Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 11, Number 17
May 5, 2011
Opinion + Analysis
Ohio???s charter program risks becoming a laughing stock
Those who forget the past are bound to repeat it
Vouchers for everybody?
?Year of the voucher? and ?year of the funding cliff??can we have both?
Rick Snyder: Ed reform???s sleeper pick
Governor Rick?s policy proposals rock
The Nation???s Report Card: Civics 2010
Dismal performance in a subject left behind
Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems
Brookings weighs in
A Portrait of School Improvement Grantees
See who?s spending our SIG dollars
Teacher Appreciation Week
Mike and Rick are all sorts of punchy this week, talking civics lessons, philanthropic giving, and Arne Duncan?s teacher pandering. Amber breaks the piggy bank with a look at teacher-pension plans while Chris gets meta in the Big Apple.
Terry Ryan / May 5, 2011
The Ohio House, now again run by Republicans, presented budget revisions last week that risk making the Buckeye State the nation’s laughing stock when it comes to charter-school programs—a status that Ohio has previously owned, and one we should struggle not to resurrect.
A decade ago, Ohio rivaled Arizona as the Wild West of charter-school programs. It hewed to a laissez-faire approach to school openings, growth, and quality, encouraging hundreds of charters to spring up like dandelions. As a result some of the people and organizations that launched these new schools were ill-prepared. Some had eccentric views of what a school should be. Some operators turned out to be more interested in personal enrichment than in delivering high-quality instruction to poor kids. And most authorizers—including the Ohio Department of Education (ODE)—offered little to no oversight for their schools.
needs to take the lessons of the past seriously, not return to the days of
charter schools run amok.
As a result, headlines such as “Charters Fail to Deliver,” “State Audit Says Charter School Company Owes Thousands,” and “Wild Experiment” were ubiquitous. Things got so bad that, in 2002, State Auditor Jim Petro (a Republican, and now John Kasich’s higher-education chancellor) issued a report blasting ODE for being such a weak and undemanding charter-school authorizer. Less than a year later, the (Republican-controlled) General Assembly passed HB364, which
May 5, 2011
School-choice proponents should be swinging from the rafters, as voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs are finding their way into more and more states’ statutes—several of which offer aid to middle-class families, not just impoverished ones. But fissions are emerging among the ranks. Some, including Howard Fuller (a diehard voucher supporter and key architect of Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program), see this as a distinct shift away from the social-justice mission of vouchers. No longer will vouchers “help equalize the academic options for children from low-income and working-class families,” warns Fuller. Yet others, like John Norquist, see this expansion as a way to keep middle-class parents in socio-economically integrated neighborhoods even as their children grow to school age. Instead of fleeing to rich suburban districts (often with “private” public schools), these parents would remain in their integrated neighborhoods—stymieing the “system that rewards concentration of the rich in exclusive suburbs segregated from the poor” (Norquist’s words). A sticky debate indeed. While Gadfly supports the expansion of school choice to families in higher income brackets, he can’t help but wonder if the Year of the Funding Cliff is the right time for this idea to come of age.
“School Choice and Urban Diversity,” by John Norquist, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2011.
“Keep intact the mission of choice program,” by Howard Fuller, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 23, 2011.
May 5, 2011
On whom would you bestow the title “America’s boldest education-reform governor”? Mitch Daniels? Chris Christie? Scott Walker? What about Rick Snyder of the Great Lakes State? A moderate Republican who won office thanks in large part to the support of frustrated Democrats who crossed over in the primaries, Snyder did not talk much about education during his campaign. But his newly rolled-out reform proposal is a doozy—and in all the right ways. Among his best initiatives: Make Michigan’s funding performance-based, with school-wide bonuses for student growth; mandate that districts accept students from across their borders as long as they have classroom space; remove charter caps in districts with at least one failing school; create a rigorous teacher-evaluation system; and tie teacher preparation to the Common Core standards. Of course, all of these ideas must run the legislative gauntlet before taking hold. Still, for now, let us say: Go Blue!
“A Special Message from Governor Rick Snyder: Education Reform,” by Rick Snyder, April 27, 2011.
Daniela Fairchild / May 5, 2011
The woeful proficiency rates of American students on the most recent NAEP Civics assessment (released yesterday) are even more jarring in the context of this week’s events. The nation’s report card assessed some 26,000 fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students; across all grades, about one quarter of pupils scored proficient, and 2 percent advanced. Alarming—though not terribly different from NAEP results in other subjects. So what do these numbers signify? At the fourth-grade level, it means that barely one quarter of students could identify a function of the military and only 2 percent could offer up two rights of American citizens. The 76 percent of twelfth-grade students who failed to score proficient could not, for example, define the term “melting pot” or explain whether or not it applied to the U.S. And only one percent of eighth graders could recognize a role performed by the Supreme Court. Still, there is some positive news to report. Notably, since 1998, the white-Hispanic and black-white achievement gaps have narrowed, while all sub-group scores have risen. But on the whole, the picture is bleak, especially for our twelfth grade students—the very people who will be eligible to vote in next year’s elections.
National Center for Education Statistics, “The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010,” (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, May 4, 2011).
Janie Scull / May 5, 2011
As states and districts across the country craft and begin to implement new teacher-evaluation systems, an important question arises: How will we ensure that new systems accurately and reliably assess teacher effectiveness? To find answers, Brookings guru Russ Whitehurst assembled a top-of-the-line task force and asked them to investigate “relative strength of prediction,” value-added methodologies, and reliability. And deep into the weeds of these concepts they dive. In the end, they propose a metric against which evaluation systems can be appraised (and a handy Excel calculator to help districts determine the accuracy of their teacher-evaluation systems). As with other efforts from Brookings, this report is not a walk in the park, but if you like wonky, it’s just for you.
Steven Glazerman, Dan Goldhaber, Susanna Loeb, Stephen Raudenbush, Douglas O. Staiger, and Grover J. Whitehurst, “Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems” (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality, April 26, 2011).
Marena Perkins / May 5, 2011
This nifty new policy brief and interactive map from Education Sector offer up a focused look at where the $3.5 billion in federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) money is going and what it’s being spent on. Through new high-tech software, the interface lets users investigate trends and patterns in the 843 SIG schools, including their location and the type of intervention strategy being implemented in them. The SIG program marks the largest pot of federal funds ever targeted to America’s failing schools, with an average of about 4.2 million offered up to each school. (For more information on SIG, look here and here.) From the report, we see that some grantee schools may not be among the neediest in the country, some are managed by companies with poor track records, and some should have been closed long ago. While these school-level factoids are interesting, it’s the big picture that is most fascinating, especially for policymakers charged with determining SIG’s impact and future. For instance, of the four ED-approved turnaround models—transformation, closure, turnaround, and restart—seventy-three percent of SIG grantees chose “transformation.” (This is arguably the easiest of the available options. It demands only that schools replace the leader and implement some small-scale shifts, rather than close, replace the majority of the staff, or convert to a charter school, as the respective other models require.) In fact, SIG grantees in fifteen states used this model exclusively. These numbers are even more telling when