Top recent edu-reads

Here are some of the best edu-reads I’ve come across recently.

Think the teacher-pension issue is only for green-eyeshade types? Think again! My colleagues at Bellwether, Chad Aldeman and Andy Rotherham, have written an informative—and worrisome—report on the current state of play of educator retirement benefits and its implications for the profession and taxpayers. Get this: about half of all public schoolteachers won’t qualify for even a minimal pension. How in the world is that possible? Read the report.

You may also think that “school productivity”—how to get the biggest bang for our education buck—is only for accountants and actuaries. But Paul Hill has written a very good piece for the George W. Bush Institute on how smart governance changes can both make the most of our scarce resources and improve student learning. The report isn’t spreadsheets and pivot tables; it’s an interesting argument for changes in mindset, policy, and practice.

The always-excellent Center for Reinventing Public Education has produced a terrific short white paper on common enrollment systems, namely how to facilitate choice across a city with multiple school sectors. The brief describes how such systems are working in Denver and New Orleans, including the tough issues such systems have to address and how well they ultimately match students to their most preferred schools. I believe the march toward sector agnosticism is inexorable. A common enrollment system is almost certainly part of the urban school system of the future, so if you track K–12 developments in America’s cities, you’ll definitely want to give this a look.

The smart folks at Public Impact, via the National Charter Schools Resource Center, have put together an excellent assessment of and recommendations for virtual school accountability. Though fully online schools present new challenges, state and authorizer accountability systems need to be adjusted more than overhauled. This report should be of particular interest to policy people, especially those working in SEAs or charter-authorizing bodies—and those of us who’ve worried that tech activities on the ground have gotten far ahead of statutes and regulations. This will somewhat put your mind at ease and, more importantly, give you a path forward.

If you’re interested in incentives for students, you really ought to read this Education Next article about the “Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship” program. Graduates of Kalamazoo high school who attend a Michigan public IHE are now eligible for large tuition subsidies. The researchers wondered whether this had any influence on students’ academic achievement or behavior. The answer? Yes-ish. It may be the case that students find it easier to stay out of trouble than raise their grades.

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