A Reform-Driven System

Via this ambitious strand of work, we seek to deepen and strengthen the K–12 system’s capacity to deliver quality education to every child, based on rigorous standards and ample choices, by ensuring that it possesses the requisite talent, technology, policies, practices, structures, and nimble governance arrangements to promote efficiency as well as effectiveness.

In May 2015, a coalition of stakeholders from business, philanthropy, and education organizations in Cincinnati announced a new public-private partnership called Accelerate Great Schools (AGS). AGS’s goal is to grow the number of high-quality seats in Cincinnati by developing and expanding schools and models that deliver outstanding results for kids. On Wednesday afternoon, AGS announced the recipients of its first two grants.

The first, worth $128,000, will support Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) work with TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project) on attracting, supporting, and developing school principals and assistant principals. As we’ve written before, school leadership is critically important, especially given how difficult it is to recruit and select strong candidates. At an event in October, we heard from Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward that it’s particularly difficult for large urban districts to recruit and retain effective principals. Heather Grant, from the Aspiring Principals Program in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, emphasized the importance of ongoing support and development. Thanks to AGS, principal recruitment and development are about to get a whole lot better in Cincinnati. The new CPS grant will assess how the district handles recruiting,...

Editor's note: For a summary of noteworthy content from contenders' proposals, read "Some great ideas from our ESSA Accountability Design Competition."

Under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states now face the challenge of creating school accountability systems that can vastly improve upon the model required by No Child Left Behind. To help spur creative thinking about how they might do so, and also to inform the Department of Education as it develops its ESSA regulations, the Fordham Institute is hosting an ESSA Accountability Design Competition. (Details here.)

We were thrilled to receive more than two dozen proposals from policy experts, academics, teachers, and students. On Tuesday, February 2, we’ll see ten of these submissions presented on the Fordham stage. (RSVP here.) Participants will pitch and defend their proposals in front of a live audience and an American Idol-style panel of judges.

So why these ten? I chose candidates that I found to be a) particularly well designed; b) especially creative; and/or c) that raised important issues for the Department to consider in the regulatory process. I also aimed to include a variety of voices, including students and teachers. (Their authors also had to...

The standard argument holds that improving education will improve the nation’s economy. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research not only affirms this argument but also demonstrates just how big the economic effects of school improvement could be.

From the start, it’s clear that this paper differs from its predecessors. Previous studies examined human capital and its effect on states’ economic development by measuring school attainment (high school graduation). This study points out that attainment is an imperfect yardstick—it incorrectly assumes that increased levels of schooling automatically suggest increased levels of knowledge and skills. A better way to determine the relationship between education and economic value is to measure a different outcome: achievement. Since “no direct measures of cognitive skills for the labor force” exist, the authors craft their own. They start by constructing an average test score for each state using NAEP, then adjust the test scores for different types of migration (interstate and international among them) in order to offset the high mobility of our population.

Hanushek, who has published multiple studies linking economic activity with enhanced educational output, offers several scenarios in his latest report. If every state improved to the level of...

A new CALDER study examines whether student-teaching experience affects both later teaching effectiveness and the likelihood of leaving the profession.

Dan Goldhaber and colleagues analyzed data from six university-based teacher education programs in Washington State that, together, graduate roughly one-third of the state’s teachers. They assembled an impressive data set that included information on teacher candidates’ cooperating or supervising teachers and where their internships or student-teaching occurred; administrative data on race, gender, experience, educational background, and teaching endorsements; and data on the schools in which they were trained and the schools in which they were hired. The sample included individuals who had completed their student-teaching between 1998 and 2010, comprising approximately 8,300 trainees.

Note that (as Goldhaber et al. repeatedly stress) these are descriptive findings, not causal ones, because the analytic models can’t account for the non-random sorting of teachers to schools and teaching positions.

There are three key findings: First, teachers who student-taught in schools with low levels of teacher turnover are less likely to leave teaching.

Second, teachers appear to be more effective when the student demographics at their schools reflect those of the schools in which they student-taught. For example, students in high-poverty schools are predicted to...

  • Career and technical education is one of the best weapons in the reformer’s arsenal. It’s a proven gateway to post-secondary credentials and skilled jobs, which can’t be taken for granted when so many of our high school graduates find themselves unprepared for college and career. The Gadfly was apoplectic when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey green-lit $30 million in cuts to the state’s CTE programs last year, reducing their funding by nearly 50 percent. These classes obviously benefit the ninety thousand students they serve annually, but they’re also a boon to the local and regional economies, which profit immensely from a domestic source of coveted technicians and tradesmen. It’s great news for all, therefore, that veto-proof majorities in both houses of Arizona’s state legislature are ready to pass legislation repealing the cuts. If ever there was a case of government electing to be pennywise and pound-foolish, it was this.
  • Republicans and teachers’ unions have always been like peas in a pod. We’re not sure where the love affair started, but it was probably when they spent all those decades impugning and seeking to destroy one another. Okay, kidding aside, we’re all aware of the historic tensions existing between unionized teachers and the
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Late in 2015, Congress passed a new federal education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—which replaces the outdated No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The new legislation turns over considerably greater authority to states, which will now have much more flexibility in the design and implementation of accountability systems. At last, good riddance to NCLB’s alphabet soup of policies like “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and “highly qualified teachers” (HQT)—and yes, the absurd “100 percent proficient by 2014” mandate. Adios, too, to “waivers” that added new restrictions!

But now the question is whether states can do any better. As Ohio legislators contemplate a redesign of school accountability for the Buckeye State, it would first be useful to review our current system. This can help us better understand which elements should be kept and built upon, modified, or scrapped—and which areas warrant greater attention if policy makers are going to improve schools. Since Ohio has an A–F school rating system, it seems fitting to rate the present system’s various elements on an A–F scale. Some will disagree with my ratings—after all, report cards are something of an art—so send along your thoughts or post a comment.

NB: In this...

When Governor Kasich signed the state budget last June, myriad education changes became law. One of the most talked-about was the extension of a policy known as “safe harbor.” This was instituted to protect students, teachers, and schools from sanctions brought about by the state accountability system during Ohio’s transition to a new and more rigorous state assessment (its third in three years). The provisions are relatively simple: Test scores from 2014–15, 2015–16, and 2016–17 cannot be used in student promotion or course credit decisions, nor can they be used for teacher evaluations or employment decisions. Schools aren’t assigned an overall grade during the safe harbor, and report cards can’t be considered when determining “sanctions or penalties” for schools.

One of the accountability measures impacted by safe harbor is the EdChoice Scholarship program. EdChoice, Ohio’s largest voucher program, affords students otherwise stuck in the state’s lowest-performing schools the opportunity to attend private schools at public expense.[1] Safe harbor, however, mandates that schools on the EdChoice eligibility list as of 2014–15 remain on the list (even if they improve) and schools not on the list stay off (even if their performance declines). We immediately...

If you’ve been keeping up with the Common Core scandal pages, you may be wondering who Dianne Barrow is.

Until this month, the answer would have been, “An anonymous functionary scuttling about the publishing behemoth known as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.” That was before Barrow, who now finds herself a cog without a machine, was featured in an eight-minute video produced by Project Veritas and its merry prankster front man James O’Keefe. In it, she explains how entities like HMH and Pearson view Common Core as a chance to sell second-rate books to schools suddenly required to teach from standards-aligned materials. (She also mouths off about home-schoolers, but that’s basically included as bonus content.) “You don’t think that educational publishing companies are in it for the kids, do you? No, they’re in it for the money,” she says.

Take a coffee break and check out the video. Not because it contains any footage of journalistic merit, or because its makers are especially credible. In fact, the opposite is true. O’Keefe is one of those charming types whose mugshot pops up if you google him, a memento of his arrest and guilty plea following a bungled attempt to break into a U.S. senator’s office and tamper with phones....

A new study from the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences provides results for fourth-grade students on the 2012 NAEP pilot computer-based writing assessment. The study asks whether fourth graders can fully demonstrate their writing ability on a computer and what factors are related to their writing performance on said computers.

A representative sample of roughly 10,400 fourth graders from 510 public and private schools composed responses to writing tasks intended to gauge their ability to persuade or change a reader’s point of view, explain the reader’s understanding of a topic, and convey a real or imaginary experience. Students were randomly assigned two writing tasks (out of thirty-six) and were given thirty minutes to complete each one. The study also references results from a 2010 paper-based pilot writing assessment and 2011 NAEP results for eighth- and twelfth-grade computer-based writing assessments—all of which came from different groups of kids. They also present results for an analysis of fifteen tasks that were common to both the paper and computer-writing pilot.

There are five key findings. First, 68 percent of fourth graders received scores in the bottom half of the six-point scoring scale on the computer-based pilot. Second, the percentage of responses...

  • On the same day that Jeb Bush unveiled his education agenda, thousands of families in his home state marched in Tallahassee to support some of the very school choice programs he championed in office. The first-of-its-kind Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which helps generate funding for poor children to attend the private schools of their choice, has recently been contested in court by Florida Education Association (the state’s largest teachers’ union). In protest against the lawsuit, swarms of students, parents, and educators from charter schools made their voices heard. The most persuasive speaker of all, however, was none other than Martin Luther King III. “What choice does,” said the son of the civil rights icon, “is essentially create options, particularly for poor and working families that they would not necessarily normally have.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
  • Useful policy ideas don’t spring only from the campaign trail, or from earnest direct action. (To be honest, they almost never come from the campaign trail.) This week, the Council of Chief State School Officers opened an important new front in the war to close America’s skills gap. In partnership with the National Association of State Directors of Career
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