Publications

Publications
As Gov. Ted Strickland concludes his 12-city "Conversation on Education" tour to gather ideas for reforming public education in Ohio, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has put forth a report of five recommendations designed to keep improvements in the Buckeye State's public schools on track toward three critical goals: 1) maximizing the talents of every child; 2) producing graduates as good as any in the world; and 3) closing the persistent academic gaps that continue between rich and poor, and black and white and brown.
In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America's Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.
Though most public school principals believe that effective leadership of their schools requires authority over personnel decisions (e.g., staff selection, deployment, dismissal), they report having little such authority in practice. Based on a series of interviews with a small sample of district and charter-school principals, the report shows that most district principals encounter a sizable gap between the extent and kinds of authority that leaders need to be effective and the authority that they actually have.
At the request of Ohio's top government and education leaders, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have issued a report seeking to strengthen the state's charter school program. Among its 17 recommendations are calls for closing low-performing charter schools while also helping more high-performance schools to open and succeed in Ohio.
Education policy leaders from across the political spectrum flesh out and evaluate several forms that national standards and testing could take.
Belatedly, policymakers and researchers are recognizing that quality charter schools depend on quality charter school authorizing. This report presents findings from a pioneering national examination of the organizations that sponsor, oversee, and hold accountable U.S. charter schools. Its primary aim is to describe and characterize these crucial but little-known organizations.
American middle schools have become the places "where academic achievement goes to die." So says Cheri Yecke, K-12 Education Chancellor of Florida and author of the new Fordham report Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work. Today's middle schools have succumbed to a concept of "middle schoolism" in which a strong academic curriculum is traded for one that focuses more on emotional and social development, and less on learning the basics. And the achievement data reflects "middle schoolism's" results. In 1999, U.S. eighth graders scored nine points below average on the TIMSS assessment of math. What's more, these same eighth graders had outperformed the average by 28 points as fourth graders in 1995! According to Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., "Trying to fix high schools while ignoring middle schools is like bandaging a wound before treating it for infection."
How did New York City's experiment in school reform, once so promising, become such a mess? Author Sol Stern explains in this third edition of Fordham's new Fwd: series of short articles of interest to K-12 education reformers.
Statewide textbook adoption, the process by which 21 states dictate the textbooks that schools and districts can use, is fundamentally flawed. It distorts the market, entices extremist groups to hijack the curriculum, enriches the textbook cartel, and papers the land with mediocre instructional materials that cannot fulfill their important education mission. Tinkering with it won't set it right, concludes this latest Fordham Institute report. Legislators and governors in adoption states should eliminate the process, letting individual schools, individual districts, or even individual teachers choose their own textbooks.
This new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the first significant study of the organizations that authorize charter schools. The report examines 23 states and the District of Columbia to determine how supportive they are of charter schools, how good a job their authorizers are doing, and how policy makers could strengthen their states' charter programs.

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