Flypaper

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This post marks the first in a series of blog entries that examines what can be learned from the most promising alternative leadership development programs in the country. John Chubb, president of the National Association of Independent Schools, interviewed leaders in several of these programs to learn more about how to cultivate successful leadership. We’ll roll out the six lessons that he learned over the next week.]

At a time when US education is consumed with the lagging achievement of students, why should we care about school leaders? Compelling evidence indicates that teachers are the key to student achievement.

Yet principals can significantly influence student achievement through their interactions with teachers. They hire teachers directly (or oversee the people who do). They supervise and evaluate teachers. They coach and mentor, or ensure teachers receive those supports. They set school goals, instill a sense of mission, and inspire, coax, and counsel teachers to do their best. They have the hard conversations when teachers require them. (Or at least the successful ones do.)

Leaders also set the tone in schools, the culture and expectations that may motivate students directly. They provide for student safety and well-being, fostering an environment in which students can focus on learning undistracted. Even these influences require work with and through teachers. Great leaders can cultivate great teachers.

Yet we know as little about how to develop great school leaders as we know about developing great teachers. Ninety-eight percent of principals in US public schools are...

There’s a wonderfully apt saying about why debates in the U.S. Senate last so long: “Everything’s been said but not everyone has said it yet.”  In that spirit, I offer my admittedly late thoughts on last night’s results. (It was a late night, so you may want to triangulate the real story by also reading the reactions from Eduwonk, Rick Hess, Eduflack, and Mike Petrilli.)

  1. The Uncertain Edu-meaning of the GOP Triumph: It was obviously a gigantic night for Republicans. They won just about every race imaginable. But it’s not clear what views, if any, all of these new office-holders share. Some are pro-Common Core; some aren’t. Some love choice and charters; some are more traditional. So we’ll have to stay tuned to see how this landslide settles.
  2. End of the Obama-Duncan Era: We’ll have to wait and see what the new reform era holds, but it feels more and more like the heady days of Race to the Top, ARRA, etc., are behind us. Secretary Duncan’s team still has work to do, on waivers in particular, but Maryland Avenue will no longer be the reform world’s center of gravity. The fundamental legacy question will be: How much of the Obama-Duncan reform agenda has become part of the consensus reform agenda?
  3. Lots of Union Spending, Meager Results: Were I a dues-paying teachers’
  4. ...

With a few exceptions, most of the races decided yesterday didn’t hinge on education reform. But the outcome will have big implications for education policy nonetheless.

That was certainly true in 2010, when a voter backlash against Obamacare triggered a wave of Republican victories, especially at the state level, which in turn set the stage for major progress on education reform priorities in 2011 (rightfully dubbed “the year of school choice” by the Wall Street Journal). In fact, as Ty Eberhardt and I have argued, 2010’s Republican surge deserves more credit for the education reforms of the past several years than does Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top:

So here we are again, with Republicans winning stunning victories in races for governor’s mansions and statehouses nationwide. And once again this will be good for education reform, especially reforms of the school-choice variety. Voucher and tax-credit programs in Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona will continue apace; charter caps may be lifted and bad laws amended in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois; comprehensive reform efforts in New Mexico, Nevada, and Michigan have a new lease on life.

There’s good news for reformers on the Democratic side of the aisle too, what with the teachers unions’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day signaling their waning influence. Of particular note is Rhode Island—Rhode Island!—which just elected a pro-education reform, pro-pension reform Democrat as governor and a bona fide charter school hero as lieutenant governor....

DON'T FORGET TO CARE ABOUT ELECTIONS
You’ve got to pick up groceries on the way home. And drop off the kids at a sleepover. And call someone about fixing the cable. But in the midst of your daily grind, be sure to remember that today is the day that Americans decide who will have control over the Senate, the House of Representatives (although, let’s face it, there’s not a chance of that changing hands) and dozens of statehouses around the country. For an eleventh hour look at some of the major races, as well as updates throughout the day, turn to Politics K–12.

HEALTHIER GRUB IN MINNESOTA
School lunches in Minnesota are getting a healthy makeover, thanks to a new program aimed at eliminating seven unwanted ingredients frequently found in processed meals. While there is some concern that revamping the school lunch menu will be costly, an analysis found that removing the seven ingredients (mostly artificial sweeteners and preservatives) will only cost an average of 35 cents more per meal. 

BURNAROUND
“The previous administration had a policy that a school like this was left to fend for itself, and that’s why we’re here today, because we reject the notion of giving up on any of our schools,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stated at an East Harlem school last night. The brutal burn came in the midst of a...

A core assumption of the education-reform movement is that excellent schools can be engines of upward mobility. But what kind of schools? And to what end?

Please join Michael J. Petrilli and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a daylong investigation into the role education can—and must—play in promoting upward mobility on December 2 in Washington, D.C.

In tandem with the release of several papers, this path-breaking conference will consider thorny questions, including: Is “college for all” the right goal? (And what do we mean by “college”?) Do young people mostly need a strong foundation in academics? What can schools do to develop so-called “non-cognitive” skills? Should technical education be a central part of the reform agenda? How about apprenticeships? What can we learn from the military’s success in working with disadvantaged youth?

To view the agenda click here.

To register for Education for Upward Mobility, email Michelle Lerner at mlerner@edexcellence.net.

POWER IN A UNION
The American Federation of Teachers will spend a record-breaking $20 million on this year's elections. Across the states, teachers are going door to door to speak out against Republican governors. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the AFT’s biggest target this cycle, alongside Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the last of whom is probably already planning his own teaching career following a near-certain election defeat.

TEST QUESTIONS
The College Board, owners of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), plan to make public the number of international students who take the SAT each year. It is generally thought that the majority of international test-takers come from China and South Korea and go on to apply to undergraduate programs at U.S. colleges. 

SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE
The Democrats have historically been the party of the teachers’ unions. However, as this election cycle has shown, that may no longer be the case. In California, two Democrats with very different views on education are vying for the position of state superintendent of public education. While incumbent Tom Torlakson embodies the old-school, pro-union attitude of the party, challenger Marshall Tuck backs charter schools and has voiced his support of the Vergara decision.

BAD NEWS FOR DIPLOMA MILLS
Last week, the Department of Education announced stringent new regulations on the nation’s 3,400 for-profit...

ELECTION CRAMMING
With Election Day fast approaching, there’s only so much time to familiarize yourself with the races, candidates, and issues at play. That’s where Education Week’s election guide comes in: A compendium of state and local races, it’s a one-stop shop for all the education-related angles to the midterms, right down to ballot issues and state education races.

WEEKEND READING
The Washington Post’s T. Rees Shapiro has a lovely look at the life of Ruth T. Bedford, a Standard Oil heiress who left a $40 million bequest to her Virginia high school. Bedford, who died in June, led a colorful life that saw her breed thoroughbred racehorses, work with the Red Cross during World War II, and conquer the skies as an early aviatrix. Administrators at her alma mater, the all-girl’s Foxcroft School, were reportedly stunned at the gift.

VOLUNTEERING INFORMATION
Tennessee’s Department of Education has released its annual report card on local schools, and Chalkbeat Tennessee has a good overview. Among their observation, there’s one thing to celebrate: In keeping with the one and only Michael Brickman’s entreaties, the state has embraced a simple, A-F rating system, rather than a confusing morass of terms like “priority” or “celebration eligible.”

MUST READ
The Answer Sheet blog has a phenomenal guest post by Alexis Wiggins, a fifteen-year teaching veteran who shadowed students around their high...

Joe Portnoy, the king of new media, has been with Fordham for the last four years and is now headed to shake things up at the Department of Education. Arne, now that you have nabbed our new-media manager, we suggest that you take some of our policy advice, too. (See here, here, and here.)

Here are some of our favorite new-media products, thanks to Joe:

A Nation at Risk: 30 years later

Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. Due in large part to this report, education reform today is serious about standards, quality, assessment, accountability, and benchmarking—by school, district, state, and nation. Yet we still have many miles to go before we sleep. Our students still need to learn far more, and our schools need to become far more effective.

Is America Education Coming Apart? A Lunchtime Lecture with Charles Murray

For all the talk of gaps in achievement, opportunity, and funding between ethnic and racial groups in American education, a different divide may also be splitting our schools and our future. In his acclaimed and controversial book, Coming Apart: The State...

BIG APPLE RETHINKING PRESCHOOL
New York City's preschool program is undergoing a year-long assessment to determine the quality of classroom environments and teacher-student interactions, as well as gauge how citywide expansion is going. Currently, about 50,000 students are served by the pre-K programs, with plans to reach 70,000 children by next year.

PARCC LIFE
Results from a poll by George Washington University's Center on Education Policy shows that schools feel unprepared logistically for the administration of new PARCC and Smarter Balanced exams in the spring. The new assessments, which are aligned to Common Core, will be delivered online, allowing for faster scoring and more accurate data collection. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill chipped in with a sensational article on PARCC implementation earlier this month.

MICHIGAN CONSIDERING STEM CERTIFICATION
Michigan lawmakers are considering two bills that would allow high school seniors to pursue a STEM certification upon graduation. While specific curriculum is still being decided, both policymakers and STEM experts agree that students need theory and practical application if they want to translate their knowledge to the workforce. For more on Michigan's education developments, check out Fordham's instant-classic study on the state's efforts to turn around struggling schools.

EDUCATION SNAPSHOT
Late Bell has been following labor unrest over the last month in Waukegan, Illinois's 17,000-student school district. Today brings the good news that, four weeks after walking...

Morgan Polikoff

Election Day is less than a week away. Given the heat around major education policies—especially Common Core and teacher evaluations—there is increased attention to public attitudes about education. A number of polls from major news organizations, education groups, and universities have been commissioned over the past several months, and education pundits and advocates on all sides of current reform debates have endlessly parsed the results.

Unfortunately these pundits are mostly misguided, and public opinion polls on education don’t mean what people think they mean. What follows are three conclusions, all based on data from these various polls, and a discussion of what they ought to mean for education policy and advocacy going forward.

Conclusion 1: Americans’ views on education are incoherent.

The most straightforward conclusion from existing polling data is that Americans’ views are all over the map and, depending on the issue, either nuanced or contradictory. The clearest example of this is on standardized testing. The 2013 Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll found that just 22 percent of the public thought that standardized tests have helped local public schools. But when asked about specific test-related policies—some of which are even more ambitious in scope than our current testing regimes—Americans express strong support. An Education Next poll, for example, shows 71 percent of Americans support mandatory high school exit exams. And despite 54 percent of respondents telling PDK/Gallup in 2014 that standardized tests aren’t helpful, between...

Pages