Governance

DeVos, the day after

On this week's podcast, special guest Andy Smarick, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing and what the feds might do to promote school choice. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the effects of New Orleans school reforms on school expenditures.

Amber’s Research Minute

Christian Buerger and Douglas N. Harris, “Does school reform = spending reform? The effect of the New Orleans school reforms on the use and level of school expenditures,” Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, Tulane University (January 2017)

More than sixty years after Brown v. Board, traditional district schools are more often than not still havens of homogeneity. Static land use guidelines, assignment zones, feeder patterns, and transportation monopolies reinforce boundaries that functionally segregate schools and give rise to the adage that ZIP code means destiny for K-12 students. Asserting that student diversity is an object of increasing parental demand, at least among a certain subset of parents of school-age kids, the National Charter School Resource Center has issued a toolkit for charter school leaders looking to leverage their schools’ unique attributes and flexibilities to build diverse student communities not found in nearby district schools. The report cites a number of studies showing academic benefits of desegregated schools, especially for low-income and minority students. It is unlikely that the mere existence of documentable diversity is at the root of those benefits. More likely, it is a complicated alchemy of choice, quality, culture, and expectations that drives any observable academic boosts. Garden-variety school quality is a strong selling point for any type of school, but this toolkit sets aside that discussion to focus on deliberately building a multi-cultural student body for its own sake. Bear...

The 2017 state of the states edition

On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discuss what’s on tap for state education reform in the new year. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the effects of math textbooks in California.

Amber’s Research Minute

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, “Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California,” The Brookings Institution (January 2017).

NOTE: The State Board of Education of Ohio is today debating whether to change graduation requirements for the Class of 2018 and beyond. Below are the written remarks that Chad Aldis gave before the board today.

Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for allowing me to offer public comment today.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

High school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. To its credit, Ohio is phasing in new graduation standards that will do that by better matching the expectations of post-secondary institutions, employers, and our armed forces. The new standards ask our young people to demonstrate readiness by either passing end of course exams (EOCs), achieving a remediation free ACT or SAT score, or earning an industry credential.

After years of low graduation standards, Ohio’s new requirements are a major step in the right direction. We need to set the expectations high for the young men and women who...

One of the big Ohio education stories of 2016 was the growing popularity of College Credit Plus (CCP), a program that provides students three ways to earn college credit from public or participating private colleges: by taking a course on a university campus; at the student’s high school where it’s taught by a credentialed teacher; or online. Many students and families have found that the program saves them time and money and provides valuable experience. For families with gifted or advanced students, it is a chance for acceleration even as early as seventh grade; for students in high-poverty rural and urban areas, it may be the only way to take high-level courses in basic subjects, let alone electives.

Before registering, students in grades 7-12 must be admitted to the college based on their readiness in each subject they plan to take a class in—a decision made by each higher education institution and determined by GPA, end-of-course (EOC) exam scores, and other available data. Once admitted, students can register for any course the school offers, except for those that are considered remedial or religious. (The latter restriction is presumably intended to keep church and...

Countless studies have demonstrated that teacher quality is the most important school-based determinant of student learning, and that removing ineffective teachers from the classroom could greatly benefit students. Consequently, many states have reformed their teacher evaluation systems in an effort to differentiate between effective and ineffective teachers, with an eye toward parting ways with the latter.

But is dismissing poorly performing teachers truly feasible in America today? After all the political capital (and real capital) spent on reforming teacher evaluation, can districts actually terminate ineffective teachers who have tenure or have achieved veteran status?

To find answers, Fordham analysts David Griffith and Victoria McDougald constructed a ten-point metric based on three questions:

  1. Does tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
     
  2. How long does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
     
  3. How vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?

They then used this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran teachers in twenty-five diverse districts.

As shown in the table below, not one district in our sample has an easy process in place for dismissing an ineffective veteran teacher. Rather, the data suggest that significant barriers to dismissal remain in place in every district...

The states step up edition

On this week's podcast, special guest Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss state education leadership in the Trump era. On the Research Minute, Victoria McDougald examines the effects of a North Carolina pre-K program on students' elementary school outcomes.

Victoria's Research Minute

Kenneth A. Dodge et al., "Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes In Elementary School," Duke Center for Child and Family Policy (November 2016).
 

The election is nigh edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discuss the pitfalls of deciding education policy issues with ballot measures. On the Research Minute, Amber Northern discusses the surprising parity between the effectiveness of teachers of low- and high-income students.

Amber's Research Minute

Eric Isenberg et al., Do Low-Income Students Have Equal Access to Effective Teachers? Evidence from 26 Districts,” Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (October 2016).

It’s October, and that means election season. One important decision facing many Buckeye voters is whether to approve their school districts’ tax requests. These referenda represent a unique intersection between direct democracy and public finance; unlike most tax policies, which are set by legislatures, voters have the opportunity to decide, in large part, their own property-tax rates. In Ohio, districts must seek voter approval for property taxes above 10 mills (equivalent to 1 percent) on the taxable value of their property.

Some citizens will enter the voting booth well-informed about these tax issues, but for others, the question printed on the ballot might be all they know. Voters have busy lives and they may not always carefully follow their district’s finances and tax issues. This means that the ballot itself ought to clearly and fairly present the proposition to voters. State law prescribes certain standard ballot language, but districts have some discretion in how the proposition is written. County boards of elections and the Secretary of State approve the final language. How does the actual language read? Is it impartial? Can it be easily understood?

Let’s take a look at a few high-profile ballot issues facing voters...

According to the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) compiled by the U.S. Department of Education,[1] an alarming 6.5 million American students, more than 13 percent nationwide, were chronically absent—defined as missing 15 or more days of school— during the 2013-14 school year. Of these students, more than half are enrolled in elementary school, where truancy can contribute to weaker math and reading skills that persist into later grades. Chronic absenteeism rates are higher in high school: Nearly 20 percent of U.S. high school students are chronically absent, and these teenagers often experience future problems with employment, including lower-status occupations, less stable career patterns, higher unemployment rates, and low earnings.  

The data get even more disconcerting when they’re disaggregated by location. The CRDC explains that nearly 500 school districts reported that 30 percent or more of their students missed at least three weeks of school during the 2013-14 school year. The idea that certain districts struggle more with chronic absenteeism than others caught the attention of Attendance Works (AW), an organization that aims to improve school attendance policies. To create a more in-depth picture of the problem,...

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