NCLB

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

The pineapple and the gadfly

Standardized testing, school closures, and a pineapple: Rick and Janie cover it all this week, while Amber wonders whether weighted-student funding made a difference in Hartford after all.

Amber's Research Minute

Funding a Better Education: conclusions from the first three years of student-based budgeting in hartford

Streeeeetching the school dollar

Mike and Adam talk space shuttles, vouchers, and how districts can make the most of tight budgets on this week’s podcast, while Amber explains what special ed looks like in the Bay State.

Amber's Research Minute

Review of Special Education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Download the PDF

The Education Gadfly Podstagram

Will Mitt take on ed? Is Jindal gutting public schools? The podcast has answers. Plus, Janie provides the inside scoop on state accountability and Amber analyzes school shoppers in Detroit.

Amber's Research Minute

Understanding School Shoppers in Detroit

Six years and still buzzin'

On the podcast’s iron anniversary, Rick and Mike reflect on the highs and lows of education policy since 2006. Rick also provides a glimpse into the future (of the Common Core) while Amber explains what exactly can be learned from charter school management organizations.

Amber's Research Minute

Learning from Charter School Management Organizations: Strategies for Student Behavior and Teacher Coaching

Arne Duncan may be excited about the potential of his School Improvement Grant (SIG) initiative to turn around our nation’s lowest-performing schools, but the folks at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) aren’t convinced. This qualitative report from CRPE examines the progress of Washington State’s SIG-funded school districts between December 2009 and June 2011. (More background on SIG here.) Forty-four interviews at the school, district, and state levels five months after SIG implementation began reveal signs of incremental changes in schools, but no sweeping shifts in achievement or culture. According to the report, the hindrances to bold reforms were timing, communication, and an aversion to risk taking. SIG’s constricted timeline (just two months between program announcement and application due date) negatively impacted the initial SIG application, the planning phase, negotiations with unions, and the hiring process, thus impairing implementation. Additionally, vague communication from districts left schools unaware of the SIG program’s expectations. Finally, most of the schools that did adopt changes opted for the least disruptive interventions (replacing the school leader only, rather than the whole staff, for example). To spur more fundamental reform, CRPE offers recommendations for players at each level: The feds should make SIG more competitive and allow time for a planning phase as part of the application process; states should clearly communicate the program’s goals to districts and schools; districts should open a turnaround-specific office to work with schools; and schools...

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