Readings & Reports

From charter schools to writing instruction

Charters don’t impact achievement

A new RAND study examining charter schools in Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee, and the states of Ohio, Texas, and Florida is the first to use longitudinal, student-level data to systematically examine charter schools and achievement across multiple communities and varied charter laws. Among its findings: Across locations, there is little evidence that charter schools are producing, on average, achievement impacts that differ substantially from those of traditional public schools. But the evidence is incomplete, because the performance of charter elementary schools—which constitute a substantial proportion of all charter schools—cannot be easily assessed.

Growth model pitfalls

Growth models may be a component of the reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act. While growth models can help develop better school accountability systems, there are important issues that state and federal policymakers should be aware of as they consider expanding their use, argues accountability expert Charles Barone in an Education Sector Technical Report, Are We There Yet? What Policymakers Can Learn From Tennessee’s Growth Model. Barone examines the Tennessee growth model in detail, identifying both the advantages and potential downsides of the system.

International test flaws
A report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution finds serious flaws in a prominent international test and concludes that the test should not be used as a benchmark for state assessments. The 2008 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning? looks at the international testing program known as PISA, short for the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Muslim student tolerance curriculum
Teachers College faculty has developed a curriculum guide for public school teachers designed to enhance understanding of Islam and promote tolerance of Muslim students. The curriculum guide grew out of a study of Muslim youth in New York public schools: Religiosity, Education and Civic Belonging: Muslim Youth in New York City Public Schools. It found that, of more than 320 Muslim students surveyed, 85 percent said they felt safe in their schools, but 17 percent reported having been the object of bigotry, often in the form of teasing or offensive taunting about Islam or being called a “terrorist.” The curriculum guide may be downloaded for free at

Teachers’ pensions cost more
Analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that employer contributions to retirement benefits for public school teachers in 2008 were substantially higher than for private professionals, a group that includes lawyers, physicians, financial managers, engineers, computer programmers, and others. According to new research by economists Robert Costrell of the University of Arkansas and Michael Podgursky from the University of Missouri-Columbia, employer contributions to teacher pensions grew from under 12 percent of earnings in 2004 to well over 14 percent in 2008, while pension costs for private sector professionals remained essentially unchanged.

Transgender youth victimization

Transgender youth face extremely high levels of victimization in school, even more so than their nontransgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers. But they are also more likely to speak out about LGBT issues in the classroom, according to Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, a study on transgender students released by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. Nearly nine out of 10 transgender students experienced verbal harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, more than half experienced physical harassment, and more than a quarter experienced physical assaults.

Writing connects to outside world
Students are writing in school—essays, narratives, letters, and journals related to assignments. But today, as in the past, much writing also goes on outside of school, and students don’t recognize their self-directed, often online, out-of-school writing as writing that counts as much as the writing they do in school. They don’t see a connection between the two. In a report by the National Council of Teachers of English, Writing Between the Lines—and Everywhere Else, teachers who responded to a survey noted that their best recipe for student success is connecting classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.