Governance

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...

This yearly report covers Fordham's sponsorship practices throughout the year as well as newsworthy events related to our sponsored charter schools. You can also find detailed reports on all of Fordham-sponsored schools.  Each school report contains information on the school's academic performance, educational philosophy, and compliance for the 2007-2008 school year.

Observers of American public education have repeatedly asserted that schools are over-regulated, but little empirical evidence exists about the nature and scope of such regulatory interference. That's probably because the problem is so complex; aggregating and analyzing the copious volumes of statutes and regulations that bear on schools, not to mention collective bargaining agreements and reams of court decisions impacting classrooms, might easily seem a never-ending quest.  

In the past, some have suggested measuring regulatory interference with crude measures, such as physically weighing the books that spell out such regulations, stacking them end to end, or simply counting the number of pages. These antics, while attention-grabbing, ultimately contribute little to our understanding of the depth and breadth of regulatory interference in education.  

Thus our pilot study has a simple, if ambitious, aim: to delve into the details of key state statutory and administrative codes, as well as state budgeting practices, in order to measure some of the most critical parts of the regulatory context in which schools operate. To our knowledge, no previous analysis has attempted to map out as much of the regulatory landscape across multiple states in as much detail.  

Our study is grounded in the premise that, in this era of school accountability, it is counterproductive to hold principals' "feet to the fire" for increasing student achievement while simultaneously tying their hands when it comes to staffing, budgeting, and performing other key functions of school operations.  

To understand the degree to which state policy limits principals' autonomy...

As Gov. Ted Strickland concludes his 12-city "Conversation on Education" tour to gather ideas for reforming public education in Ohio, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has put forth a report of five recommendations designed to keep improvements in the Buckeye State's public schools on track toward three critical goals: 1) maximizing the talents of every child; 2) producing graduates as good as any in the world; and 3) closing the persistent academic gaps that continue between rich and poor, and black and white and brown.

The five recommendations include:

  1. Creating world-class standards and stronger accountability mechanisms. 
  2. Ensure that funding is fairly allocated among all children and schools. 
  3. Recruit the best and brightest to lead schools and empower them to succeed. 
  4. Improve teacher quality. 
  5. Expand the quality of, and access to, a range of high-performing school options.

    The report offers relevant examples of the best practices and thinking from across the nation and world as well as within the state of Ohio. These recommendations were developed on the basis of the work over the past decade of many organizations, including Achieve, McKinsey & Co., the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Center on Education and the Economy, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Ohio's State Board of Education and Department of Education. ...

    Liam Julian

    Florida's governor rightly opposes this bone-headed bill.

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    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:

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