Agitating, standards, charters, teachers, and widgets

  • Just got back from a great trip to Kansas City (part of my National Agitation Tour). The Kauffman Foundation is doing very important work (check out these videos), and their team members were terrific hosts. You can scroll through the audience’s take on my book talk here. Per my pushing for the replacement of the failed urban district, Marc Porter Magee, temporarily at the helm of the SS Hess-blog, turns in a good piece about the need for cage-busting leaders to change the system, not just break its rules.
  • Common Core (and assessments!) guru KPM teamed up with Sol Stern on National Review Online to explain to conservatives why the new common standards aren’t to be feared or pilloried. Tom Friedman’s column explains why the U.S. needs tougher standards and expectations, even (especially?) in our more comfortable (complacent?) middle-class communities.
  • If you care about urban schooling, charters, and/or governance reform, you ought to give the latest report from Fordham and Public Impact a read. It looks into charter performance in five cities and offers lots of reason for encouragement and sound advice for improving policy and practice. Its prescription (smart authorizing, closures, replications, strong support environment, etc.) mirrors that of my book. When you combine these lessons with recent findings from CREDO’s many city- and state-focused charter reports, you can’t help but reach the conclusion that, when done right, chartering offers not just a set of tools for starting new schools but also, and more importantly, an alternative to the broken district system of public education delivery.
  • A recent CALDER paper finds that a teacher’s early-career performance is a solid predictor of his performance in years down the road. This aligns with the findings of the massive MET study and, interestingly, the most recent CREDO charter school report and lots of research on turnarounds. That is, performance—both of educators and schools—is very sticky: high performers stay high performing, low performers stay low performing. This should influence charter authorizer policy and practice (should initial contracts be for five years when two years tells us how a school will do?), but it also raises gigantic questions for teacher professional development, on which we spend billions annually.
  • On a depressing note…we’ve spent the last five years building entirely new educator evaluation systems. Yet it appears that despite all of this time, money, and effort, the new systems are yielding the same “widget effect.” This is a big, big, big, big, big problem.

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