The debates surrounding Ohio’s biennial budget and other education-related legislation during the first half of 2011 were intense, and it’s no wonder. The state headed into the year facing a historic deficit, federal stimulus money was vanishing, and school districts were preparing for draconian cuts. Meanwhile, despite decades of reform efforts and increases in school funding, Ohio’s academic performance has remained largely stagnant, with barely one-third of the state’s students scoring proficient or better in either math or reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Achievement gaps continued to yawn between black and white students and between disadvantaged youngsters and their better-off peers.

 Revised considerably by the General Assembly, Governor Kasich’s budget plan (House Bill 153), a 5,000-page document that both funded the Buckeye State through fiscal year 2013 and included dozens of education-policy changes, was signed into law on June 30. The Ohio House and Senate were also engaged during the spring in passing other legislation that impacts schools.

It’s time to take stock. To what extent have Ohio’s leaders met the challenges and opportunities before them in K-12 education? What needs to happen next?...

I talked for a bit last night with a DCPS teacher about IMPACT. While he expressed some concern about the system, he also said he was proof of it's effectiveness. See, he's a third-year elementary teacher at a struggling school in Northeast. He had twenty kids on IEPs in his class last year--which, along with the extra strife that caused in the classroom, meant hours of added administrative work. This spring, he got a job offer to teach at a school in a wealthy Virginia district--with a guarantee of no more than five IEP students per year and a significant salary bump.

He didn't take the deal. Why? Because he was ranked highly effective this past year and earned himself a $15,000 bonus through IMPACT. That bonus was enough to keep this quality new teacher in a classroom at a needy DCPS school. (A big deal when you note that the trajectory of so many strong teachers is to "put in their time" at an urban school and then slide over to a cushy job in a suburban district, draining our cities of teacher talent.)

So on that front, IMPACT seems to be working.

--Daniela Fairchild...

Laurent Rigal

A few days ago, 206 ?ineffective? or twice-rated ?minimally effective? teachers were dismissed from their positions at the District of Columbia Public Schools thanks to the District's new teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT. As we wrote in yesterday's Gadfly,

D.C.'s terminations over the past two years mark a major milestone: the first time that teachers have been systematically, objectively assessed?and then held to account for their performance. Not even Montgomery County or Cincinnati (both of which are praised for their teacher-eval systems) can boast the rigors or consequences of IMPACT. What's more, IMPACT has survived the Fenty-Gray mayoral shift (and the exit of its architect, Michelle Rhee). It looks like the evaluation system is here to stay.

But should we really be celebrating, as Kevin Carey has asserted, ?the triumph of empiricism?? Not just yet.

Claims that the ?system is working? are, at best, premature and, at worse, detrimental to that very system's future. (Is it no more than a fancy way to axe teachers, the opponents may say?) Tallying the number of educators fired cannot be the gauge for assessing the success or effectiveness of a program like IMPACT. And banners touting the...

If the country's schools of education have been one of the more prominent bulls-eyes for school reformers, this new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, ?Student Teaching in the United States,? is bound to unnerve a few ed schools; 99 of them to be exact.? The NCTQ evaluated programs at 134 of the nation's 1,400 education schools and concluded that 74 percent of them did not meet basic standards of a high quality program.? As NCTQ president Kate Walsh tells Tamar Lewin of the New York Times:

Many people would say student teaching is the most important piece of teacher preparation?.? But the field is really barren in the area of standards. The basic accrediting body doesn't even have a standard for how long a student teacher needs to be in the classroom. And most of the institutions we reviewed do not do enough to screen the quality of the cooperating teacher the student will work with.

Stephen Sawchuk at Education Week also notes that the NCTQ ?contends that colleges are preparing too many elementary-level teachers?perhaps more than double the number needed nationally?thereby taxing both the higher education institution and its partner school districts'...

Dan Ariely has a provocative but mostly wrong-headed article in today's Washington Post roundtable on the Atlanta testing scandal. He claims that it's inevitable that teachers will respond to high-stakes tests by cheating just as corporate executives act in ethically challenged ways to please their bosses and investors.?But business people all behave differently, some ethically and some not. What drives the difference?

Take Johnson & Johnson during the 1980s Tylenol scare as an example. For decades, J&J has operated based on a credo that permeates the organization. These values have real relevance in the company, and personnel are promoted and developed based on their adherence to the credo. Business school students read cases on Johnson & Johnson's success at developing this corporate culture. When tragedy struck with the Tylenol murders, J&J acted responsibly, even though they weren't responsible for the deaths. Given the culture there at the time, it's hard to imagine them doing otherwise. Yet J&J also measures its profitability and expects employees to contribute to that bottom line.

Ariely glides over this in his "history lesson," suggesting that measuring and evaluating using a specific criterion necessarily causes people to focus only on what's...

Over the past decade, Detroit's population has declined by 25 percent. Since its heyday in 1950, the city has contracted by about 40 percent. (It now sits at about 700,000, making it the 18th most populous city in the country.) Coupled with this exodus is a gang of usual social ills (some causes of the flight, others caused, or exacerbated, by it)?emptied buildings lead to urban decay, companies having difficulty attracting talent leave in search of stronger human-capital pipelines, idle and disaffected youth turn to street gangs for income and worth.

And the schools suffer. In Detroit (though this problem isn't unique to Motown), school buildings are only filled to half-capacity. Parents who can have plucked up their children and quickly deposited them in neighboring suburban districts with more resources and better teachers.

Couple these general issues with the particulars that ravage Detroit Public Schools?a long history of corruption among city officials, abysmal student achievement (just look at the latest fourth-grade NAEP results), a steadfast and ridiculously antiquated system (including a hell-bent teacher union)?and you've got the ultimate dog's breakfast.

And things just don't seem to be getting better. Of course, this isn't for...

Laurent Rigal

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Photo by The Mechanical Turk"][/caption]

For six years, Prince George's County Public Schools, a Maryland district just outside our nation's capital, has aggressively recruited foreign teachers (predominantly from the Philippines) to teach in PG County in order to help the district address its desperate need of Highly Qualified teachers (NCLB-style) in difficult-to-staff areas like science, math, and special education. And the recruiting paid off: Hundreds of foreign national teachers answered the call, in a large part because of the opportunity (heavily underlined by PGCPS recruiters) that a H1-B visa (or ?work visa?) could lead in the long term to a permanent resident status (or ?green card?). Put aside for a moment the problem with attracting teachers via the lure of a potential ?green card? (something the district can in no way ensure). The biggest issue with the program?and why it fell under investigation by the Department of Labor?is that it charged would-be teachers thousands of dollars in illegal fees (for visa processing, placement, attorneys fees, etc.). The Department of Labor called the practice a ?violations of willful nature.?

This DOL investigation (which wrapped up yesterday...