Want to know if school reform is winning in the court of public opinion? If the myriad efforts at ed-reform advocacy are paying off? Here are seven races and referenda to watch tonight, in order of importance:
Ed Reform Idol Tony Bennett with the author.
Photo by Joe Portnoy.
1. Tony Bennett’s re-election
No one has pushed a more aggressive education-reform agenda than Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction (and Ed-Reform Idol) Tony Bennett and his fellow ed-reform activist Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. A big win will give a big boost to Hoosier-style reform.
2. The Washington State charter initiative
Seattle is the largest city in the country that doesn’t have any charter schools. This initiative would finally fix that. Charter supporters have failed at the polls before; will they prevail this time around?
3. Idaho’s Propositions 1 and 2
These two referenda would limit the scope of collective bargaining and mandate that student achievement be included in teacher evaluations. The unions are fighting these aggressively; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is paying to defend them.
4. Michigan’s Proposition 2
This union-backed measure would enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution. Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group is working to defeat it.
5. Georgia’s charter-school resolution
This would amend the
Guest blogger Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, analyzes Fordham’s latest report, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education.
Looking at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s new survey, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education, it’s abundantly clear that Americans are interested, engaged, and supportive of their local schools. There is also an overriding sense that many of these hard choices must be made at the local level with a community’s input—thus showing clear evidence for the need for local school boards.
The authors have created a scenario of choosing between critical programs and staff for public schools—choices such as laying off teachers, instructional leaders, arts and music classes, and extracurricular activities. However, this survey is about four years late—many public schools are already operating on a bare-bones administration and have been forced to make tough choices to lay off teachers and cut academic programs. And with the federal government looking to implement sequestration this January, K-12 programs may see further across-the-board cuts.
While reducing the number of administrators seems like the obvious answer, as 69 percent of respondents indicated, many of these officials play key roles in developing curriculum, managing services, and performing other duties that are directly tied to student achievement. Like any business, school districts need officials to manage budgets and operations to ensure that students are safe
Much will swiftly be written about Arne Duncan's brand-new Race to the Top competition for school districts (and, interestingly, for charter schools and consortia of schools), and it's premature to say much on the basis of early press accounts. But Alyson Klein's invaluable Ed Week blog flags one fascinating tidbit that suggests a welcome new Education Department focus on the failings of today's school-governance arrangements:
Will the NSBA and AASA react angrily to this goring of their own members' oxen?
Just to be eligible, districts by the 2014-15 school year will have to promise to implement evaluation systems that take student outcomes into account—not just for teacher and principal performance, but for district superintendents and school boards. That's a big departure from the state-level Race to the Top competitions, which just looked at educators who actually work in schools, not district-level leaders. [Emphasis added]
How very refreshing, even exhilarating, to see the inclusion of superintendents and boards in a results-based accountability system, rather than the customary focus only on schools and their principals and teachers (and sometimes the kids themselves). Will the NSBA and AASA react angrily to this goring of their own members' oxen? Or will they—as they should—welcome this logical and potentially powerful widening of the theory and practice of accountability?
“Rules Proposed for District Race to Top Contest,” Alyson Klein, Politics K-12 blog, May 22, 2012.
Guest blogger John E. Chubb is interim CEO of Education Sector and author of "Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning," a chapter in Fordham's new volume, Education Reform for the Digital Era.
Back in the day, a prominent education reformer asked me to send him a fax rather than an email. Asked why, he replied, only half jokingly, “if God had wanted us to use email he would not have invented the fax machine!” Reflecting on the remark I always chuckle, but then think: how prophetic. Technology has come slowly to K-12 education. Our schools and classrooms are not all that different from those of fifty years ago or longer. While most every industry has adopted new information technologies and often been transformed in the process, schools really have not.
Some of the pace must be attributed to the perspective unwittingly expressed by my reformer friend. Schools are the way they are for good reason. Students require the attention of caring adults. Students are precious and vulnerable and not to be put at risk by unproven innovations. Schools, classrooms, and teachers perform roles that have evolved over centuries. God, if you will, would not have given us schools in their current form were there
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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