• Parental authority is at the heart of school choice
    We founded the American Center for School Choice because we believe a focus on parental empowerment can contribute to a broadening and coalescing of the coalition that seeks to provide the best possible education for children. Simultaneously, empowering parents creates a common good—for the child, the parent, the family, and society.
    We begin with the delicate subject of authority—that of parent or of government over the mind of the young. Whether one is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or the National Education Association, we must proceed by asking which big person will decide this issue for some little person.
  • Misleading Coverage of Pennsylvania’s Proposed School Choice Expansions
    Pennsylvania: The fact that people are willing to admit on one hand that there is significant inequity in the quality of education Pennsylvania kids are receiving, and on the other hand say that it’s not the problem of the schools, is to be so beholden to a system that they’ve lost the ability to make coherent arguments.
  • Teacher reports should be refined
    State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said Monday that hearings have been scheduled Nov. 1-2 at Nashville’s Legislative Plaza because of complaints on what’s called the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model. We’d like to see what results from all of the discussions in Nashville before school systems start opting out. The basic concept behind the teacher evaluations is a sound one. But the way in which these evaluations are administered obviously must be adjusted so that they lead to their original goal — advancement in student achievement.
  • Tennessee education commissioner says no application for grant money for pre-kindergarten
    Tennessee education officials say they will not apply for up to $60 million in federal funds for early childhood education because the requirements don’t meet the state’s needs. The main reason not to apply, Huffman said, is that the money can’t be used to expand existing pre-kindergarten services. “We want to be very careful in the current fiscal environment not to take on additional activities we can’t sustain financially,” Huffman said.
  • Expenses mount for new unified school board
    With two votes of the unified school board Monday, Shelby County Schools potentially became responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in new salary expenses, worrisome for a district funded at a lower per-pupil level than the city schools. SCS and Memphis City Schools, by court order, are to operate independently until the merger is complete in 2013. But the unified board will oversee both entities. Besides immediately covering $4,200 in salaries for the seven new appointed board members, SCS general counsel Valerie Speakman could be in for a $37,000 raise plus other benefits after the board locked horns over differences in organizational structure between the two systems and how it could affect legal advice the board receives.
  • Whether and How to Use State Tests to Measure Student Achievement in a Multi-State Randomized Experiment: An Empirical Assessment Based on Four Recent Evaluations
    This NCEE Reference Report, Whether and How to Use State Tests to Measure Student Achievement in a Multi-State Randomized Experiment: An Empirical Assessment Based on Four Recent Evaluations, examines the sensitivity of impact findings to (1) the type of assessment used to measure achievement (state tests or a study-administered test); and (2) analytical decisions about how to pool state test data across states and grades. These questions are examined using data from four recent IES-funded experimental design studies that measured student achievement using both state tests and a study-administered test. Each study spans multiple states and two of the studies span several grade levels. Based on these four studies, the authors conclude that:
    *State tests provide a useful complement to a study-administered test, because they are policy-relevant measures of general achievement. However, in certain cases, state tests may not be a feasible substitute for a study-administered test, either because state tests are not administered in all relevant grades or because the primary outcome is a specific skill that is not measured by all states’ tests.
    *Inferences about program impacts are not sensitive to decisions about how test scores are scaled for the purposes of pooling the results across states or grades (for example, whether traditional or rank-based z-scores are used and whether z-scores are based on the sample or state distribution of scores).
    *The most appropriate method for aggregating the impact findings across states or grades is to use fixed-effects (precision) weighting, because the conditions for using random-effects weighting are not met.
  • Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2011
    This 2011 edition of a biennial series of compendia reports describes key education outcomes and contexts of education in the Group of Eight (G-8) countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The report is organized into five topical areas: population and school enrollment, academic performance, contexts for learning, expenditures for education, and educational attainment and income. Results are drawn from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) ongoing Indicators of Education Systems (INES) program, as well as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is also coordinated by the OECD. Findings include:
    • From 2000 (the first time PISA reading was assessed) to 2009, the only measurable change in students’ average performance in reading literacy among the G-8 countries was in Germany, where the average score rose.
    • In every G-8 country reporting data in 2000 and 2009 (except Japan in 2000), a greater percentage of 15-year-old females than males reported reading for enjoyment. For example, in the United States, the male-female difference in reading enjoyment was 22 percentage points in 2009 (47 percent of males vs. 69 percent of females).
    • The United States awarded the lowest percentage (15 percent) of first university degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering-related fields among all the G-8 countries in 2008. In the other G-8 countries, the percentages ranged from 22 percent in Canada and Italy to 29 percent in Germany.
  • ‘No Child’ Overhaul Bill Introduced in Senate
    The proposal from Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would shift the federal focus from intervening in all struggling schools to targeting only the bottom 5% and those with significant achievement gaps between poor, minority students and their more affluent peers. It would eliminate the federally mandated achievement goals that schools must now meet, and get rid of the sanctions attached to failing schools, such as requiring them to provide free after-school tutoring or closing them down if they fail to improve. Instead, states would be allowed to set their own goals and their own sanctions for all but the worst-performing schools. Mr. Harkin said the draft bill, which he plans to bring before the full committee next week, was the culmination of months-long negotiation with Sen. Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.), the top Republican lawmaker on the education committee. But it isn’t clear whether Mr. Harkin’s bill can win the bipartisan support it needs in the Senate, much less in the House. Leading civil-rights groups have already decried the proposal, the nation’s largest teachers union has concerns, and many tea-party Republicans oppose any federal role in education. But six leading civil-rights groups sent a letter to Mr. Harkin blasting the plan. “This is a betrayal of the federal government’s traditional role in supporting low-income kids, kids of color and kids with disabilities,” said Amy Wilkins of Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that signed the letter. “This lets states off the hook and allows them to treat the federal government like an ATM.” Mr. Harkin’s bill would still require states to test students annually and ensure students are making “continuous improvement,” but would let individual states develop their accountability plans. It would mandate specific interventions for chronically underperforming schools, such as turning them into charter schools. The draft bill calls for states to develop evaluation systems that rate teachers and principals, in part, on student achievement. The National Education Association does not oppose rating teachers on student test scores, but Mary Kusler, manager of federal advocacy for the NEA, said: “The federal government does not hire and fire teachers, and they should not be so overly prescriptive in the evaluation process.” Mr. Harkin’s plan also would make Mr. Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative an annual competition. Race to the Top awarded money to states that adopted education policies the administration supports, such as charter schools and linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.
  • What It’s Going to Take to Transform Our Schools
    It’s ironic that America has literally led the rest of the world in technological advances in medicine, business and others sectors yet has failed to innovate the system it relies on to educate our children. But it’s not too late. We can adapt what we know and the innovations that are commonplace in every other aspect of our lives to our schools. It’s what we know and have always done as Americans — strive to be the best in the world and lead others to success as well.
    Lest we forget, the success of all of our children begets the success of America.
  • Beating Back Big (Ed.) Brother?
    What has for a long time seemed impossible is suddenly feeling a bit more plausible: withdrawing the Feds from our kids’ classrooms. But there’s a huge amount still to do, and gigantic threats staring us in the face.
    Sorry to be so late getting this out!  Thanks for visiting.

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