Governance

I was just finishing up my ?Sunday morning, big picture memo about school district priorities when the phone rang.

I should know better by now than to answer a phone on Sunday morning.? But I did.

It was Ken*, my son's one-time classmate and a member of the memorable 3rd grade basketball team I had coached -? what I remember is that the kids, three of them sons of state troopers, spent more time fighting each other than the other team ? almost ten years before. ?I had recently helped bail one of those kids, now 19 and not a trooper's son, out of jail.

I had run into Ken a few months earlier, and we caught up a bit. He had been a wonderful athlete,?though shy?and unassuming on the court, and not a fighter.? An African-American, he too was now 19, unemployed, the father of a two-year-old and living with his girl friend ?in one of our town's many subsidized housing units. Nothing unusual there. He had said he was getting his GED and wanted to go to college and I had told him to let me know if he needed a reference and gave him my number.? And that's what I expected him to be asking for when I heard his voice yesterday.

Instead, he told me that his mother and younger brother were being evicted from their HUD-operated, low-income housing apartment.? Could I help?

I knew how this would go if I...

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Liam Julian

Arne Duncan was in Minnesota last week. He talked of a ?sense of urgency.? And he talked about how Minnesota, which has a large achievement gap, really should feel terrible about it and should be doing more to shrink it. At what point will we stop speaking about, or at least focusing-on-cum-obsessing-over,?this gap? More specifically, when will federal politicians quit haranguing states, state politicians quit haranguing districts, about a failure to close it? Was nothing learned from the failures of, and the intellectual stupor and enforced fantastical groupthink surrounding, No Child Left Behind?

New Jersey includes some of the richest neighborhoods in the country and some of the poorest. It also has the nation's biggest achievement gap. Coincidence? Unlikely. Are states with smaller gaps necessarily doing a better job than New Jersey of managing such gaps, or are their populations perhaps, simply and by chance, less socioeconomically riven? Furthermore, is it appropriate to point out achievement gaps at the state level? States are massive. Might it not be smarter to evaluate gaps in individual schools, say, where problems, if they exist, could be identified and not guessed at, and interventions, if needed, more wisely applied? And, as everyone with a brain knows, there is more than one way to close a gap: Simply put, you can either speed up progress at the bottom or slow it at the top. Is the latter method desirable? Some say yes. Others say no. So there is no concordance there.

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Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler

This study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that low-performing public schools—both charter and traditional district schools—are stubbornly resistant to significant change. After identifying more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states, analyst David Stuit tracked them from 2003-04 through 2008-09 to determine how many were turned around, shut down, or remained low-performing. Results were generally dismal. Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later. So did 80 percent of district schools. Read on to learn more—including results from the ten states.

Press Release

This study from the Fordham Institute tackles a key question: Which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish (and which have not)? Nine reform-friendly locales surged to the front: New Orleans, Washington D.C., New York City, Denver, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Trailing far behind were San Jose, San Diego, Albany, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit. Read on to learn more.

Press release
 

 

City Profiles:

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Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
Baltimore, MD

The "common core" state standards for grades K-12 have been released. Some states have already adopted them. Others are considering this step. Much will need to happen if these standards and related assessments are to get traction in American education over the next few years. But we at the Fordham Institute are looking even further ahead: we’re considering the issues that will determine the long-term viability of this endeavor. Simply stated: in 2020, who will be in charge of the common standards-and-testing effort? How will this work? Who will pay for it?

To spur discussion and smart thinking about these crucial issues, we commissioned a set of background papers from authoritative observers and analysts. Read on to find out what they have to say.

The Oversight of State Standards and Assessment Programs: Perspectives from a Former State Assessment Director
Pasquale J. DeVito, Ph.D.
Director, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAS)
Measured Progress

Networked Governance in Three Policy Areas with Implications for the Common Core State Standards Initiative
Paul Manna
Associate Professor, Department of Government
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy
College of William and Mary

E Pluribus Unum in Education? Governance Models for National Standards and Assessments: Looking Beyond the World of K-12 Schooling
Patrick McGuinn
Associate Professor, Departments of Political Science and Education
Drew University

What Can the Common Core State Standards...

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of From Schoolhouse to Courthouse: The Judiciary's Role in American Education (Paperback, $28.95, publication date: September 8, 2009). This important new book provides a wealth of critical information and insight for scholars, students, attorneys, and school officials alike, examining the effects that the courts have had on American classrooms over the last sixty years and are having today.

Edited by Joshua M. Dunn, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Martin R. West, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, From Schoolhouse to Courthouse brings together experts in political science, education policy, and law to paint a comprehensive portrait of the role of the courts in modern American K-12 education.

Contributors to the book: Richard Arum (New York University), Samuel R. Bagenstos (University of Michigan Law School), Martha Derthick (University of Virginia), John Dinan (Wake Forest University), Lance D. Fusarelli (North Carolina State University), Michael Heise (Cornell Law School), Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute), R. Shep Melnick (Boston College), Doreet Preiss (New York University), and James E. Ryan (University of Virginia School of Law).

State Superintendent of??Louisiana??Paul Pastorek says the state will retain control of RSD for at least a few more years--and maybe forever. In a recent poll conducted in New Orleans, schools were found to be the number one improvement area in a pre- and post- Katrina comparison. It seems the state and people of New Orleans are wary of re-entrusting their schools to the New Orleans Parish School Board, especially in the wake of this improvement (and the Board's terrible history). State takeovers used to be a temporary relief tactic, reserved only for the most wayward of districts, and implemented only long enough to get the troublesome municipality back on the right track. Will Louisiana blaze yet another trail and implement permanent state control over the city of New Orleans? And will other states, perhaps with cities that need a Katrina-esque "do-over" (like Michigan's Detroit), follow suit?

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Voucher opponents often argue that it's unfair to hold public schools accountable for results under the No Child Left Behind Act and various state rules while allowing private schools that participate in voucher programs to receive taxpayer dollars without similar accountability.

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute don't entirely buy that argument but we also believe there's room for a reasonable middle ground. It's time for the school-voucher movement to embrace accountability done right, just as most of the charter-school movement has done. But it's also vital to preserve the capacity of private schools to be different and not to deter them from taking children who would benefit.

In pursuit of that middle ground, we sought the advice of twenty experts in the school-choice world. This paper presents their thoughts and opinions, as well as Fordham's own ideas.

The majority of experts agree that participating private schools should not face new regulation of their day-to-day affairs. They also see value in helping parents make informed choices by providing data about how well their own children are performing.

However, experts are not of one mind when it comes to making academic results and financial audits transparent. Some would "let the market rule" and are averse to transparency or accountability around school-level results. Others would "treat private schools like charter schools" when it comes to testing, financial transparency, etc. Some would also like government (or its proxy) to intervene if individual schools aren't performing adequately.

We suggest a "sliding scale" approach...

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