Despite the increased focus on early literacy instruction sparked by No Child Left Behind, millions of adolescents still struggle with low literacy skills. In 2015, 66% of all eighth-grade students, 85% of Black students, and 79% of Hispanic students failed to perform proficiently in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Unless these students receive the intensive reading instruction they need in high school, their chances of graduating and securing gainful employment are slim to none. The Baltimore Curriculum Project and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy hosted an event recently to discuss the adolescent crisis in America. Panelists included: Dr. Elizabeth Birr Moje, Interim Dean, University of Michigan School of Education, Dr. Rhonda L. Richetta, Principal, City Springs Elementary/Middle School, Dr. Sonja B. Santelises, Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Dr. David M. Steiner, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy.
Education policymakers generally agree that student achievement matters for those students’ life trajectories and for long-term national prosperity. But how much does it matter? By which measure: NAEP, state assessments, or graduation rates? To which economic outcome: individual, state, or national productivity? Eric Hanushek and Henry Levin, distinguished economists, joined David Steiner for this discussion.
We explored this issue with leaders who brought quite different angles to the debate: research, policy, activism, and jurisprudence.
November 2, 2016
Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Dr. Lauren Wells
Professorial Lecturer, American University School of Education
Former Chief Education Officer, City of Newark
In conversation with
Dr. David Steiner
Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy
On June 4, 1991, the Minnesota legislature enacted the nation’s first charter school law, leading to the opening of the country’s first charter school one year later in St. Paul. Today, 43 states and the District of Columbia have charter laws in effect, and approximately 3 million children attend charter schools.
With the 25th anniversary of this educational landmark upon us, we joined the Hopkins-Hunter Forum for Education Policy for a conversation exploring the successes, challenges, and future of the charter school movement. This discussion was anchored on Chester E. Finn’s latest book, Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes and Possibilities, co-authored with Bruno V. Manno and Brandon L. Wright. As we imagine decisions and developments to come over the next 25 years, our guests explored controversial issues such as backfilling, special education, and English language learners within the charter framework, and address how policymakers might minimize the variability in charter schools’ quality and move beyond the “no excuses” model.
This event was sponsored by the Achelis & Bodman Foundation.
Johns Hopkins University celebrated the Coleman Report’s 50th anniversary by hosting a major conference The Coleman Report at Fifty: Its Relevance for Policy and Practice Today (October 5-6, 2016). The first day explored recent scholarship on poverty, the family effect, and public schools. The second day, which was run by our Institute, constituted a tough-minded look at policies that have changed the academic outcomes and life trajectories of our country’s disadvantaged students.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors:
Russell Sage Foundation
William T. Grant Foundation
The Academy at Johns Hopkins University
Session 1: Community and Schools
Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools
Associate Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
CEO, Public Prep
Moderator: Robert Pondiscio
Session 2: Challenging the Structures
Superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools
Executive Director, NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now
Managing Partner, Pastorek Partners LLC
Former Superintendent, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Moderator: David Steiner
Ron Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University
Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills, OCED
Our country spends more than $10 billion on K-12 education technology. What can we say with any confidence about the promise and possibilities of such investments? Are there clear conclusions to be drawn about what, where and when the use of technology is beneficial, and for which students? What are the key challenges to be met in maximizing the potential contribution of technology to raise students’ achievement overall and to accelerate the learning of our most underprivileged students? Our distinguished panel discussed these important questions.
Speakers: Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute; Jamie Stewart, Co-head of School and Lead Educator, AltSchool, Brooklyn Heights; Kevin Wenzel, Specialist, Blended Learning, Office of Teaching and Learning, District of Columbia Public Schools
The National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) assessments are regarded as the gold standard by which to evaluate the academic performance of America’s school system, by state and also within large cities. The results are sobering. In Baltimore, taking 4th grade mathematics as an example, only one in five students reached proficiency. The disparity between subgroups is more troubling still: 70% of white students, but only 16% of black students, were able to become proficient. Comparisons between cities are complicated by the fact that the NAEP data do not disaggregate between poverty and severe poverty sufficiently; free lunch and reduced lunch students, for example, are treated as the same category. But however we interpret the data, it is clear that urban school districts struggle to serve all students well.
How do those entrusted with addressing this immensely difficult challenge respond, and with what track record or expectations for success? Memphis, Newark and Detroit have pursued various structural strategies that include achievement school districts, direct state oversight, and mayoral control. On April 11th, we were joined by distinguished speakers who are on the front lines in these three districts and explored the political, operational, and fiscal challenges and advantages associated with the respective interventions. Our speakers were Chris Cerf, Superintendent,Newark Public Schools and former Commissioner of Education,New Jersey;Jamie Woodson,CEO, Tennessee Score and former Tennessee state legislator;Richard Tao,Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Detroit.The event was moderated by David Steiner,Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy
The K-12 population of the United States is becoming increasingly heterogeneous. One in six of our urban students is now an English Language Learner, and by 2022, the percentages of Hispanic and Asian students will have risen by 30% and 20%, respectively. With our attention so focused on urban school reforms, however, it is easy to forget that one quarter of all K-12 students attend rural schools, many of which are under-resourced and under-performing.
How should we prepare the next generation of teachers to support this complex and changing scenario effectively? What do we know about how teachers can maximize the learning of different student subgroups? What key pedagogical skills and content knowledge apply, regardless of students’ regional and demographic differences?
On March 21st, we addressed these critically important issues with experts whose daily professional work focuses on improving student outcomes in these different contexts.
On March 18th, the Hopkins-Hunter Forum for Education Policy sponsored a round table discussion on college and career readiness. This by-invitation-only working lunch was structured around the William T. Grant’s report, “The New Forgotten Half,” that analyzes America’s college completion gap, its causes, and potential solutions. The report’s author,Dr. James Rosenbaum,attended, as did Clara Botstein, the Associate Vice President of Bard’s early college high schools, and Florida’s former Commissioner of Education, Eric Smith, who instituted the state’s highly successful Advanced Placement programs. We were joined by university administrators, leaders from the State and City Departments of Education, and other key stakeholders.
On Janurary 27th, we were joined by: Francesca Gamber,Principal, Bard Early College High School/Baltimore; Sara Leven,Director, Chicago Public Schools International Baccalaureate Programs; Patrick Wolf, Distinguished Professor, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform; in conversation with Ashley Berner, Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy.
There is no dearth of suggestions about how to improve student achievement and narrow the achievement gaps in America’s urban school districts. What is the evidence that any of them works? By what margins? Under which circumstances? At what cost?
Our discussion revolved around three innovations that seem to improve student outcomes in our country’s urban districts: a rigorous academic curriculum, a well-designed system of choice, and the opportunity to earn a college degree while still in high school. Our expert panel talked us through the benefits and challenges of implementing each of these models.
On January 12th we discussed the findings of Intersecting Inequalities, the W.T. Grant Foundation’s report on the challenges faced by immigrant-origin children and youth. Our conversation focused on the educational needs of immigrant students, not only nationally, but in the local neighborhood context of East Harlem. The report’s lead authors, Hiro Yoshikawa (NYU) and Carol Suarez-Orozco (UCLA), summarized their key findings, Max Ahmed (Senior Education Advocacy Associate, Immigration Coalition) and Brian Collins (Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education, Hunter College School of Education) responded from Hunter’s depth of experience in the community. David Steiner, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, moderated the forum
On November 11th, we gathered for a public discussion of the PARCC and NAEP high school assessment results for Maryland and Baltimore. How does Maryland look in comparison with other states, and Baltimore with other urban districts? Are there distinctive patterns that emerge when we examine demographic subgroups? What might we learn from the way other cities and states are responding to the results? Dr. David Steiner, Director of the new Institute for Education Policy and former NY State Commissioner of Education chaired the conversation with leaders from the state and city. Our speakers included: Andy Smarick, Partner, Bellwether Education Partners, Member, Maryland State School Board; Shanaysha Sauls, CEO, Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, Former Member, Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners; Laura Slover, CEO, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in converstation with David Steiner, Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, Former Commissioner of Education, New York State
If comprehension and critical thinking were all-purpose, content-free skills – as many leaders and educators believe – then the actual content of the academic curriculum would not be important. But such skills – and many others – may depend upon deep knowledge, stored in long-term memory, rather than on the capacity to look things up. An increasing number of educators have come to believe that equal opportunity can only be achieved if all children are taught a sequenced, content-rich curriculum. What is the evidence for such a conviction?
On November 10th, the Hopkins-Hunter Forum for Education Policy and Core Knowledge gathered for a conversation assessing the role that a strong curriculum might play in narrowing the achievement gap. Our expert panelists included: David Coleman, President of the College Board; Michelle Allen, Icahn Charter School Principal; Valarie Lewis, Fellow, Core Knowledge and Former Principal, P.S. 124; and Ian Rowe, CEO of Public Prep.
A public event co-sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that explores the Jack Kent Cooke’s Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students. The Foundation’s report provides a state-by-state analysis of the income-based “excellence gap” and recommendations on how to close it. The report’s lead author, Jennifer Giancola, presented her key findings and recommendations. Amy Shelton, the Director of Research at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University, and Chester Finn, Distinguished Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, responded based upon their respective national and international research. David Steiner, Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, moderated the discussion.