Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 12, Number 7
February 16, 2012
Opinion + Analysis
10 steps to overcoming governance obstacles in K-12 online learning
Digital learning demands we change the rules
By John E. Chubb
In Indianapolis, district overhaul needed to accelerate change
The Super Bowl’s over; now the real game begins
By David Harris
Forget the D.C. pipedreams; from Utah to Maine, states showed their smarts this week
By The Education Gadfly
Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals
Slowly peeling back the layers
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
A worse predicament than losing ground
College Board: AP Report to the Nation
Digital learning gets shirked
Weighing the waivers
Mike sat down with Fordham’s new school choice czar, Adam Emerson, to question just how flexible ESEA flexibility turned out to be and to ponder Obama’s abandonment of the D.C. voucher program. Amber looks at a new study on how much value principals add while Chris learns that they sometimes need to bob and weave when handing out teacher evaluations.
John E. Chubb / February 16, 2012
The potential of K-12 online learning can't be realized unless we change how we govern education.
If policymakers want to see more rapid technological innovation in K-12 education—innovation that works to the clear benefit of students—they will need to take a hard look at how the public education system has managed to forestall innovation for so many years. They will need to consider how that system is structured, governed, and controlled.
It seems inevitable that technology and online learning will play a sizable role in public schools. But without the driving force of competition, this could be a long time coming. At present, online education plays a tiny role in K-12 education. In 2010-11, roughly 250,000 public school students were involved in full-time online education, nearly all through virtual charter schools, not through the regular public school systems. That is 0.45 percent of public school enrollments. Millions more have “computers in their classrooms,” of course, but true “blended” schnoools can be counted on one’s fingers.
Why so slow? Resistance to technological innovation is abetted by one feature of the current public education system, above all others. That is the almost exclusive authority (charter schools being a crucial exception) granted to local school districts to
David Harris / February 16, 2012
Big changes to edugovernance could translate to big progress for Indianapolis.
Photo by Rob Annis.
We started The Mind Trust in 2006 with an ambitious goal: to create an ecosystem in Indianapolis where bold ideas to transform K-12 education could thrive. Six years later, that vision is coming to fruition.
We have recruited well-established programs such as Teach For America, College Summit and The New Teacher Project to Indianapolis. We also have invested millions in fellowships for social entrepreneurs who have come up with bold, outside-the-box initiatives for improving student outcomes. Both efforts have helped to build a network of talented leaders in Indianapolis who are working to address some of the most pressing problems in K-12 education.
We also launched a Charter School Incubator last fall to provide organizational support for leaders to start networks of best-in-class charter schools. Over the next few years, that effort will spawn dozens of top-notch schools and provide families in Indiana’s capital city with more high-quality education options. And we’re sharing lessons learned and collaborating with cities around the country through a network of 19 peer organizations called the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust).
Meanwhile, state-level leaders such as Governor Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett have successfully pushed reforms that
The Education Gadfly / February 16, 2012
- President Obama's education budget proposal would boost federal spending, double down on Race to the Top, and create the RESPECT Project (seriously), a new $5 billion competitive grant program aimed at spurring states to reform teacher policies. The new competition has some appealing goals—tenure reform, pay-for-performance—but in the current budget crunch it’s politically DOA. Does all this posturing hint that the President gearing up to run on education?
- NCLB waivers may yet backfire. Maine and New Hampshire have already decided that the feds' hoops aren't worth the hassle and abandoned their application plans; how many others will follow suit?
- A Chicago charter
network is taking heat for collecting almost $400 grand over the last
couple years by fining
students for behavioral infractions. To which we say: So what?
Everyone in the school is there voluntarily, it’s got a great reputation
for a strong culture, it’s under-funded by the state and city, and its
academic results are stellar. Go find
Amber M. Winkler, Ph.D. / February 16, 2012
This new paper by edu-economist extraordinaire Eric Hanushek and colleagues adds empirical clout to the “conventional wisdom” that principal quality—and principal turnover—matters for student performance. (This paper debuted at a recent CALDER conference that was chockablock with important education research.) Using administrative data, analysts observed over 7,000 principals from 1995 to 2001 in Texas. They first estimate principals’ contributions by tracking student-learning gains during each leader’s tenure at a given school, controlling for other school-level factors. (They attempt to control for years of experience by limiting one of their analyses to principals with three years under their belts.) According to their most conservative estimates, having a principal in the top 16 percent of the distribution will lead the average student to learn 0.05 standard deviations more than he or she would in a school with an average principal. For comparison, studies suggest that teacher effects are about twice this size, though importantly, the learning effects due to a strong principal apply to all students in the school, not just an individual classroom. Meaning the aggregate impact of having an effective principal in a school can be very large. Further, variance in effectiveness among leaders increases with the school-poverty rate—meaning that the poorest schools are more likely to have either very effective or very ineffective principals. Principal turnover patterns also differ by principal quality and type of school. In other words, analysts find that both the least and most effective principals tend to switch schools more often; this phenomenon is also more pronounced in low-income schools. Unfortunately, the worst principals don’t appear to leave
Layla Bonnot / February 16, 2012
This new book from libertarian scholar Charles Murray, which has already sent the chattering class into overdrive, frames—and decries—how our society has strayed from the traditional American values of religiosity, honesty, marriage, and industriousness. Part one of his analysis explains the formation of a new filtered upper class, an educated and wealthy elite, severely cut off from others in society, both geographically and culturally. Murray’s data-filled tables and graphs show that this new class is likelier to be married and regularly attend religious services, and is less apt to have children out of wedlock. Part two maps the “new lower class”—the growing American counterculture comprised of those who eschew the four cultural norms that Murray sees as defining the “American way of life”—which then perpetuates the income-linked achievement gap. (To ground this analysis in class, not race, he deals specifically in this book with the country’s white population and its cultural breakdown.) Part three explains why this rift matters: Murray’s main concern is that these two worlds lack an arena for interaction. His arguments—notably that graduates from elite schools tend to marry one another, make more money, live in “SuperZips” (zip codes saturated with elite residents), and afford their children better opportunities—have implicit ramifications for education. What’s unclear is whether Murray believes that better schools can help to heal the rift.
Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (New York, NY: Crown Forum, 2012).
Lisa Gibes / February 16, 2012
As usual, the College Board’s latest annual report on enrollment and achievement in the prestigious Advanced Placement program paints an overall rosy picture. (The College Board, remember, has a major vested interest in both the reputation and expansion of the AP program and is famously resistant to external analyses of its data.) Since 2001, the national passing rate (a score of three or higher) has bumped almost 8 percentage points—and twenty-two states boast even larger gains. In fact, more graduates are passing AP tests today than took them a decade ago. (Note that this report doesn’t hit on whether the quality of the exams has remained steadfast.) Yet some problems persist—especially surrounding access to the AP for those in rural and urban areas, as well as for minorities writ large. Four out of five African American students who had at least a 70 percent chance of passing an AP exam (based on PSAT scores, according to a College Board algorithm, aptly dubbed “AP Potential”) either didn’t enroll in the relevant AP course or attended a school where the course was not offered. To counter this predicament, the Board offers tips for schools, districts, states, and universities, most of which are vapid and obvious (“provide funding incentives to subsidize fees for AP STEM exams” or “offer emotional and academic support to students through targeted peer mentoring”). Digital learning—and the potentials it brings to efficiently and effectively open AP access to those in traditionally hard-to-reach schools—is overlooked as an option. As are the growing pains inevitable with such a rapidly expanding program. According