Stuff to Read While You’re Snowed In



By 02/13/2014

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Nothing helps pass the time better when you’re snowed in than some high-quality edu-reading. Here’s some of the best stuff I’ve come across recently.

Public Impact has produced a very good and very important report on “extraordinary authority districts,” entities like Louisiana’s Recovery School District. It’s exactly the kind of nuts-and-bolts document that’s needed right now. Many states are considering such bodies, and this is a thoughtful guide—informed by our experience to date—for how to do it right.

A group or University of Missouri researchers compared three different types of growth measures, “Student Growth Percentiles,” aka SGP (my preferred method) and two “Value-added Models,” aka VAM. They found that a VAM approach that incorporates a comparison of demographically similar schools produces the best results (for a number of reasons). The full working paper is a bit dense, but the shorter Education Next article is accessible and very informative. Growth measures are important and here to stay; this piece will help you bone up.

NACSA and Charter School Growth Fund have put together a good, short report on how to ensure that the charter sector’s future growth leads to more and more high-quality seats and fewer low-quality ones. It has valuable policy recommendations and even better recommendations for improving authorizer practice. I particularly liked the report’s view that authorizers aren’t just disinterested umpires—they also have a role to play in identifying and replicating great schools.

I really enjoyed Fordham’s recent look at five private schools taking part in Ohio’s scholarship program. We often think of the kids affected by such programs, but they also have an influence on participating schools.  Some of the findings are somewhat expected (the financial boost can save schools in jeopardy of closing), and some are a bit surprising (how some teachers and families react to entering voucher students).

The Friedman Foundation released a very interesting analysis of survey results trying to understand why thousands of Indiana families are choosing private schools via the state’s new scholarship program. There are lots of interesting tidbits throughout, including respondents’ overwhelming satisfaction with their new schools and their citing “improved academics” as the rationale for their choices.

The Manhattan Institute has released an eye-popping analysis of the detrimental financial consequences of requiring NYC collocated charters to pay $2,400 in rent per-pupil. In short, expect budget deficits and layoffs. Not pretty. Not smart.

And in the spirit of naked self-promotion, I authored two reports that were released during National School Choice Week. One, for AEI, argued that private school choice could learn three important things from the lessons of chartering. The other, a product of Bellwether’s rural ed reform work, looked at rural charter schooling—where it’s been and where it might go.

-Andy Smarick




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