President Obama’s path to performance pay
If the feds get tough, Race to the Top might work
Why charter schools should replace failing urban schools
Stop trying to fix failing schools. Close them and start fresh.
Most of today’s K–12 accountability systems are, themselves, persistently underperforming.
In both the movie and the school reform world, advocates of modernity can be snootily proud of their creations and dismissive of the tools of older generations.
Many of today’s most difficult education debates are the result of our transition from a highly legible, single-provider model to a decentralized, choice-based model.
I re-read about fifty major articles, blog posts, and other missives about ESSA over the break, since this written record will serve as the foundation for years of commentary and analysis.
As 2015 was coming to a close, I compiled a list of my fifty favorite reads of the year.
The dominant narrative about ESSA is that it shifts authority over schools back to state governments. But this belies a key feature of the legislation.
If your primary interest is in getting Uncle Sam to back off of America’s schools, you can start to prepare the Mission Accomplished banner. If your primary interest is in great K-12 accountability systems, you can’t direct your attention to state superintendents and state boards of education fast enough.
Conventional formula-based programs can divvy up dollars evenly, but they don’t change behavior much. The right kind of competitive grant, however, allows the federal government to set a priority while enabling state and local direction and innovation.
The results from 2015 NAEP TUDA data didn’t get much media coverage. That’s a shame because these are the best assessments for understanding student performance in America’s biggest urban districts.
When Hillary Clinton recently told an audience that the purpose of charter schooling is to “learn what works and then apply (it) in the public schools,” she made two mistakes.
What TNTP’s report “The Mirage” gets wrong on teacher development
New Orleans is just one chapter in the much bigger story of a shift from a single government operator of schools to an array of nonprofit operators.
Earlier this year, Forbes released a celebration of edu-wunderkinds, its “30 under 30” in education.
Religious and lay leaders are creating new schools, networks and governance models.
Education Reformers Need To Look Beyond Ideas, Ideology, and Innovation and Learn About The Efforts That Preceded Them
Schools have been around forever. There are mountains of accumulated wisdom to study if we’re willing to look up from our Twitter feeds.
I promise that you’ll learn interesting stuff by just spending some time with “Conditions of Education.” And maybe if we all do that, our debates would be a bit more fruitful and a bit less contentious.
We should scale back NCLB’s federal micromanagement , but not all accountability is micromanagement.
Bad ideas are preserved when current experts are afraid to fall out of favor with their colleagues and ambitious, budding experts are afraid to be rejected by the establishment so nobody speaks up.
Can the performance-contract approach of chartering be used to re-envision ESEA?
Are charter school authorizers requiring too much paperwork from prospective school founders?
An opinion piece by Delaware Governor Jack Markell ignores all we’ve learned about private school choice.
I suspect one of the toughest parts of this job will be projecting a sense of urgency about necessary reforms while heralding the very good things taking place
I’ve spent a good bit of time looking into a wide range of issues associated with the tough conditions faced by millions of city kids and what we might do to offer these boys and girls better opportunities.
There are ways to far better serve millions of low-income kids than the turnaround- and district-focused strategies of the last several generations.
When the history of this era’s urban-education reform movement is written, four big policy innovations are sure to get attention: the nation’s first voucher program, first charter law, first mayor-controlled charter authorizer, and first “extraordinary authority” unit (the RSD).
I’m a strong supporter of assessments and accountability, and I wouldn’t opt out, but I think it’s unfair to discount the views of those who disagree.
The bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill crafted by Senators Alexander and Murray represents a very smart compromise on the key issue of accountability
If you’re at all interested in school choice, you really should read a trio of recent reports.
Washington, D.C. could offer America’s cities an invaluable new example of an all-charter approach.
Idaho finds itself in a chicken-egg situation. Improve educational attainment without improved employment opportunities inside Idaho and the state might risk investing in a strategy that merely exports talented young Idahoans.
If cities simply add more choice schools in the absence of changes to the enrollment process, parents can struggle to find information on schools, be forced to fill out widely varying school applications, and then receive a staggered barrage of acceptance and rejection notices.
Rural superintendent don’t consider teacher recruitment and retention among their biggest challenges…and mixing rural schooling and technology is more complicated than you might think.
Some reforms may exacerbate inequality because they don’t help every last needy student. But pursuing equity above all else could jeopardize the gains of some very needy kids.
As the traditional urban school district is slowly replaced by a system marked by an array of nongovernmental school providers, new policies (undergirded by a new understanding of the government’s role in public schooling) are needed.
A compromise around the idea of accountability for results would require the right to agree to include explicit performance targets and the left to agree to give states greater flexibility in tackling challenges.
NCLB assessments appear safer than I would’ve guessed sixty days ago.
The work of teaching is so extraordinarily complex and teachers are so tightly woven into the fabric of school communities that any attempt by faraway federal officials to tinker with evaluation systems is a fool’s errand
Given today’s political conditions, President Obama’s education request is actually quite savvy. It retreats where necessary, digs in where possible, and has an eye on history.
Common Core proponents need an updated advocacy playbook. The political terrain of 2010 and 2015 are very, very different.
It’s pretty clear that the coming reauthorization debate is going to focus on accountability. But in addition to early childhood and more funding, Duncan also talked about educator evaluation, teacher preparation and support, and more.
State education chiefs may have helped turn the tide against what appeared to be a mounting anti-assessment, anti-accountability wave.
Three signs of homeostasis—a reversion to the old tried-and-true way of doing things.
The New Jersey Department of Education has produced a report on the status of its new teacher evaluation efforts.
In Washington, D.C., more kids are in high-performing charters, the number of high-performing charters is growing, and the number of struggling charters is shrinking. But why?
Test scores in D.C. offer reason to believe that chartering—if done smartly—can replace the district system for delivering public education in America’s cities.
My admittedly late thoughts on last night’s results.
The greatest friction between contemporary education reform and conservatism is the former’s obsession with “new” and the latter’s deep skepticism of it.
Many of today’s most prominent reforms are quite popular, but it looks like folks are perturbed by a meddlesome Uncle Sam
The organization of state superintendents and the organization of big urban school districts will work together to audit the number and types of tests administered and develop new systems that are leaner and more integrated.
Before we retreat to the pre-NCLB era of grade-span testing or revert to some other testing-light position, let’s at least recall some of the benefits of annual testing of all kids.
By ignoring the closure of urban Catholic schools, we have not only allowed high-quality seats to disappear, we’ve also allowed the further deterioration of the threadbare social fabric of fraying communities.
Two important events provide the outlines for a new approach to state-level accountability.
Over the last month or so, there’ve been a number of notable stories highlighting the passing of the torch from urban districts to urban chartering.
When Congress convenes in lame-duck status between November and January, taking up the future of NCES would be timely.
The moderating of the debate over the Common Core seems to be mirroring the field’s increased focus on implementation.
Mike McShane’s new book Education and Opportunity offers a sophisticated view of public school markets, how to understand them, use their strength, and appreciate their limitations.
The most convincing argument against conservatism is that by defending longstanding institutions it ends up protecting longstanding injustices.
There is a yawning gap between the stirring language in state constitutions promising great primary and secondary schools and the nitty-gritty work of actually living up to that responsibility.
The new conservative approach attempts to advance positive change, not through massive new federal programs or fanciful technical solutions but via traditional, experience-informed means.
Education reform has never thoughtfully discussed, much less enumerated, what ought to be conserved.
How could I be disposed to preserve venerable institutions and yet favor dramatic K–12 change?
There’s lots of important work out there aimed at improving the way the charter sector works, but it often gets overshadowed by articles that are just thinly veiled attacks on the idea of charter schooling.
We’re in a period of profound change in teacher-union leadership, with more combative leaders in ascendance, But what the unions really need are leaders able to craft winning platforms with a new orientation.
Why is it so hard to get education reformers to support initiatives that make high-quality private schools accessible to low-income families?
Yesterday, a California superior court overturned five state laws related to the employment of teachers. Here’s what you need to know.
Common Core, MOOCs, teachers of the year, student surveys, rural education, and more
Choice, teacher effectiveness, charter schools, and more
If charter schooling is to live up to its promise, charter school authorizing must get more attention.
When schools are not run by locally elected school boards, can there still be local control?
Given the news coverage, you’d think Common Core’s fate was daily hanging in the balance—that pro and con forces were trading massive victories, swapping gains with each successive battle. But that’s emphatically not happening.
Our report on reforming state departments of education has generated some very thoughtful responses.
Now that Washington State has lost its waiver and Indiana could be on a path to nonrenewal, we shouldn’t be surprised if people start asking increasingly pointed questions about why other states, similarly noncompliant, haven’t been dinged.
Friday was Michele McNeil’s last day at Ed Week.
Catholic schools, charter schools, college, unions and more
The state education agency was never intended to lead complex, contentious, large-scale reforms that require original thinking, nimble action and constant adaptability.
From Promising to Proven is a meditation on the history, status, and future of charter schooling
A new report by Sir Michael Barber Barber’s is an exhaustive—if exhausting—assessment of Massachusetts’ standing and a thorough plan for generating improved results.
Developments in South Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, and Louisiana
If NCLB represented the farthest point of the testing pendulum’s swing to the right, many forces beyond gravity alone are now pulling it leftward.
Is the best urban district good enough?
After eight years of helping make New Orleans the most exciting American city for K–12 education, Neerav Kingsland is going to focus on bringing NOLA-style reform to other cities.
CRPE, DFER, CEE-Trust and more
Struggling rural schools face different challenges than struggling urban schools, so different interventions may be called for.
School boards, charter schools, and more
Today, the U.S Department of Education released Year-Three reports on the 12 states that won funding via Race to the Top’s first two competitions.
We probably spent billions of dollars to get the same outcomes as if this program had never existed. And yet, these dollars continue to flow.
Teacher pensions, school productivity, virtual school accountability, and more
Last week, Chris Cerf stepped down after three extraordinarily successful years as New Jersey’s commissioner of education.
One could infer from Mayor de Blasio’s comments about charter schools that private money and public schooling should not mix. So why is the mayor’s chancellor of schools, Carmen Fariña, the board chair of the Fund for Public Schools?
Ostensibly “obscure” words give us powers of description that can inform our surroundings, and they can bring clarity and insight to our understanding or the world.
The Obama administration has just released its 2015 budget proposal. Here are its most notable K-12 edu-features.
The most persistently low-performing schools in America got several million dollars, on average, and yet a third of them got worse.
The places in our nation with the highest percentages of African Americans offer the lowest-income kids the bleakest hopes of making it to the top.
Charter schools, vouchers, Louisiana, Ohio, and more
Having state-approved authorizers oversee private schools that participate in voucher programs would expand the educational options available to disadvantaged kids, ensure that participating schools are high performing, and allow private schools to maintain their distinctive characteristics.
Better policy alone won’t expand the public-school options available to rural kids. Charter advocates need to better understand rural communities—their strengths, challenges, hopes, and fears.
George Will’s column isn’t the real story here. It’s what the column represents: the quiet but growing and hardening principled opposition to Common Core.
If the state board of education accepts this plan, things will never be the same. It will be a state-led initiative to replace the urban district as the delivery system for public schooling, thereby breaking with 100 years of history.
There were many important releases and developments this week—invaluable new SIG information from IES, Race to the Top audits, new Brookings “choice index”—and I couldn’t keep up!
In a state with deeply troubled urban school districts—Newark, Paterson, Asbury Park—Camden’s stands apart for its calamitous results.
Waivers, KIPP, and more
School closures, poverty, economic mobility, and more
SIG is failing both because turnarounds seldom work and because state processes for doling out funds have been unsound.
One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2013 NAEP TUDA data release, especially for those inside the beltway, were the results for District of Columbia Public Schools.
The performance of students in urban districts is distressingly low.
Charter schools, principal recruiting, South Africa, and more
Good reads on gifted kids, value-added analysis, urban school reform, and more
Rural public schools enroll eleven million children, fully a quarter of students nationwide. Yet, sadly, the challenges faced by rural educators and their students have received scant attention from national education leaders.
What I’ve Been Reading
I agree with the study’s authors that we ought to do all we can to make school information widely available so parents can make informed choices, but I’m still of a mind that some level of regulation is needed
Tom Loveless on NAEP, Emily Richmond on class size, Rick Hess and Mike McShane on the Common Core, and more
We’ve taken care of policy in lots of places but implementation is a major challenge
It’s hard to make the case that this massive program had a transformative influence on the state’s most troubled schools.
The data are so discouraging that even the Department’s press statement found it difficult to conceal disappointment.
Families are becoming smarter and pickier customers. Why has the faith-based schools community barely reacted or adapted to this new environment?
The administration wanted us to believe it had a smart, coherent vision and clear implementation plan for its federal education policy…until we realized it didn’t.
It makes sense for states to develop accountability systems that make space for alternative schools.
Articles you may have missed.
As statewide teacher-evaluation laws, Common Core implementation, tougher assessments, and other reforms really begin influencing suburbia, the ed-reform debate is going to seriously evolve.
Early indications are that Louisiana’s strong accountability system is contributing to improved student results.
People believe major efforts aimed at high-performing students aren’t all that important because these kids will do fine without any additional “favors” from the rest of us.
I’ve predicted that SIG was not going to produce anything remotely close to the results the Department and others were promising. If I got it wrong, I’ll say so.
IMPACT is an educator-evaluation system that provides the necessary tools for teachers to improve
Andy Smarick interviews J.B. Schramm, the founder of College Summit
Everyone I know who works on systemic reform cares deeply about what happens in the classroom. But everyone specializes in one way or another.
If we want to help disadvantaged urban kids, we must stop propping up the failed urban district.
Andy Smarick interviews Scott Morgan, founder and CEO of Education Pioneers
The transition to new assessments was always going to be rough, but this was not the right way to handle it.
Andy Smarick interviews Preston Smith, CEO and co-founder of Rocketship Education
If you’re itching for some edu-reading over the long weekend (what else would you do while grilling?), here are some suggestions.
Andy Smarick interviews Joanne Weiss, who recently left her position as Chief of Staff to Arne Duncan
Andy Smarick interviews Jean-Claude Brizard, the former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, who now works for the College Board
Andy Smarick interviews Emily Barton, Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education.
I met Neerav Kingsland in 2009. I was on my tenth trip to New Orleans post-Katrina, meeting with a foundation newly interested in supporting the local reform effort, and I wanted to spend a little time with New Schools for New Orleans.
The reforms Tony Bennett advanced in the Hoosier State were invaluable. The Christel House situation puts Indiana at a fork in the road. Do they use this as a reason to roll back the last era’s reforms?
Derrell Bradford is a fighter for low-income kids, and he has the compelling personal story to back it up. He’s a prized possession of the ed-reform community.
Andy Smarick interviews Howard Fuller, former superintendent of Milwaukee and founder of BAEO
On Monday, PARCC released the cost of its tests—and right on cue, another state, Georgia, dropped out of the testing consortia. This is a disaster.
Andy Smarick interviews Ethan Gray, executive director of CEE-Trust
I’ve been yearning for real data showing how the program is doing. I’m not the only one.
What better way to head into this long weekend than with a dose of inspiration drawn from two of the most famous Fourth of July speeches in our nation’s history.
An interview with Marc Porter Magee, founder and president of 50CAN
There are lots of articles out today about the study. But many miss some of the most important findings—both in terms of the sector’s basic descriptive statistics and the quality of its schools.
An interview with Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools
Here’s the second half of my compilation of recent publications you might want to read.
A bunch of very good publications have been released over the last few weeks.
An interview with the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund
An interview with Robin Lake, the director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education
D.C. has recently undertaken two invaluable reforms that, when combined with the city’s other systemic features, place D.C. on the brink of becoming the urban school system of the future.
An interview with the former president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The U.S. Department of Education seems to be retreating from its earlier stance that common assessments are crucial, but it has signaled that it will still fight for rigor and alignment.
What I’ve learned from talking with the two consortia developing tests linked to the Common Core standards.
An interview with Tim Daly, President of TNTP
This revealing back-and-forth with the United States Department of Education is the third and final installment in our testing-consortia series.
The second installment of my testing-consortia series is a conversation with Smarter Balanced.
An interview with PARCC, one of two consortia of states funded by the federal government to develop “next-generation” assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
Big happenings on the urban-schools front. In recent weeks, numerous cities have announced they’re looking for new district leaders.
It is troubling that many authorizers still don’t have high-quality practices in place.
I’m all but certain a number of states will take this report’s lessons to heart, and once again it will be said that TNTP influenced for the better our educator policies and practices.
The Recovery School District is infinitely superior to the failed urban district and, though the Achievement School District is still the understudy, we may soon see its name in lights.
Alabama’s decision to drop out of both consortia and choose a battery of ACT exams is enormous. This is the “Plan B” that many states have been looking for.
When scores from the first Common Core-aligned assessments are publicly released in the summer of 2015, lots of parents are going to be looking for solutions. The reform community should have a response.
Unless Secretary Duncan can be prevailed upon to reconsider, decades of education policy will be overturned and a federal agency will have assumed authority that should remain squarely in the hands of Congress.
According to news reports, New Jersey governor Chris Christie is on the verge of announcing that the state will take over the deeply troubled Camden school district.
The stories of these historical giants have three associations particularly relevant to our work.
The U.S. Department of Education just announced more SIG money going out the door.
If I could go back in time and begin my stint at an SEA all over again, I’d dedicate more energy to educator-preparation policy for three reasons.
Online and blended learning alter some of the most basic characteristics of traditional schooling. They change the relationship between student and teacher, student and student, student and device, family and school.
While working for the New Jersey Department of Education, I consistently struggled with a basic problem. My organization wasn’t designed to do the things that our leadership team prioritized.
Might there be compelling civic or social reasons for keeping open persistently failing or unsafe inner-city schools?
A new report on state-level implementation of Common Core merits some attention—but less for its top-line findings and more for how it confirms what I’m now calling the “Common Core Implementation Gap.”
Some recent reading has me adjusting my jaundiced view of Mr. Nixon and his team.
How New Jersey has tried to bridge the gap between policy and practice on teacher evaluations.
In the simplest terms, chartering should replace the urban district.
Public education is a set of guiding principles—a combination of beliefs about something that ought to be provided. How we bring them to life is up to us.
In education reform, we have a myopic view of our work, we’re failing to appreciate the complex ecosystem of which we’re a part, and we’re focusing on short-term matters and tactics instead of looking far ahead.
Assessments, beyond being technically complicated to produce and administer, may very well determine the future of Common Core.
The Gates Foundation’s MET study was a grand success in K–12 research. But what happens next is what matters.
The final report from the Gates-funded “Measures of Effective Teaching” project may prove to be the most important K–12 research study of this generation.
The next four years are probably going to be mostly about implementation of the last four years’ worth of policy changes. I hope that we dedicate equal bandwidth to monitoring the impact of NCLB waivers and making course corrections.
I’m very disappointed with the Department’s decision to name 16 states RTT finalists. A number of these states have glaring deficiencies that would make them unable to get over a medium bar much less the “very, very high bar” that Secretary Duncan said he would set.
In its Winter 2010 issue, Ed Next published my article, “The Turnaround Fallacy.” I appreciate the careful reading of and thoughtful responses to the article by those who have written. It’s encouraging that so many talented and energetic people are working to improve the opportunities available to kids assigned to troubled public schools. But I’m as convinced as ever that closing schools in a persistent state of failure is necessary.
Today, at close of business, state applications are due for the first round of Race to the Top funds. Coinciding with today’s deadline and the important work about to begin, Education Next is releasing my new article “Toothless Reform?” which makes the case that previous ARRA education funding hasn’t been used for reform and that the department needs to go to great lengths to ensure that the RTT generates the changes needed. As I write in the article, “when state proposals hit Arne Duncan’s desk, the secretary must become the toughest schoolmarm in America.”
Podcast: Andy Smarick and Joe Williams (Democrats for Education Reform) discuss efforts to ensure that Race to the Top funds are used to promote reform.
Video: Andy Smarick talks with Education Next about how $75 billion in stimulus funds have been spent to sustain the status quo in education and whether Race to the Top funds will be spent differently.
Video: Andy Smarick talks with Education Next about why the Obama administration needs to rethink its embrace of turnarounds and adopt a new strategy for the nation’s persistently failing schools.
Though the inclination to fix our worst schools is understandable and is often the result of the best intentions, it is misguided. Turnarounds have not only consistently failed in education; they fail in the vast majority of instances in other industries and sectors. Moreover, and most importantly, continuing to pursue turnarounds actually inhibits our ability to build healthy urban school systems.
Sign Up To Receive Notification
when the latest issue of Education Next is posted
In the meantime check the site regularly for new articles, blog postings, and reader comments