Knowledge Needs Champions

Harriet Tubman will grace the front of our $20 bill—a long overdue tribute to a woman who lived up to the best of American values. But do most Americans know who she was? Anecdotal evidence and test scores indicate that they don’t.

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Differentiation’s Dirty Little Secret

I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary schools lately, and I’ve noticed a dangerous pattern: instruction that’s called “differentiated” but looks an awful lot like tracking. To varying degrees, I’ve seen it in high- and low-scoring schools, some using Core Knowledge, some not. Here’s a typical scenario (abstracted from my admittedly limited experience). The whole…

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Dear Chiefs: This Is Your Chance to Close the Reading Achievement Gap

Assuming all goes as planned, we should have a new federal education law by the end of the year. Dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would greatly increase states’ options for evaluating schools and teachers. As this ESSA cheat sheet explains: States would still have…

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The High-Tech Road to Literacy

Every time I see a toddler with an iPad, I cringe just a little. I try to hide it. I know I’m supposed to be amazed at the little genius. I also know that the device could be useful, especially as the toddler becomes a preschooler and starts learning letters and numbers. Still, beyond a…

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The Triumph of Training over Education

Not all that long ago, college followed a predictable pattern: two years of general education requirements followed by two years of courses in the chosen major. No longer. As this review of course requirements shows, even some of the liberal arts colleges have minimized requirements outside the major. Of all the potential causes for the…

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Stop Reforming, Start Improving

This post first appeared on The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog. “Programmatic series of studies”—that’s how one of my psychology professors described research on learning and memory around twenty years ago. Do a study, tweak it, try again. Persist. I was reminded of that while reading Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get…

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Mississippi: Common Core Lite

Mississippi is a little more than half way through a public comment period on the 2014 Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards for English Language Arts—a document that is co-branded with the Common Core and Mississippi Department of Education logos on every page. The Common Core squabbles in Mississippi became interesting last week when a…

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Math and Science Increase Wages–Even Without College

In my last post, I mentioned a couple of reports showing huge disparities in the courses offered by high schools, with especially serious problems in access to advanced math, chemistry, and physics. I think such inequities are an embarrassment to the very idea of America. But I’ve met people who disagree. They see alternative courses…

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The (Knowledge) Rich Get Richer

If I could accomplish just one thing in my career, it would be to have all leaders take equalizing opportunity to learn seriously. If knowledge equality were a top priority, much would change from early childhood through college. One thing that would no longer be tolerated is denying access to essential courses. According to a…

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Seeking Confirmation

Of all the problems with school reform, one of the biggest seems to be the tendency to seek bits of evidence that confirm preconceived notions. Silver bullets, tunnel vision, blind faith—call it whatever you want—somehow, those of us interested in school improvement have to stop searching for THE change. There is no one change that…

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