• A Recipe for Mediocrity: Tell Every School to Meet Every Need for Every Kid
    Let’s be clear: the issue is not whether we ought to serve all kids. That was resolved decades ago. We all agree that we should. The question is whether we think every school, or every classroom, ought to be expected to meet every need of every student. And that strikes me as a recipe for mediocrity.
  • Time for Parent Power Activists and School Reformers to Learn from Teachers’ Union Tactics
    But once again, parents in Adelanto and elsewhere are learning some hard lessons about the need to play tough and hard in helping their children get the culture of genius and high-quality education they deserve. But it isn’t just the NEA and AFT. Traditional district bureaucracies have proven far too willing to perpetuate failure and resist reform. Parent Power activists, along with other school reformers need to learn from tactics used by the two unions on the ground and in statehouses, and apply them in their own advocacy.  In short, it’s going to be the political equivalent of brass knuckle street-fighting.
  • Study: School Choice Reduces Crime
    High-risk young men who are admitted by lottery to the schools they choose commit fewer crimes and remain in school longer, according to a new study of North Carolina students.
  • Why Teacher Peformance Data Should Be Public
    They constantly approach this issue from the perspective of school leaders, and operators (whose roles in the human capital arena include evaluating performance and fostering strong school cultures) instead of from the perspective of parents (who as guardians of those who Clare consumers in education, only care about helping their kids achieve lifelong success) or good-to-great teachers as individual professionals (who as much want to be recognized and rewarded for their work as they want to get solid feedback from principals). From where the consumers of education — children and the parents who advocate for them — sit, the more-important issue is whether the teacher can actually nurture their inherent genius and help them improve achievement over time. They should be the lead decision-makers in education, but, save for leading school overhauls through using Parent Trigger laws or even starting their own schools, actually structuring operations may not always be a matter with which they want to be concerned. Their bigger concern lies with the ability of teachers to improve student achievement over time, and whether those instructors care for — and empathize with — every child, regardless of who they are or where they live. High-quality data on all aspects of education — especially teacher performance — is critical to helping families become real consumers and lead decisionmakers in education.
  • Ohio Mother Turns Conviction into Into School Choice Advocacy
    Last year, citizens all across the country were rightly outraged when an Ohio mother named Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed and convicted for acting on the most basic of parental desires: wanting to choose a safe school her children.  This year, Williams-Bolar is making her conviction—that is, her conviction that parents have the right to choose the best education for their children—into positive work to ensure that families across the Buckeye State have real educational options.
  • A Path Worth Taking
    In our pursuit to achieve educational innovation and excellence, two models of system administration and governance have emerged. One of the models, dubbed the Path to Autonomy, holds the promise of delivering a structure that conceivably could find favor from both suburban and urban stakeholders. In this model, a not-for-profit entity established as a 501(c)(3) under the IRS code would be able to establish a Charter Management Organization (CMO) that could operate one or multiple charter schools. This could present a viable alternative to municipal districts as these CMOs could operate schools within a municipality or even incorporate larger areas of unincorporated schools. One significant advantage of this “path to autonomy” would be that while the municipalities might acquire functional autonomy, the schools would remain under the umbrella of the larger district. The thorny issue of transferring school facilities would be removed, since the buildings, provided to the charter operators under lease arrangements, would remain the property of the larger Shelby County Schools system. The concerns over creating “orphan schools” in unincorporated Shelby County could also be resolved as CMOs would be empowered to include these schools within their operations. Operational and legal services could be resolved as CMO operators might either contract with SCS or among themselves to achieve greater efficiencies and manage risks. A major benefit of the Path to Autonomy would be the creation of a system that reflects our new reality in public education, a reality that includes the emergence of virtual schools, charter schools, and state-controlled ASD schools, as well as home- and private-school options. As opposed to creating an environment for conflict between urban and suburban interests, we could build a system that is a national model for educational innovation and success.
  • Why Common Core standards will fail
    Our way of thinking about standards has always been wrong, Loveless says. We speak of them as a system of weights and measure, as benchmarks to which schools must adhere. But that’s not it. “Standards in education are best understood as aspirational,” Loveless wrote, “and like a strict diet or prudent plan to save money for the future, they represent good intentions that are not often realized.” I have interviewed hundreds of teachers who significantly raised student achievement. Not one has ever said it was because of great state learning standards. Good curriculums help, but high-minded, numbingly detailed standards don’t produce them. How teachers are trained and supported in the classroom is what matters, even in states as enlightened as Virginia.
  • Chicago Shakes Up 17 Troubled Schools
    CHICAGO—This city’s school board voted Wednesday to shake up the teaching staffs at 17 low-performing public schools, handing Mayor Rahm Emanuel a victory in his battle with the teachers union and highlighting an increasingly aggressive stance on education overhauls by a number of Democratic mayors nationwide. The Chicago Board of Education voted to close five elementary schools, phase out one high school and “turn around” 10 schools by firing all the teachers and making them reapply for jobs. One other high school will convert to a new school with a health-science focus. Six of the schools would be given over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a non-profit organization with a record of student achievement and close political ties to Mr. Emanuel. More than 600 teachers could be displaced. About 6,500 students, mostly minorities from low-income homes, attend the schools. The move is Mr. Emanuel’s latest move in a year-long effort to overhaul a school system where one in five fourth-graders pass national reading exams and 50% of students drop out before they graduate from high school. Mr. Emanuel is part of a growing list of Democratic mayors, including those in Cleveland, Newark, N.J., and Providence, R.I. pushing policies anathema to unions. Those include dismissing the entire staffs in low-performing schools, evaluating teachers based on student-test scores, and opening more non-unionized charters, public schools run by non-government entities.Historically, Democrats have stood with teachers unions on education issues, and labor is among the party’s most reliable sources of money and campaign workers. But the relationship has weakened recently, in part because a Democratic president has prodded states and districts to adopt overhauls that have upended rules on teacher evaluation, pay and tenure. Just months into his tenure, Mr. Emanuel convinced state lawmakers to let him lengthen the school day, and to make it tougher for teachers to strike. A few months later, his hand-picked board of education rescinded teachers’ 4% pay raises. “We understand change can be painful,” she said. “But it’s an injustice to let these students remain in these school environments and not get the quality education they deserve.”

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