Governance

This report, published jointly by the Fordham Institute and The Broad Foundation, contends that American public education faces a "crisis in leadership" that cannot be alleviated from traditional sources of school principals and superintendents. Its signers do not believe this crisis can be fixed by conventional strategies for preparing, certifying and employing education leaders. Instead, they urge that first-rate leaders be sought outside the education field, earn salaries on par with their peers in other professions, and gain new authority over school staffing, operations and budgets.

Will the sanctions for failing schools laid out in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) succeed in turning those schools around? This report draws on the results of previous?efforts to overhaul failing schools to provide a glimpse at what may be expected from NCLB-style interventions. The results:?no intervention strategy has a success rate greater than 50%, so policymakers are urged to consider additional options for children trapped in failing schools.

How much government aid do parochial schools and their students actually receive? Connell finds that public aid flows to church-affiliated schools through many channels, though amounts vary greatly from state to state. This report is especially timely in light of the Supreme Court's important decision upholding government aid to religious schools.

In this review of state math standards, authors Raimi and Braden found a disturbing lack of "mathematical reasoning" in most of the 47 state standards they examined; only three states earned "A's" while 16 states flunked.

This is the third in a series of reports on state standards published by the Fordham Foundation and is our first-ever look at state standards for geography. Authors Susan Munroe and Terry Smith found reason for hope in a few of the excellent standards they found (like Colorado's), but most of the documents they analyzed were extremely weak; only six states earned "A's" or "B's," while 18 states failed.

The second in a series of evaluations of state standards, this is our first review of state history standards. In his analysis, author David W. Saxe offers a scathing indictment of state history standards, which he judged to be little better than the oft-ridiculed National History Standards; four earned 'A's' or 'B's,' while 19 states flunked.

As a college freshman in an introductory sociology class, I was assigned the book There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. This story of two young boys trying to survive one of Chicago’s most impoverished and dangerous housing projects is absolutely heart wrenching.

I won’t forget the book’s emotional grip, but equally influential to my intellectual development was the policy and political backstory that explained how the boys’ toxic surroundings came to be.

Nearly two decades later, I’m still chastened by the book’s central lesson: A government policy developed by mostly-benevolent leaders hoping to improve the lives of the disadvantaged—in this case, by razing old, low-income, ostensibly decaying neighborhoods in favor of gigantic public-housing skyscrapers—did incalculable harm to those it was designed to help.

This has been on my mind in recent weeks, as the national school-closure conversation has flared. Much of that conversation is familiar, but one assertion made by critics, namely that school closures destabilize entire neighborhoods, raises a question that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough. And though some might wave it away as irrelevant or worse, the lessons of the Kotlowitz book force me to take it seriously:

Can a bad school be good for a neighborhood?

Might there be compelling civic or social reasons exist for keeping open persistently failing or unsafe inner-city schools?

We know there are reasons to close them. First, school turnarounds seldom work (contra the recent statement from AFT president Randi Weingarten), and closures stop us from continuing...

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