Publications

Education for Upward Mobility

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At the Education for Upward Mobility conference, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released ten working conference papers about the intersection between the anti-poverty and education-reform agendas. These draft papers tackle difficult, but integral questions, including: Is “college for all” the right goal? (And what do we mean by “college”?) What can schools do to develop so-called “non-cognitive” skills? Should technical education be a central part of the reform agenda? Download the papers and watch the videos from the conference. 

Watch the videos

 

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If you have questions about the book, please email Dara Zeehandelaar.

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2014 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report

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The 2014 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report is our opportunity to share the Fordham Foundation’s work as the sponsor of eleven schools serving 3,200 students, and our related policy work in Ohio and nationally. We are fortunate as an organization that our policy work benefits our sponsorship efforts; and, that our lessons from sponsorship inform our policy and advocacy strategies.

In the pages of this report, you will see that Fordham as a whole is committed to increasing the number of quality seats available to children - both as a policy and as a concrete goal within our portfolio of schools. We report candidly on the performance of our portfolio, our approach to sponsorship, and key policy publications from 2014. 

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If you have questions about the book, please email Aaron Churchill.

Building a Lattice for School Leadership

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Gadfly editorial by Michael J. Petrilli and Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.

Over the past decade, the English government has revamped that country’s approach to school leadership. At the center of the reform is the sensible idea that school leadership needs to be a team endeavor. While not a new idea—there’s been for years plenty of discussion about “distributed leadership” on both sides of the pond—the Brits got busy actually making it happen as opposed to jawboning about it. Central to their leadership structure is the formalization of three levels of school leaders, each with distinct roles and responsibilities: headteachers who lead schools (equivalent to the principal’s role in the U.S.), senior leaders or deputy heads who assist the headteacher (similar to the vice principal role in American education but with additional school-wide responsibilities), and middle leaders responsible for the quality of teaching within a certain department, grade-level or grade cluster. Each level (and some differing roles within the level) comes with its own mix of time devoted to teaching and time spent leading.

To see how America's fragmented leadership system might benefit from these ideas and others from our British brethren, download Building a Lattice for School Leadership: The Top-to-Bottom Rethinking of Leadership Development in England and What It Might Mean for American Education.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Amber Northern.

In the Media

November 22, 2014
Impact First
January 21, 2015
Education Week

Redefining the School District in Michigan

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What happens when policymakers create statewide school districts to turn around their worst-performing public schools? In Louisiana and Tennessee, Recovery School Districts (RSDs) have made modest-to-strong progress for kids and serve as national models for what the future of education governance might hold.

In the Great Lakes State, the story is more complicated.

In Redefining the School District in Michigan, Nelson Smith examines the progress of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). The EAA shares basic features with its brethren in Louisiana and Tennessee in that all three are charged with resuscitating the state’s worst schools within the confines of a separate, autonomous school district.

But unlike the RSD in the Bayou State—which comprises over eighty schools statewide—the EAA is so far a smaller effort; it is responsible for just fifteen schools, all in Detroit, with further expansion stymied. Like Tennessee's Achievement School District (ASD), the EAA was created in response to the Race to the Top competition. Yet it is an interesting hybrid of both existing models, combining the governance reforms of the RSD and ASD with a big push for competency-based learning.

States that want to embrace this approach to school turnarounds need to create conditions that are essential to success, Fordham’s report concludes. Michigan’s effort—though laudable and in many ways heroic—was hobbled from the start from too many compromises and too little political support.

Download Redefining the School District in Michigan to learn more.

This is the second brief in a three-part series. Find the first policy brief, Redefining the School District in Tennessee, here.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Amber Northern.

In the Media

November 13, 2014
Forbes
November 24, 2014
Michigan Radio

Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute set out to answer a basic (yet complicated) question: how much does each school in the D.C. metro area spend on day-to-day operations for each student it enrolls? In the Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer, we found that there are differences in spending within the same district. For example, in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Tyler Elementary spends $19,721 per pupil (above the district total of $15,743), while Janney Elementary spends $11,652 per pupil.

Explore the Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer to learn more about why these differences may occur and to filter the data by district, school type, low- or high-spending, and more.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Dara Zeehandelaar.

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In the Media

October 16, 2014
The Kojo Nnamdi Show
October 17, 2014
Greater Greater Washington

Poised for Progress: Analysis of Ohio's School Report Cards 2013-14

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On September 12th, Ohio released school report-card ratings for the 2013-14 school year. This report compiles and analyzes the statewide data, with special attention given to the quality of public schools in the Ohio Big Eight urban areas: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown (both district and charter school sectors). Using the state’s key report-card measures, the performance-index and value-added ratings, we assess the overall quality of each public school receiving these ratings in these areas—and calculate the number of students in high-quality seats in each area.

The key findings:

  • There are too few high-quality seats in Ohio’s urban areas. On average, just 16 percent of public-school seats—including both district and charter—were high-quality in the Big Eight. In contrast, 36 percent of public-school seats were low-quality.
  • High-quality seats by sector: A higher proportion of charter seats were high quality (22 percent) compared to district seats (13 percent) in the Big Eight urban areas.
  • Low-quality seats by sector: A slightly lower proportion of charter seats were low quality (32 percent) compared to district seats (38 percent) in the Big Eight urban areas.

There is also variation in the performance of the charter-school sectors across the Big Eight. The charter sectors in Cleveland and Columbus had considerably higher proportions of high-quality seats than the district-run schools located in those cities. In Cleveland, 28 percent of charter seats were high quality, compared to just 12 percent in the district. Meanwhile, in Columbus, 32 percent of charter seats were high quality, compared to just 8 percent in the district. In other cities, like Akron, Canton, and Toledo, the traditional district had higher proportions of high-quality seats compared to those cities’ charter-school sectors.

Download the report to learn more about the performance of Ohio’s public schools, statewide and in its eight largest urban areas.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Aaron Churchill.

The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don't Teach

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The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers—more than three million strong—now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures. 

 

The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach analyzes how school staffing has changed over the last half-century, what might be driving the trends, and whether these developments are financially sustainable or educationally wise.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Dara Zeehandelaar.

Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement

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By Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke, Public Impact
Foreword By Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Northern

A school’s leader matters enormously to its success and that of its students and teachers. But how well are U.S. districts identifying, recruiting, selecting, and placing the best possible candidates in principals’ offices? To what extent do their practices enable them to find and hire great school leaders? To what degree is the principal’s job itself designed to attract outstanding candidates?

In Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement, authors Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke examine five urban school districts that have sought to improve their principal-hiring processes in recent years. They find some strengths—but also plenty of challenges:

  • The principalship is a high-pressure job in which the school head’s authority is generally not commensurate with his or her responsibility. It’s also a job that does not pay very well. Put these shortcomings together and it’s not surprising that many high-ability individuals are loath to seek such a position.
  • Recruitment of leadership talent beyond a district’s own boundaries is limited and uneven. Most principals are therefore selected from a group of individuals already on the district payroll. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, not much strategic thought goes into how to identify talent or find the best fit between the skillset of a new principal and the needs of a specific school.
  • Districts have built into their selection-and-hiring processes many sensible practices—and cronyism is less of an issue than it used to be. Yet those same rubrics don’t collect much hard data on candidates’ prior effectiveness in improving student outcomes.

In the authors’ words,

Our primary finding is that principal-hiring practices—even in pioneering districts—continue to fall short of what is needed, effectively causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. Our research suggests, however, that better hiring practices alone are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want and are equipped to execute successfully.

Among their key recommendations are the following:

  1. Make the job more appealing—and manageable. Give principals the power to lead, including authority over key staffing decisions, operations, and resources.
  2. Pay great leaders what they are worth. Compensation must be commensurate with the demands, responsibilities, and risks of the job—and should reward success in this challenging role.
  3. Take a proactive approach to recruitment. Develop criteria to identify promising candidates both inside and outside of the district and actively seek them out. At the same time, identify and prepare internal candidates systematically and early—and eliminate barriers that might discourage high-potential candidates.
  4. Insist on evidence of a candidate’s prior success in boosting pupil achievement.
  5. Evaluate candidates against the competencies and skills demonstrated by successful principals.
  6. Design the placement process to match individual schools’ needs with particular candidates’ strengths.
  7. Continually evaluate hiring efforts. Collect and analyze all relevant data, and then develop metrics by which to assess each stage of the process, particularly in relation to the school results that follow.

Register for the July 31 event 'Steering great leaders into the principal's office'
 

INFOGRAPHIC

On a mobile device? View the Lacking Leaders infographic.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Dara Zeehandelaar.

State Accountability in the Transition to Common Core

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The Common Core is at a critical juncture. While many surveys show that support for the standards themselves remains strong, implementation has not been without major challenges.

State Accountability in the Transition to Common Core, a new policy brief from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, provides cautionary advice about what key policymakers and influentials in a handful of states now see as transition challenges. In August and September 2013, the research team at Fordham interviewed officials and policy advocates in five states (Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York) to glean how they are approaching accountability in the transition to the Common Core. While we found nuances in each state, four trends emerged.

  1. The accountability moratorium is here. Punitive consequences associated with accountability are largely being put on hold during the transition to the Common Core.
  2. Overall, states are treading carefully and strategically with assessments, since the quality of the forthcoming tests is still unknown.
  3. While state education agencies express conviction that teachers are being adequately prepared to teach the new standards, the quality and effectiveness of Common Core trainings and professional development is unclear.
  4. Though ESEA waivers were granted to give states additional flexibility, states are now finding themselves locked into a set of new, yet still restrictive federal policies.

Correction: An earlier version of this brief noted that New York had delayed using test scores in teacher evaluations. The state is considering such a delay.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Victoria Sears.

Expanding the Education Universe: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice

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After twenty years of expanding school-choice options, state leaders, educators, and families have a new tool: course choice, a strategy for students to learn from unconventional providers that might range from top-tier universities or innovative community colleges to local employers, labs, or hospitals.

In Expanding the Education Universe: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice, Fordham’s Michael Brickman outlines policy questions and options to weigh when designing course-choice programs, including issues of student eligibility, course providers, funding, quality control, and accountability.

Spotlight: Course Choice in Louisiana

Louisiana is not the only state with a course-choice program (others include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin), but it is the farthest along in making such options widely accessible—and the way it has handled any challenges posed by these programs make it an ideal exemplar. Read about barriers that State Superintendent John White and other leaders have had to overcome in designing and implementing course choice. 

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If you have questions about the book, please email Dara Zeehandelaar.

In the Media

May 16, 2014
Association of American Educators

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