• It’s time to move beyond old assumptions about vouchers
    School voucher critics generally approach their job reviewing the research on school choice with unfair assumptions, and otherwise insightful commentators risk recycling old canards. This is true with Thomas Toch’s critique of vouchers in the newest edition of Kappan, which concludes that voucher programs haven’t shown enough impact to justify their position in a large-scale reform effort. Questions of scale can lead to legitimate debate, but we’ll get nowhere until we acknowledge what’s in the literature. Toch grounds what he calls “the underwhelming record of voucher schools” first with an anecdotal report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which determined that American’s first voucher program “is very much like a teenager: heart-warmingly good at times, disturbingly bad at others.” The problem is that this newspaper report is nearly seven years old. We’ve learned so much since then, and at no time has the peer-reviewed science on the subject shown the back-and-forth swing from good to bad that the Journal Sentinel implied in 2005.
  • The Value of Teachers
    An essential answer: more good teachers. Or, to put it another way, fewer bad teachers. The obvious policy solution is more pay for good teachers, more dismissals for weak teachers. One of the paradoxes of the school reform debate is that teachers’ unions have resisted a focus on teacher quality; instead, they emphasize that the home is the foremost influence and that teachers can only do so much. That’s all true, and (as I’ve often written) we need an array of other antipoverty measures as well, especially early childhood programs. But the evidence is now overwhelming that even in a grim high-poverty school, some teachers have far more impact on their students than those in the classroom next door.
  • Some States Skeptical of NCLB Waivers
    Holdout states cite political, as well as policy, concerns. Several pointed to the possibility that an eventual reauthorization of the ESEA might establish new requirements that render changes through the waiver process irrelevant.
  • Promises Unfulfilled? What Next, Federal Education Failure?
    According to the latest reports, most of the winners of President Obama’s $4.35-billion “Race to the Top” competition are well off pace to fulfill the promises they made to get the dough. Well off schedule, that is, except for adopting the laughably dubbed “state-led and voluntary” national curriculum standards that the federal Race to the Top essentially demanded they use.
  • Union hits Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to abolish teacher pay schedules
    Haslam’s education commissioner, Kevin Huffman, said he thinks some districts “will look at performance and say we want to pay certain teachers more because they’re performing at a higher level.” Other districts “will use it in different ways,” Huffman said. “They’ll use it for hard-to-staff subject areas. Other districts will say we really like the system we have right now and we’re going to maintain the current system.”
  • Arizona Legislator Proposes Amending State Constitution to Allow Vouchers
    State Rep. Jack Harper (R-Surprise) has proposed legislation that would amend Arizona’s constitution to allow state-funded vouchers for disabled and foster children. In 2009, the Arizona Supreme Court struck down two voucher programs because the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment prohibits sending public monies to religious schools.
  • In Arizona, New Year Brings Renewed Commitment to School Choice
    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a longtime supporter of school choice, this week told members of the state legislature that in 2012, the Grand Canyon State is poised to continue to be a leader in allowing parents to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs.
  • Charter School Competition Prods Pittsburgh School District to Become Leaner, More Effective
    Conventional wisdom says that allowing charter schools to compete with traditional schools for students and resources will result in the destruction of public education. Those assumptions are being proven wrong by the renaissance underway in Pittsburgh Public Schools, caused – in part – by the district’s 31 area charter school competitors. Instead of being the bane of PPS’s existence, the charter schools are spurring the district into becoming leaner, more efficient and, ultimately, more effective for students.

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