Governance

Belatedly, policymakers and researchers are recognizing that quality charter schools depend on quality charter school authorizing. This report presents findings from a pioneering national examination of the organizations that sponsor, oversee, and hold accountable U.S. charter schools. Its primary aim is to describe and characterize these crucial but little-known organizations.
American middle schools have become the places "where academic achievement goes to die." So says Cheri Yecke, K-12 Education Chancellor of Florida and author of the new Fordham report Mayhem in the Middle: How middle schools have failed America, and how to make them work. Today's middle schools have succumbed to a concept of "middle schoolism" in which a strong academic curriculum is traded for one that focuses more on emotional and social development, and less on learning the basics. And the achievement data reflects "middle schoolism's" results. In 1999, U.S. eighth graders scored nine points below average on the TIMSS assessment of math. What's more, these same eighth graders had outperformed the average by 28 points as fourth graders in 1995! According to Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., "Trying to fix high schools while ignoring middle schools is like bandaging a wound before treating it for infection."
How did New York City's experiment in school reform, once so promising, become such a mess? Author Sol Stern explains in this third edition of Fordham's new Fwd: series of short articles of interest to K-12 education reformers.
Statewide textbook adoption, the process by which 21 states dictate the textbooks that schools and districts can use, is fundamentally flawed. It distorts the market, entices extremist groups to hijack the curriculum, enriches the textbook cartel, and papers the land with mediocre instructional materials that cannot fulfill their important education mission. Tinkering with it won't set it right, concludes this latest Fordham Institute report. Legislators and governors in adoption states should eliminate the process, letting individual schools, individual districts, or even individual teachers choose their own textbooks.
This new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is the first significant study of the organizations that authorize charter schools. The report examines 23 states and the District of Columbia to determine how supportive they are of charter schools, how good a job their authorizers are doing, and how policy makers could strengthen their states' charter programs.
This report, published jointly by the Fordham Institute and The Broad Foundation, contends that American public education faces a 'crisis in leadership' that cannot be alleviated from traditional sources of school principals and superintendents. Its signers do not believe this crisis can be fixed by conventional strategies for preparing, certifying and employing education leaders. Instead, they urge that first-rate leaders be sought outside the education field, earn salaries on par with their peers in other professions, and gain new authority over school staffing, operations and budgets.
Will the sanctions for failing schools laid out in the politics-governance Act (NCLB) succeed in turning those schools around? This report draws on the results of previous efforts to overhaul failing schools to provide a glimpse at what may be expected from NCLB-style interventions. The results: no intervention strategy has a success rate greater than 50%, so policymakers are urged to consider additional options for children trapped in failing schools.
How much government aid do parochial schools and their students actually receive? Connell finds that public aid flows to church-affiliated schools through many channels, though amounts vary greatly from state to state. This report is especially timely in light of the Supreme Court's important decision upholding government aid to religious schools.
In this review of state math standards, authors Raimi and Braden found a disturbing lack of 'mathematical reasoning' in most of the 47 state standards they examined; only three states earned 'A's' while 16 states flunked.

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