Governance

Or so this blogger says. Heatedly picking apart several recent National Review Online pieces on Obama's controversial latest speech, he offers up this gem on Liam's piece:

"If Obama wants to move past the divisive racial politics of the past, why does he rehash these divisive racial politics of the past?" - Liam Julian.

Because, f***nuts, pretending everything is fine when it isn't? That's Republican strategy. It ain't f***ng working in Iraq, it's not f***ing working in the financial markets, it's not f***ing working about climate change, and it won't f***ing work on race either. It only works for individual Republicans who get out before the bombs go off, their portfolio collapses, their coast gets flooded, or the riots start.

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In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America's Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.

    The main findings:

    • Thirty, or more than half, of the 50 districts have labor agreements that are ambiguous. The collective bargaining agreements and the formal board policies in these districts appear to grant leaders substantial leeway to manage assertively, should they so choose.
    • Fifteen of the 50 districts are home to Restrictive or Highly Restrictive labor agreements. Nearly 10 percent of the nation's African-American K-12 students population attend school in the 15 lowest-scoring districts-making these contracts major barriers to more equal educational opportunity.
    • The study also found that districts with high concentrations of poor and minority students tend to have more restrictive contracts than other districts-another alarming indication of inequity along racial and class lines.
    • The labor agreements of the nation's 50 largest districts are particularly restrictive when it comes to work rules.
    • Most of these agreements are also quite restrictive when it comes to rewarding teachers for service in hard-to-staff subject areas such as math and science, with 31 actually prohibiting districts from doing so.

    Individual District Reports

    Albuquerque Public Schools (NM)
    Anne Arundel County Public Schools (MD)
    ...

    Public school principals encounter a sizable gap between the autonomy they believe they need to be effective and the autonomy that they actually have in practice, especially when it comes to hiring, firing, and transferring teachers. That's a key finding of this report from the Fordham Institute and the American Institutes for Research, which is based on a series of interviews with a small sample of district and charter-school principals. Regrettably if understandably, many district principals have also come to accept this "autonomy gap" as a fact of life. They learn to work the system, not change the system.

    Full reports on each state in the study as well as just charter schools across all three states are available only online:

    At the request of Ohio's top government and education leaders, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have issued a report seeking to strengthen the state's charter school program. Among its 17 recommendations are calls for closing low-performing charter schools and holding sponsors more accountable for oversight of the growing charter movement while also helping more high-performance schools to open and succeed in Ohio. In return for sharply stepped-up accountability, restrictions on the formation of high-quality charters should be removed, and charter schools should receive more equitable funding.

    Turning the Corner to Quality bases its findings on research and analysis of Ohio school performance data; a review of best practices in other states; input from experts in charter school finance, sponsorship, accountability and policy; and evaluation of dozens of policy options.

    Education policy leaders from across the political spectrum flesh out and evaluate several forms that national standards and testing could take.

    Belatedly, policymakers and researchers are recognizing that quality charter schools depend on quality charter school authorizing. This report presents findings from a pioneering national examination of the organizations that sponsor, oversee, and hold accountable U.S. charter schools. Its primary aim is to describe and characterize these crucial but little-known organizations.

    Related resources

    Authorizer Survey Online Appendix: Full Survey Responses (Word File)

    Authorizer Survey Database (final data)

    American middle schools have become the places "where academic achievement goes to die." So says Cheri Yecke, K-12 Education Chancellor of Florida and author of the new Fordham report Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work.  Today's middle schools have succumbed to a concept of "middle schoolism" in which a strong academic curriculum is traded for one that focuses more on emotional and social development, and less on learning the basics. And the achievement data reflects "middle schoolism's" results. In 1999, U.S. eighth graders scored nine points below average on the TIMSS assessment of math. What's more, these same eighth graders had outperformed the average by 28 points as fourth graders in 1995! According to Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., "Trying to fix high schools while ignoring middle schools is like bandaging a wound before treating it for infection."

    How did New York City's experiment in school reform, once so promising, become such a mess? Author Sol Stern explains in this third edition of Fordham's new Fwd: series of short articles of interest to K-12 education reformers.

    Statewide textbook adoption, the process by which 21 states dictate the textbooks that schools and districts can use, is fundamentally flawed. Textbook adoption distorts the market, entices extremist groups to hijack the curriculum, enriches the textbook cartel, and papers the land with mediocre instructional materials that cannot fulfill their important education mission. The adoption process cannot be set right by tinkering with it, concludes The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption, the latest release from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Rather, legislators and governors in adoption states should eliminate the process and devolve funding for and decisions about textbook purchases to individual schools, individual districts, even individual teachers.
     
    The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption is the first of a new Fordham Institute series, "Compact Guides to Education Solutions," that provides practical solutions to K-12 education problems for policy makers, legislators, school leaders, and activists. These concise guides are meant to help drive reforms at the local, state, and national levels by offering actionable policy recommendations.

    This new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the first significant study of the organizations that authorize charter schools. The report examines 23 states and the District of Columbia to determine how supportive they are of charter schools, how good a job their authorizers are doing, and how policy makers could strengthen their states' charter programs.

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