Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.
Due in large part to this report, we now judge a school by whether its students are learning rather than how much money is going into it, what its programs look like, or its earnest intentions. Education reform today is serious about standards, quality, assessment, accountability and benchmarking—by school, district, state and nation. This is new since 1983 and it’s very important.
Yet we still have many miles to traverse before we sleep. Our students still need to learn far more and our schools need to become far more effective.
To recall the impact of A Nation at Risk these past three decades and to reflect on what lies ahead, watch this short retrospective developed by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute: A Nation at Risk: Thirty Years Later.
Featuring (in order of appearance):
Michael Petrilli - Executive Vice President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Amber Winkler - Vice President for Research, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
John Chubb - Interim CEO, Education Sector
Anne L. Bryant - Executive Director, National School Boards Association
Gene I. Maeroff - Founding Director, Hechinger Institute
Mike Miles - Superintendent, Dallas ISD
Christopher S. Barclay - President, Montgomery County Board of Education, Maryland
Geoffrey Jones - founding principal, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Chester E. Finn, Jr. - President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Rick Hess - Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for making preschool available to every child in America. But questions abound: Is universal preschool politically and fiscally feasible—or even educationally necessary? Should we be expending federal resources on universal pre-K or targeting true Kindergarten-readiness programs for the neediest kids? How robust is the evidence of lasting impacts? And what exactly is the president proposing?
The greatest failing of education reformers in the U.S. this past quarter century has been their neglect of governance and structure—widely regarded either as politically impractical to touch or as too boring to get anyone interested. Yet the very structures and governance of our K–12 system often prevent other badly needed changes from taking place, enduring, or succeeding.
Recent months, however, have seen some cracks in the governance glacier with a spate of new books, articles, and conferences on the topic—meaning this set of reform challenges is no longer taboo to discuss or to tackle.
In an earnest effort to advance this crucial conversation, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute—in partnership with the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution Press—is pleased to present Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century: Overcoming the Structural Barriers to School Reform, edited by Paul Manna of the College of William and Mary and Patrick McGuinn of Drew University.
This important volume should be on the desk or bedside of every serious education reformer and policymaker in the land.
Featuring chapters by education scholars, analysts, and battle-scarred practitioners, it closely examines our present structures, identifies their failings, and offers some penetrating ideas for how governance might be done differently.
All serious reform victories begin with battles over ideas. In that spirit, we urge you to spend some quality time with this book. Overhauling our dysfunctional education-governance arrangements is a key priority for us at Fordham—and will inevitably loom among the hottest and most consequential issues for all serious reformers in the years to come.
Following the release of Fordham's report, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?, Mike Petrilli and Adam Emerson sat down with John Kirtley of Step Up for Students to talk about when private schools choose to participate in choice programs. While Fordham found that Catholic schools were less likely to be deterred by accountability regulations, Kirtley took a slightly different tack.
Watch to find out more!
Many proponents of private school choice take for granted that schools won't participate if government asks too much of them, especially if it demands that they be publicly accountable for student achievement. Were such school refusals to be widespread, the programs themselves could not serve many kids. But is this assumption justified?
A new Fordham Institute study provides empirical answers. Do regulations and accountability requirements deter private schools from participating in choice programs? How important are such requirements compared to other factors, such as voucher amounts? Are certain types of regulations stronger deterrents than others? Do certain types schools shy away from regulation more than others?
These are just some of the questions that David Stuit, author of the Fordham study, will discuss with a panel featuring John Kirtley of Step Up for Students (Florida), Larry Keough of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, and Paul Miller of the National Association of Independent Schools.
The United States faces a shortage of high-quality school leaders at a time when it is more apparent than ever that principals are key to attracting and retaining teacher talent and driving the improvement of student learning.
While districts hire principals, states control the entry point to the principalship, overseeing the preparation and licensure of school leaders. Yet, to date, there has been no one central repository of information on state policies impacting principal preparation, licensure, tenure, and data collection to monitor the outcomes of those policies.
The Bush Institute's new report, Operating in the Dark: What Outdated State Policies and Data Gaps Mean for Effective School Leadership, is a first-of-its-kind compilation of state-reported data on how the 50 states and the District of Columbia are using their authority to increase the supply of high-quality principals.
Please join us for a presentation of the study's findings and a panel discussion, moderated by Fordham's Chester E. Finn, Jr., on how states can strengthen the rigor of the principal preparation program approval process and establish licensure requirements that validate and confirm that principals are indeed ready for the job and effective once employed as school leaders. The panelists will also discuss the role of the states in collecting data on principal effectiveness once school leaders are on the job and using that data to increase the supply of high-quality principals available for hire.
StudentsFirst's much-awaited (and plenty contentious) 2013 State Policy Report Card awarded its highest rankings (B-minuses) to Louisiana and Florida; a dozen states earned an F. After California was flunked, chief deputy superintendent Richard Zeiger took his ire to the New York Times: “‘This group has focused on an extremely narrow, unproven method that they think will improve teaching—and we just flat-out disagree with them.’”
This video's panel discussion digs into the new report card, the future of education reform, and how to bridge the divide between policy and practice.
In November 2012, the U.S. Department of Education released an analysis of the federal School Improvement Grants program, which invests in persistently underperforming schools with the expectation that they will turn around. The early results of its most recent $3-billion infusion, as described by Education Week: "mixed" (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/11/initial_school_improvement_ana.html). Two-thirds of the schools made gains in math or reading scores, but the other third saw achievement decline. Program supporters contend that one year of data is not enough to draw conclusions about the program. Critics ask whether taxpayers should expend a single cent more on what they deem a failed experiment.
Who's right? The Fordham Institute is bringing together three leading voices on urban schooling for a debate on the future of turnarounds: Bellwether Education and Fordham edu-wonk Andy Smarick; the Department of Education's Carmel Martin; and former Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.
This timely study represents the most comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions' strength ever conducted, ranking all fifty states and the District of Columbia according to the power and influence of their state-level unions. To assess union strength, the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now examined thirty-seven different variables across five realms:
1) Resources and Membership
2) Involvement in Politics
3) Scope of Bargaining
4) State Policies
5) Perceived Influence
The study analyzed factors ranging from union membership and revenue to state bargaining laws to campaign contributions, and included such measures such as the alignment between specific state policies and traditional union interests and a unique stakeholder survey. The report sorts the fifty-one jurisdictions into five tiers, ranking their teacher unions from strongest to weakest and providing in-depth profiles of each.
The membership of the Chicago Teachers Union approved a new contract last week but the legacy of the rancorous strike is far from settled. Did the experience prove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker right? Will unions continue to impede reform—and add to costs—so long as state law gives them expansive collective bargaining and striking rights?
In an educational climate consumed with leaving no child behind and closing achievement gaps, America's highest performing and most promising students have too often been neglected. Our nation's persistent inability to cultivate our high-potential youth—especially tomorrow's leaders in science, technology, entrepreneurship, and other sectors that bear on our long-term prosperity and well-being—poses a critical threat to American competitiveness. EXAM SCHOOLS: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools, by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica A. Hockett, presents a pioneering examination of our nation's most esteemed and selective public high schools—academic institutions committed exclusively to preparing America's best and brightest for college and beyond.
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The plight of low-performing students dominates our education news and policies. Yet America’s high flyers demand innovative, rigorous schooling as well, particularly if the country is to sharpen its economic and scientific edge. Motivated, high-ability youngsters can be served in myriad ways by public education, including schools that specialize in them. In a new book from Princeton University Press, Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools, co-authors Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett identify 165 such high schools across America.
In this Fordham LIVE! conversation, they and others will examine some of the issues that selective-admission public high schools pose. Who attends them? How are their students selected? Are such schools the future of gifted education or do they unfairly advantage a select few at the expense of most students? Just how different are they, anyway?
What a difference a decade makes. For all the debate around vouchers and student loans, perhaps the most striking element of Mitt Romney's education agenda is how much it differs from the approach of No Child Left Behind, the defining policy of the George W. Bush years. That does not mean, however, that other Republicans necessarily agree with it. The GOP stance on education, and particularly federal education policy, is clearly shifting. But in any clear direction? And for the better?
To examine those questions, the Fordham Institute will bring together two former GOP education secretaries to discuss the Republican Party's direction on this vital issue.
For all the talk of gaps in achievement, opportunity, and funding between ethnic and racial groups in American education, a different divide may also be splitting our schools and our future. In his acclaimed and controversial recent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, scholar/pundit/provocateur Charles Murray describes a widening class schism. On Tuesday, June 26, he will deliver a lecture on what that divide means for U.S. schools and education policy.
What does it portend for student achievement? For diversity within schools and choices among them? Is our education system equipped to serve a society separated by social class?
The Common Core is coming, with forty-five states and the District of Columbia challenged to implement these new standards. Yet mystery surrounds how much this will cost states (and districts)—and whether the payoff will justify the price.
On May 30, the Fordham Institute will peek behind that curtain with a lively panel discussion of "Pricing the Common Core." Taking part will be former Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith, Achieve President Mike Cohen, former Department of Education official Ze'ev Wurman, and University of San Francisco professor Patrick J. Murphy, who will present the findings of a new Fordham study that he co-authored. It estimates the dollar cost of the implementation process for each participating state—and shows how the pricetag varies depending on the approach a state selects.
The Common Core State Standards will soon be driving instruction in forty-five states and the District of Columbia.
While the standards are high quality, getting their implementation right is a real challenge—and it won't be free, a serious concern given the tight budgets of many districts and states.
But while critics have warned of a hefty price tag, the reality is more complicated.
Yes, some states may end up spending a lot of money. But there are also opportunities for significant savings if states, districts and schools use this occasion to rethink their approach to test administration, instructional materials and training for teachers. The key is that states have options, and implementation doesn't need to look (or cost) the same everywhere.
States could approach implementation in myriad ways. Here are three:
• One, stick to "Business as usual" and use traditional tools like textbooks, paper tests, and in-person training. These tools are very familiar in today's education system, but they can come with reasonably high price tags.
• Two, go with only the "bare bones" of what's necessary: Experiment with open-source materials, computerized assessments, and online professional development in ways that provide the bare bones of more traditional, in-person approaches. This could save major coin, but could require more technology investment and capacity for some states.
• Or, three, find a middle ground through "balanced implementation" of both strategies, which offers some of the benefits—and downsides—of each model.
But how much money are we talking? Take Florida:
If Florida sticks to business as usual, it could spend $780 million implementing the Common Core. Under the bare bones approach, the tab could be only $183 million. A blend of the two? $318 million.
But that's the total cost; don't forget states are already spending billions of dollars each year on textbooks, tests, curricula, and other expenses. Look at it that way and the sticker shock wears off: The estimated net cost of putting the Common Core in place in the Sunshine State, for example, ranges from $530 million to roughly $67 million less than what we estimate that they are spending now.
Each implementation approach has its merits—and drawbacks—but states and districts do have options for smartly adopting the Common Core without breaking the bank. Further, they could use this opportunity to create efficiencies via cross-state collaborations and other innovations.
To learn more, download "Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?"
Join us for this important, nonpartisan event about digital learning and where it will take education in Ohio -- and the nation -- in the years to come. National and state-based education experts and policymakers will debate and discuss digital learning in the context of the Common Core academic standards initiatives, teacher evaluations and school accountability, governance challenges and opportunities, and school funding and spending.
Is digital learning education's latest fad or its future? What fundamental changes to the ways we fund, staff, and govern American schools are necessary to fulfill the technology's potential? Will policy tweaks suffice or do we need a total system overhaul—and a big change in the reform priorities that can bring this about? Who will resist—and do their objections have merit? Fordham is bringing together experts on all aspects of education policy—from governance to finance to human capital—to examine how policymakers can make digital learning a transformative tool to improve American education...and weigh the dangers that lie ahead.
The panel featured the governance expertise of the Hoover Institution's John Chubb, insights into teaching's future from Bryan Hassel of Public Impact, analysis of the costs of online learning from the Parthenon Group's Eleanor Laurans, and the cautionary perspective of Emory University's Mark Bauerlein.
Despite some signs of economic recovery, school districts nationwide continue to struggle mightily. Nobody expects economic growth—or education spending—to rebound to 2008 levels over the next five years, and the long-term outlook isn't much brighter.
In short, the "new normal" of tougher budget times is here to stay for American K-12 education. So how can local officials cope?
In my new policy brief, I argue that the current crunch may actually present an opportunity to increase the efficiency and productivity of our education system if decision makers keep a few things in mind:
First and foremost, solving our budget crisis shouldn't come at the expense of children. Nor can if come from teachers' sacrifice alone. Depressing teachers' salaries forever isn't a recipe for recruiting bright young people into education—or retaining the excellent teachers we have. Finally, quick fixes aren't a good answer; we need fundamental changes that enhance productivity.
So how can school districts dramatically increase productivity and stretch the school dollar?
One, we should aim for a leaner, more productive, better paid workforce. Let's ask classroom teachers to take on additional responsibility in return for greater pay, eliminate some ancillary positions, and redesign our approach to special education.
Two, we should pay for productivity. A redesigned compensation system would include a more aggressive salary schedule, more pay for more work and better results, and prioritization of salaries over benefits.
Three, we must integrate technology thoughtfully. Online and "blended" school models are coming to K-12 education. They can be catalysts for greater pupil engagement, individualization, and achievement and, if organized right, they can also be opportunities for cost-cutting.
Many districts continue to face budget challenges of historic proportions. Rather than slashing budgets in ways that erode schooling, let's rethink who we hire, what they do, how we pay them, and how to incorporate technology—that's where the big payoff is.
Most charter schools nationwide serve urban communities, this documentary provides a look at the challenges and successes of a rural Appalachian charter school.
The Tartans is the unique story of Portsmouth East High School in South Eastern Ohio. Portsmouth City school district was going to close the facility in 2000 until the community rallied to form a charter school and keep the school from shutting its doors.
The Fordham Foundation has sponsored Sciotoville Community School and Sciotoville Elementary Academy's since July 2011.
Among the speakers at Embracing the Common Core on February 15, 2012, was State Superintendent Stan Heffner who stressed that the system Ohio currently has is letting kids down and not preparing them for the future. He went on to emphasize that the Common Core gives us the opportunity and chance to do better for our kids and we must capitalize on that.
Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, speaks at Embracing the Common Core: Helping Students Thrive to the specifics of PARCC (the assessment consortia Ohio joined last fall) and warned that the implementation of the new standards in ELA and math will not be easy and that districts should start the implementation process now.
Download his presentation here.
While business leaders rue the lack of American workers skilled enough in math and science to meet the needs of an increasingly high-tech economy, the situation may be growing even grimmer. The latest installment of TIMSS showed stagnation in U.S. science achievement, and the 2009 NAEP science assessment found that only 21 percent of American twelfth-graders met the proficiency bar. Yet while the gravity of the problem is clear, the root cause is not. Is our science curriculum lacking? Is it being squeezed out by an emphasis on math and reading? Is there a problem with our pedagogy? Are our teachers ill-prepared? Or are we simply expecting too little of teachers and students alike?
Coinciding with its new review of state science standards, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute will bring together experts with very different perspectives to engage this crucial question: "What's holding back America's science performance?"
Watch the discussion with UVA psychologist Dan Willingham, NCTQ President Kate Walsh, Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee, Project Lead the Way's Anne Jones, and Achieve, Inc.'s Stephen Pruitt and join the conversation on Fordham LIVE!
Ten years ago, George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, the law that has dominated U.S. education—and the education policy debate—for the entire decade. While lawmakers are struggling to update that measure, experts across the political spectrum are struggling to make sense of its impact and legacy. Did NCLB, and the consequential accountability movement it embodied, succeed? And with near-stagnant national test scores of late, is there reason to think that this approach to school reform is exhausted? If not "consequential accountability," what could take the U.S. to the next level of student achievement?
Join three leading experts as they wrestle with these questions. Panelists include Hoover Institute economist Eric Hanushek, DFER's Charles Barone, and former NCES commissioner Mark Schneider, author of a forthcoming Fordham analysis of the effects of consequential accountability. NCLB drafter Sandy Kress, previously identified as a panelist, was unable to attend.
What's next? This panel brings together a group of "big thinkers" to hash out a plan for education governance in the twenty-first century. What should the structure look like? Who should helm the wheel? And how can we bring these thoughts into action? Paul Hill, Kenneth Meier, Jon Schnur, and Paul Pastorek will engage in a roundtable discussion to think through these questions.
From the event Rethinking Education Governance on December 1, 2011 at the Capitol Hilton - http://www.edexcellence.net/events/rethinking-education-g...
Opening Remarks: Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Session I: Challenges
What governance challenges currently mire efforts to reform education? This panel will tackle the financial systems and governance structures that impede change, drawing on the examples of innovators both within and without the system whose reforms have been stifled or slowed by our curious current structures and policies. It will also explain how our present system has harmed our nation's most disadvantaged youth. Panelists include Cynthia Brown, Michelle Davis, Marguerite Roza, and Steven F. Wilson.
Moderator: Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
During this lunchtime lecture, New Jersey Commissioner of Education
Chris Cerf will discuss his thoughts on how to improve our current
education-governance structure, drawing from his experiences as deputy
chancellor of New York City Department of Education, his current role at
the New Jersey Department of Education, and his time working for the
** We had some technical difficulties during the Q&A which is why the video is out of focus. We apologize for any inconvenience.
This panel calls into question the ideal of local control. Its
panelists—including Jeffrey Henig, Frederick M. Hess, Kathryn McDermott,
and Kenneth Wong—will investigate the rise of mayoral control, the
growth of interstate collaboration, and the role of the state and
federal governments in education. Discussant Margaret Goertz will prod
panelists to explain these shifts--and what they think each means for
education in the twenty-first century.
Moderator: Patrick McGuinn, associate professor, Drew University
Many lessons on effective governance arrangements can be pulled from
other sectors--and other nations. During this panel, authors Michael
Mintrom, Barry Rabe, and Richard Walley will explain what insights can
(and can't) be drawn from other countries—and from other federal
initiatives, like healthcare and environmental policy. Moderator Paul
Manna will also present a paper by Sir Michael Barber on lessons from
British education-reform efforts.
Moderator: Paul Manna, associate professor, College of William and Mary
Many states, including Ohio, are moving toward more rigorous evaluation systems. We talked to DC teachers evaluated by DC's IMPACT evaluation system to hear their thoughts on how they're evaluated.
Hosted by the Nord Family Foundation, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Ohio Grantmakers Forum with additional support from the Edward A. Lozick Foundation, Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, Nordson Corporation Foundation, and Stocker Foundation.
The Buckeye State has been hit hard by the national recession and faces an estimated $8 billion biennial budget shortfall. This fiscal crisis will have a serious impact on K-12 education as 40 percent of state revenue goes toward public schools. While most Ohio district superintendents and local school boards have accepted the new reality of doing more with less, the fact remains that they have little experience when it comes to handling the level of funding reductions expected this year, and will need to be equipped to handle them in a way that will not decimate existing education reform initiatives or harm student achievement. For these reasons, we are assembling free public events to help local education, business, and community leaders identify ways to think smart about cuts to school spending while staying focused on student achievement.
When it comes to low-performing schools, we seem to be witnessing the same thing over and over—not unlike the classic movie, Groundhog Day.Ground Hog Day
A recent study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute tracked about 2,000 low-performing schools and found that the vast majority of them remained open and remained low-performing after five years. Very few were significantly improved. So, are failing schools fixable?
Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a lively and provocative debate about that question. Fordham VP Mike Petrilli will moderate, and the discussion will be informed, in part, by Fordham's study, Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors.