The laugh factory

Mike and Rick wonder if there’s still room for ed reformers in the Democratic Party after Chicago. Amber analyzes why American students continue to struggle with the SAT. And Rick makes a few jokes at Karen Lewis’s expense.

Amber's Research Minute

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 - The College Board Download PDF

This report analyzes the change from compliance to performance management in eight state education agencies (SEAs). The researchers analyzed these SEAs purposely, because they  are each taking greater responsibility for the education outcomes of students in chronically poor performing schools. The SEAs under analysis were Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

These states shared some common elements including using data, restructuring their SEAs, use of clear and transparent communication, establishing a sense of urgency, leveraging federal funding threats, and relying on strong leadership. The states differ in their approach to implement the change and, most importantly, how they view the role of local education agencies (LEAs). 

Some other characteristics that determine the state strategy for making dramatic changes  include how the SEA leader  and state boards are selected, if they receive federal money from school improvement or innovation funds and if they have the legislative authority to take over low performing schools.

The SEAs studied have shifted their emphasis from federal regulation monitoring and compliance to organizations focused toward achieving goals and strengthened accountability in troubled LEAS. The researchers group the SEAs’ reform strategies into three descriptors:

  • The most disruptive (All-In):  The SEA moves
  • ...

Now what?

Checker and Mike autopsy the Chicago teachers’ strike and wonder why students at top schools have the cheating bug. Amber looks at why kids jst cn’t seam to rite.

Amber's Research Minute

National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011 (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, 2012).

Channeling Rahm

Kathleen and Mike cross the picket line and ask whether reformers have gone too far too fast on teacher evaluations. Amber makes the case for front-loading teacher pay.

Amber's Research Minute

How Should School Districts Shape Teacher Salary Schedules? Linking School Performance to Pay Structure in Traditional Compensation Schemes by Jason A. Grissom and Katharine O. Strunk - Download PDF

With a string of state-level victories behind us, much of the school-reform action is shifting to the local level. Enter the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust), a fast-growing network of local foundations, nonprofits, and mayors’ offices committed to edu-reform. (Fordham is proud to be a policy partner.) This new report from CEE-Trust profiles three of its members: The Mind Trust (Indianapolis), New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), and the Skillman Foundation (Detroit)—offering keen, concrete, and constructive insights into how each worked within their unique local contexts to leverage funding and resources and attract talent to their cities. NSNO, for example, invested specifically in “talent providers” like TNTP, New Leaders for New Schools, and TeachNOLA; The Mind Trust created an entrepreneurial fellowship and a venture fund to bring innovative people and ideas to Indy; and Skillman fostered community engagement through the Detroit Parent Network. The three organizational histories in the report deliver valuable lessons and perilous alerts for likeminded city-based education-reform organizations; the overall recommendations at the end of the report are worthwhile as well. While there is no “perfect customized strategy,” as CEE-Trust acknowledges, these three...

So what if it was a legal technicality? Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has found a way to keep an incompetent Board of Education from doing lasting damage to Detroit’s 69,000 remaining public-school pupils: He said seven of the board’s eleven members were elected to geographic districts when they were supposed to serve at-large, the district’s enrollment having fallen below the threshold that allows representation by geography. He filed a lawsuit last week to unseat them, prompting editorial writers in the Motor City to ask why he didn’t complain last year when school board elections put those members in office. But they know why:  Schuette filed his lawsuit the day after the dysfunctional board assumed greater control of the district from a weakened “emergency manager.” The A.G. had taken his own emergency action.

There is ample justification. For years, Michigan had limited the board’s powers by designating an emergency manager to oversee district spending. The board had nominal oversight over academics but lost that authority early last year when the legislature gave the emergency manager oversight over all school operations, together with the ability to tear up union contracts.

But it didn’t last. A voter registration group backed by...

Flying squirrels!

After a week’s hiatus, Mike and Rick catch up on the Romney-Ryan merger, creationism in voucher schools, and the ethics of school discipline. Daniela explains teachers’ views on merit pay.

Amber's Research Minute

Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession by Sarah Rosenber and Elena Silva with the FDR Group - Download the PDF

There has been a spate of “scathing” reports and comments lately about for-profit schools, which bring out the kissing-cousin questions of whether schools are “businesses,” whether it’s good to “privatize” them, and whether we need more “regulation.”

And all the words in quotation marks in that sentence are meant to draw attention to the fact that the field is littered with misunderstandings, misstatements, and just plain gobbledygook.

Our public-education system is failing too many children; why wouldn’t one consider doing something different?

But first, a word from Whitney Tilson, who summarized things rather succinctly in an August 8 email blast:

All of the fraud, sleaze, etc. that’s recently been uncovered in the for-profit ed sector warrants its own email. This is probably one of the few areas Ravitch and I would generally agree on, though I suspect I’m much more open to for-profit providers – but there needs to be VERY strong regulation, oversight, audits, etc. Otherwise it’s an invitation for disaster.”

You know that something is amiss if Tilson says he agrees with Diane Ravitch. But he has a shotgun list of bad news about private- and quasi-private-sector education. He calls attention to a recent New York Times...

Andrew Blumenfeld

This is the fourth post in a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?

Andrew Blumenfeld is a senior at Princeton University. He began serving a four-year term on the school board in La Cañada, California in December, 2011. Andrew is also a founding member of Students for Education Reform.

When I decided to run for a seat on the La Cañada Board of Education in Los Angeles, I needed to be aggressive. That I had graduated from this district was certainly a mark in my favor. I suspected that benefit would be overshadowed by two concerns: (1) that graduation happened only two years prior (I was twenty years old), and (2) I was a junior at Princeton University—as in, New Jersey.

Luckily, my passion could be characterized as “aggressive.” As a student, I had been frustrated by the uneven quality of the...

Georgia voters are fortunate to experience a debate that’s dominated largely by policy wonks. In the fall, they’ll get to decide who has the power to authorize charter schools. The November ballot will ask whether the state and local school boards can share that responsibility. That question shines a spotlight on the issue of local control, and provides an opportunity to rethink what that means.

Citizens of the Peach State have this question before them because their state Supreme Court last year declared the Georgia Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional. Four of the seven justices ruled that only locally elected boards of education could authorize charters. The commission, an independent state panel, had authorized sixteen schools, and it did so over the objections of local boards.

Georgia voters are fortunate to experience a debate that’s dominated largely by policy wonks.

But if voters renew the state’s power to authorize charters (which I hope they will) they’ll do more than just re-establish the charter commission. They’ll be saying that local boards can’t be the only authority to say yes or no to charters. In essence, they’ll be re-affirming the concept of local control.

Voters last affirmed the constitutional language that governed...