reading Comprehension

Discipline Content Knowledge not generic skills is a crucial driver of reading comprehension. http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2017/02/01/why-knowledge-counts-more-than-skill/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCoreKnowledgeBlog+%28The+Core+Knowledge+Blog%29

Huge Research Project Demonstrates that after learning to decode, discipline Knowledge is the largest contributor to reading comprehension. Seven years ago IES (the federal research institution) started a focused research program to address how to improve reading comprehension the US classrooms.  They spent about $120 million, engaged many dozens of researchers, have by now over 200 referred journal articles etc.   These studies  find that the steady build-up of discipline specific knowledge and deep engagement with that knowledge are the main determinants of reading comprehension.  Here is a quote from Catherine Snow, one of the main author of the studies which gives the flavor of much of the research—debates, discussions, papers, and projects specific to the disciplines are crucial:

The demands of literacy tasks change appreciably after students have mastered the basics of reading words accurately and with reasonable automaticity. At about age 10 reading becomes a tool for acquiring information, understanding a variety of points of view, critiquing positions, and reasoning. The results of international and US assessments show that many students who succeed at early reading tasks struggle with these new developmental challenges, focusing attention on the instructional needs of adolescent readers.  Commonly used approaches to comprehension instruction in the post-primary grades, such as teaching reading comprehension strategies, do not adequately respond to the multiple challenges adolescents face. One such challenge is the need to acquire discipline-specific ways of reading, writing, and thinking, often from teachers who are themselves insufficiently aware of how reading literature differs from reading science or history. We argue that appropriate attention in instruction to discipline-specific literacy practices, to maintaining an authentic purpose for assigned literacy tasks, and to the role of focused discussion as a central element in teaching comprehension would improve reading outcomes and would revolutionize current theories about the nature of reading comprehension.

Goldman, S., and Snow, C.E. (in press). Adolescent Literacy: Development and Instruction. In A. Pollatsek and R. Treiman (Eds.), Handbook on Reading. Oxford University Press.

Also see E.D. Hirsch’s new book “Why Knowledge Matters”. He says after decoding and fluency are learned, a steady buildup of content knowledge through reading, writing and discussion is the main element in improving reading comprehension. Teaching skills such as problem solving, and creativity are not generalizable and only work within each discipline. Teaching main idea, inferencing, and close reading don’t pay off after their introduction and teaching them should be minimized. Tests of these skills actually are testing how much knowledge is brought to task (assuming fluency). He recommends two week spurts of content subjects in literature, history, science, etc which he calls domain immersion.

Duval County makes curriculum and instruction the central drivers of improvement. http://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/wordpress/?p=940  From the KnowledgeMatters website https://knowledgematters.com/  here are some quotes from their interview with the Duval superintendent.

“I would put my eggs more in the curriculum basket that I ever would have before.”

That’s the conclusion of Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, three years into Common Core implementation. Duval is one of the “Big Seven” districts in Florida, with more than half of its 130,000 students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. David Steiner of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy interviewed him recently to hear how it’s going.   “We were the first district in Florida to emphasize curriculum, and it’s been exciting to have districts come visit us and walk through our classrooms,” says Vitti. “Some of them will make the shift next year at the elementary level, based on our results and what they see when they visit our classrooms.” This transformation began in 2014-15, as hundreds of Duval’s teachers compared the Common Core standards with the district’s instructional materials and other resources, such as the EngageNY curriculum. The EngageNY materials were obviously superior, so implementation moved quickly.     Now, Vitti is already seeing a difference with his own children. “What my second grader could talk about at the dinner table every night because of exposure to [the new] curriculum was vastly different than each of my three older children…. [It’s] emphasis on background knowledge changed my son’s level of conversation, the way in which he saw his world, how he could make connections with what was going on throughout society, and just his level of sophistication and knowledge of history and social issues…. [In math] when he’s tackling problems that my older children are tackling, he can actually problem-solve even though he hasn’t been directly taught the strategies linked to answering questions formulaically.”   Similar growth is being seen in classrooms and at dinner tables throughout Duval County. Read the full interview with Vitti for insights into the curriculum reviews and ongoing professional development.

One hundred Seventy Five education deans nationwide released a Declaration of Principles calling on Congress and the Trump Administration to advance democratic values in America’s public schools. http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2017/01/public-education

A quote: In a Declaration of Principles released today, 175 deans sounded the alarm: “Our children suffer when we deny that educational inequities exist and when we refuse to invest sufficient time, resources, and effort toward holistic and systemic solutions. The U.S. educational system is plagued with oversimplified policies and reform initiatives that were developed and imposed without support of a compelling body of rigorous research, or even with a track record of failure.” The deans called upon federal leaders to forge a new path forward by:

  • Upholding the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy;
  • Protecting the human and civil rights of all children and youth, especially those from historically marginalized communities;
  • Developing and implementing policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and on sound educational research; and
  • Supporting and partnering with colleges and schools of education to advance these goals.

Test and Punish Travails

A new study by several prestigious research organizations finds that the $3.5 billion SIG program spent on “turnaround strategies” , a key “reform” idea sponsored by previous Sec’y of Education, had no effect.  https://www.mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/publications/SIG-Implementation-and-Effectiveness But within that report were some silver linings. Schools using a build and support approach improved.  Two studies from California show not only that schools improved student learning outcomes as a result of participating in the SIG program, but also some of the mechanisms by which this improvement occurred. In particular, rich data on SIG schools in one of the studies shows that schools improved both by differentially retaining their most experienced teachers and by providing teachers with increased supports for instructional improvement such as opportunities to visit each other’s classrooms and to receive meaningful feedback on their teaching practice from school leaders. https://www.brookings.edu/research/continued-support-for-improving-the-lowest-performing-schools/

Texas State School Grades Just Follow Socio-economics of Students. Diane Ravitch reports findings that Texas’  A-F report cards for schools are deficient and merely reflective of the socio-economics of students.  https://dianeravitch.net/2017/01/12/john-kuhn-the-great-hoax-of-texas-a-f-grades-for-school-districts/


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