Sandy Kress

Eli Broad just announced his retirement from leadership in his foundation. I want to use the occasion to pay tribute to him and express gratitude for all he has done to improve the nation’s schools. In my view, he was without peer among major philanthropists in making a positive difference in this arena.

First, I want to focus precisely on his dedication to the reform effort and his decision to be a partner with others in the cause, rather than being merely a “lone ranger.” This is no small thing. I recall with sadness the many instances in which very rich benefactors came on the scene with “magic bullets,” their own solutions to fix the schools. They’d throw millions, if not billions, at implementing favored solutions. And, of course, needed talent and energy would go flying in the direction of dollars, weakening and diluting the energy that was required to stay on course in sustaining effective reform.

Not so with Eli Broad. Don’t get me wrong. He had a mind of his own and could be tough in pushing his ideas. But he always worked with a sense of mutuality within the scope of the overall reform movement.

I’ll never...

Christine Campbell

Across the country, in Atlanta, Camden, Indianapolis and at least ten other cities, more schools are operating under a kind of partnership school model: a “third way” governance strategy that breaks through district-charter divides. Some education leaders, like Fordham Institute president Mike Petrilli, think this approach should be avoided at all costs. But others, myself included, see it as a potentially promising way to turn around struggling schools or increase the number of quality school options in a neighborhood.

Partnership schools might be thought of as the next stage in district-charter collaboration or a key component in implementing a portfolio management strategy. With a few mature exceptions, most of these arrangements are relatively new. The theory behind what their role is and how well it delivers is largely untested, and student outcomes have not been expressly studied. A new CRPE brief offers a lay of the land on this promising approach and outlines questions that policymakers and researchers should consider as more of these partnerships grow.

Partnership schools, like charter schools, enjoy more freedom than a traditional district-run school. But partnership schools are legally distinct from charter schools. In some cases, districts can open them through...

Roy Ghosh

I wanted to be the Selena Gomez of Science. The Justin Bieber of biology. The Emma Watson of…well, you understand. I wanted adulation for being a Science Olympian. There was just something about the recognition from having one’s work appreciated by adoring fans that I wanted. I sought validation for all the work in my labs.

Believe it or not, I somehow thought it was going to happen easily. Of course, Taylor Swift entertains millions of people and writes songs for others. She is in public and her job is to make others happy. I honestly did not see why tiny breakthroughs in the creases of the scientific world for an audience of gray-haired standard bearers in peer-reviewed publications didn’t earn me my own Grammy and fan club as well.

I did not easily give up on the idea. I tried building my own venue, a compact lab in my basement, and began reaching out to people beyond school. I created a winning team of student scientists to compete in the National Science Olympiad (NSO)—it had the word “national” in it after all. Our team was quickly a force with which to be reckoned.

Yet none of our accomplishments got...

Marc Tucker

In last week’s blog, I pointed out that, when the first PISA results were released in 2001, students in Germany and the United States both performed at about the average for all countries in the survey, but Germany reacted with what came to be known as “PISA Shock” and the U.S. shrugged. In the years that have gone by since then, Germany has risen sharply in the rankings, while the U.S. remains in the middle, having improved not at all. The Germans, I said, leaped into action while we continued to sleepwalk through history.

That blog elicited two very interesting responses, one from Checker Finn and the other from Mike Petrilli, that I want to discuss in this blog.

This from Checker: “Our ‘PISA shock’ was A Nation at Risk, and the U.S. has been struggling/stumbling/fumbling/striving to fix its schools ever since. PISA may be…one form of education shock…but it’s not the only kind there is.”

And this from Mike: “…I don't think it's fair to argue that we’ve been sleepwalking since 2000. No Child Left Behind, circa 2002, was a very big deal. Perhaps it was wrong-headed, but it was a major shift in national policy. And it...

I named my blog “Good School Hunting” not because I’m necessarily a big fan of the actor Matt Damon, but because I thought the Boston-based storyline of Damon’s debut movie, “Good Will Hunting,” suited a New England–based blog written by a mom who believes every kid deserves an awesome school. And I really did like that movie. 

So, sure, it was a bit disappointing to learn that one of Damon’s pet causes is opposing school choice and accountability, two issues near and dear to the heart of this former teacher, school committee member, and mother of three boys who currently attend both traditional and charter public schools.

Adding insult to injury, I quickly discovered that Damon—one of the loudest and most well known proponents of public education—sends his own children to private school. “I pay for a private education and I’m trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had,” he told the Guardian, “but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It’s unfair.”

Damon’s entire experience raising his four daughters has been one of wealth and privilege. He can’t easily empathize with low-income parents whose zip codes...

It’s the chicken-or-the-egg question at the heart of the education-reform wars: Can education help young people overcome poverty, or must we defeat poverty before more young people from disadvantaged circumstances can successfully learn?

You don’t have to be a sunny-side-up optimist (or even a hard-boiled pessimist) to get that the right answer to this riddle is “yes.” Yes, education can help young people overcome an impoverished childhood, and yes we need to supplement great schools with smart anti-poverty efforts, too. The best schools—public, private, and charter—do this already, identifying and seeking to furnish the out-of-school “social supports” that will help their kids and their families thrive, while preparing them academically for postsecondary learning and beyond.

A recent article by Rachel Cohen in The Atlantic, however, scrambles this narrative, claiming (in the title at least) that “Education Isn't the Key to a Good Income.” One might surmise that Cohen has found evidence of thousands of young people who grew up poor, succeeded in school and college, and still failed to find good-paying jobs. Alas, that’s not what she found at all—probably because that almost never happens. What she did find was a study by Jesse Rothstein that looked at...

Most American public school teachers are paid according to salary schedules that take into account their years of experience and number of degrees earned. This compensation approach has been criticized because it doesn’t anchor teacher pay to instructional effectiveness or other factors that merit consideration (e.g., specializing in harder-to-staff fields or working in high-needs schools). Instead, teacher pay depends on factors that research suggests are not closely tied to student achievement. Now a new study by Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero of the Brookings Institution takes a different look at teacher salary schedules, this time through the lens of equitable pay and patterns of school funding.

In terms of wage distribution, the analysts find that public school teacher pay is more equitable relative to other occupations. Using the Theil Index—a measure of equity—they find that teacher pay is more evenly distributed than for doctors or lawyers and just slightly more equitable than for nurses or social workers. This is not surprising, as salary schedules tend to fit teacher pay within a relatively narrow range; for instance, salaries for Columbus, Ohio, educators range from about $40,000 to $90,000. Within the teaching profession, the pay differences...

By expanding access to options including charter schools, choice advocates hope that more students will reap the benefits of attending high-performing schools. But do all families have charter options in their area? In this study, researchers chart the Ohio landscape and seek to answer two questions: First, where are charter schools located with respect to the poverty and racial demographics of their community? Second, do low-income families have equal access to charter schools?

To answer these questions, researchers Andrew Saultz of the University of Miami and Christopher Yaluma of the Ohio State University (and a Fordham research intern this past summer) collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Ohio Department of Education. These data were then used to conduct analyses on the geographic locations of brick-and-mortar charters and the characteristics of their surrounding communities. For the purposes of this study, a family is said to have access to a charter school if they live within a five-mile radius of one.

Unsurprisingly for those who are familiar with Ohio, the majority of charters are located in large cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton. This is almost certainly due to Ohio law, which restricts...

When conservatives hark back to a golden age, they understandably think of the 1980s and the economic growth and Cold War victory that President Reagan unleashed. But there’s an argument to be made that the apogee of conservative social policy was actually in the 1990s, with tough-on-crime laws, which broke the back of a crack-fueled murder wave; welfare reform, which reined in government dependency; and education reform, which curbed monopoly power of the teachers’ unions in our big cities.

It’s no surprise that folks on the left deplore this trifecta today, as they did then. And there’s no shame in conservatives’ reappraising certain consequences of their ’90s agenda, such as mass incarceration. What’s worrying, though, is to see conservatives grow soft on what has arguably been the most successful and transformative part of the package: education reform, particularly the charter school movement. That’s one way to read the recent poll from Education Next, where I serve as an executive editor.

We found a 12-percentage-point drop in public support for charter schools from the spring of 2016 to the spring of 2017. What’s most surprising is that Republican and Republican-leaning respondents helped to drive this trend, with GOP support down...

Leveraging the power of parent engagement is one of the under-appreciated ways in which Eva Moskowitz and her New York City-based network of Success Academy charter schools has significantly improved upon the work of pioneering “no excuses” charter schools. Many high-performing charters talk about parents as partners in their children’s education. Success Academy mandates it, monitors it, and holds parents to account for honoring the agreement they signed when enrolling their children. That agreement includes faithful adherence to school policies on things like bringing kids to school and picking them up on time and in uniform; avoiding unexcused absences and tardiness; and monitoring homework and maintaining their child’s reading logs. “We've never believed that we could educate kids without the parents,” Moskowitz told me recently. “We're not that good.”

Success Academy is now pushing its belief in parent engagement to a level that may be unprecedented in U.S. public education. With little fanfare, the network has in the past week begun sending home “Parent Investment Cards” evaluating how well—or how poorly—parents are fulfilling their promise to honor Success Academy’s “parent responsibilities” in three areas: “school readiness,” “homework supervision,” and “parent responsiveness and investment.” In each category, the parent is adjudged...