Doing good and doing better

Plenty of folks in the education business seek the limelight. Not all deserve it—at least, not for doing good. But some individuals and groups that do great good for kids, teachers, and schools prefer to do so quietly, even invisibly. And two such entities are merging as Gene Wilhoit—previously of the Council of Chief State School Officers and, arguably, the most important force behind the Common Core standards—joins Sue Pimentel and Jason Zimba’s crackerjack (but small and quiet) team at Student Achievement Partners, which might be the most valuable enterprise in the land when it comes to defending, improving, explaining, and implementing the Common Core. Neither Wilhoit nor SAP is a glutton for publicity—but the work they’ve done, and continue to do, deserves respect and gratitude.

Earlier this week, Ohio Governor John Kasich unveiled his education reform plan. Among its many features are an expansion of private school vouchers and Ohio’s first-ever charter school facility funding. Perhaps most promising, the governor proposed a $300-million Innovation Fund to kick-start projects aimed at reshaping how schools deploy technology and human resources. In a town-hall meeting, Fordham's Terry Ryan told the governor and a rapt audience that the Innovation Fund is "very exciting...There's a lot of untapped energy out in the field that's waiting to take charge and take control of the opportunities."

As school districts begin to come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to maintain their current spending levels, Stanford scholar Eric A. Hanushek warns that budgetary belt-tightening will not inevitably lead to efficient choices. He writes, “If school districts had a line item in their budgets for ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,’ we could just reduce that to deal with budget pressures. Unfortunately, we do not find such itemized inefficiency.” Hanushek argues, and the American public agrees, that forging a link between teacher quality and teacher salaries would be the soundest, most efficient, and longest-term solution to budgetary woes.

Joining Utah, Alabama announced that it won’t participate in either of the Common Core testing consortia. While the Yellowhammer State will apparently still implement the Common Core standards, if it wants to find out how its students are doing on those standards, it will have to make its own assessment arrangements. This comes as no huge surprise: The consortia have always been fragile, and there has been pushback against Common Core in conservative Alabama. This choice leaves PARCC with twenty-two members and Smarter Balanced with twenty-four. While we hope these numbers won’t fall further, we’re not betting the house on it.

The Gadfly welcomes the Brookings Chalkboard, a new, once-a-week edu-blog featuring quality writings from Brown Center scholars. Russ Whitehurst’s clear-eyed look at the ineffectiveness of Head Start is particularly timely and refreshing. We hope there are many more posts to come.

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