Five First Steps for States Tackling Inequitable Access

As many new governors and state school officers prepare to take the helm in 2015, state leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to lay out a bold vision for ensuring that all students – regardless of zip code and background – have equitable access to great teachers and leaders. Today, the Department of Education released Frequently Asked Questions about requirements states must follow to submit formal plans for solving this enduring problem. This is not the first time states have been asked to address “equitable distribution,” but research shows that equity gaps still persist.

Time for a Reality Check with Your College-Bound Teen

This blog post is based on an Oct. 14 AIR response to a National Journal Education Insiders blog.

Of all the talks that parents should have with their children, a frank conversation about college costs and debt should be the least uncomfortable. But after years of dropping not-so-subtle hints about college’s importance, many parents are hesitant to admit they didn’t mean “any” college—they meant an affordable one.

Forging the Fragile Teaching Link

Education reforms, an unstoppable phenomenon of the elementary and secondary education world, invariably come with strengths and weaknesses. Too often, those strengths are undermined and weaknesses accentuated by cracks in the teaching link of the chain that pulls successful learning.

I saw that link snap too often in my experience as a secondary math teacher and department chair in California and in my many years since researching math teaching and learning.

Parent Engagement Is the Real Key to Meaningful School Satisfaction

A recent Gallup poll asked parents if they were satisfied with the education their children were receiving.  Seventy-five percent were “completely or somewhat satisfied.” That’s up eight percentage points from the 15-year low hit in 2013, which is reason to cheer.

But as someone who has specialized in school improvement work for nearly 20 years, I see a more fundamental and more complex question that parents should answer:  Are you willing to become engaged with your child’s school community?  Particularly in our lowest-performing schools, parent engagement is critical.

Associate's Degrees — The Next Big Thing?

Associate’s degrees may be the next big thing. Already, they are the nation’s second most commonly granted degree after the bachelor’s—and the number of associate’s degrees granted is increasing faster than the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded.  Many students who don’t have the money, time or inclination to pursue a bachelor’s degree are looking at the associate’s degree as a way into the labor market. And, if they make good choices about where to go and what to study, their decision may prove wise. If they don’t, the associate’s degree may be their next big disappointment.

It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Attract Talent Into the Teaching Profession. Nope, That’s Not What Evidence Suggests.

Buried in a recent New York Times article on the major gender imbalance in the teacher workforce is the notion that adopting academic standards and increasing pressure on teachers has made it more difficult to attract academically talented people into teaching. Meanwhile, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten goes on record saying that teaching is “harder now than ever before, with less and less respect.” The view that teaching’s curb appeal isn’t what it used to be is widely shared, but is it right?

Proficient in One State May Not Mean Proficient in Another (Never Mind the Global Economy)

As public debate over the use of Common Core standards in U.S. schools gathers steam, parents and policymakers need to know more about current proficiency standards for reading, mathematics, and science – and brace for some surprises. 

These standards, used by states to measure student progress, vary widely – with the gap between states with the highest and lowest standards amounting to several grade levels. In most states with high pass rates, low expectations are to blame.

2014 ACT Reports: Mismatch Between College Aspiration and Preparation

Only about half of the nation’s college students earn a “four-year” bachelor’s degree within six years. This personal defeat for the many students who fail to graduate is a double whammy since so many also take out student loans without ever reaping the financial rewards that go along with graduating. Given persistent failure rates and mounting student debt, how prepared students are to enter and succeed in college is suddenly everyone’s business.

Money Matters: Financial Literacy of U.S. Teenagers

This is the first of two posts about U.S. teens’ results on a recent international assessment of financial literacy.

The first international survey of 15-year-olds’ financial literacy, released last month, revealed that U.S. teenagers score on a par with teens around the world. But among U.S. 15-year-olds, regardless of socioeconomic status, teenagers who had a bank account and a pre-paid debit card had higher financial literacy scores than those who had neither.