Monday, February 5, 2018


We found some interesting articles during the past several weeks. Here are a few:

Overhauling Japan's High-Stakes University-Admission System, from the Atlantic, is authored by Annabelle Timsit. The author provides a revealing look at Japan's reliance on the "Center Test", it's national exam, for entrance into the best colleges, and its effect upon prospective students.

"The psychological impact of falling behind in the highly structured Japanese tertiary system can be devastating. In a 2014 analysis, Japanese neuropsychiatrists found that roughly 58 percent of the ronin (students who fail the Center Test and study for a year or more at a "cram school") they surveyed had depression, and that just under 20 percent had severe depression."

According to the author, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is planning to overhaul the assessment and at the same time reevaluate its role in college admissions and in Japanese society.


The best school district in every US state was published by under the byline of Tanza Loudenback, but it's really a list of the "best" as identified by using several characteristics, including but not limited to achievement. We spent an entire blog post criticizing those ranking systems in 2015. But...guess which district NICHE identified as the best in Idaho?


Here are several articles about Ohio's ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) Online Charter, which suddenly closed recently, leaving 12,000 enrollees high and dry.  "The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded", written by James Pogue for Mother Jones, takes a decidedly political view of the disastrous effects of the closure. "Ohio’s Online Charter Scandal Is a Warning to the Nation", was written by Jan Ressenger for The Progressive. And from the 74, an education reform blog, "Ohio’s Charter School Disaster: How Big Profits and Pay-to-Play Operators Have Derailed Reform", was written by Matt Barnum.

All tell the same basic story from different viewpoints. ECOT owed the state of Ohio over $80 million, could not pay it back, and was dropped by its sponsor mid-year. Here's a quote from Mother Jones:.

"Despite years of critics raising similar concerns, the school’s demise happened quickly, after two Ohio Department of Education reviews from 2016 and 2017 found that ECOT had overbilled taxpayers by $80 million for thousands of students it couldn’t show were meeting the department’s enrollment standards. As a result, last summer the state ordered the school to begin paying back almost $4 million per month in school funds, which ECOT claimed it was unable to do. Then, last week, the school’s charter sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, claiming concern that ECOT wouldn’t have the funds to last out the year, suddenly announced plans to drop the school. Many of ECOT’s 12,000 current students learned on the nightly news or read in newspapers that unless an emergency deal could be worked out..."


It appears that one or more voucher bills may be coming to the Idaho legislature. With that in mind, we have been following some of the events in Arizona, where school voucher advocates were moving forward with a plan to expand vouchers until S.O.S. (Save our Schools) Arizona collected over 110,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Laurie Roberts, a columnist with AZ Central (the online version of the Arizona Republic), has written several columns (here, here, and here, among others) detailing the efforts, including a judicial decision denying a Koch Brothers backed effort to block the ballot initiative. The whole thing seems reminiscent of the ballot initiative that stopped the Luna Laws back in 2012. That campaign was marked by expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars by reform and privatization advocates.


And finally, Jack Schneider in the Atlantic wrote "What School-Funding Debates Ignore", a fascinating examination of inequality and the "education debt".

"The idea that equal inputs will produce equal outcomes presumes a degree of similarity across families and neighborhoods. Yet generations of inequality have constrained opportunities for people in marginalized communities, often most forcefully through racially isolated neighborhoods with vastly uneven access to mainstream social, political, and economic life. Given this context, producing equal educational outcomes would seemingly require more than equal funding."