Sounding the alarm: a wakeup call with directions
Part of the “Refocus Wisconsin” project commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, this issue paper is a smack in the face to the standard education regime far beyond the Badger State. After depicting the discouraging state of Wisconsin education, AEI’s Rick Hess and Olivia Meeks point to seven areas in need of improvement: teacher quality, curriculum, accountability implementation, excellence recognition, discipline and safety, charter school expansion, and interventions in low-performing schools. They then offer three feather-ruffling suggestions meant to address the structural barriers that impede dramatic leaps in K-12 productivity. First, the “Gold Star Teachers” initiative would allow high-performing teachers to voluntarily take on additional students in exchange for greater compensation. This would give more students access to great teaching while reducing personnel costs. The second recommendation would create a bonded system of performance guarantees for charter operators. (Operators that failed to meet agreed-upon performance goals would owe considerable money back to districts.) This would reduce district risk and encourage collaboration with outside operators. Finally, the authors propose “education spending accounts” that would allocate a chunk of per-pupil funds directly to parents to spend at their discretion—on tutoring, language classes, or other electives. The rationale: By introducing choice into the system, such accounts would stimulate healthy price competition and reduce the burden on districts to meet children’s varying educational needs. Though each comes with its own implementation challenges, all three suggestions are concrete enough to be feasible and amount to a fresh breeze through current, stale solutions.
Frederick Hess and Olivia Meeks, “Sounding the Alarm: A Wakeup Call with Directions” (Hartland, WI: Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, 2010).
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