Publications

American Achievement in International Perspective

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The latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) garnered all the usual headlines about America’s lackluster performance and the rise of competitor nations. And to be sure, the findings—that America’s fifteen-year-olds perform in the middle of the pack in both reading and math—are disconcerting for a nation that considers itself an international leader, priding itself on its home-grown innovation, intellect, and opportunity.

But that’s not the entire story. Particularly among other industrialized and advanced nations, the U.S. still has the upper hand in one critical measure—size. In this brief analysis, we analyzed the data to compare the PISA performance of the U.S. and thirty-three other nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Among the findings:

  • In raw numbers, the U.S. produces many more high-achieving students than any other OECD nation—more high-achievers than France, Germany, and the UK combined (both in reading and in math).
  • On the downside, in raw numbers, the U.S. also produces many more low-achieving students (both in reading and in math) than any other OECD nation, including Mexico and Turkey.

There are a number of other interesting tidbits as well.

Yearning to Break Free

Ohio Superintendents Speak Out

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This important survey of Ohio school leaders shows a growing disconnect of opinion between the people who teach in our public schools and those who lead them. While many teachers and other school employees resist changes to collective bargaining laws and education reform measures, superintendents recognize the need for such changes and in fact are hungry for them.

Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out is the result of a statewide survey of Ohio district superintendents and other education leaders on the most critical issues facing K-12 education in the Buckeye State in 2011, including budgets, school effectiveness, and laws that make schools harder to manage.  The survey was conducted by the respected, nonpartisan public opinion research firm, FDR Group, and commissioned and underwritten by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The findings come as policy makers struggle to solve the state’s massive budget deficit while ramping up pupil achievement.

The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011

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Foreword by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Kathleen Porter-Magee

Presidents’ Day 2011 has come and gone, but George Washington would be dismayed by the findings of this new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Reviewers evaluated state standards for U.S. history in grades K-12. What they found is discouraging: Twenty-eight states—a majority—deserve D or F grades for their academic standards in this key subject. The average grade across all states is a dismal D. Among the few bright spots, South Carolina earns a straight A for its standards and six other jurisdictions—Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia—garner A-minuses. (The National Assessment's "framework" for U.S. history also fares well.) Read on to learn how your state scored.

 

Stretching the School Dollar

A Brief for State Policymakers

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This policy brief lists fifteen concrete ways that states can “stretch the school dollar” in these difficult financial times. Written by Marguerite Roza, senior data and economics advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president at the Fordham Institute, it argues that budget cuts alone, without concurrent reforms, could set our schools back years. But by addressing state mandates around teacher tenure, “last hired, first fired” policies, minimum class sizes, and more, states can free local leaders’ hands to make smart, courageous cuts and do more with less. In other words, this challenging climate is an opportunity to make some real changes in education. Read on to find out more.

15 Ways that States Can Stretch the School Dollar

  1. End “last hired, first fired” practices.
  2. Remove class-size mandates.
  3. Eliminate mandatory salary schedules.
  4. Eliminate state mandates regarding work rules and terms of employment.
  5. Remove “seat time” requirements.
  6. Merge categorical programs and ease onerous reporting requirements.
  7. Create a rigorous teacher evaluation system.
  8. Pool health-care benefits.
  9. Tackle the fiscal viability of teacher pensions.
  10. Move toward weighted student funding.
  11. Eliminate excess spending on small schools and small districts.
  12. Allocate spending for learning-disabled students as a percent of population.
  13. Limit the length of time that students can be identified as English Language Learners.
  14. Offer waivers of non-productive state requirements.
  15. Create bankruptcy-like loan provisions.

Are Bad Schools Immortal?

The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors

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Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler

This study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that low-performing public schools—both charter and traditional district schools—are stubbornly resistant to significant change. After identifying more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states, analyst David Stuit tracked them from 2003-04 through 2008-09 to determine how many were turned around, shut down, or remained low-performing. Results were generally dismal. Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later. So did 80 percent of district schools. Read on to learn more—including results from the ten states.

Press Release

In the Media

December 14, 2010
Journal Sentinel

Education Imperatives for Ohio: K-12 Policy Priorities for the New Biennium

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Fordham gives its advice to Governor-elect Kasich and the incoming leaders of the Ohio House and Senate as it relates to the future of K-12 education policy in the Buckeye State. To move Ohio forward in education, while spending less, we outline seven policy recommendations. 1) Strengthen results-based accountability for schools and those who work in them. 2) Replace the so-called “Evidence-Based Model” of school funding with a rational allocation of available resources in ways that empower families, schools, and districts to get the most bang for these bucks. 3) Invest in high-yield programs and activities while pursuing smart savings. 4) Improve teacher quality, reform teacher compensation, and reduce barriers to entering the profession. 5) Expand access to quality schools of choice of every kind. 6) Turn around or close persistently low-performing schools. 7) Develop modern, versatile instructional-delivery systems that both improve and go beyond traditional schools.

Stretching the School Dollar: How Schools and Districts Can Save Money While Serving Students Best

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In this volume, a diverse group of experts—scholars, educators, journalists, and entrepreneurs—offer wisdom and advice on how schools and districts can cut costs, eliminate inefficient spending, and better manage their funds in order to free up resources to drive school reform.

Edited by Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, and Eric Osberg of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Stretching the School Dollar (Harvard Education Press, 2010) proposes immediate, short-term cost cutting solutions as well as long-term, structural changes that will improve the efficiency of the entire system. The book serves as a valuable guide in an era where every dollar matters.

Buy the book from Harvard Education Press

In the Media

October 25, 2010
C-SPAN

2009-10 Ohio Report Card Analysis

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Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio. We found that in 2009-10, 26 percent of public school students (district and charter) in Ohio's Big 8 urban communities attended a school rated A or B by the state, 28 percent attend a C-rated school, and 47 percent attended a school rated D or F.

In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2009-10 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities:

Ohio Urban School Performance Report, 2009-10

Ohio Education Gadfly: Special Edition (our coverage of 2009-10 data)

We also conducted city-specific analyses:

Note: The pdf for Dayton's performance has been updated as of September 1, 2010. The old version had an error in Table 1 - the list of charter and district schools in the city, and has since been corrected.

America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents

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This study from the Fordham Institute tackles a key question: Which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish (and which have not)? Nine reform-friendly locales surged to the front: New Orleans, Washington D.C., New York City, Denver, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Trailing far behind were San Jose, San Diego, Albany, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit. Read on to learn more.

Press release
 

 

City Profiles:

Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
Baltimore, MD Denver, CO Indianapolis, IN New York, NY San Francisco, CA
Boston, MA Detroit, MI Jacksonville, FL Newark, NJ San Jose, CA
Charlotte, NC El Paso, TX Los Angeles, CA Philadelphia, PA Seattle, WA
Chicago, IL Ft. Worth, TX Memphis, TN Phoenix, AZ Washington, D.C.

 

Data Tables:

Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
Baltimore, MD Denver, CO Indianapolis, IN New York, NY San Francisco, CA
Boston, MA Detroit, MI Jacksonville, FL Newark, NJ San Jose, CA
Charlotte, NC El Paso, TX Los Angeles, CA Philadelphia, PA Seattle, WA
Chicago, IL Ft. Worth, TX Memphis, TN Phoenix, AZ Washington, D.C.

 

National-stakeholder survey | Local-expert survey

In the Media

August 24, 2010
The Christian Science Monitor

The State of State Standards—and the Common Core—in 2010

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The K-12 academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math produced in June 2010 by the Common Core State Standards Initiative were clearer and more rigorous than ELA standards in 37 states and math standards in 39 states, according to this Fordham Institute study. In 33 of those states, the Common Core bested both ELA and math standards. Yet California, Indiana and the District of Columbia had ELA standards clearly superior to those of the Common Core. And nearly a dozen states had ELA or math standards in the same league as Common Core. Read on to find out more and see how your state fared.

 

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