NCLB

Mitt Romney unveiled his education plan on Wednesday, grabbing headlines and getting the education-policy community buzzing. While noting that Governor Romney’s proposal is a “good start,” Mike Petrilli wrote on Flypaper that the plan risks “replacing federal overreach on accountability with federal overreach.” For more analysis on this issue, watch Mike’s WSJ.com interview:

The race is on!

Mike and Education Sector’s John Chubb analyze Mitt Romney’s brand-new education plan and what RTTT will look like for districts. Amber considers whether competition among schools really spurs improvement.

Amber's Research Minute

Heterogeneous Competitive Effects of Charter Schools in Milwaukee

Governor Mitt Romney’s long-awaited education address happened on Wednesday, but the most telling news broke Tuesday, when we learned that Margaret Spellings is no longer one of his education advisors. She quit on principle, I assume, because Romney decided to turn the page on No Child Left Behind. As his campaign’s education “talking points” read, “Governor Romney’s plan reforms [NCLB] by emphasizing transparency and responsibility for results. Rather than federally-mandated school interventions, states would have incentives to create straightforward public report cards that evaluate each school on its contribution to student learning.” (Read his thirty-four-page education policy white paper here.)

Romney Speaks in Detroit
Gov. Romney wants to make Title I and IDEA dollars portable—a worthy idea, just make it voluntary.
Photo by Austin Hufford

Today, there’s not a single Republican in the House of Representatives, in the Senate, or running for president willing to defend federal accountability mandates. The GOP conversation has shifted to transparency, in line with what we’ve called Reform Realism. What a difference a decade makes.

The thrust of Romney’s speech, however, wasn’t his fresh view of accountability, but a major proposal on school choice. Romney wants to make Title I and IDEA dollars portable—a form of “backpack funding” from the federal level....

In fall 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the administration’s decision to allow states to apply for waivers to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirements. To receive consideration for these waivers states had to establish “college and career- ready” expectations, develop and implement differentiated accountability systems, and develop teacher and principal evaluations systems. The U.S. Department of Education granted waivers to eleven states during the first-round application process. Another 27 states currently have an application under consideration in the second round.

A recent report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) takes a look at the major accountability themes proposed by the 27 states in the second round, focusing on common themes among these states.

CEP found that the waiver applications in general are more complex than the current provisions of NCLB. The following are among the major accountability themes detected in the applications:

  • Adoption of the Common Core State Standards: All but one state (Virginia) has adopted the Common Core standards in math and English language arts.
  • Greater complexity in annual achievement targets: All of the states will continue to have Annual Measureable Objectives (AMOs), but they will become more complex and used to make accountability decisions.
  • Multiyear achievement goals: All but one state (Louisiana) will replace the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14 with a multiyear goal.
  • New measures of school and district performance: A majority of the states will replace the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) concept with performance indexes to
  • ...

The Gadfly’s "grand swap"

Mike and Rick analyze Senator Alexander’s ed-for-Medicaid trade and critique America’s private-public schools. Amber delves into a startling SIG success story.

Amber's Research Minute

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

In 2009, Fordham fellow Andy Smarick wrote: “School turnaround efforts have consistently fallen short of hopes and expectations.” And we’ve generally agreed. This research from Thomas Dee scuffs up that pristine position, however, at least a little. It examines first-year impacts of the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program (background here and here) in California. Dee analyzed data from roughly 2,800 schools situated just above and below the eligibility cut-off for SIG funds (eighty-two of which received SIG awards, averaging roughly $1,500 per pupil)—looking specifically at schools that opted for either of the two most popular models: transformation or turnaround (more on those here). Dee found that SIG reforms raised the scores on California’s Academic Performance Index by an impressive thirty-four scale points over the course of one year (2010-11). Before the interventions, the average SIG-eligible school scored roughly 150 points below the state’s performance target of 800, which implies that SIG closed this gap by 23 percent. (Still, API is a complex metric, and it is not clear what this means for average student-level growth on the California Standards Tests.) Dee found the most improvement in the turnaround schools (where the principal and most of the staff is replaced) and in schools that had been the “lowest-achieving.” That said, CA’s “lack of progress” schools (Title I schools that posted very minimal improvement in the five years before undergoing SIG intervention) were not significantly impacted by the federal program. Dee conducted a number of analyses attempting...

Where are the wild things?

Checker joins Mike on the podcast to recount his recent investigation of Asian gifted education and predict the outcome of California’s waiver gambit, while Amber has some issues with a recent report on the Common Core’s potential.

Amber's Research Minute

William Schmidt Common Core State Standards Math: The Relationship Between High Standards, Systemic Implementation and Student Achievement - Download the Powerpoint

Three cheers for California’s governor, state superintendent, and state board chair, for applying for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind) that doesn’t totally kowtow to Washington. While Jerry Brown, Tom Torlakson, and Mike Kirst deserve plenty of criticism for their indifference to education reform—kicking charter supporters off the state board, cozying up to the teacher unions—on this one they deserve kudos for bravery and federalism. In a nine-page request (still in draft form for another month) they ask Arne Duncan to allow California to use its own accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API), and to scrap AYP. But they refuse to meet one of Duncan’s conditions for such flexibility: namely, the creation of a statewide teacher evaluation system. As Kirst bluntly put it, "We're saying we just can't pay for it." Moreover, he continued, "We do not see anything in the law about state mandates for teacher evaluation." Finally, a state willing to call out the administration on the dubious legality of its waiver policy. (And a true-blue state at that!) To be clear: California’s request shouldn’t automatically be approved. There are legitimate questions about API and whether it’s demanding enough (and sensitive enough to subgroup performance). As with the other states, Duncan has a right to negotiate over the particulars. But he doesn’t have a right to demand in return the creation of a teacher evaluation system not mentioned in the law. It may well be a good idea—but...

Three cheers for California’s governor, state superintendent, and state board chair, for applying for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind) that doesn’t kowtow to Washington.

Finally, a state willing to call out the Administration on the illegality of its waiver policy.

While Jerry Brown, Tom Torlakson, and Mike Kirst deserve plenty of criticism for their indifference to education reform—kicking charter supporters off the state board, cozying up to the teacher unions—on this one they deserve nothing but kudos.

In a nine-page request (still in draft form for another month), they ask Arne Duncan to allow California to use its own accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API), and to scrap AYP. Mimicking language Duncan himself has used, they write:

Unrealistic and ever-increasing performance targets have forced us to label 63 percent of Title I schools and 47 percent of districts receiving Title I funds as needing improvement, and to apply sanctions that do not necessarily lead to improved learning for the students in those schools. This practice has confused the public, demoralized teachers, and tied up funds that could have been more precisely targeted on the schools and districts that are most in need of improvement.

But they refuse to meet one of Duncan’s conditions for such flexibility: Namely, the creation of a statewide teacher evaluation system. From Politics K-12:

Why? The cash-strapped state just doesn't have the funds to help school districts cover the cost of...

The Gadfly’s spring line is out!

Janie and Daniela debate designer Kenneth Cole’s foray into education reform and the Department of Education’s CTE overhaul, while Amber examines turnover among charter school principals.

Amber's Research Minute

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector by New York City Charter School Center

Pages