Butch Trusty

Many education and philanthropic leaders in America’s cities understand the interdependencies between schools, talent, policy, and community engagement in transforming local education systems to meet the needs of more students and families. But few leaders have thought deeply about the true potential of focusing on multiple pathways for high-quality school-seat creation as a strategic approach to accelerating the growth and improvement of great public schools.

With great respect for the challenge and complexity involved in systems-level change, we at Education Cities have observed that, historically, leaders across the country have missed opportunities to reach their goals faster and more sustainably by not pursuing a variety of seat-creation paths.

To name this common problem and to hopefully encourage leaders to widen their view of what is possible, we wrote Pathways to Success: Providing More Children Access to Great Public Schools. In addition to describing six seat creation pathways we believe have the most likelihood for success, we also touched on the relative advantages and disadvantages of each, and made the case for the benefits associated with not emphasizing any one pathway too heavily.

The abridged version of the paper is straightforward. The basic pathways pursued by most cities include:

  • Replication:
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Austin Estes and Kate Kreamer

In the last few weeks, the first-round submissions of states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans have gotten a lot of attention from national organizations and the federal government. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group joined efforts to write Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans—Round 1, a review of how states addressed or prioritized career readiness.

Career Technical Education (CTE) can be a powerful platform for student success during and after high school, and in recent years states have made incredible investments in—and commitments to—expanding the quality of and access to CTE and career pathways. Moreover, many provisions within ESSA open the door for, if not flat out encourage, states to integrate CTE into their career readiness metrics.

Given this, in reading through each of the first seventeen plans that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, we were cautiously optimistic that career (and college) readiness would play a prominent role in states’ ESSA plans. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case:

  • Eleven out of the first seventeen submitted plans identified at least one measure of career readiness in their accountability systems.
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Michael R. Ford

In 1991, Milwaukee began a bold experiment in market-based education reform. Twenty-seven years later, the city’s education system is dramatically reformed, but the results of those reforms are something less than dramatic. Milwaukee’s NAEP scores trail other major cities, and the performance of Milwaukee schools on aggregate is unacceptably poor. What happened? Why has the birthplace of school vouchers not experienced the successes of other education reform hotbeds like Washington, D.C. and New Orleans? The failure of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to fully deliver on its promises can be attributed to certain program features, as well as the positions taken by voucher supporters and opponents over the life of the MPCP.

First, it was never clear exactly what the MPCP was supposed to be. The original voucher coalition was a clumsy alliance of free-market reformers, social justice warriors, urban Democrats, and suburban and rural Republicans. Though the coalition was successful at creating the program, the diverse supporters’ long-term goals were never aligned, creating ongoing tensions amongst supporters that pulled the program in different directions. To put it another way, it was impossible for the MPCP to succeed because there was no agreement as to what success would look...

Nelson Smith

Hold my beer.

Now, I’m all for vigorous debates about education policy, but when they start calling me and my friends the “new education establishment,” I gotta respond.

That is exactly what happened to my organization, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), in a recent Flypaper entry by Max Eden. Eden provided color commentary for a recent collection of essays published by the Center for Education Reform (CER). Both book and blog accuse NACSA of aiming to stifle charter schools with burdensome rules and bureaucracy (or as the book puts it “to coerce uniformity and therefore isomorphism in the charter sector”).

For those unfamiliar with this corner of the sector, NACSA, founded in 2000, works to grow charter schools by strengthening the still-young profession of charter school authorizing. The role is given cursory attention in many state laws, so NACSA has devoted much of its energies to defining, in broad consultation with the field, what sound authorizing looks like. Our Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing situate the work within three basic commitments: maintaining high standards, protecting charter school autonomy, and upholding student and public interests.

It bothers Eden, CER’s Jeanne Allen, and others...

Jeff Danielian

As often happens when I find myself working outside on my deck, in the dry warm heat of the summer, with thunderous fireworks flashing, I become nostalgic and reminiscent in my writing. With the classroom door closed for a bit and my mind free to think about education, I thought I would share my own story.

I am often asked, as I am sure many of you are, “How did you become a teacher?” My response is never quite the same, and depending on how much time I have to discuss my winding road to the classroom, the story revolves around a simple phrase uttered over and over by a past mentor, a geology professor who still resides in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It is a simple one, and I have it scribbled on a sheet of paper on the wall in my classroom: Education is not about information.

One lesson stands out for me. I will never forget looking down at an aerial view of the Grand Canyon through a pair of stereoscopic glasses. It is one of those moments that, upon reflection, strengthened my belief in the power of education.

Our professor gave a brief introduction to...

Advocates of school choice breathed a sigh of relief last month when a pair of new studies showed that voucher programs in Indiana and Louisiana were performing better than prior research had suggested. But they shouldn’t get too comfortable.

The news that most students recovered the ground they lost when they first enrolled in these programs after three or four years is obviously welcome. But it is unlikely to satisfy critics, who will rightly note that students who returned to the public schools after a year or two lost significant ground, and that so far no statewide voucher program has shown significant benefits for the average participant. To the contrary, the last four voucher programs to be rigorously evaluated—including those in Ohio and Washington, D.C., as well as Indiana and Louisiana—have all shown negative or decidedly mixed effects.

Some informed observers have tried to explain vouchers’ struggles by appealing to the improved performance of public schools or the dilution of so-called “peer effects,” while others have pointed to methodological problems with the studies. Perhaps the disappointing performance of Ohio’s voucher program is due to the tests, which are high stakes for public schools...

By Ryan Reyna

Once upon a time there was a new Secretary of Education who was charged with providing states flexibility to meet their education goals through the Every Student Succeeds Act. Upon review of the first plan, she declared “these long-term goals are not ambitious enough,” so she read the next plan. “These goals may be too ambitious,” she stated about the second. Then she read the third plan. “These goals make sense,” she happily declared and recommended approval without haste.

If only this story was merely a fairy tale. Unfortunately, our reality is almost strange as fiction. As Michael Petrilli eloquently argued in his recent commentary, Secretary DeVos and her team stumbled out of the gate with respect to their initial review of the Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico state plans. Each received feedback on their submitted ESSA plans on areas to improve—as to be expected—but the responses to state’s proposed long-term goals were anything but expected.

The Department suggested that Delaware’s goal to decrease by 50 percent the number of non-proficient students in each subgroup within twelve years did not meet the statute’s threshold for “ambitious.” Peer reviewers found Nevada’s goals to be “very ambitious,” as it...

A new working paper presents findings from an evaluation of the Indiana voucher program—a hot topic given the Trump Administration’s embrace of private school choice. Mark Berends (University of Notre Dame) and Joe Waddington (University of Kentucky) examine the impacts of the voucher program (a.k.a. Indiana Choice Scholarship Program) on Hoosier State students in upper elementary and middle school (mostly grades 5–8) who used a voucher to transfer to a private school during the 2011–12 through 2014–15 years, which were the first four years of the program.

Indiana’s program is now open to both low- and middle-income families, with lower tuition amounts available to the latter group; the average scholarship amount is still pretty low, at about $4,700 in grades 1–8. All students in private schools enrolling voucher students must take the state test. Over 34,000 students received a voucher in 2016–17, and the analysis focuses on the roughly 4,000 lowest-income students (i.e., those receiving the full voucher) who moved from a public to private school for the first time. They are matched to similarly poor public school peers in the same grade, year, and school as the student who receives a voucher and attends a private school the following...

The Center on Reinventing Public Education’s (CRPE) latest report asks whether public transportation can improve students’ access to Denver’s best schools of choice, and the answer appears to be “no.” Denver’s geography, diffuse population centers, and distribution of quality school seats in relation to poor students already complicate the school district’s own transportation efforts to make quality seats accessible in terms of travel time from home to school. As an experiment, CRPE researchers compared district residency and public transit route data via Google Maps Directions Application Program Interface to calculate travel times between each student’s home address and the schools to which they could have applied. The hope was to make quality schools more accessible to those who need them most—just like a parent researching such schools might do—but the results are discouraging.

Based on their analysis, CRPE finds that just 55 percent of low-income students could attend a high-performing school within thirty minutes of their home on public transit; that percentage falls to 19 percent for schools within fifteen minutes’ travel time. In other words, most low-income students would continue to face long commutes to the city’s top schools when using public transportation, despite a choice-friendly atmosphere that...

With a choice-friendly President and Secretary of Education now in office, private school choice programs have been cast into the national spotlight. This week has been no different: On Monday, researchers released two major studies on vouchers—one on Indiana’s program, the other on Louisiana’s—and the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that may have implications for choice programs across this nation.

Among other things, this means that the debate on private school choice has moved from the periphery of the education policy conversation to center stage. As a result, some of you may be joining the conversation for the first time. As a long-time participant in the voucher wars, we at the Fordham Institute thought it might be helpful to offer a get-up-to-speed guide featuring some of our “greatest hits” on the topic.

We’ve arranged it around four questions:

  1. What does the research tell us about the impact of school vouchers on participants and on traditional public schools?
  2. What is smart policy regarding results-based accountability in the context of private school choice?
  3. How can we encourage private schools to participate in choice programs, and get high-quality schools to grow or replicate?
  4. What are the pros and
  5. ...