national newsletter

A nudge to nowhere

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! Sarah Darville and Matt Barnum here, working to help you make sense of efforts to improve education across the country. Joining us for the next 10 weeks will be intern Camille Respess from the University of Florida. Say hi!


The big story

The idea was simple, cheap, and backed by high-profile research: Students would get mail with a personalized list of colleges to consider, and fee waivers to make applying easier.

But the College Board’s attempt to “nudge” high-achieving low- and middle-income students toward selective colleges fell short. Students didn’t wind up attending those schools (or college at all) more often.

The study, which we wrote about recently, suggests that changing the college trajectories of America’s low-income students will require efforts more extensive than low-cost “nudges.”

Meanwhile, other recent research has found that more intensive programs with larger price tags — including state-funded, place-based, and philanthropic scholarship programs — can substantially increase college attendance and completion.

“It’s a good lesson in thinking about the limitations of these kinds of interventions,” said Lindsay Page, a University of Pittsburgh researcher. “Be cautious of the long-run benefits from $6 solutions.”

Read the full story here.


Local stories to watch

  • New York City teachers have had divergent responses to anti-bias training. Most of the 70 or so teachers and staff who responded to a Chalkbeat survey say they found the five-hour training useful. A teacher at a school in the South Bronx said it was helpful to have group discussions about data showing how students of color have been “over-policed” compared to white students. But others raised concerns. Another administrator thought the session had only succeeded in creating “resentment” and would cause her to “second guess every decision I make.”
  • Here’s what ‘personalized learning’ looks like in Chicago schools. Mirroring national trends, and fueled in part by philanthropic dollars, a growing number of schools in the city are using technology to customize what students learn each day. Here’s an inside look at how that plays out for students and teachers.
  • More than 80,000 Colorado students — nearly one in 10 — attend school just four days a week. On the fifth day, Boys and Girls Clubs and new nonprofits are trying to fill in the gap for parents and students. But those opportunities are only open to some families.
  • Tensions are growing within Tennessee’s Achievement School District. The district is made up of schools turned over to charter networks in an effort to address lagging test scores. Now, its leader says it may be time to exert more central control, and the state’s education chief is hinting it may be time for change.

Research roundup

  • Black students in North Carolina charter schools are more likely to have — and benefit from — a black teacher, according to a new study from the Fordham Institute. Thirty-five percent of black charter school students had a black teacher in grades three through five, compared to 22% of black students in district schools. The study also found that black students had higher math test scores as a result, a finding consistent with past research.
  • Denver schools are outperforming state averages, according to new research on a city that’s been at the forefront of the “portfolio model.” The study showed that all types of schools in the city — charters, “innovation,” and traditional public — were performing comparably and all beating the state on math and reading tests, controlling for differences in student characteristics.
  • Can better training for principals improve teacher evaluation? Maybe not, finds a recent study. The paper looks at an initiative in Boston Public Schools to improve training for administrators. But the program did not lead to clear changes in evaluator feedback, teacher retention, or student achievement.
  • What about videos in the classroom? It improved evaluations in some respects. Teachers who were randomly assigned to record snippets of their class for evaluation, in the place of a traditional in-person observation, reported more supportive post-observation meetings with administrators. They were also more likely to remain teaching in their school the following year. But there was no effect on students’ test scores.

DeVos watch

  • The Department of Education has five days to turn over documents about the appointment of its inspector general earlier this year. The House Oversight Committee has already tried to get them and was reportedly denied.
  • Secretary Betsy DeVos is in Texas today touring an apprenticeship program that trains veterans to get construction jobs in Houston. She’s also scheduled to go to NASA’s Johnson Space Center to, among other things, speak with NASA interns.
  • Later this week, DeVos will speak at The Young Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by Turning Point USA, a conservative group that focuses on college campuses.

Names to note

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed a new school board, including president Miguel del Valle, a Latinx community leader and politician. The city will also have a new deputy mayor for education, Sybil Madison.
  • The new class of Pahara-Aspen fellows includes Todd Dickson, founder of Valor Collegiate Academies, and Erin McMahon, chief academic officer of the KIPP Foundation.
  • Benny Vásquez was named chief equity officer at the KIPP Foundation.
  • The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a do-over election for union president this fall.

What we’re reading

  • Los Angeles voters rejected a tax increase for schools that was backed by union and district leaders. EdSource
  • A lawsuit targeting school segregation in New Jersey may head to trial. Philadelphia Inquirer
  • A high-profile charter boarding school in D.C. is set to close as it struggles with academics and safety — even as a member of the city charter board argues it should stay open. Washington Post

(Photo by: Rob Kim/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)