Fordham’s new study, “The Power of Expectations in District and Charter Schools,” seeks to examine the role that high expectations should play in our nation’s academic recovery and supply deeper understanding of whether and how such expectations operate in the traditional public, charter, and private school sectors. It finds, among other things, that teacher expectations have a positive impact on long-run outcomes and that expectations tend to be higher in charter schools.
Among the most pernicious consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic was a general lowering of expectations for students. Many districts simply stopped tracking attendance during the shift to remote learning. Others softened their grading policies—or eliminated letter grades altogether. Some teachers moved away from assigning homework on grounds that students were already home and probably spending too much time on screens.
Perhaps it’s unfair to second-guess those pandemic-induced changes (though not nearly as unfair as the generation-hobbling decision to shutter so many schools for so long, despite ample evidence that it was possible to reopen safely). But if we’re serious about getting our students back on track, we must be even more serious about getting our expectations for them back on track. Muttering the phrase “high expectations for all students” just doesn’t cut it.
With the Covid crisis mostly behind us, at least for now, public conversation has turned to the millions of students who are still struggling academically and emotionally—and to how our schools ought to respond. Though bits of progress can be seen here and there, pandemic-related learning loss remains a disaster that has disproportionately affected poor and historically marginalized students. According to the latest NAEP results, U.S. students have lost the equivalent of twenty years of progress in math and reading. And those are just the academic costs: Nine out of ten schools report that the pandemic has also impeded students’ socioemotional development.
How education leaders respond to this moment will determine in large part whether students recover or continue this damaging slide. For example, some states have already chosen to rescind their “third-grade reading guarantees” and pass nonreaders along to fourth grade. And in some places, no-grading policies are still in effect. Even some postsecondary institutions are now proposing to help students “adapt to college” by foregoing grades in the freshmen year. “It’s not the kids’ fault that they’re behind,” goes the thinking, “so we need to adjust our expectations.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Numerous scholars have identified a culture of high expectations as an important correlate of impactful teaching and better outcomes. For example, one recent study found that high expectations boosted fourth through eighth graders’ test scores, and a recent Fordham-commissioned study detected lasting benefits for students whose teachers were tougher graders. Rosenthal and Jacobson’s famous study of “Pygmalion in the classroom,” which found that randomly selected students did better when their teachers were told they were talented, has now been cited more than ten thousand times (though efforts to replicate it have yielded mixed results).
Although many schools say they want their students to reach for the stars, high expectations are an especially prominent feature of successful charter schools, notably those of the “no-excuses” variety. Still, because these schools and networks are also known for things like longer school days, intensive tutoring, strict codes of conduct, and any number of other features, it’s not clear how much of their success is attributable to higher expectations per se.
Accordingly, our new study, The Power of Expectations in District and Charter Schools, seeks to understand better the role that high expectations should play in our academic recovery and gain a deeper understanding of whether and how they operate in the traditional public, charter, and private school sectors. To conduct it, we reached out once again to Professor Seth Gershenson of American University, who is well known for his work on teacher expectations. Using federal data from two nationally representative surveys, Dr. Gershenson explored the links between high school teachers’ expectations of their students (in particular, their expectations regarding college completion), students’ perceptions of their teachers’ expectations, and students’ long-term outcomes.
Here’s what he found:
- In general, teachers in charter and private high schools are more likely to believe that their students will complete four-year college degrees.
- In hindsight, teachers in charter and private schools were also more likely to overestimate students’ actual degree attainment.
- In general, students in charter and private schools are more likely to believe that their teachers think “all students can be successful.”
- Regardless of sector, teacher expectations have a positive impact on long-run outcomes, including boosting the odds of college completion and reducing the chances of teen childbearing and receipt of public assistance.
In our view, these findings have at least three implications for policy and practice.
1. All students need teachers who expect great things of them—and behave accordingly.
Like previous research, this study suggests that low expectations can be harmful, both because of what they imply about the level of instruction that students are likely to receive and because some students may internalize them. And of course, this concern is particularly acute when it comes to students of color, many of whom are still victims of “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” with predictable results.
Ultimately, teachers bear primary responsibility for the standards they set. But a common curriculum that embeds high expectations can help, and because it can be hard to know what “high expectations” look like in a vacuum, some schools may need to provide relevant professional development, in addition to being clear with staff about expectations for things like grading standards and homework loads. The more clearly teachers can see what their exemplary peers consider “high expectations,” the more likely they are to raise their own game.
2. More families should have the option of enrolling their children in charter and private schools where high expectations are a core principle.
As this study underscores, most successful charter schools take high expectations seriously. And when choosing a school, most parents consider whether it will see their child’s potential. The benefits of such an environment are real, so giving more parents more high-quality choices should not be controversial.
Imagine, for a moment, that the teachers of a child you cared for didn’t believe in their gut that he or she was “college material” or were otherwise skeptical of his or her potential.
Wouldn’t you be looking for an alternative? Shouldn’t it be your right to demand one?
3. Above all, schools shouldn’t use students’ continuing challenges as justification for lowering expectations in the wake of the pandemic.
As policymakers and other stakeholders come to grips with the staggering educational and social costs of protracted school closures, the importance of setting and maintaining high expectations for students has never been clearer. Thankfully, all schools have now reopened their doors, which means that an educational recovery is at least theoretically possible. Yet every day, it seems, there are fresh reports of inane “no-homework” policies, student-initiated “mental-health days,” or other misguided attempts to address young people’s lingering anger and despair.
Yes, many students are behind or suffering because of circumstances beyond their control. But no, the solution isn’t to expect any less of them.
How could it be?
As the Supreme Court weighs the future of race-sensitive affirmative action in admitting students to selective colleges, all manner of ideas are popping up for how to achieve “diversity” in the entering class without explicitly counting by race.
Yes, there’s much to be said for diversity of all sorts, both for the sake of students who benefit from it—future opportunities opened, chances to work and play with people unlike oneself, etc.—and for the benefit of the country’s future, as we are surely better off if those who will play leading roles in myriad fields don’t all look (and think) alike.
Don’t skip the thinking alike part. That’s also diversity. Much of the point of going to college is to grapple with ideas, attitudes, opinions, and experiences very different from one’s own. That’s lost when even a rainbow of different-looking students all share—or are pushed to share—the same views, whether the topic is climate change, Shakespeare’s sonnets, civil rights, or microbiology.
But that’s not what the Court is grappling with this term. The hot challenge is racial diversity and by what criteria to ration and allocate access to the scarce—too scarce, say I—good known as elite college educations.
Much the same issue, it must be noted, besets selective-entry programs and institutions at the K–12 level. Hence all the furor over admission to places like Bronx Science, Lowell High School, Boston Latin, and Thomas Jefferson.
Recall that, once upon a time, “objective” tests such as SAT and ACT were invented in order to diversify enrollments in elite colleges by creating a common metric that admissions offices at Princeton and Yale and Amherst and such could use to evaluate the preparation, ability, and readiness of kids from Podunk High School in Peoria or Caspar alongside those from Scarsdale, Newton, and Andover. But such “objective” measures are falling out of favor, both because such scores reveal only one side of a candidate’s qualities and characteristics and because an admission system based on them (obviously) ends up favoring high scorers, an awful lot of whom turn out to be Asian and White.
Let’s stop right here and ding the K–12 system for its failure to alter that condition, and not just take it as a permanent given. If our elementary and secondary schools were better at helping poor and Black and Hispanic kids achieve at high levels, diversity and discrimination in college admissions would not be so at odds. But that would mean a full court press on closing the excellence gap, starting in kindergarten, if not before.
Absent such gold-ribbon equalizing of opportunity, the chief alternative to test-score-centric admissions is commonly called “holistic admissions.” But that turns out to be about as precise an idea as the proverbial blind men’s elephant.
Here’s a not-bad version from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, one that also takes account of the present legal status of this practice:
Holistic review is a university admissions strategy that assesses an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores. It is designed to help universities consider a broad range of factors reflecting the applicant’s academic readiness, contribution to the incoming class, and potential for success both in school and later as a professional. Holistic review, when used in combination with a variety of other mission-based practices, constitutes a “holistic admission” process.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court officially described the strategy as a “highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant’s file, giving serious consideration to all the ways an applicant might contribute to a diverse educational environment”....
The desired outcomes of a holistic admission process will vary depending on each institution’s mission and goals. However, one core goal of a holistic process is the assembly of a diverse student body—diverse not only in race, ethnicity, and gender, but also in experience, socioeconomic status, and perspective. A key tenet of holistic review is the recognition that a diverse learning environment benefits all students and provides teaching and learning opportunities that more homogenous environments do not.
Note that this version retains “traditional measures” such as test scores and grades, while adding a bunch of other considerations. One might say it’s meant to be both objective and subjective, though in an era of grade inflation and test-coaching, it’s hard to be certain whether what appears to be objective really is.
Other versions of holistic admission try to avoid test scores and GPAs altogether and instead rely entirely on essays, interviews, questionnaires, recommendations, and other personalized (and inherently subjective) elements of an applicant’s file. This ability to look at someone’s background, life experiences, socio-economic circumstances, and the demographics of his or her community or present school enables admissions staffers to—one might say—curate the entering class to align with the institution’s sense of its mission and values.
Lots of educational institutions, particularly in the private sector, have long engaged in a form of holistic review combined with “traditional” measures. Which is to say, they use a well-calibrated scale but then put their thumbs and fingers and pogo sticks and free weights all over it. Thus we have preferences of all sorts, such as the children of alumni, major donors, and faculty members, and we also find the kind of hand-crafting that ensures there will be a bassoon player for the orchestra, a right tackle for the football team, an editor for the college paper—and enough classics concentrators to justify continuing to pay those professors of Latin and Greek.
These have long been viewed as standard practices in college admissions. So, too, has been the use of “objective” factors to shrink the pool so that the “holistic” part can be applied to, say, 5,000 candidates rather than 50,000. (For as long as I can remember, most medical schools used cut scores on the MCAT test to whittle down the applicant population to a manageable number to put through the interview-and-references process.)
Creating a cut-off based on test scores has definite advantages. It’s vastly less expensive, and in key respects, it’s less corruptible and vulnerable to favoritism and influence-peddling. When Senator so-and-so calls the principal of Stuyvesant High School to ask why his niece wasn’t admitted, the straightforward answer is “Sorry, Senator, she didn’t make the cut-score on the test that all the applicants took.” (But of course, it’s corruptible in another way, as some kids who did make the cut-score benefited from tutoring, cramming, boot camps, and other advantages arranged and paid for by their striving and probably prosperous parents.)
Nowadays, however, the biggest issue with the traditional “objective” measures of readiness for elite schools and colleges is that they don’t yield a suitably “diverse” entering class. We’re mostly talking race here, and that’s the hottest-button issue and greatest constitutional entanglement, though it might also entail religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, geography, poverty, and other attributes of “diversity.” Yet all such balancing acts entail both winners and losers because, once again, we’re talking about the rationing of a scarce and highly-valued good. And when public institutions (and to a less extent private ones) are involved, we run into all manner of categories that are legally not to be discriminated again.
So we value both diversity and non-discrimination. But in the end, they’re mutually contradictory. You simply cannot satisfy both.
In an angry Sunday column, George Will had this to say about the current legal situation:
In two 2003 cases from the University of Michigan, the court ruled against the undergraduate admission policy of adding 20 points to each Black applicant’s admissions index (the equivalent of adding a full letter grade to the Black applicant’s record). But the court upheld the law school’s practice, which avoided such inconvenient explicitness: The law school considered race as part of what the court called a “holistic” evaluation of applicants. The court thereby endorsed a vocabulary that can nullify the legal consequences of any ruling against racial preferences. Preferences continue if the sordidness is obscured by a semantic fog.
To me, holistic admissions is more than fog, more than lipstick on a discriminatory pig. Properly done, it enables the admissions team not just to curate the entering class that their institution seeks, but also to, as the term implies, look at the “whole” applicant. Much as summative testing by schools and states (and NAEP) does tell us a lot about academic achievement, it tells us nothing about students’ creativity, stick-to-ive-ness, passion, aspirations, integrity, or circumstances.
Yet holistic admissions can indeed be a fog to shield discriminatory practices from view, from comment, and from corrective action. It gets extremely expensive if the admissions team is serious about looking closely at thick folders or computer files on tens of thousands of candidates. And it is indeed corruptible, wide open to favoritism, influence-peddling, and other practices as unsavory as discrimination.
Is there an alternative? In a fascinating Washington Post op-ed, Harvard economist Roland Fryer describes his own painful path from tough circumstances to tenure, remarkable achievement and wide acclaim. He pooh-poohs “affirmative action” as commonly practiced by elite institutions because it ends up admitting mostly well-to-do Black and Hispanic candidates, not those who are truly disadvantaged (as he had been). But he insists that a different version of it might achieve the desired purpose. Instead of relying on racial quotes and human judgments, he would entrust the review of applicants to sophisticated algorithms attached to artificial intelligence:
A machine-learning model would be fed historical admissions data, including candidates’ family background and academic achievement, and noncognitive skills such as grit and resilience, along with outcomes of past admission decisions. It would use these data to predict new applicants’ performance—as defined by each institution, such as college grade-point average or income ten years after graduation. The model could figure out which characteristics best predict performance for various subgroups—for example, how salient SAT scores are for public-school Black students raised in the South by single mothers versus private-school White kids from the Northeast. If we use only unadjusted test scores, all that context is lost.
Worth trying? Perhaps. It would surely create unemployment among today’s admissions officers. It would introduce another kind of objectivity—maybe best termed faux objectivity—into the process by subjecting everyone to the same algorithms, but of course those would be algorithms with all sorts of preferences built into them. It would also surely become more difficult to persuade judges that they are or aren’t discriminatory. In the end, such determinations would have to be based on the resulting statistics, not the selection process itself, and that (to my discomfort) smacks of “disparate impact” analysis rather than discrimination against actual human beings.
I don’t envy the nine justices on this one (eight in the Harvard case, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is recused due to having been a former Overseer there).
It makes good sense for the federal government to provide grants to high-quality public charter schools seeking to open or expand. That’s the gist of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last month.
A GAO analysis of U.S. Department of Education (ED) charter school grants from 2006 to 2020 found that while few charter schools close overall, charter schools that received federal Charter School Program (CSP) awards were more likely to succeed than similarly situated charter schools that did not receive an award. Regardless of a school’s grade level, locale, or student body racial, ethnic, and poverty percentages, CSP schools are one-and-a-half times more likely to remain in operation five years after opening. The GAO concluded that, even after twelve years, the pattern of CSP-seeded schools remaining open and educating students generally held.
President Clinton in 1994 used his bully pulpit to convince Congress to pass the CSP. ED has since awarded billions in competitive grants to help applicants open new charter schools or replicate and expand high-quality charter schools. As the only source of federal funds available to public charters, the CSP is critically important. While taxes generally underwrite traditional school construction, charters must supply their own facilities. Without CSP grants, nearly a generation of kids wouldn’t have benefitted from thousands of tuition-free, locally accountable school options.
Because the CSP is so vital to the health of the public charter school sector, it is a favorite scapegoat for anti-reformers invested in monolithic, government school districts. For example, a recent headline blared, “Audit of charter school program finds big problems.” Another read, “Audit finds waste, fraud, and abuse.”
In fairness, ED’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) did release an audit last month that suggested corrective actions to CSP administrators, but the hyperbole is overblown. Unlike the GAO, which examined fifteen years of data, OIG looked only at grants disbursed from 2013 to 2016. OIG found that of the 719 schools opened during the audit period that had been in operation for two or more years, 91 percent remained open at least two years after CSP support ended—indicating that the schools were self-sufficient and the federal seed money had achieved its purpose. But OIG faulted the department for failing to do that tracking on its own volition. CSP officers pushed back, noting that neither Congress nor the department’s rules order them to do so.
The OIG also criticized the program because CSP grants had opened fewer schools than some grantees had promised on their applications. Again, the department pushed back, noting that OIG ignored that many applicants amend their goals when confronted with local realities, like charter school caps or local political resistance.
The same folks creating political resistance on the ground seized on this OIG finding to baselessly accuse grantees of diverting, wasting, or profiting from federal dollars, instead of building schools. The GAO report dispels this rhetoric, as well. According to state education agency (SEA) officials GAO interviewed, SEAs recover CSP funds, reallocate funds to future charter schools, and redistribute purchases made to other charter schools.
GAO likely interviewed SEAs during its ten-month investigation because SEAs receive the lion’s share of CSP dollars. While detractors consistently characterize public charters as “corporate privateers” making off with public dollars, from 2006 to 2020, SEAs received $1.9 billion of $2.5 billion in CSP grants.
Yet, according to the OIG, SEAs are the slowest to open CSP supported schools. From 2013 to 2016, SEAs committed to 1,076 new charter schools but opened just 477. On the other hand, during the same period, charter school developers—individuals or a group in the community in which a charter school project will be carried out—won just forty-two grants but managed to open thirty-eight schools, for a 90 percent success rate.
This gives credence to the argument that the CSP should be more generous with its grants to small, community-based applicants—many of which seek to open a school to serve targeted populations of students perennially failed by traditional systems. The GAO determined that charter schools that received CSP awards were more likely to be located in rural or urban areas, and had higher proportions of Black or Hispanic students and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. If local community members are more adept at opening charters to serve them, ED should prioritize that going forward.
The GAO serves as the investigative arm to Congress, where some lawmakers seek to slash the CSP budget each year. Its stated purpose for conducting a nearly year-long, longitudinal, multivariate analysis was to answer questions “raised about the effectiveness of CSP grants.” The resulting data showing that public charter schools are one-and-a-half times more likely to gain their footing and remain in the business of educating poorer, mostly Black and brown children should be all of the evidence Congress and anti-reformers need to retire the CSP as a political football once and for all.
Editor’s note: This was first published in The Hill.
The grouping of students into smaller, more homogeneous cohorts is a widespread instructional strategy utilized in elementary classrooms across the country. It is intended to boost the academic outcomes of all students through instruction targeted at an appropriate level, be that remedial or advanced or somewhere in between. As a research paper recently published in Educational Practice and Theory demonstrates, the manner in which groups are formed and the selection criteria for them has the potential to impact outcomes almost as much as the instruction given to them. The researchers posit that Instructional Grouping Theory (IGT) can optimize the grouping process for maximum student benefit and set out to prove it.
Maximization via IGT requires that students are ranked based on a particular attribute or set of attributes prior to grouping—specifically, facets closely related to the outcome desired. For elementary school students learning to read, for example, the easiest options would be prior grade performance and/or standardized test scores. Accurate and consistent measurement metrics matter, as well.
To create a mathematical version of how grouping works in a teaching context, the researchers assume a simply-scaled single attribute measurable for all individuals. We can call it prior test score or reading level or whatever. They also utilize a number of assumptions, including a set of twenty individuals to be broken into two smaller groups of equal size, an even attribute gap of 1 point between each ranked individual (e.g., the lowest-ranked individual has an attribute skill level of 1, the highest-ranked individual has a skill level of 20, and all others in between are separated from each other by just one point), an optimal learning environment is one in which individuals are taught at a level as close as possible to their skill level, an optimized grouping system is that which maximizes the collective benefit for all students, etc. Some of these assumptions appear geared mainly for simplicity of calculation rather than to try and reflect any part of real life in mathematical form. Seriously, why not a bell curve for skill distribution?
They first run their model for a cross-sectional grouping, in which the resulting groups are equal in the attribute of interest but contain both high-ranked and low-ranked individuals. That is, Group 1 comprises those individuals ranked 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 in, say, prior test scores, and Group 2 comprises those ranked 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20. Thus while each group has the same combined rankings, there is a wide gap between the top and bottom performers in each. Even by setting a similar instructional level for each group at the mean attribute ranking of 10, the result is that half of each group would be instructed at a level above their demonstrated skill level and half would be instructed below their skill level. Those at the top and bottom of the ranking in each group would receive instruction nine levels away from their skill level. The teaching level can be adjusted up or down, of course, but to do so in this scenario would mean that more than half of the members of each group would be either lost or bored during instruction, depending upon which end of the spectrum you chose to focus, and that the distance between the instructor’s level the student at the farthest end of the skill distribution would be even larger than before.
Next the researchers run the model for a like-skilled grouping, in which Group 1 comprises the bottom half of the attribute ranking (1–10) and Group 2 the top half of the ranking (11–20). While the two groups are not equal to each other in terms of prior test scores (or reading level or whatever attribute is germane to the outcome), the gap between the top- and bottom-ranked individuals in each group is the same and is smaller than the gaps in the cross-sectional groups. Each of the like-skilled groups have a different mean attribute level, but setting the instruction level to the respective mean in either group results in a maximum gap between instruction and skill of 8.25. Changing the skill level in this model results in a similar dilemma as in the previous model.
Changing the model to create four equal groups rather than two reduces all measured gaps between instruction and student skill level in both types of grouping. However, the gaps are still smallest in the like-skilled grouping example.
In the end, the researchers cleanly streamline what with humans is an often messy grouping process that contains the possibility of extraneous and irrelevant attributes creeping in. Additionally, individual students will not line up in neat single-digit rankings. That being said, the theory is sound and the math doesn’t lie. If ability grouping is meant to boost all individuals toward higher outcomes, smaller groups of similarly-skilled individuals maximize whatever benefits grouping provides and run less risk of negative impacts through excessive over- or under-teaching.
SOURCE: Peter D. Wiens, Christine Zizzi, and Chad Heatwole, “Instructional Grouping Theory: Optimizing Classrooms and the Placement of Ranked Students,” Educational Practice and Theory (October 2022).
When and why families stop using school choice programs might be just as important to understand as why they opt into them in the first place. While supporters and researchers typically focus on issues of school quality, educational fit, and student needs, new data from Michigan suggest there is much more at play. Access to educational options is meant to decouple schooling from zip code, but utilizing those choices year after year—even free public options—often requires sacrifices of time and money from families. Residential moves and changing commute times add another set of variables to an already complicated equation.
Researchers Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen examine the relationships between residential mobility and the use of charter schools and inter-district choice. They track a cohort of over 75,000 Michigan students who began kindergarten in 2012–13, had a normal grade progression (no retention or skipped grades), and were present in the data for all years through fifth grade. Only students who attended general education, public, brick-and-mortar schools were included.
Students are compared to one another in three groups: those attending a charter school, those utilizing inter-district choice, and those attending a school in their district of residence (called “resident students”). Overall, a higher percentage of students using both charters and inter-district choice programs come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have lower average achievement compared to resident students. A higher percentage of inter-district choice students live in rural areas, whereas the majority of charter school students live in cities, have low levels of achievement, and are Black and economically disadvantaged.
Absent data on the relative quality of assigned schools versus chosen schools, Edwards and Cowen track students’ school choice utilization over each of the six years along with their residential moves during the same period and find some interesting connections. Almost half of all students observed in kindergarten moved at least once before the end of fifth grade. Of those using inter-district choice, 49 percent moved at least once; 75 percent of those movers ended up exiting inter-district choice by the end of fifth grade, as did 13 percent of non-movers. Fifty-six percent of students who began in charter schools moved at least once; 55 percent of those movers exited charter schools, as did 27 percent of non-movers. By comparison, a slightly smaller number of kindergarten resident students (43 percent) moved at least once in the same period. Edwards and Cowen focus mainly on school choice exiters throughout, but it feels important to note that 15 percent of resident students who move after kindergarten opt into one of the two choice camps when they do. More on this below.
Distance between home and school also appear linked with exits from choice, with five minutes of driving time being a strong dividing line. The farther from home a choice school was in kindergarten, especially over the five-minute line, the more likely a family was to exit that choice program at some point in the next six years. This observation was more pronounced in inter-district choice than in charter families. Research shows families will travel far for a good choice, but that there is a limit beyond which quality must take a backseat.
Interestingly, nearly half of families who exited inter-district choice did so by moving into the district where they had chosen to enroll, allowing their children to become resident students there. A further 28 percent of inter-district exiters moved into a third district to become residents there. Additionally, 37 percent of students who exited resident student status remained in their original school after moving to another district, thereby becoming “school choice” families due to the need to move rather than in an effort to find a better school.
What does all this mean? At base, it means that school choice programs are not just about school quality or fit. The best laid educational plans of families can go astray for many non-educational reasons. Nearly half of all the Michigan families in the study were mobile between 2012 and 2018, likely for understandable and pragmatic reasons such as finding more affordable rent, moving closer to family or employment, living in a safer area, needing a larger house or apartment, etc. If you’ve organized your family life around a school of choice and that life is uprooted, sometimes even the best school becomes untenable and the search must begin again among a new set of options.
But largely unexplored here is the fact that school choice can also help mobile families. Moving across district boundaries but using inter-district choice to keep kids in the same school is one such positive aspect; virtual schools (not included in Edwards and Cowen’s analysis at all) fully and completely decouple address from school enrollment. Gamechanger. Unlike Ohio, Michigan doesn’t have vouchers to expand lower-cost options or state-mandated busing to help kids to get to school. But that is not to say that the info presented here is not worth reading. Those who support school choice would do well to acknowledge the intersecting family needs illuminated by this report. But one can only imagine what the same research would reveal in the Buckeye State!
SOURCE: Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen, “The Roles of Residential Mobility and Distance in Participation in Public School Choice,” National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (October 2022).
- A partnership of several research organizations has announced a $31 million initiative to study the effectiveness of thirty-one tutoring programs across the nation. —Chalkbeat
- Some teachers are rebelling against lowered expectations for students by refusing to grade by the “50 percent rule.” —Jay Mathews
- The performance of Catholic schools during the pandemic offers us a bright spot amid the bleary 2022 NAEP results. —Kathleen Porter-Magee
- In the wake of dismal NAEP scores, a staff writer for the New Yorker thinks parental anxiety is a problem, when the real problem is that most parents think everything is fine. —Jay Caspian Kang
- The gender achievement gap—which persists from the elementary grades through graduate school—reminds us about how poorly our schools serve boys. —Kay S. Hymowitz
- Several studies show a strong connection between school closures, remote learning, and learning loss, making clear that shutting down schools was a failed policy. —Atlantic
- A review of gubernatorial campaign websites shows that Democratic candidates are focusing on school funding and early childhood education, Republican candidates are focusing on school choice and parents’ rights, and that both support Career and Technical Education. —Andy Smarick
- In the lead up to the midterm elections, the political party Americans trust most on education issues is a toss-up between Democrats and Republicans. —Nat Malkus
On this week’s Education Gadfly Show podcast, Mike Petrilli and David Griffith are joined by Seth Gershenson—professor at the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University and the author of Fordham’s new report, High Expectations in District and Charter Schools—to discuss its findings and why high teacher expectations translate into better outcomes for kids. Then, on the Research Minute, Amber Northern reviews a study that examines teachers’ contributions to school climate and how it varies by student race and ethnicity.
- Fordham’s new study by Seth Gershenson: “High Expectations in District and Charter Schools.”
- The study that Amber reviewed on the Research Minute: Benjamin Backes et al., Teachers and School Climate: Effects on Student Outcomes and Academic Disparities, CALDER Working Paper (October 2022).