As the tide of education accountability ebbs from federal
shores and rolls back out to state seas, states are in a position to reboot,
retool, and reimagine their current accountability models. This Education
Sector paper from independent analyst Craig Jerald offers a novel suggestion:
Model new accountability systems after the Brits’s long-running
school-inspection program. The specifics of the program have been tinkered with
since its inception, but its tenets remain the same. School ratings (given on a
five-point scale) are based upon site-visit reports by trained professionals
using a multi-dimensional metric. (Next year, those measures will be: student
achievement, quality of teaching, students’ behavior and health, and leadership
and management of the school.) Schools are told—explicitly—what they’re doing
right and wrong, and are given tangible recommendations for improvement. And
transparency is key—with all school evaluations made public online within
fifteen days of site visit. Jerald is right to call for a more robust, and
accessible, accountability system. And this British model (implemented in a
union-friendly nation) is worth states’ consideration. But there’s still one

The Education Gadfly
  • NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed
    some serious moxie
    in last week’s State of the City address, taking on
    the United Federation of Teachers directly by proposing an ambitious
    merit-pay system and drastic personnel changes at failing schools. The UFT’s
    president said Bloomberg was living in a “fantasy education world”; here’s
    hoping dreams can come true.
  • Apple
    managed to get both the education and tech worlds buzzing this week with cryptic hints about a big
    education announcement in NYC today. The suspense
    is over
    : creative new products include iBooks 2, interactive textbook
    for the iPad, and iBooks Author, an app that allows anyone to create their
    own interactive textbooks.
  • After
    weeks of refusing to rescue the broke—and broken?—Chester-Upland School
    District from fiscal mismanagement, Pennsylvania caved this week and will bail out the suburban Philadelphia district with $3.2
    million in state funds. Still and
  • ...

It was a bit like watching tag-team wrestling. The governor of
the nation’s third-largest state public education system and the mayor of the
nation’s largest single school district taking turns body-slamming teacher
unions; governance at its rawest.

First, on January 4 Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a bold State
of the State address
, promised to be the state’s lobbyist for students and “wage
a campaign to put students first and to remind us that the purpose of public
education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.” 

Then, the next week, Michael Bloomberg delivered an equally
hard-hitting State
of the City address
, his penultimate as mayor of New York City, most of it devoted to
education. He proved, as Crain’s
Business Review
put it, that he was “not resigned to the malaise of a
lame-duck term or the limitations of a constrained budget” and “made clear his
frustrations with the city's teachers' union, which has long resisted reform.”

Indeed, the Bloomberg speech made it clear that Gotham’s three-term mayor was intent on making the
remaking of the city’s...

The first
set of preliminary findings
from the Gates-funded Measures of Effective
Teaching (MET) project generated much conversation—and some
. This latest report, also preliminary, is not much different.
(Remember that this $45 million project seeks to ferret out, or design, an
optimal teacher-evaluation system through the analysis of student test scores,
surveys, and thousands of hours of classroom observations.) While the first
iteration compared student scores with survey responses, this one analyzes the
predictive strength of five frameworks for classroom observations (think D.C.’s
IMPACT program
for an idea of what they look like). The study finds that,
while each method is positively correlated to pupil achievement (on both state
tests and independent tests), the reliability of observations pales in comparison
to value-added measures (VAM): The reliability of VAM is about double that of a
single observation—from any of the tested measurement systems. Predictive
abilities increase significantly when VAM and student-survey data are combined
with classroom observations—leading the authors to recommend use of multiple
measures when evaluating teachers. In response, Jay
has again sounded the battle cry. And...

Teacher pay is back in the news, with a good roundup of
opinion on the New York Times' Room
for Debate page
. We hear the usual comparisons between teachers and other
workers — and some unusual ones (teachers vs. bartenders?).

problem seems to be how we allocate resources, not how much money is available.

All the contributors miss a point that hits principals and superintendents the
hardest, however: If a good teacher walks out the door to work in another
district, or another profession entirely, because his manager doesn't have the
flexibility to pay him more (and potentially pay a less-effective colleague
less in order to balance the staff budget), something is screwed up about
teacher pay. Given how much money we spend on K-12 education in America, and
how quickly budgets have grown compared to modest enrollment growth, the
problem seems to be how we allocate resources, not how much money is available.

Note that this is not about building bigger and better state- or district-wide
formulas as some education reformers prefer. Value-added models are great tools
for principals to evaluate their teachers, but...

clown fish in anemone photo

Like clown fish and anemone, teacher evals
and merit pay need each other.
Photo by Rob

Teacher evaluations are particularly contentious of late, as
educators in New York and Hawaii can testify
, which is why it’s worth
remembering what can happen when they’re done right. Sam Dillon provided a
heartening reminder in his New York Times
feature on merit pay last weekend, highlighting D.C.’s pioneering IMPACTplus
system. Critics of these initiatives point to studies finding that padding star
teachers’ paychecks doesn’t
boost student achievement
; the best educators were working hard to begin
with, and a few extra dollars won’t squeeze more from them. Dillon’s interviews
with DCPS teachers who received bonuses, however—which can be as high as
$25,000—reveal the potential of meaningful performance-based pay to bring about
systemic change. In a profession with brutal turnover, getting talented young
professionals into classrooms may be less important than keeping them there. D.C.

Amidst lots of recent drama about teacher evaluations (e.g. New York’s
Commissioner of Education has withheld
to nearly a dozen school districts (including more than 30
high need schools in New York City
) that didn’t complete their teacher
evaluation agreements with the local teacher unions, TFA founder Wendy Kopp and
NEA president Dennis Van Roekel joining hands in a USA
Today essay

essay that has befuddled Diane
), the Connecticut Education Association releasing a
teacher evaluation reform package
, New York state’s largest teacher union
unveiling a 95-page Teacher
Evaluation and Development Handbook

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has the highest number of teachers with certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (139) of any Ohio district, but the way these teachers are distributed across the??district threatens to undermine CPS' mission to improve learning for all students.??

The Enquirer recently posted numbers illustrating the inequitable spread of Board certified teachers. Unsurprisingly, they are more likely to be located in buildings that are higher performing, and children in?? schools rated "D" or "F" are less likely to come into contact with such "highly qualified" teachers.

The discrepancy between "A/A+" schools and "F" schools is stark, with 213 students per one board certified teachers in the highest achieving CPS schools, and 1,097, or five times as many students per one such teacher in the most struggling CPS schools.

Student/teacher ratios for National Board certified instructors in Cincinnati Public Schools??(broken down by academic rating)

Source: Ohio Department of Education and Cincinnati Enquirer article

Whether National Board certification improves a teacher's classroom effectiveness is up for debate, as is the relationship between a school's academic status and the number of "highly qualified" teachers...

Which of the five states competing to be America's next Education Reform Idol did the most to collective bargaining and benefits during the 2011 legislative session? Consider our analysis below, and attend our event Thursday morning (8:30-10:00AM) to see key players in all five states defend their records in front of a panel of ed-reform celebrity judges?Jeanne Allen, Richard Lee Colvin, and Bruno Manno. And click here to cast your vote for Education Reform Idol.


This year, Florida required public employees to start contributing to their retirement plans. Workers are only asked to kick in 3 percent, but it's a start. (This was enough to spur a lawsuit nonetheless.) The state also increased the retirement age and applied other technical fixes to reduce its liabilities. Overall, the plan is expected to save the state nearly a billion dollars. Collective bargaining was not on the table in 2011, and likely won't be anytime soon. The right to bargain is?enshrined in the Sunshine State's constitution. (That being said, Florida's constitution also frames the state as right-to-work. For teachers, this means that they cannot be required to...

The central problem besetting K-12 education in the United
States today is still—as for almost thirty years now—that far too few of our
kids are learning nearly enough for their own or the nation’s good. And the
gains we’ve made, though well worth making, have been meager (and largely
confined to math), are trumped by gains in other countries, and evaporate by
the end of high school.

From where I sit, the basic strategies
aren’t ill-conceived. Rather, they’ve been stumped, stymied, and
constrained by formidable barriers that are more or less built into the
K-12 system as we know it.

This much everybody knows. But unless we want to live out
the classic definition of insanity (“doing the same thing over again with the
expectation that it will produce a different result”), we need to focus
laser-like on the barriers that keep us from making major-league gains. If we
don’t break through (or circumnavigate) these barriers, academic achievement
will remain stagnant.

The barriers I’m talking about are not cultural issues,
parenting issues, demographic issues, or other macro-influences on educational
achievement. Those are all plenty...