Mike and Rick ponder public perceptions of education spending and whether it’s Rick—not teachers—who needs a dress code. Amber explains why penalty pay works.

The testing-and-accountability movement can be proud of its accomplishments under No Child Left Behind, but the strategy has run out of steam. What we need now are breakthrough ideas on holding schools accountable—approaches that will encourage instructional excellence instead of curricular narrowing, cheating, and gaming.

NCLB waivers preclude much state innovation in measuring student achievement.

The Obama administration’s waivers to NCLB have freed schools from the infamous “Adequate Yearly Progress” metric that unfairly labeled too many as “failing.” But the waivers don’t go nearly far enough. They preclude much state innovation in measuring student achievement.

States may not, for example, use a race-neutral approach to identifying schools that are leaving disadvantaged students behind, as Florida would have liked. (In the Sunshine State’s own system, schools are docked if their lowest-performing students—whatever their race—don’t make significant gains in the course of the school year.) They can’t evaluate high schools by outcomes—like how many students go on to graduate from college—instead of by test scores. They can’t even use computer-adaptive tests, like those uses for graduate school admissions, because low-performing students would get assessed on content that is “below grade level.” (Of course, that’s the point of computer-adaptive technology—it can pinpoint exactly where students are, even if they are far ahead or behind most children their age.)

Some innovations will be better than others, but nobody has this figured out yet. That’s an argument for humility in Washington, and innovation in the states. Presidential candidates: Is anybody listening?

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Yesterday, Fordham hosted a fascinating conversation between two of the GOP’s leading ed-policy experts: Senator Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings. The pair of former U.S. education secretaries delved into the role of the feds in education, NCLB’s legacy and future, ESEA reauthorization, the Obama administration’s waiver program, and much more.

One highlight not to be missed came when Senator Alexander objected to the idea that the federal government must force states and districts into action and Ms. Spellings argued that depictions of Washington’s mandates are often overblown.

Ed Week’s invaluable Politics K-12 blog had a thorough wrap-up and you can watch the entire conversation below:

Mike and Adam dissect StudentsFirst’s take on the Olympics and debate whether the parent trigger is overhyped. Amber wonders what Maryland and Delaware are doing right when it comes to education.

A decade after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, 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 debate the Republican Party’s direction on this vital issue. Join the conversation with Senator Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings at 9 a.m. EDT on July 26 by tuning into the live webcast.

Mike and Rick reunite to talk social mobility, the NEA’s membership woes, and what sequestration would actually mean for schools. Amber explains where parents stand on digital learning.

Since 2010, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) has issued two handfuls of reports on the reborn federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. These latest three (1) tackle the challenges related to SIG staffing requirements, (2) tackle the challenges related to increased learning time, and (3) profile the culture changes made in six SIG schools. The first and third reports are worth mentioning. In the first, surveyed state leaders explain that finding and keeping quality principals and teachers is difficult for SIG schools, especially those in rural areas. Yet just 21 percent broke the hiring mold and offered recruiting and appointment assistance to SIG schools and districts looking for qualified staffers. It’s unclear from the survey data how many states and districts are utilizing alternative recruitment pathways like New Leaders or Teach For America. Instead, some state officials interviewed called for the relaxation of SIG schools’ replacement mandates. Indeed, just 55 percent of those in states with schools undergoing the “transformation” model (where the school must replace the principal and implement other programmatic and structural reforms) felt that replacing the school’s leader was a key or “somewhat” key element in upping student achievement. (Of course, there are inherent flaws in state-official survey data.) In the third report, CEP explains specific strategies implemented to change schools’ cultures, including requiring uniforms, hiring behavior specialists, and improving teacher collaboration (via pay for instructional coaching, etc.). Interviewees, unsurprisingly, most often cited improvements in school climate as the greatest success after Year 1 of...


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, Fordham is bringing together two former GOP education secretaries for "Ten Years After NCLB: Is the GOP Moving Forward, Backward, or Sideways on Education?" There’s still time to register to join the conversation with Senator Lamar Alexander and Margaret Spellings at 9 a.m. EDT on July 26. See you there!

Kathleen and Mike wonder how to hold states accountable in twenty-seven different ways and debate whether gender-specific curricula make sense. Amber dives deep into census data on edu-spending.