Flypaper

Robert Hanna

Andy Smarick and Juliet Square recently published a report arguing that state education agencies, or SEAs, lack the expertise needed to implement today’s education reforms. Federal policymakers expected SEAs to be “compliance examiners,” focused on monitoring districts’ use of federal education funds, they wrote. The authors argue that many of SEAs’ successes are limited to compliance and that SEAs are not capable of meeting the additional demands of educational innovation and reform. In a related blog post by Smarick, he refers to compliance and monitoring as being in the SEA’s “DNA structure.”

If compliance is really in SEAs’ DNA, did the federal government get the gene sequencing wrong?

Today, the Center for American Progress released three reports about the ways in which SEAs work within the current education governance system. The reports identify innovative approaches to changing the genetic code of SEAs given current demands for far-reaching education reforms. We argue that despite barriers, real or perceived, there are more effective ways for states to meet these demands—and that both federal policymakers and state leaders have roles to play.

As education policy researcher Patrick Murphy describes in his report, federal education regulations often have adverse impacts on states. Each federal fund comes with different strings attached. As a consequence, SEA leaders often silo their agencies by federal fund in order to make sure they meet compliance requirements. For example, staff working on projects funded by Title I are contained within...

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Ladies and gentlemen, the voters have spoken and the wisest wonk in the land is…

Joe Siedlecki of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, edging out Michael Goldstein of Match Education, 35 to 27 percent. It’s the biggest upset since Brat beat Cantor! (Granted, that just happened Tuesday.)

Stay tuned for my take on the wonk-a-thon, coming early next week. Until then, Joe, enjoy the sweet, sweet victory, and blast this song around your home all weekend long.

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CHARTERS SHARING SPACE
According to a bill passed by New York’s city council, the city will be required to publish charter schools’ demographics when those schools share space with district schools. (New York Daily News)
 
LIKE THE COMMON CORE, ONLY WORSE
South Carolina recently tossed the Common Core but “doesn’t have time” to do a complete rewrite—indicating that, yet again, the “new” standards will likely borrow much from the old. (Curriculum Matters)
 
SCHOOL TAKEOVERS
A circuit court judge ruled that Virginia’s Opportunity Educational Institution, a state-takeover division, is unconstitutional. (Times Dispatch)

UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS
Florida governor Rick Scott has signed legislation allowing students who are undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at the Sunshine State’s colleges and universities. (Miami Herald)
 
NCLB’S EFFECT ON TEACHERS
A study finds that NCLB may not have had much of an effect on teacher morale. (Teacher Beat)
 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LITERACY
A report finds that immigrant households are the least likely to enroll their kids in federal and state pre-Kindergarten programs aimed at disadvantaged youths, mainly due to language barriers. (Latin Post)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
USA Today: “California teachers ruling could have national fallout
New York Times: “New Deal for Teachers; New Will by Managers
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
New York Daily News: “Bill Murray crashes young couple's engagement shoot in Charleston, S.C.”...

Asking whether teacher tenure should be abolished in public schools is like asking whether the Tampa Bay Rays (18 games below .500) should sack their shortstop. Sure, that might be a good start, but that’s not going to be enough to turn things around.

First, the argument for eliminating tenure: As Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Tuesday, any benefit that tenure provides to teachers is far outweighed by its costs to children and society by keeping grossly ineffective instructors in the classroom. Defenders often say that tenure is all that limits principals and school boards from terminating teachers for innumerable bogus motives. Yet in the decades since legislatures put tenure laws on the books, legal protections for all employees have grown dramatically, particularly in the public sector. Dismissal under tenure requires a far more onerous due process procedure. But even without it, anyone who believes that he or she has been discriminated against or fired for “arbitrary and capricious” reasons can sue, and will often win. That goes for teachers, too.

Tenure reform is no education game-changer. Tenure is just one part of a dysfunctional approach to human resource management in U.S. schools that needs a complete overhaul. Our public education system is among the only institutions in the land still pretending that professionals will spend their whole careers in a single job. The teacher compensation structure heavily favors lifers, what with its mix of low pay with generous, back-loaded retirement benefits. This is an...

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VERGARA
The high-profile Vergara v. California case has ended, with a state superior court judge ruling that California’s laws on teacher tenure and dismissal “unfairly saddle disadvantaged and minority students with weak teachers, infringing on those students’ right…to an equitable education.” (Education Week)
 
SAME OLD TESTS
A budget agreement in Michigan will increase school-aid funding by 4 percent and keep the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test for another school year, rather than transitioning to the Smarter Balanced exams. The agreement will cross Governor Snyder’s desk by the end of the week. (MLive)
 
‘TECHNIAL DIFFICULTIES’
Citing “technical difficulties,” the Detroit Public Schools failed to apply for Head Start funding for the fall. (Detroit News)
 
CRISTO REY
Detroit Cristo Rey, part of a chain of private Catholic Schools, is being held up as a model for its efforts to help minority students succeed in college. (NPR)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
EdCentral: “Test-and-Punish is a State of Mind, not the State of Reality
Education Next: “What We’re Watching: On the Rocketship
Politico Morning Education: “House loses ‘champion’ of charters and choice
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
Las Vegas Weekly: “All By Himself: Man uses McCarran Layover to Film Celine Dion Music Video”...

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On Tuesday, a California superior court judge tentatively overturned five state laws related to the employment of teachers. The plaintiffs’ attorney called the decision “a victory for students, parents, and teachers across California.” The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said, “This decision today is an attack on teachers.” The court ordered a stay on the decision, pending appeal. Here are ten things worth knowing as the case moves on.

  1. The plaintiffs, a group of students and school districts, argued that several state statutes stood in the way of all students receiving the education guaranteed to them under the California constitution. “Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”
  2. The judge agreed. He found “that the Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”
  3. This was essentially a civil-rights case, and the court underscored that point, starting its opinion by referencing Brown vs. Board of Education and then quoting the famous passage that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
  4. State courts have, in recent years, frequently
  5. ...
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Back in college, one of my political science professors wanted to make a point to a lecture hall full of know-it-all freshman.

He asked all of us to think back to when we were first getting interested in politics and developing positions on major issues. For most of us at this inside-the-beltway university, that was early.

He asked us to write down what our positions were back then on a list of three hot-button issues he provided. We did so eagerly.

He then said to the 400 of us, “Now, consider your current positions on these issues. Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue one has changed.”

Not a single hand went up.

“Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue two has changed.”

Two hands went up.

“Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue three has changed.”

Not a single hand went up.

He had us. “I’m sure you all realize how young and uninformed your previous selves were. You probably also know how much new information has come out over the last decade and how these debates have evolved. And yet, of 1,200 possible switches, we only have two.”

Then the coup-de-grâce.

“Is it that you were unfailingly brilliant at 12 years old, or are you allowing that 12-year-old to continue dictating your political views?”

He then introduced us to the academic research. One body of literature showed that once an individual made a decision (this is particularly true in the case of...

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NYC’S SELECTIVE HIGH SCHOOL EXAM
Efforts by civil-rights advocates to allow New York City’s selective high schools to use multiple measures in admissions decisions have not gained political support. (New York Times)
 
NOLA’S CHARTERS
After Hurricane Katrina, the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) took over all of New Orleans’s schools but the best ones. And now, RSD charter schools are beginning to inch past those schools that were historically the top performers. (Hechinger Report)
 
PRIVATE-SCHOOL CHOICE
In the last eight days of the New York State Assembly’s legislative session, school-choice backers are making a final push to pass an education tax-credit bill. (Charters & Choice)
 
MUTUAL CONSENT IN COLORADO
A Colorado judge dismissed a union lawsuit that was intended to overturn a “mutual-consent” provision in the state’s teacher-effectiveness law. (Teacher Beat)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Economist: “Zombieland
Wisconsin Public Radio: “Critics Of Common Core Standards Mobilize In Capitol For Hearings
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
Onion: “New Charter School Lottery System Gives Each Applicant White Pill, Enrolls Whoever Left Standing”...

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Kara Kerwin

Here follows the eleventh entry in Fordham’s “Charter School Policy Wonk-a-Thon,” in which Mike Petrilli challenged a number of prominent scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to take a stab at explaining why some charter sectors outpace their local district schools while others are falling behind.

Mike posed an extremely important question at the start of this wonk-a-thon: “How to build a high-quality charter school sector?”

With now over a million students on charter school waiting lists, we reformers ought to be seeking the answer to this question with a sense of urgency.

Simply stated, we need more choices in the type of education available to families. We need more children sitting in more seats in more schools made available by more choice. We need more public discussions about school choice, truthful and deeper conversations, in forums that matter.

We need more people—moms and dads, community groups, elected officials—calling for more options in education. And we need to give more power to parents over their own children’s education.

Unfortunately, too few activities in today’s education-reform movement, especially when it comes to charter schools, have focus primarily on expanding all options available to schoolchildren and expanding parents’ access to those options.

Many current policies, proposals, and practices artificially and unnecessarily constrain growth and deter investment in schools of choice. Some risk is inherent in innovation and growth. There is greater risk—especially to our nation’s children—from setting limits on the expansion of school choice.

It is time to push...

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