Author

Chester E. Finn, Jr.

    Author Website: http://www.edexcellence.net/


    Author Bio:
    Chester Finn, Jr. is a scholar, educator and public servant who has been at the forefront of the national education debate for 35 years. Born and raised in Ohio, he received his doctorate from Harvard in education policy. He has served, inter alia, as a Professor of Education and Public Policy at Vanderbilt, Counsel to the U.S. ambassador to India, Legislative Director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement. A senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and chairman of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, Finn is also President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. He serves on the board of several other organizations concerned with primary-secondary schooling. The author of 16 books and more than 400 articles, his work has appeared in such publications as The Weekly Standard, Christian Science Monitor, Commentary, The Public Interest, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Education Week, Harvard Business Review and Boston Globe. Dr. Finn is the recipient of awards from the Educational Press Association of America, Choice Magazine, the Education Writers Association, and the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. He holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colgate University. He and his wife, Renu Virmani, a physician, have two grown children and two adorable little granddaughters.  They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Articles

America’s Smart Kids Left Behind

Catching up to our global peers will require changing education policy and culture

Different Kids Need Different Credentials

Forum: Rethinking the High School Diploma

WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

Rethinking the 
High School Diploma

Education Next talks with 
Chester E. Finn, Jr., Richard D. Kahlenberg and Sandy Kress

WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

Ending Our Neglect of Gifted Students

It’s a matter of fairness, equal opportunity , and long-term societal well-being.

Can Digital Learning Transform Education?

Education Next talks with Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Michael B. Horn

Exam Schools from the Inside

Racially diverse, subject to collective bargaining, fulfilling a need

FALL 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 4

First, We Need a Brand New K–12 System

Part 1 of a forum on whether digital learning can transform education

Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 1

A Battle Begun, Not Won

The following essay is part of a forum, written in honor of Education Next’s 10th anniversary, in which the editors assessed the school reform movement’s victories and challenges to see just how successful reform efforts have been. For the other side of the debate, please see Pyrrhic Victories? by Frederick M. Hess, Michael J. Petrilli, […]

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

Authorizing Charters

Helping mom-and-pops in Ohio

Fall 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 4

Education Data in 2025

Fifteen years hence, we will know exactly how well our schools, teachers, and students are doing

Winter 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 1

E Pluribus Unum?

Two longtime school reformers debate the merits of a national curriculum

Spring 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 2

The Preschool Picture

Universal preschool will be a boon for middle-class parents. How it will help poor kids catch up is not so obvious.

Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4

More Money for Less Accountability?

I don’t think so!

Spring 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 2

Troublemaker

The education of Chester Finn

Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2

Crash Course

NCLB is driven by education politics

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

What Innovators Can, and Cannot, Do

Squeezing into local markets and cutting deals

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

A New New Federalism

The case for national standards and tests

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

Selective Reporting

Quality Counts 2001, A Better Balance: Standards, Tests, and the Tools to Succeed by the editors of Education Week

Fall 2001 / Vol. 1, No. 3

Just the Facts

School Figures: The Data Behind the Debate
by Hanna Skandera and Richard Sousa
Hoover Institution, 2003, $15; 342 pp.

Spring 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 2

Faulty Engineering

The diversity of values within American society renders public schools ill-equipped to produce the engaged citizens our democracy requires

Spring 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 2

Lost at Sea

Early 20th century Progressive reformers established elected school boards as a means of shielding public school systems from the politics and patronage of corrupt city governments. Citizens, rather than political dons or their favored appointees, would govern the community’s schools with the community’s interests at heart. Today, however, elected school boards, especially in America’s troubled […]

Summer 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 3

Book Alert

The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market, by Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane; Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap, by Richard Rothstein; Leaving No Child Behind? Options for Kids in Failing Schools, by Frederick M. Hess and Chester E. Finn Jr., eds.; Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy, by James P. Spillane

Winter 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 1

Paying Teachers Properly

That the uniform salary “schedule” for teachers is obsolete and dysfunctional is a truth widely accepted but rarely challenged.

Winter 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 1

Tread on Me—but Lightly

The Era of Big Government Is Complicated

Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Things Are Falling Apart

Can the center find a solution that will hold?

Winter 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 1

Blog Posts/Multimedia

Charter Schools: Where They Work, Where They Don’t

Some of America’s highest-achieving schools are charters, but so are some of its worst.

05/27/2016

Where Did Charter Schools Come From?

The onset of chartering was no lightning bolt. This audacious innovation had multiple ancestors and antecedents.

05/09/2016

If Republican Legislatures Drown in Trump’s Wake, What Will Happen to Education Reform?

If November 2016 ushers in widespread erosion in the ranks of Republican policy makers, what might we anticipate on the education reform front?

04/07/2016

A Response to David Denby

Reform always begets opposition, and that’s not an altogether bad thing. Those bent on changing things must be able to explain why the case for reform is stronger than the case for the status quo

02/18/2016

The Bush Education Plan

Bush’s plan deserves at least two and a half cheers—which is a cheer or two more than any other GOP candidate has warranted on this issue.

01/19/2016

A Different Kind of Lesson from Finland

Finland has been lauded for years as this planet’s grand K-12 education success story, but since 2009, it’s scores and rankings have slipped.

12/22/2015

Germany Is Leaving its Bright Students Behind

Germany has been praised for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality. That’s no small feat—and one well worthy of recognition and accolades–but Germany’s bright students aren’t enjoying any of these gains.

12/15/2015

Losing the Ability to Compare Academic Performance Across States

The promise of the Common Core included not just multi-state standards but also multi-state assessments, but just 21 states are currently still participating in the two assessment “consortia.”

12/10/2015

R.I.P. John Chubb

John Chubb was a fine scholar, tireless education reformer, and creative innovator.

11/17/2015

Should NAEP Tests Be Updated to Reflect What’s in the Common Core?

It’s critical that NAEP’s math (and reading and writing) frameworks not flex with recent changes in standards, curriculum or pedagogical emphasis.

11/12/2015

Pell Grants Should Go (Only) to Needy Students Who Are Ready for College

What if we stopped subsidizing remedial courses on campuses and insisted that students pursuing higher learning be prepared for college-level courses? And what if those courses were also made available to young people even before they matriculated to a four-year program?

11/05/2015

Charter Schools: Taking Stock

It’s time to review the progress of the charter movement and the challenges that lie ahead, what we’ve done right as well as where we’ve gone astray..

08/27/2015

New Poll Offers News Both Heartening and Glum for Education Reformers

When it comes to fundamental principles and practices regarding K–12 education, the American public is generally pretty sensible and steadfast.

08/20/2015

A Pause in the History Wars

The College Board deserves a cheer for trying to stabilize the vessel known as Advanced Placement U.S. History

08/06/2015

Is a Massive New Set of Federal Regulations the Best Way to Reform Head Start?

Head Start is an example of sound impulses gone missing into the jungles of governmental extravagance and bureaucracy.

07/13/2015

RIP, Marva Collins

Marva Collins put her own money and reputation on the line to prove that poor minority kids could succeed just fine if given the right kinds of expectations, encouragement, and instruction.

06/30/2015

Will States Tell Parents and Students the Truth About College Readiness?

Amid way too much talk about testing and the Common Core, not enough attention is being paid to what parents will actually learn about their children’s achievement when results are finally released from the recent round of state assessments .

05/26/2015

Defining ‘College Readiness’ Down

Not only is middle school content finding its way into college classrooms, college credit is being awarded for learning it.

04/27/2015

Bravo

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, unveiled a few days back by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and scheduled for HELP Committee mark-up on April 14, is a remarkable piece of work.

04/13/2015

Can Gifted Education Survive the Common Core?

The advent of the Common Core standards can and should boost the learning of America’s ablest young learners, not serve as a rationale for denying them opportunities to fulfill their potential.

02/27/2015

The Conservative Case for HR 5

The “Student Success Act” would, if enacted, be the most conservative federal education move in a quarter century.

02/25/2015

The Future of School Accountability

Telling states how to operate their accountability systems hasn’t worked. It’s time to put the accountability monkey back onto the backs of states.

02/10/2015

NCLB Accountability is Dead; Long Live ESEA Testing

Despite frantic efforts by a number of groups to preserve some sort of federal accountability mandates in the next ESEA cycle, I think these should go away and almost surely will.

02/06/2015

Is It Quality Or Quantity That Counts?

Ah, January is upon us: The wind is howling, the thermometer is plummeting, and we are greeted by the nineteenth consecutive edition of Quality Counts, Education Week’s compilation of mostly useful data, analysis, rankings and commentaries.

01/16/2015

Barack Obama’s Love Affair With Universality

The real problem is the failure of existing schools and programs to do right by those who need the most help

01/14/2015

Punishing Achievement In Our Schools

The most recent exercise of mission creep and nanny-statism by the Office for Civil Rights involves what the enforcers call “equal access to educational resources.”

12/02/2014

A Five Point Plan To Resuscitate Catholic Schools

Two big changes in American education policy have been good for kids in general, but not particularly good for Catholic schools, especially the urban variety.

11/25/2014

Time for a Reboot

It’s probably time for education reformers and policymakers to admit that just pushing harder on test-driven accountability as the primary tool for changing our creaky old public school system is apt to yield more backlash than accomplishment

10/08/2014

The Challenges of AP History: Are You Sure You Want College Credit?

The trickle downward of university curricular mischief into our schools and other institutions continues unabated, and it’s not a problem that the College Board alone can solve.

09/11/2014

The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach

Why do American public schools spend more of their operating budgets on non-teachers than almost every other country in the world, including nations that are as prosperous and humane as ours?

08/15/2014

Save Our Data! Protect the Integrity of Education Statistics

Everything you may be trying to accomplish, change, or protect in American education hinges more than you might realize on the integrity of our education data system and that data system is more vulnerable than you might think.

08/04/2014

Education Reform in 2014

On August 1, Chester E. “Checker” Finn, Jr., will step down from his role as founding president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, passing the baton to Michael J. Petrilli. Here is his “farewell address” as president.

08/01/2014

Pre-Kraziness

What is the benefit conferred by preschool if there’s no school after the pre?

07/30/2014

We’ll Miss You, Michael Gove

The path on which Gove and his predecessors placed English education resembles the path taken by U.S. education reformers.

07/23/2014

Whither the NEA?

Perhaps the historic coupling of the NEA and the Democratic Party is loosening a bit.

07/11/2014

The NCES, NIEER, and Spinning Preschool Data

The job of a statistical agency is to provide people with data by which they can judge these things for themselves. On the preschool front, the National Center for Education Statistics has let the country down.

07/08/2014

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

Principal hiring practices continue to fall short of what is needed, effectively causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great.

07/02/2014

Pie in the Special-Ed Sky?

Will the new federal regulatory scheme lead to real change on the ground?

06/30/2014

The ‘Balanced Literacy’ Hoax

Balanced literacy is neither “balanced” nor “literacy,” at least not in the sense that poor kids taught to read via this approach will end up literate.

06/29/2014

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

State education leaders will have to decide if their states are ready to move forward with consequences based on Common Core assessments.

06/16/2014

Intellectual Coherence and the Common Core

Once educators and local (and state) officials see how poorly their kids do on tougher assessments and what the standards really require, they will start looking for better curricular materials and training.

05/22/2014

Now You’re Entitled To Your Own Facts Too

In the preschool realm, the U.S. Department of Education has it outsourced the number-gathering to a prominent interest group in the field and it has allowed that interest group to add its own spin.

05/12/2014

Almost, Peggy, But This Time Not Quite

When it comes to the Common Core State Standards, Peggy Noonan is only about 60 percent right.

05/09/2014

Is Differentiated Instruction a Hollow Promise?

Teachers are expected to be all things to (almost) all youngsters, but most acknowledge that, while technology and small classes surely help, they do not feel like they’re differentiating all that well.

05/07/2014

The Opt-Out Outrage

Is it legal to opt your child out of state tests? Should it be legal?

04/14/2014

Education’s Endless, Erroneous Either-Ors

The K–12 education world brims with debates and dichotomies that get us into all manner of needless quarrels and cul-de-sacs, thus messing up every reform initiative and retarding progress.

03/07/2014

Disciplining the Undisciplined

The tough letter that senior House Republicans sent last week to Arne Duncan and Eric Holder should have been even tougher. For the “guidance” that their agencies issued to U.S. schools in the guise of improving school discipline can only make it harder for educators to create safe, serious, and effective learning environments.

02/20/2014

Flipping Out: Controlled Choice Restricts Options

“Controlled choice”restricts families’ education options and imposes a top-down, government-run, social-engineering scheme based on somebody’s view of the value of racial and socioeconomic integration.

01/29/2014

Knowledge at the Core

For thirty years, Don Hirsch has tried to persuade policymakers to undertake perhaps the one reform we’ve never tried: the widespread adoption of a coherent, sequential, content-rich curriculum. What might change the outcome over the next thirty years?

01/27/2014

The “War on Poverty” and Me

Forgive an aging education-reformer’s reminiscences, but LBJ’s declaration of war on poverty shaped the next 50 years of my life.

01/08/2014

Gifted Education— What I Saw, What I’m Learning

I’ve visited eight countries to see how they educate their high-ability kids in the hope that we might pick up tips that would prove useful in improving the woeful state of “gifted education” in the U.S

12/11/2013

Financing the Education of High-Need Students

Special education is in need of a top-to-bottom makeover that nobody seems willing or able to undertake. But some worthy repairs can be made around the periphery of current policy

12/06/2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Besides its influential teacher union, Taiwan has a powerful parent union that appears to cause at least as much harm as it does good.

11/11/2013

De Blasio’s Education Agenda Is Full of Hot Air

De Blasio would’ve done more to persuade education-reformers that he’s serious if he’d dispensed with 24-point agendas and instead said who he’d hire as schools chancellor.

11/05/2013

Japan’s Robin Hood School-Voucher Program

The Abe government has proposed to impose tuition charges for public high school attendance by children of wealthy families and to use the proceeds from that tuition charge to subsidize the attendance of low income children in private schools.

11/01/2013

Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments

Common Core standards expect English language arts teachers to do things very differently than they have in the past. Will that really happen?

10/31/2013

Rethinking High School

As waves of reforms and would-be reforms have washed over American public education these past three decades, high schools have mostly stayed dry.

10/15/2013

Two Speeches

Although the latest glum international-education data weren’t even released until this week, last week brought a pair of provocative and contrasting speeches about the state of American education in 2013, both of which repay close attention.

10/11/2013

Governance Matters

Tucked away in Amanda Ripley’s pages are a number of examples of how Finland, South Korea and Poland organize and govern their education systems, and these are illuminating as well as actionable in the policy realm.

09/20/2013

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned!

Don’t call me and my friends Chicken Littles. The sky was beginning to fall three decades ago.

09/18/2013

What Parents Want—and How Policymakers Can Provide It

Most parents want a strong core curriculum in reading and math and an emphasis on STEM subjects, but once these non-negotiables are satisfied, different parents want different things; some seek high test scores, others favor vocational training, some want diversity, and others value art and music.

08/27/2013

Let’s Hear It For Proficiency

Kids can show plenty of “growth” in school but still not be ready for college because they aren’t actually proficient. This is why absolute levels matter and why schools should be judged in part by how many of the students emerging from them are truly college and career ready.

08/19/2013

Partisanship and Bipartisanship

Gridlock and stasis don’t seem to be leaving the K–12 space in Washington anytime soon.

07/29/2013

Chicken Little Goes to School

The Common Core sky is not falling. Rather, the Common Core is right sizing.

07/26/2013

Implementation, Implementation, Assessment, Assessment

For the Common Core standards really to take root and blossom, every state that claims to follow them faces a mammoth implementation challenge.

07/18/2013

Summer School for Republicans

Add education to a long list of federal policy issues that vex and perplex today’s fractured Republican Party.

07/12/2013

Reforms That Cross the Atlantic—and Don’t

The U.S. and its “mother country” continue to track—and copy and study and refine—each other’s programs and policies.

07/03/2013

The Big Squeeze

Without immediate action, the pension funding problem will grow worse and school districts will eventually get crushed—meaning tomorrow’s children will pay the price for yesterday’s adult irresponsibility. State lawmakers need to step up to the plate.

06/19/2013

Repairing the Conservative School Reform Coalition

For nearly 30 years, education-minded conservatives have embraced a two-part school reform strategy, focused on rigorous standards and parental choice. Recent events have frayed that coalition, but it’s not too late to stitch it back together.

06/12/2013

The Selective-Admission Quandary

Why does it have to be so difficult for outstanding students to get into top-flight high schools? Why not create more such schools?

05/31/2013

Why Private Schools Are Dying Out

A few elite institutions at both the grade-school and college levels are doing better than ever. But their health conceals the collapse of private-sector options in the U.S.

05/20/2013

For Pete’s Sake, Let’s Try It

Why so bleak about parent triggers?

05/09/2013

Conservatives and the Common Core

When a group of state leaders, many of them Republicans, can come together to set expectations for the curricular core that surpass what most of them set on their own, conservatives ought to applaud, not lash out

05/03/2013

Will the Assessment Consortia Wither Away?

If ACT and College Board scarf up much state business, there won’t be a lot left for the consortia.

04/22/2013

Texas: Big, Proud…and Wimpy?

By scrapping ten of the state’s fifteen “end of course” exams, Texas essentially forfeits uniform academic expectations and returns to the days when individual districts, schools, and teachers decided which students get diploma credit for which classes.

04/12/2013

Margaret Thatcher, Education Reformer

Foreign policy isn’t all that Margaret Thatcher and her team had in common with Ronald Reagan and his. The 1980s also saw much crossing of the Atlantic—in both directions—by their education advisers, too.

04/10/2013

Accountability Dilemmas

A useful new report from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation underscores the painful divide between parents and education reformers on the crucial topic of what to do about bad schools.

03/22/2013

Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century

Perhaps the biggest failing of the education system is its fragmented approach to making decisions. There are too many cooks in the education system and nobody is really in charge.

03/08/2013

Obama for Governor!

But first clean up Head Start

02/15/2013

The Issue Left Behind

Republicans and education reform

02/07/2013

On Closing Schools

Secretary Duncan and his team were mobbed the other day by agitated parents and kids protesting the closing of public schools around the land.

02/04/2013

Cutting to the Chase

As the U.S. education world eagerly awaits more information about the new assessments that two consortia are developing to accompany the Common Core standards, big questions remain about cut scores.

01/28/2013

Gifted Students Have ‘Special Needs,’ Too

Are our national education-reform priorities cheating America’s intellectually ablest girls and boys? Yes—and the consequence is a human capital catastrophe for the United States.

01/04/2013

Oh, Starr-y Superintendent

Joshua Starr has emerged as a fully fledged anti-reformer, pushing back against the sorts of changes that the Joel Kleins, Arne Duncans, and Jeb Bushes are striving to make.

12/20/2012

Revamping Teacher Preparation and Licensure

The Council of Chief State School Officers has come forth with a sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals.

12/19/2012

MOOCs in Size Small, Please

Could MOOCs work in K–12 education, too?

12/14/2012

Just How Potent Are Teacher Unions?

Are union biceps as brawny as ever, or growing flabby with age? Short answer: It depends, particularly on which state you look at.

12/10/2012

Getting Real about the Common Core

States today have sharply divergent views of what stakes, if any, to attach to test results for kids.

12/07/2012

College Board Snags Gates Veteran Stefanie Sanford

The College Board will re-appear as a lead actor on the ed-reform policy stage and we are apt to see it spearheading major developments in both K–12 and higher education.

12/06/2012

Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools

This wonky but important book is a distinctive, deeply researched, and amply documented plea for full-scale implementation of the Common Core math standards.

12/05/2012

Bar Exam for Teachers?

Thanks, Randi, for a proposal that would make Al proud—and that could conceivably do American education some good.

12/04/2012

Jeb Bush on Education Reform

I don’t know whether his hat is edging into the 2016 presidential election ring, but I do know that Jeb Bush gave a heck of an education keynote on Tuesday morning at the national summit convened in Washington by his Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.

11/29/2012

Let a New Teacher-Union Debate Begin

Examining the power—and the impact—of education’s 800-pound gorilla

11/02/2012

The Election Contests that Really Matter

The states are where the action is

10/28/2012

Indiana and the Common Core: Tony Bennett Got It Right

Tony Bennett is bogged down in a two-front war in his bid for reelection as Indiana’s State Superintendent.

10/26/2012

The Best Bargain in American Education

Exam schools are a good value, indeed a real bargain, not just for thousands of young Americans and their families, but also for the wider society

10/22/2012

Gotham’s Exam-School Problem

The NAACP filed a federal civil-rights complaint against New York City, alleging that the special test used for admission to selective public high schools is discriminatory.

10/04/2012

How the Common Core Changes Everything

Implementation, done right, must be comprehensive. Which means what?

09/28/2012

Common Standards≠ National Curriculum

Dana Goldstein has written a mostly on-target profile of David Coleman, who takes the helm of the College Board in just a few weeks. Here are a couple of things she doesn’t get exactly right.

09/24/2012

The Chicago Strike’s Silver Lining

What this episode demonstrated was that what teacher unions care about has practically nothing to do with what’s good for the kids and everything to do with what teachers want for themselves.

09/21/2012

Young, Gifted, and Neglected

Smart kids shouldn’t have to go to private schools or get turned away from Bronx Science or Thomas Jefferson simply because there’s no room for them.

09/19/2012

Maintenance of Inefficiency

School district officials who have attempted to do more with less have been stymied by federal maintenance-of-effort requirements for special education.

09/07/2012

Vouchers − Darwin= ??

How upset should one be that some of the private schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program teach creationism and reject evolution?

08/31/2012

Raising the Floor, but Neglecting the Ceiling

The demand for rigorous gifted and talented programs and high schools like TJ vastly outstrips the supply.

08/24/2012

Even with Limited Leverage, Uncle Sam Can Promote School Choice

Romney’s plan to voucherize Title I and IDEA has considerable merit—but it’s not the only way the federal government could foster school choice and it might not even be the best way.

08/17/2012

The Credit-Recovery Scam

The flap over quality control, academic fraud, false claims, and shortcuts in the world of credit recovery will not die down until American education (and the elected officials who set its key policies) face up to two realities.

07/27/2012

Rigorous National Standards: Necessary but Not Sufficient

One major reason for our slipshod academic performance is the disorderly, dysfunctional way we’ve been handling academic standards.

06/28/2012

Disruptive Innovation and Independent Public Schools

Independent public schools of choice could turn out to be as disruptive to traditional education systems as those crummy little Sony radios turned out to be to the vacuum-tube behemoths and as Honda was to Detroit.

06/22/2012

Confessions of a Former Luddite

Not so long ago, I doubted that computers, cell phones, and the internet would make any more difference in American education than television had.

06/13/2012

“Voucherizing Title I” is Worth a Shot

As Jay Mathews perceptively observed, and as others of us have been pointing out for a while, the Obama-Duncan team didn’t leave a heckuva lot of education-reform terrain for Mitt Romney to occupy except for variations on the theme of vouchers. And occupy it he has done. But “voucherizing Title I” is not a new […]

06/01/2012

A Race to Fix Education Governance?

How very refreshing, even exhilarating, the inclusion of superintendents and boards in a results-based accountability system.

05/25/2012

Tax Credit Scholarships Need a Critical, Not Hostile, Eye

It’s hard to get past the New York Times’s animus toward anything “private” or profit-seeking in the realm of K-12 education.

05/23/2012

When Washington Focuses on Schools

Uncle Sam is dreadful at micromanaging what actually happens in schools and classrooms. What he’s best at is setting agendas and driving priorities.

05/14/2012

Supersize My Education? Not in Singapore

Is more education—more hours and days, more years and degrees—the cure for what ails us?

05/11/2012

The Voucher Animus

As vouchers have become real, the political picture has grown more complex.

04/15/2012

Why School Principals Need More Authority

Under the current system, educational leaders have all of the responsibility but none of the power. Allowing principals to act like CEOs may foster a more efficient system.

04/05/2012

The Disparities of Disparate Impact

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest? That’s the spin a lot of people have given to last week’s massive trove of federal data on school discipline and sundry other topics.

03/16/2012

The Conservative Case for the Common Core

The proper work of conservatives going forward is to stop doing battle with the Common Core and instead do their utmost to ensure that the “loose” part gets done right.

03/09/2012

The War Against the Common Core

It will be ironic as well as unfortunate if the Common Core ends up in the dustbin of history as a result of actions and comments by its supporters. But in March 2012 there can be little doubt that the strongest weapons in the arsenal of its enemies are those that they have supplied.

03/05/2012

21st-Century VocEd Could Be Key to Future Economic Prosperity

Somewhere between the dead-end of old-style vocational high schools and the fashionable but ill-advised “college for everyone” campaign is a course of action that will actually equip young Americans for both successful citizenship and the real economy that they will inhabit.

02/24/2012

Big-Government Business Leaders?

If the 2012 election were to be decided on the basis of federal education policy, chalk up another significant gain for President Obama, as the titans of American business come down foursquare for yesterday’s reform agenda, now promoted mainly by Democrats.

02/14/2012

Jack Jennings and a Half-Century of School Reform

Much as I respect and admire Jack Jennings, in spite of all his experience in this field, his main tool remains federal legislation, which I’ve come to believe is almost always wielded clumsily in pursuit of nails that either won’t budge at all or end up bent.

02/02/2012

Can Schools Rekindle the American Work Ethic?

To do this our teachers and policymakers will need to reverse now-widespread practices and beliefs.

01/26/2012

Should Schools Turn Children into Activists? And Should Uncle Sam Help?

Schools have a special responsibility to the young people in their care, which is to be exceptionally careful about providing lessons and activities of a political nature or enlisting them in adult causes, however worthy some may deem them.

01/20/2012

The Green-Tea Party

Coming out of a year that has left me ever less enamored of both our major political parties, their polarized and gridlocked behavior on Capitol Hill, their uninspiring candidates and ratty presidential campaigns, not to mention their antics in many a statehouse, I’m ready for a promising, credible third party.

12/29/2011

Unsolved Problems—and Signs of Hope—as 2012 Dawns

We need to focus on the barriers that keep us from making major-league gains–not cultural issues, parenting issues, demographic issues, or other macro-influences on educational achievement, but obstacles that competent leaders and bold policymakers could reduce or eradicate if they were serious.

12/23/2011

Texas Hit the Accountability Plateau, Then the Rest of the Country Followed

“Consequential accountability” corresponded with a significant one-time boost in student achievement. As an early adopter, Texas got a head start on big achievement gains, and also a head start on flat-lining thereafter.

12/15/2011

The Euro and the Common Core

If you hope the Euro crashes, that this week’s Brussels summit fails, and that European commerce returns to francs, marks, lira, drachma, and pesetas, you may be one of those rare Americans who also seeks the demise of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in U.S. education.

12/09/2011

Too Many Cooks, Too Many Kitchens

It’s well past time to rethink, re-imagine, and reinvent education governance for the twenty-first century.

12/02/2011

On Abolishing the Department of Education

Maybe it never should have been carved out of the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the first place, but the fact is that Jimmy Carter, politically indebted to the N.E.A. for his election (and unable to get out from the commitment he had made to them in return), winkled it through Congress in 1979.

11/11/2011

The Unilateral Repeal of NCLB and the 2012 Election

The Obama administration’s new waiver plan doesn’t officially repeal the No Child Left Behind Act, but it is tantamount to making large-scale amendments to it. Which it does unilaterally, without even a thumbs-up from Congress.

09/23/2011

Duncan vs. Perry

The gloves are off. What vestiges remained of bipartisanship on education in Washington has been buried. And education may yet turn into a major issue in the 2012 presidential race.

08/26/2011

Up With Teachers, Not So Much With Unions

The new Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup survey makes clear that most adults value their children’s teachers.

08/19/2011

Is the Charter-School Movement Stuck in a Rut?

As the U.S. charter fleet sails past the 5,000-school and two-decade markers, there is reason to worry that it’s getting complacent, unimaginative, and self-interested.

07/29/2011

This Glass is Half-Empty, Maybe Two-Thirds

Sure, it’s great that minority students have made gains, but what does that do for our international competitiveness if the average score is unchanged or declining?

07/21/2011

Let’s Talk Education Reform: A GOP candidate’s speech

The Republican presidential field is beginning to take shape, and candidates and maybe-candidates are figuring out where they stand and what to say. Sooner or later, they will need to say something about education. May we suggest a few talking points?

07/12/2011

How to Run Public Schools in the 21st Century

Almost everyone who cares about revitalizing American primary-secondary education senses that many of its fundamental structures are archaic and its governance arrangements dysfunctional. Yet any effort to address those problems typically leads either to a glazed look on the visage of the putative audience or else to eye-rolling and shoulder-shrugging.

06/27/2011

Good for Texas. Good for America?

Deep in the heart of Texas is where some education-policy lessons might best stay. But they tend not to. Rick Perry’s imminent entry into the 2012 GOP presidential race suggests that, for the second time in less than a dozen years, we could see a Texas governor try to make the federal role in education conform to his own preconceptions and lessons learned in Austin.

06/15/2011

Forget Finland: What Ontario Can Teach Us about Good Governance

I’ve long admired Marc Tucker’s tireless efforts to get American educators and reformers to understand and appreciate how other nations address challenges that often resemble our own. Which isn’t to say I always agree with him. And that’s true of his latest paper, too.

06/06/2011

Bill Bennett, James Madison, and National Curricular Materials

A whole bunch of folks have spent a whole bunch of time in recent weeks declaiming that Arne Duncan is a sinner if not a lawbreaker because his Race to the Top program encouraged states to adopt the new “Common Core” academic standards. I guess people were born too late—or have short memories. Arne Duncan has plenty of precedents.

05/25/2011

The Problems of Education Governance in Twenty-First Century America

The shortcomings of elected local school boards are only the most obvious of the many problems of education governance in the United States in 2011.

04/29/2011

Teachers Unions Here and There

I don’t always agree with Marc Tucker but he knows a heckuva lot about how other countries organize their education systems; and it turns out that knowledge extends to how their teacher unions have evolved, what roles the unions play, and how their bargaining processes work. The differences set forth in his exceptionally interesting new […]

03/14/2011

The Rebirth of the Education Governor

A new crop of reform-minded governors is reclaiming its territory in an efflorescence of leadership and state-level initiatives. With states running out of money and education consuming so many billions, eking greater bang from the available bucks is both irresistible and unavoidable.

03/11/2011

Nobody Deserves Tenure

Tenure didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower.

02/04/2011

The Rope With Which We Hang Ourselves

V. I. Lenin may or may not have actually declared that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but something of the sort is occurring nowadays between American educators and the Communist regime in Beijing. Consider what happened last week in Chicago.

01/24/2011

Sputnik for the 21st Century

On Pearl Harbor Day 2010, the United States (and much of the rest of the world) was attacked by China.

12/07/2010

Re-Imagining Local Control

Writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, Diane Ravitch challenged resurgent Congressional Republicans to return K-12 education to “local control” and to repudiate and reverse the nationalizing/federalizing tendencies of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core standards, etc.

12/06/2010

Seeds of Reform Sown by Moynihan (and Coleman)

The Coleman Report and its data have been exhaustively analyzed and reanalyzed. But this key finding has never been successfully challenged: School inputs have little correlation with pupil achievement and differences in achievement cannot be significantly accounted for by differences in school resources.

11/19/2010

Thanks but No Thanks, NAEP

The latest 12th grade National Assessment results were released this morning. The big news, alas, isn’t news at all, which is that proficiency levels remain dreadfully low in both reading and math.

11/18/2010

Mixed Signals on Quality for Preschoolers

Open the Wall Street Journal’s recent spread on “The Turf War for Tots” and learn there that Hollywood is trying to jettison the time-tested cognitively-based “Sesame Street” approach to pre-school television in favor of Disney-style entertainments and faddish “social” skills.

11/08/2010

The Welcome Earthquake

As Election Day 2010 arrives, the education stakes are big, even if few voters are placing this issue atop their priorities. The unions may never be the same again. Nor the Democratic Party. Nor maybe, even, the GOP.

10/29/2010

A New Start for Head Start — If Congress Doesn’t Get in the Way

The Head Start program has needed a radical overhaul for the past 45 years, i.e. ever since its founding and its near-immediate demonstration that it doesn’t do much lasting good by way of readying poor kids to succeed in school. But Head Start’s iconic status, powerful lobby and influential friends have stymied every effort to turn it into a proper school-readiness program and to purge it of its many shoddy operators.

10/06/2010

Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010

Fordham’s newest report, Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010, authored by veteran analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett, surveyed over 700 education professors across the land to determine how they view their own roles and what they think of myriad K-12 policy developments that have taken place over the last decade

10/03/2010

Bravo Brockton!

Brockton High School is one of the largest in America and is now producing very strong (not yet stellar) results. More remarkably, it used to produce dreadful results. It exemplifies a successful school turnaround, one of the toughest feats in U.S. education, it exemplifies success in an urban high school attended mainly by poor and minority kids—the other toughest challenge in U.S. education.

09/28/2010

Waiting for “Superman”

Waiting for “Superman” is quite a movie. See it if you haven’t. It’s emotionally wringing, as a few of these needy-earnest-capable kids with anxious, hopeful parents make it through the lottery into high-performance charter schools while others—far too many others—do not.

09/16/2010

You’ll be Sorely Missed, Mike Castle

Besides almost certainly forfeiting a Senate seat that the GOP could have taken in November, Delaware’s Republican primary voters yesterday made a colossal mistake when it comes to education policy. Mike Castle is, and for two decades has been, one of American education’s wisest, sagest and bravest reformers.

09/15/2010

Whither 21st Century Skills?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ disappearance would be a gain for America. The right kind of makeover could be a gain, too. But additional traction for the organization’s current agenda would be bad for the country, bad for the new “Common Core” standards and the assessments being developed around them, and possibly bad for CCSSO as well.

09/10/2010

Universal Preschool by Stealth

In the name of boosting academic performance and giving struggling kids a better shot at succeeding in first grade, California appears to be headed down the slippery slope to universal preschool, never mind that state voters rejected such a plan when Rob Reiner got it onto the ballot in 2006.

09/09/2010

A Sober Reflection of Race to the Top Results

Let me say this about Race to the Top. Arne Duncan deserves at least a B for initiating and persevering with it. With a relatively small (by federal standards) amount of money, he has catalyzed a large amount of worthwhile education-reform activity in a great many places.

08/25/2010

Denial vs Paranoia with Common Core Education Standards

I deny that I’m in denial. But I don’t deny that Neal McCluskey is paranoid, along with Jay Greene and a few other ardent blogsters and op-edsters.

06/17/2010

Book Alert: Taking Measure of Charter Schools

This collection of eleven essays is specialized, even wonky, but it addresses a key issue in the charter-school world, namely how to improve the research into and evaluation of this new universe of schools.

06/07/2010

Common Core State Standards: Better Than Ever

Today marks release of the final “Common Core” standards–symbolically occurring in a state capital (Atlanta) rather than Washington, D.C.

06/02/2010

Book Alert: The Flat World and Education

One doesn’t have to agree with Linda Darling-Hammond to be impressed with this major work, which draws together many strands from her work, her research, and her worldview about education and education reform.

05/27/2010

Chinese Influence in U.S. Schools

How do you feel about the government of China paying for American public schools to teach our kids Mandarin? And sending teachers from China to the U.S. to assist in this venture? Though one tiny corner of my conscience says sure, the more the Chinese spend IN the United States the less they’ll have left to compete with and undermine us. But most of me is outraged–and a little bit alarmed.

04/13/2010

Let’s Hear It for Florida!

Hurrah for the Education Policy Council of Florida’s House of Representatives for endorsing the bold teacher-reforms of pending bill HB 7189, now headed for the House floor tomorrow or Thursday.

04/07/2010

Book Alert: It’s the Classroom, Stupid

Flaunting jacket blurbs from some of my favorite people in the education field, this book–declares its author–“proposes to turn on its head conventional wisdom about how to reform the education of America’s poorest students.” And that’s pretty much what it would do.

03/23/2010

Back to Basics

For five good reasons, conservatives should take seriously the potential of the newly released (in draft form) “common” education standards to strengthen U.S. education.

03/17/2010

Book Alert: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Diane Ravitch’s important new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, will surely stir controversy, exactly as she intends. Simply stated, she believes it should recapture the strengths of the traditional public school system, incorporate a vigorous common curriculum and renounce many of the theories, practices, policies and programs that have constituted America’s major education-reform emphases in recent years.

03/08/2010

The Perils of Universalism

There are regulatory domains where government is wise to make its rules universal. There are also some government programs, services and benefits that benefit from extending them to everyone or almost everyone, at least on a voluntary basis. For the most part, however, turning public-sector programs into universal free goods produces unintended and often undesirable results, while failing to solve the most urgent core problem.

03/03/2010

Will the Common Core Standards Prove Safe and Effective?

Even though they still haven’t seen the light of day in draft form, much less been joined by any assessments, the evolving “common core” standards project of the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is already being laden with heavier and heavier burdens. This is enormously risky and, frankly, hubristic, since nobody yet has any idea whether these standards will be solid, whether the tests supposed to be aligned with them will be up to the challenge, or whether the “passing scores” on those tests will be high or low, much less how this entire apparatus will be sustained over the long haul.

02/23/2010

Thumbs-Up on Obama’s K-12 Education Themes

On primary-secondary education, as on most topics, Mr. Obama stayed at 30,000 feet. The main themes he sounded, however, are fine: use federal education dollars to reward success, not failure; apply Arne Duncan’s “race to the top” reform priorities to the mega-bucks Elementary/Secondary Education Act; and keep a “competitive” element in this rather than simply distributing dollars via formula. All extremely hard to do but all worth doing.

01/28/2010

Racing to National Tests?

While everyone obsesses over the competition among the states for Race to the Top funding, the Education Department is readying a separate competition for less than one-tenth as much money that may nonetheless prove far more consequential for American education over the long term.

01/06/2010

The End of the Education Debate

The education-reform debate as we have known it for a generation is creaking to a halt. No new way of thinking has emerged to displace those that have preoccupied reformers for a quarter-­century — but the defining ideas of our current wave of reform (­standards, testing, and choice), and the conceptual framework built around them, are clearly outliving their usefulness.

12/15/2009

Book Alert: Intelligence and How to Get It

There is no end to the debate over intelligence. The latest book-length entry into this debate is University of Michigan psychology professor Richard Nisbett’s “Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count.”

11/25/2009

Ted Sizer, R.I.P.

Theodore R. (Ted) Sizer, who passed away last week after a long and valiant battle with cancer, was a towering figure in American education—and a wonderful guy.

10/26/2009

The Ordeal of Equality

If Secretary Duncan is serious about “listening” to ideas for the next ESEA reauthorization (aka “fixing what’s wrong with NCLB”), he would do well to start with this important and depressing book.

10/13/2009

Arne Duncan’s Planned Speech Shows Obama Administration Slowly Wading into NCLB

Secretary Duncan makes clear that he’s in no hurry to dive deep into NCLB. He’s inviting more input and advice as to how to set it right. (Never mind that there’s already a five-foot shelf of books and studies regarding NCLB’s shortcomings and needed repairs.)

09/24/2009

What Congress Is Not Working On

Podcast: Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. gab about NCLB this week, and consider whether the law will be reauthorized by 2014, which is the deadline for all students to achieve proficiency.

09/24/2009

Remembering Irving Kristol

So much that’s true—and important—has been written about the late Irving Kristol, I can add but a few recollections.

09/21/2009

Will Universal Preschool Help Poor Kids?

Video: Chester E. Finn, Jr. talks with Education Next about the contradictions behind the push for for universal preschool.

09/10/2009

New Book by E.D. Hirsch Challenges Reformers of All Stripes

This provocative new book by E.D. Hirsch (dedicated to the late Al Shanker) poses fundamental challenges to both of the dominant reform movements in American education–challenges that their leaders would do well to ponder.

08/28/2009

Ted Kennedy, R.I.P.

More than anyone else who comes to mind in American public life, Edward M. Kennedy ascended from reprobate to icon, from an object of criticism, even ridicule, to statesman.

08/26/2009

National Standards: Rush to Judgment?

Writing in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, the Lexington Institute’s Robert Holland and Don Soifer reject the idea of national education standards on three grounds.

08/22/2009
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