October 2010

Building castles in the air: Visionary leadership

It’s hard to read Henry David Thoreau these days — almost 150 years after his death — and not think, “How quaint! How clichéd!” It’s equally hard to remember that Thoreau’s insights weren’t considered clichés when he wrote them. Clichés are a bit like retired professional athletes — spectacular at first sight, and really good […]

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The ‘expectations gap’ is wider than the achievement gap

The Common Core State Standards, which so far have been adopted by 37 states and the District of Columbia, may seem like a good idea, but new tough standards won’t mean much if students in some states are only expected to learn 30 percent of the material, while students in other states are required to […]

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Education research vs. education policy

The debate about how (or whether) to consider student achievement when evaluating teacher performance appears to put policy makers and some of the leading scholars in the field on a collision course. As the matter of whether New York City should release the ratings of 12,000 teachers based on their students’ test scores goes before […]

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School Pride gives hope — and mixed messages

It’s a familiar argument by leading education reformers: school improvement isn’t about the bricks and mortar, it’s about the people in the classroom. NBC’s School Pride takes an entirely different approach, though. The new reality makeover show features a comedian, journalist, SWAT commander and former Miss USA as they head to schools that are falling […]

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Gwinnett County, a model for the nation to follow?

Georgia, as a second-round winner in President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition, was already getting some attention for its ideas on education reform. For one thing, it’s among the few states that participated in the competition that plans to use some of its funding to pay for early education initiatives. Today, the state […]

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Are charters holding students back at high rates and, if so, how might that affect their outcomes?

In an article published in the November 2010 issue of The American Prospect, The Hechinger Report takes a look at whether charter schools tend to hold students back more often than regular public schools do, and what that might mean for student outcomes. The research on retaining students – particularly if they’re older – has […]

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We need fewer, not more, college grads? Really?

One surefire way to get people’s attention is to say the exact opposite of what everyone else is saying — to claim that conventional wisdom is wrong. And sometimes, of course, conventional wisdom is wrong. This was one of the themes of Freakonomics, the hugely popular book by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt that went […]

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Education insiders: No lasting impact of Waiting for “Superman”

In a segment called “Waiting for Superman: Fact or Fiction?” on the BAM! Radio Network this Monday, education historian Diane Ravitch and four members of the media (including yours truly) discussed Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for “Superman.” Our host, Errol St. Clair Smith, wanted to know whether we thought the film would lead to […]

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Venture capital for digital learning and technology

In a conference call with reporters today, Bill Gates announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will put up an initial $20 million to help colleges, non-profits, entrepreneurs and others to come up with new ways of using digital media in postsecondary education. (The Gates Foundation is one of the supporters of The Hechinger […]

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Seventy-five to a class — and proud of it!

“Average class size” – most of the time, it’s a statistic that schools with small classes eagerly advertise and schools with large classes bemoan, using the number as evidence that a given school system needs more money. One middle school in Houston is bucking the trend, though. Average class size there is 75 students. And […]

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