The Fall Classic

Mike and Dara analyze the NAACP’s definition of discrimination and grapple with the unpleasant reality that Ohio’s online schools mostly suck. Amber looks at what it takes to exit high school these days.

Amber's Research Minute

Center on Education Policy, State High School Exit Exams: A Policy in Transition (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, September 2012)

Today’s post is a bit of a Board’s Eye View swan song, as I am embarking on two new projects that take me off “the board” as they widen my “view” considerably. I will be helping David Steiner, dean of education at Hunter College and former New York State commissioner of education, establish a new Institute for Education Policy at City University of New York. We hope to make the Institute an important forum for issues facing K-20 urban education. I will also be helping Ann Tisch, founder and chair of The Young Women’s Leadership Network, create a new and innovative curriculum for urban high school students. This too will be an exciting project, designed to bring essential twenty-first-century skills to our urban students.

What I hope to bring to both endeavors are some of the insights gleaned while serving on my small public district’s board of education and writing for the last twenty-five months (this is my 400th blog post for Fordham, but who’s counting?) about school governance...

The lessons of school board service do not quickly dissipate. My feelings about BOE service are similar to those of the new Bridging Differences interlocutory Pedro Noguera (taking Diane Ravitch’s...

The laugh factory

Mike and Rick wonder if there’s still room for ed reformers in the Democratic Party after Chicago. Amber analyzes why American students continue to struggle with the SAT. And Rick makes a few jokes at Karen Lewis’s expense.

Amber's Research Minute

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 - The College Board Download PDF

This report analyzes the change from compliance to performance management in eight state education agencies (SEAs). The researchers analyzed these SEAs purposely, because they  are each taking greater responsibility for the education outcomes of students in chronically poor performing schools. The SEAs under analysis were Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

These states shared some common elements including using data, restructuring their SEAs, use of clear and transparent communication, establishing a sense of urgency, leveraging federal funding threats, and relying on strong leadership. The states differ in their approach to implement the change and, most importantly, how they view the role of local education agencies (LEAs). 

Some other characteristics that determine the state strategy for making dramatic changes  include how the SEA leader  and state boards are selected, if they receive federal money from school improvement or innovation funds and if they have the legislative authority to take over low performing schools.

The SEAs studied have shifted their emphasis from federal regulation monitoring and compliance to organizations focused toward achieving goals and strengthened accountability in troubled LEAS. The researchers group the SEAs’ reform strategies into three descriptors:

  • The most disruptive (All-In):  The SEA moves
  • ...

Now what?

Checker and Mike autopsy the Chicago teachers’ strike and wonder why students at top schools have the cheating bug. Amber looks at why kids jst cn’t seam to rite.

Amber's Research Minute

National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011 (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, 2012).

Channeling Rahm

Kathleen and Mike cross the picket line and ask whether reformers have gone too far too fast on teacher evaluations. Amber makes the case for front-loading teacher pay.

Amber's Research Minute

How Should School Districts Shape Teacher Salary Schedules? Linking School Performance to Pay Structure in Traditional Compensation Schemes by Jason A. Grissom and Katharine O. Strunk - Download PDF

With a string of state-level victories behind us, much of the school-reform action is shifting to the local level. Enter the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust), a fast-growing network of local foundations, nonprofits, and mayors’ offices committed to edu-reform. (Fordham is proud to be a policy partner.) This new report from CEE-Trust profiles three of its members: The Mind Trust (Indianapolis), New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), and the Skillman Foundation (Detroit)—offering keen, concrete, and constructive insights into how each worked within their unique local contexts to leverage funding and resources and attract talent to their cities. NSNO, for example, invested specifically in “talent providers” like TNTP, New Leaders for New Schools, and TeachNOLA; The Mind Trust created an entrepreneurial fellowship and a venture fund to bring innovative people and ideas to Indy; and Skillman fostered community engagement through the Detroit Parent Network. The three organizational histories in the report deliver valuable lessons and perilous alerts for likeminded city-based education-reform organizations; the overall recommendations at the end of the report are worthwhile as well. While there is no “perfect customized strategy,” as CEE-Trust acknowledges, these three...

So what if it was a legal technicality? Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has found a way to keep an incompetent Board of Education from doing lasting damage to Detroit’s 69,000 remaining public-school pupils: He said seven of the board’s eleven members were elected to geographic districts when they were supposed to serve at-large, the district’s enrollment having fallen below the threshold that allows representation by geography. He filed a lawsuit last week to unseat them, prompting editorial writers in the Motor City to ask why he didn’t complain last year when school board elections put those members in office. But they know why:  Schuette filed his lawsuit the day after the dysfunctional board assumed greater control of the district from a weakened “emergency manager.” The A.G. had taken his own emergency action.

There is ample justification. For years, Michigan had limited the board’s powers by designating an emergency manager to oversee district spending. The board had nominal oversight over academics but lost that authority early last year when the legislature gave the emergency manager oversight over all school operations, together with the ability to tear up union contracts.

But it didn’t last. A voter registration group backed by...

Flying squirrels!

After a week’s hiatus, Mike and Rick catch up on the Romney-Ryan merger, creationism in voucher schools, and the ethics of school discipline. Daniela explains teachers’ views on merit pay.

Amber's Research Minute

Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession by Sarah Rosenber and Elena Silva with the FDR Group - Download the PDF

There has been a spate of “scathing” reports and comments lately about for-profit schools, which bring out the kissing-cousin questions of whether schools are “businesses,” whether it’s good to “privatize” them, and whether we need more “regulation.”

And all the words in quotation marks in that sentence are meant to draw attention to the fact that the field is littered with misunderstandings, misstatements, and just plain gobbledygook.

Our public-education system is failing too many children; why wouldn’t one consider doing something different?

But first, a word from Whitney Tilson, who summarized things rather succinctly in an August 8 email blast:

All of the fraud, sleaze, etc. that’s recently been uncovered in the for-profit ed sector warrants its own email. This is probably one of the few areas Ravitch and I would generally agree on, though I suspect I’m much more open to for-profit providers – but there needs to be VERY strong regulation, oversight, audits, etc. Otherwise it’s an invitation for disaster.”

You know that something is amiss if Tilson says he agrees with Diane Ravitch. But he has a shotgun list of bad news about private- and quasi-private-sector education. He calls attention to a recent New York Times...