Back in 2012, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) began evaluating and ranking state charter laws based on eight policies they consider “cornerstones of charter school excellence.” These policies—quite reasonable in our view—are based on the principles of access, autonomy, and accountability and require each state to:

  1. Have at least two high quality authorizers, one of which is an alternative to the local district
  2. Endorse national professional authorizer standards
  3. Evaluate authorizers regularly or as needed
  4. Sanction authorizers that do not meet professional standards or that oversee persistently failing schools
  5. Require authorizers to report annually and publicly on the academic performance of each school they oversee
  6. Require authorizers to maintain charter contracts with academic performance expectations, and encourage high-performers to replicate
  7. Maintain strong renewal standards that permit authorizers to hold schools accountable for failing to meet academic expectations
  8. Close charter schools that perform below an established threshold of academic performance

In their latest annual state policy analysis, NACSA notes a few key changes from last year. Michigan, for instance, gets props for establishing default closure for schools that perform beneath a minimum threshold. Missouri smoothed the way for high-performing charters to replicate, and now mandates annual charter school...

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) recently released its analysis of state report cards—the annual summations of student and school achievement data that states are required to make available to the public under the Every Student Succeeds Act and, previously, No Child Left Behind—to determine if they’re easy for parents and other community members to find and understand. The authors examined report cards in all fifty states and D.C. for content, presentation, accessibility, and clarity, using more than sixty data points all together.

Unsurprisingly, they found that most were too difficult to find and interpret. Nineteen states maintain labyrinthine department of education websites that require three or more clicks to arrive at the report card after a simple Google search. Once found, they often comprise confusing displays, organization, and jargon that make the information difficult to interpret. For example, across the fifty-one jurisdictions, authors found more than five terms that referred to students of low-income families.

Over a dozen were also out-of-date. Only four state report cards contained all the student performance data that was first required fifteen years ago under No Child Left Behind, and ten states’ latest assessment scores were from the 2012–13 or 2013–14 school year.

More specifically,...

We recommend our new report, Undue Process: Why Teachers in Twenty-Five Diverse Districts Rarely Get Fired, to any and all budget-conscious holiday shoppers. At a breezy fifty-six pages, it’s seven times shorter than the Los Angeles teachers’ contract. And unlike the appeals process in New York, it won’t cost you a penny (so you can still afford that dream honeymoon and Death Star-themed waffle-maker).

Still not convinced? Let us give you a sneak preview. Here are just a few of the woeful and wacky tidbits we unearthed while writing the report.

First the woeful:

  1. In the Los Angeles Unified School District and the San Francisco Unified School District, some veteran teachers are only evaluated once every five years. (On the bright side, as of this year, members of the Communist Party can once again teach in California classrooms, which is a relief for those concerned about ideological balance.)
  2. In the Providence Public School District, tenured teachers must be observed at least fifteen times during remediation. (In contrast, in over half of the districts in our study, the evaluation and remediation processes combined require five or fewer observations.)
  3. In Albuquerque and Boston, complex and lengthy grievance processes can delay a
  4. ...
Jeremy Noonan

In 2015, my school district in Douglas County, Georgia, received two accolades for its Advanced Placement program. The first was the College Board's prestigious AP District Honor Roll, which recognizes growth in AP enrollment if districts also “simultaneously maintain or increase” AP exam passage rates—defined by the percentage of test takers earning a 3 or higher out of 5 on the assessments. Only five other districts in the state made that list.

The second was that all five Douglas County high schools were named AP Honor Schools by the Georgia Department of Education—despite their students’ less-than-impressive results on Advanced Placement tests. The failure rate (scores of less than 3) was 77 percent. Approximately 47 percent earned a 1, while less than 2 percent got a 5—12 percentage points below the national rate. And more than one-third of the district’s seventy-three AP classes had failure rates of 90 percent or more.

With such low scores on the AP exams, how is it possible that a district can be honored for its AP program? And how does the dismal passing rate square with the College Board’s requirement that those rates must be maintained or raised as the program expands?


Editor’s note: Earlier today, the Center for American Progress, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and the Fordham Institute released the following letter to states outlining the opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act to support high-achieving students.

Collectively, the three organizations, which span the ideological spectrum, make the case for how and why the outcomes of high-achieving students deserve attention, and we also briefly describe the research base supporting our position.

We know governors and state superintendents are committed to supporting high-achieving, low-income students, and we hope this letter can help inform the development of their state accountability systems to meaningfully include the performance of all students.


Dear Governor,

As leaders of three organizations that span the ideological spectrum—and that all care deeply about boosting educational opportunities for all students—we write to urge you to keep high-achieving low-income students in mind when designing your state’s new school accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While we believe that students struggling to meet grade-level targets should be a major focus for school reform, we also believe that high-achieving at-risk students should not be overlooked.

For much of its history, our country has ignored the talents...

In the heart of the South Bronx, the neighborhoods served by the Boys Prep and Girls Prep public charter schools I lead, roam two ever-present twenty-seven-foot Winnebago trucks offering much needed services to the local community. Emblazoned with the words "Who's Your Daddy?" in graffiti-like lettering, these baby-blue vehicles offer convenient, mobile DNA testing to help residents answer basic questions like “Who is my father?” and “Is this my baby?” Its services have been featured on a VH1 reality show, and the company’s expanding fleet has made sojourns to D.C., Boston, and Chicago. The RV’s popularity is a symptom of the growing destabilization of American families—a harmful trend that threatens the homes and educations of our highest-need students, and that fellow school leaders must confront head-on.

It is a deeply held belief within the education reform community that a child born or raised in a low-income neighborhood should not be destined for a life of poverty as an adult. Poverty alone can't stop a great public school—one that has a strong principal, teachers with high expectations, and a rigorous, knowledge-rich curriculum—from producing exceptional student outcomes.

But what happens when poverty is intertwined with widespread fatherlessness and family disintegration? Perhaps...

The research on “what matters” when it comes to a child’s academic success has been clear for decades: more than anything else that a school can control, the classroom teacher matters most.

Understandably then, for the past eight or so years, everyone from educators to policymakers to statisticians has expended much effort to define and measure effective teaching. And while they have come to a diverse set of conclusions, it strains credulity to argue that an ineffective teacher should be invulnerable to losing his job.

Unfortunately, once a veteran teacher earns tenure, state and local policy make it complicated and cumbersome to fire him, even if he has demonstrated time and again that he is a poor educator. This seems illogical, or at least counterproductive, since research also shows that achievement would rise, achievement gaps would narrow, lifetime income would increase, and economic growth would surge if we identified and then replaced the bottom 5 or 10 percent of the teacher quality distribution.

Granted, much of what’s been said about the miles of red tape and years of administrative hurdles that comprise the dismissal process of ineffective, veteran teachers is anecdote. We assumed that the rules that...

Insofar as Donald Trump paid any attention to primary-secondary education during his campaign, he mostly touted school choice and promised, if elected, to mount a $20 billion federal program to enable low-income kids to attend private or charter schools. His selection of veteran school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education signals that his administration will seriously pursue an initiative of this sort.

So far as one can tell, the big choice program sketched during the campaign was intended to signal that Trump, like Republican candidates before him, cared about inner-city kids and was willing to disrupt an education system rigged against them. Still and all, now that he’s going to be President, one must wonder whether his signature campaign proposal in the K–12 space, should it come about, will do much to benefit those who actually voted for the Trump-Pence ticket.

Set aside both the (mixed) merits of choice as an education-improvement strategy and the many obstacles that any big choice program will face on Capitol Hill. Ask whether more charters and vouchers rank high on the Christmas lists of those who mainly elected the new administration, and whether more school choices are a fit solution to the education...

A new report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education investigates state-initiated turnarounds, which are intended to improve student achievement in the lowest-performing schools or districts. Such interventions can be difficult to implement successfully and even more difficult to sustain after the initial goals have been achieved. To that end, the report examines ways states can ensure their turnaround strategies are effective and long-lasting.

In the introduction, author Ashley Jochim discusses how the Every Student Succeed Act puts the “responsibility for improving student outcomes” back in the hands of the states and enables them “to craft their own ‘evidence-based’ turnarounds.” However, she asserts that the evidence for such evidence-based turnarounds is sorely lacking. So to inform states about various strategies and the conditions needed for them to succeed, the report examines eleven different initiatives in eight states and how they affect student outcomes.

Jochim reviewed state policies, analyzed studies about the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and interviewed stakeholders, such as state chiefs, district staff, educators, and community groups.

In this sample, she identified five distinct types of state-initiated turnarounds: state-supported local turnaround, state-authorized turnaround zones, mayoral control, state-led school takeover, and state-led district takeover. (Studies on mayoral control did not...

A new National Council on Teacher Quality report argues that higher admission standards in teacher preparation programs attract higher-quality teaching candidates and produce more effective educators.

From 2011 to 2015, several states and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) raised admission requirements for teacher preparation programs. Yet this change was short-lived. By 2016 CAEP backed away from their more rigorous requirements in response to criticism that the higher standards resulted in a less diverse teaching force and exacerbated teacher shortages. While enrollment in teacher preparation programs did drop from 2009 to 2014, NCTQ contends that this was a result of the difficult economic times and not caused by CAEP’s higher application standards—which NCTQ argues are still necessary if teacher preparation programs are to recruit high-quality applicants.

The study backs up these claims by pulling together data from various sources. It looks at the admission requirements of 221 elementary teacher education programs from twenty-five states, as well as data from a forthcoming NCTQ report, and a survey of college students conducted by the organization Third Way. From these, NCTQ shows that many states are already able to meet stricter requirements and argues that maintaining higher standards will likely...