Flypaper

In Educational Entrepreneurship Today, edited by Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane, a gaggle of authors examines how entrepreneurship can fuel the engine of educational innovation. The authors paint a complex portrait of risk, reward, and regulation.

The book defines educational entrepreneurship as “risk-taking behavior intended to boost school productivity or offer new services in a manner that makes a lasting difference for students.” The authors remind us that the very premise of entrepreneurship is novel within education. Typical initiatives in this realm are-risk averse because failure may harm children. Yet recent years have provided plenty of examples of entrepreneurial effort.

One theme throughout the book is that the structure of organizations and initiatives matter, although the authors differ on what structure is best. Some favor small, precisely targeted programs like the Tiny School Project, which focuses on testing educational ideas on a micro level. Others focus on scaling successful initiatives, such as the KIPP charter network’s growth from a single classroom to over two hundred schools across the country.

Entrepreneurial ventures like Teach For America, TNTP, the Broad Residency, and New Leaders for New Schools have both grown and become pipelines for educational talent to undertake yet more initiatives. The...

A new Mathematica study examines whether school-level value-added measures adequately capture principals’ effectiveness. Many districts hold them accountable for their schools’ academic performance; this study probes that assumption by asking an important question: Does school-level value added actually reflect the principal’s contribution, or does it mostly reflect other school-level influences (such as neighborhood safety) that are outside the principal’s control?

The authors use longitudinal data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to study school and principal effectiveness for grades 4–8 from 2007–08 to 2012–13. They include in the data set principals who have been involved in a leadership transition—meaning that, during the analysis period, they started leading a school they had not led before or were replaced by incoming principals. The authors compare departing principals with successors who assumed their positions during 2009–10 to 2012–13. (Alarmingly, 41 percent of schools serving students between the fourth and eighth grades experienced such leadership changes during the study window.) To disentangle the principal’s contribution to growth from the effect of other school-level factors, they sought to isolate the portion of the principal’s impact that is consistent across time and across different samples of students—i.e., the effects on student achievement that principals persistently demonstrate.

Here’s the bottom line: School-level...

Felicia A. Dixon

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. — Bill Gates

How do you define success? Is it the accomplishment of one’s goals? Is it the attainment of wealth, position, honors? Is it happiness? Is it all of these, selected from a number of definitions on Wikipedia?

Perhaps more important to teachers of the gifted is this question: How do we view success for our students? Do we see it as an individual entity for each student, determined by the growth in thought and sophistication evident in the work submitted? Or do we have one predetermined definition of success against which each student’s individual efforts are measured? 

On the first day of class with gifted adolescents, do we treat them as successful individuals? Or does the student have to earn success in our class in order to merit such a distinction?   

We all know students who have not been overtly successful. Perhaps they have chosen a less-than-prestigious career and are viewed as not reaching their potential. Counseling psychologist Barbara Kerr attended a prestigious school for the “best and brightest” young people in St. Louis. She was fearful of facing her high school classmates at...

Michael Podgursky

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a D.C. think tank aligned with teacher unions, has released yet another in a series of reports purporting to show that public school teachers are “underpaid.”

Many papers, articles, and reports have been written attempting to compare teacher to non-teacher compensation. Making such comparisons presents many challenges. Obviously, working conditions and hours of work differ (e.g., teachers have summers off and a shorter on-site workday), as do job security and the mix of salary and benefits.

However, in today’s economy, there is one very big difference that is not so visible to the naked eye but was cleverly pointed out in a study by Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs several years ago. The pension benefits for public school teachers (and most public employees) are far more generous than for private sector professionals. Moreover, the way that the U.S. Department of Labor measures those teacher pension benefits greatly understates this gap because the Labor Department underprices the teacher benefit.

The vast majority of private sector professionals have individual retirement savings accounts to which employers make a contribution. These are called “defined contribution accounts” and go by tax code names such as 401(k) or 403(b)....

Michael W. Kirst

I am glad that Finn agrees with my views on the limitations of a single number to report school status. Parents are used to student report cards that have several metrics and do not see the need to oversimplify their child’s performance with a single grade or number.

His comments on the new accountability system for California’s state law on school finance are, however, premature and uninformed. The document he refers to is a preliminary policy document not meant to be disseminated to the general public or parents. The document he cites is similar to the concept of an operating system of a new smart phone. The actual user interface (e.g., a phone) comes later. While California will act on the broad policy dimensions in September, the public reporting design will not appear until later. Some metrics will be top down from the state, but others will be locally designed using, for example, surveys vetted by the state.

However, this is a difficult task and will require continuous improvement. The California accountability law contains eight state priorities, twenty-two metrics, and thirteen subgroups. ESSA has many dimensions and subgroups as well, so some patience with the people charged with implementing...

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost calls for “learning-based” funding approach for e-schools

COLUMBUS (OH) – Today, Auditor of State Dave Yost opened a two-day charter summit by issuing a challenge to charter advocates and policy makers: Overhaul e-school funding. Specifically, Yost urged a major shift in the way the state pays e-schools—from funding based on enrollment and attendance to a modernized, competency-based funding model. This approach, already being piloted in a few states, would provide payments to e-schools when their students demonstrate learning rather than simply by awarding funding based on “time in a chair.”

“As Auditor Yost points out, online students can learn anytime, anywhere,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. “Unfortunately, seat-time funding policies are not well-aligned to online learning. Competency-based funding would place the emphasis where it belongs—on student learning and mastery, rather than on whether a child is logged into a computer.”

Auditor Yost called on the legislature to rework the funding structure with the goal of producing an “educated citizen.” While putting forward several principles to guide the debate, Yost made clear to summit attendees that the experience and expertise of charter leaders would be needed in crafting...

Dave Yost

On August 11, 2016, Ohio’s elected state auditor delivered the following remarks during the opening of the Ohio Charter School Summit. His comments address the state’s well-documented struggles with online education head on and offer practical, learning-focused ideas for improving the sector.

We are here, very simply, because we care about educating our children and understand one very simple truth: not all children are the same. And here is a second truth that is like it: not all schools are the same.

Put another way, not all kids can learn in a given school, and not all schools will be able to teach a given child.

All the other arguments in favor of school choice—innovation, competition, efficiency—all of them are secondary to this one idea, that we owe to our children their best opportunity to learn. It is the first principle. School choice is not a policy option, it is the only logical conclusion—a conclusion that is proven and measured in the lives of these young people we met a few minutes ago, and many more like them.

Your work, your lives, and this conference are all about increasing the number of these shining stars in...

Charter school performance is a mixed bag: some charters outdo their neighborhood district schools, others show no difference, and some do worse. A new Mathematica meta-analysis attempts to identify the characteristics common to each of these groups. What, in other words, makes a high-performing charter schools so effective?

As author Phillip Gleason notes, it is difficult to carry out studies of this nature. Much of the data are based on observation, so determining causation is essentially impossible. Observation also takes time and costs money, which usually necessitates small sample sizes. And many of the “practices” being studied are abstract concepts, such as principal quality, that are difficult to measure quantitatively and objectively.

To mitigate these impediments, Gleason compiled seven studies that used different methods—including observational study, survey administration, and lottery-based designs (comparing students who won a spot via charter lotteries to those who did not)—to study charters schools around the country. The sample sizes in each of these studies range from twenty-nine to seventy-six schools.  

Three charter characteristics were found to be linked to high student achievement in many studies (therefore showing a ‘strong association,” according to Gleason—a term he never defines quantitatively): longer school days and/or school years; a...

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently reviewed one hundred of the nation’s pre-K teacher preparation programs, attempting to answer whether pre-K teacher candidates are being adequately prepared for effectiveness in their future jobs. The answer is, largely, no.

The programs spanned twenty-nine states that certify pre-K teachers, most of them offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They reviewed course requirements and descriptions, course syllabi, student teaching observation and evaluation forms, and other course materials required for degree completion.

The bottom line, reported NCTQ, is that most of the programs spend far too much of their limited time focusing on how to teach older children rather than on the specific training needed to teach three- and four-year-olds. Some specific findings are neatly summarized in the following slides from NCTQ:

NCTQ recommends, among other things, that states narrow their licensure to certify educators to no more than the years between pre-K and third grade, rather than treating pre-K as a part of a broader elementary teaching credential; that they encourage teacher preparation programs to offer either more specialized degrees or early childhood education as...

A new Education Next article examines the impact of New York City school closures on a variety of student outcomes, including graduation rates, attendance, and academic performance.

Analysts studied twenty-nine high school closures announced between 2003 and 2009, analyzing outcomes for over twenty thousand affected ninth graders in several groups: those who were just beginning their ninth-grade year when closure was announced (called the “phase-out” cohort); those who chose to stay after the closure announcement (the “phase-out” process allowed them to stay until their expected year of graduation); those who transferred elsewhere; and those rising ninth graders who were required to attend a different high school because of closure. The  schools in the treatment group slated for closure were, as you would expect, among the lowest-performing in the city. (Another group of high schools that exhibited both similar poor performance and similar low-achieving students served as the comparison group, although it was not clear why they weren’t slated for closure.)

Analysts first predicted the impact of the closure decision on graduation rates for the “phase-out” cohort. They found small but statistically insignificant differences, concluding that the phase-out process did not negatively impact graduation rates or make a clear impact on credits earned,...

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