Quick Hits for a Snow Day



By 12/09/2013

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Here are some interesting reads to pass the day:

Checker Finn, chagrined at the lack of attention to gifted education in the U.S., has decided to study what other nations do. His initial assessment is that we’re not the only one giving high-ability kids minimal thought. Such a strange, unfortunate phenomenon.

With the failure of SIG, we need a Plan B ASAP for kids in failing schools. I’ve long argued for a massive new schools strategy. (More on this to come in an upcoming blog post.) If you’re likeminded or intrigued by the idea of the starting-fresh approach, check out the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ ESEA-reauthorization recommendations. This is a blueprint for Plan B.

I think single-purpose chartering bodies are the future. In fact, I think all public schools (and all private schools participating in voucher or tax-credit programs) should have performance contracts with them (more on this in anupcoming AEI paper). NACSA has a terrific short policy brief on such independent chartering boards. Check it out.

If you follow the increasing use of Value-Added Measures (VAMs) and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) in state-, district-, school-, and teacher-accountability systems, read this very good new Mathematica working paper. There’s high correlation between the two, but there are important differences in how teacher ratings shake out based on differences in student populations. Important and fascinating implications.

Ten years ago, TNTP released its first report, Missed Opportunities, which I vividly remember reading in disbelief—urban districts were losing out on scores of talented potential teachers because of their dysfunctional hiring practices. A decade later, TNTP finds that some districts have begun to remedy that. Check out where we were and the progress that’s been made.

Kentucky is one of the nation’s poorest states, is the eighth most rural state, underperforms on NAEP, needs school options, and is one of only eight states left with no charter law. With this as background, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools just released a public-opinion survey showing that 71 percent of Kentuckians want charter schools.

Relinquishment and The Urban School System of the Future have taken the failed urban district structure head on. Lots of people agree, but many are still betrothed to the district though they know it’s not working. Not coincidentally, there’s growing talk of a “third way”; Jeff Riley, the state-takeover head of the school system of Lawrence, MA, uses this language, and turnaround enthusiasts at Mass Insight have a new report (Smart Districts) along the same lines. I think this halfway approach is just more misguided tinkering, but you might want to investigate for yourself.

—Andy Smarick

This post originally appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.




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