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.

Much attention has been paid to why teachers quit. Statistics and studies get thrown around, and there are countless theories to explain the attrition rate. While recent reports indicate that the trend might not be as bad as we’ve thought, teacher attrition isn’t just about whole-population numbers—it’s about retaining the most effective teachers within those numbers. Indeed, a 2012 study from TNTP (formerly known as the New Teacher Project) notes that our failure to improve teacher retention is largely a matter of failing to retain the right teachers. A separate study suggests that retaining the best teachers is all about reducing barriers that make teachers feel powerless and isolated. The 2014 National Teacher of the Year recently pointed out that, among myriad other causes, lacking influence in their own schools and districts (let alone in state policy) is often at the root of teacher attrition.

Keeping high-performers in the classroom has long been a trouble spot for schools. “If you don’t offer leadership opportunities for teachers to excel in their profession, to grow, and still allow them to stay in the classroom,” says Ruthanne Buck, senior advisor to Secretary of...

There’s been a lot of pontificating lately about how to interpret the opt-out movement and the message parents are trying to deliver. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley believes that “soccer moms” are mad at Common Core. Jay Greene, channeled by Riley, blames the diminishment of parental control. Rick Hess fingers the reformers’ social justice agenda, which is at odds with the interests of middle class suburban parents.

These guesses are as good as anyone’s because the truth is: We don’t know. To my knowledge, nobody has surveyed a representative sample of the opt-outers; nobody knows for sure what’s motivating them. So let’s pause for a moment and examine what we do know. In other words, let’s establish the fact base.

  1. A whole lot of parents in New York State opted out their kids of state exams this spring. According to New York State Allies for Public Education, almost 200,000 students did not take the tests; in several districts, that number was as high as 70 percent.
  2. A handful of New Jersey districts also saw sky-high opt-out numbers,
  3. ...

Editor's note: On May 6, Fordham contributor Andy Smarick delivered testimony before an Ohio education subcommittee on Senate Bill 148, a critical piece of legislation that would help clean up the state's troubled charter sector. With his permission, we're reproducing his remarks.

Thank you Chair Hite, Vice Chair Sawyer, and subcommittee members for allowing me to offer some thoughts on your ongoing efforts to improve charter schooling in Ohio. Congratulations and thank you for the important progress that’s reflected in the legislation being considered here today.

My name is Andy Smarick, and I’m a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization committed to improving K–12 schooling, especially for high-need students. I’ve worked on education policy for most of my career—at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. House of Representatives, a state department of education, and a state legislature.

I’m also a strong advocate for high-quality charter schooling. I helped start a charter school for low-income students, I helped found the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and I’ve written extensively about charter schooling, including a book on how—when done right—it can dramatically improve student results in cities.

I was a coauthor of the...

  • Michigan Governor Rick Snyder isn’t likely to set any Iowa cornfields flame with his kinda-sorta candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination (though Fordham’s Brandon Wright will be ready to give him the Eduwatch 2016 treatment if and when he throws his hat in). But he’s continuing to bolster an interesting policy profile with his new proposal to divide the Detroit school district, Solomon-like, in two. The system is both a ghastly failure of public education (just 6 percent of its high schoolers are rated proficient in math) and a sinkhole of red ink, and Snyder’s initiative could help clear some of the $2 billion in bond and operating debt off its books. Reformers are already working to reshape the city’s worst-performing schools, and more such innovation might be necessary in the coming years.
  • When we imagine a child plagued by a lack of educational choice and opportunity, it’s probably one living in a city like Detroit. But while the woes of the urban school district can’t be ignored, kids living far from the bright lights might have it just as bad. Of the fifty counties in the United States with the greatest percentages of
  • ...

A new report from the Institute of Education Sciences presents new data from a national survey of teachers, which is part of a longitudinal study of public school teachers who began teaching sometime between the school years 2007–2008 and 2011–2012. Of the many findings, six stand out.

  1. During their second year, 74 percent of beginning teachers taught in the same school as the previous year, 16 percent taught in a different school, and 10 percent were not teaching. By year five, 17 percent of teachers had left teaching.
  2. The percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach after the first year varied by first year salary level. For example, 97 percent of beginning teachers whose first year base salaries were $40,000 or more were still teaching in year two of the study, whereas only 87 percent of those with a first year salary less than $40,000 taught for a second year.
  3. No differences were detected between the percentages of current teachers who started teaching with a bachelor’s degree and those who started teaching with a master’s degree.
  4. The percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach was larger among those who were assigned a first year mentor than among
  5. ...

ACT’s new report is based on a survey it administered to graduating high school seniors who took its college entrance exam, a cohort that now comprises 57 percent of the nation’s graduates. The report analyzes data on the self-reported career interests of nearly 1.85 million students, compared to those who took the ACT in the previous four years; it focuses particularly on those who expressed an interest in education as a profession. This includes survey respondents who planned to major in administration/student services, general teacher education, the teaching of special populations (e.g., early childhood, special education), and the teaching of specific subject areas like math or a foreign language.

The researchers found that between 2010 and 2015, the total number of graduates who planned to work in education decreased more than 16 percent—even though the number of ACT test takers rose 18 percent. Similarly, the percentage of all test takers planning to walk that career path decreased from 7 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2016. These students also achieve lower ACT scores than the national average in math, science, and reading—something that was also true in 2010. And the cohort is less diverse than some might prefer: 72...

Jack Jennings was the most influential education policy staffer on the Democratic side of Congress—probably on both sides—for the past half century. He served on the House Education Committee team for some twenty-seven years, then founded and led a well-regarded quasi-think tank called the Center on Education Policy, which continues to issue useful studies.

His new book, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is forceful, opinionated, informative, and sometimes quite wrong. (A simple example: He several times attaches my own stint in the Education Department to the wrong president. More importantly, he misstates Richard Nixon’s K–12 proposals and incorrectly describes their handling by Congress.) As Andy Rotherham says on the back cover, “If you agree with everything in this book, you probably didn’t read it closely.”

But there’s much useful history and perceptive analysis here, as well as some pie-in-the-sky recommendations for the future. Particularly interesting to me was how Jennings traced the onset of federal involvement with results-based accountability to the 1988 Title I amendments shaped by Committee Chairman Augustus Hawkins. Those revisions, he writes, “marked a change in attitude among congressional leaders, characterized by increased demands on educators to...

Lisa Hansel

Like pretty much everyone who is passionate about closing the achievement gap, I’m interested in Success Academies. I’ve read Eva Moskowitz’s book, Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School, and watched the videos that come with it. But I’m still not sure what to think. The extraordinary results might be due to creaming motivated families, or not backfilling after the early grades, or too much test prep. These questions will likely be answered over the next several years.

Still, students are obviously getting a good education in Success Academies. If there were no test prep (or any manipulations of the student body), then I think the test scores would still be impressive, if not extraordinary.

So what are they doing? Charles Sahm’s new article in Education Next provides some answers. Having visited four Success Academies and interviewed staff, supporters, and critics, he presents a richer picture of the schools than previous accounts.

Without detracting from the complex array of supports needed to attain strong results, I think two of Success Academies’...

Editor's note: This post originally appeared in a slightly different form at U.S. News & World Report.

I wanted to hate this book.

I’m a bit of an education technology skeptic, but I come by it honestly. No field overpromises and underdelivers more than education. And nowhere within education is that more true than among education tech’s various cheerleaders. For years, we’ve heard innovators, disruptors, and paradigm shifters natter on about twenty-first-century skills, flipped classrooms, and the “school of one.” Meanwhile, the experience of school for most kids remains the same, with the same mediocre outcomes year after year. Read my lips: No new TED Talks.

So I confess that I opened Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You with an arched eyebrow. I’m not ready to abandon my skepticism entirely, but Toppo made a persuasive case that games do many of the things we expect schools and teachers to do—differentiate instruction, gather data, and assess performance—and very, very well.

He started to win me over by not making the standard, clichéd education tech enthusiast’s argument about student engagement and “meeting the children where they are.” I don’t think...

Mike Huckabee announced his candidacy for president yesterday, becoming the eighth hopeful to do so and the third Republican in two days. The Republican primary is now a six-person race, compared to the Democrats’ two. And Huckabee is the subject of the seventh installment of the Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling candidates’ stances on today’s biggest education issues.

The forty-fourth governor of Arkansas is very familiar with both politics and presidential campaigns. He started his political career in 1993 as the lieutenant governor of Arkansas. He leveled up to governor in 1996, a gig he held until 2007. Dreaming even bigger, he ran for president in 2008. He considered running in 2012, but ultimately didn’t. And here he is in 2016, back in the mix. His long career has brought many opinions on education, some of which have changed significantly. Here are ten:

1. Common Core (2015): “I also oppose Common Core....We must kill Common Core and restore common...

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