The OECD has released the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Visit our collection of resources to help you interpret them in context.
The headline reads: Despite successes, charter school takeovers draw protests. The first two story highlights, taken directly from CNN.com (where the story was posted):
- Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus has seen big rise in students' test scores
- Some students, parents don't want their schools taken over by charter school operators
Neither is false. But are they related? No.
Mastery’s success – which is undeniable – has no predictive value on whether other charter school operators will have similar success. In fact, as we know from the often-cited CREDO study, the vast majority of charter schools perform no better than their neighborhood schools – and 37% perform worse. Yet in this article (as in countless others), while the author may acknowledge briefly, deep in the article, that not every charter school is successful, she certainly does not draw attention to that fact – or any specifics on charter school movement as a whole.
Instead, under the aforementioned headline and after showcasing the success of Mastery, this article tells the story of Audenried High School in South Philadelphia, which has been identified to be turned into a charter operated by Universal Companies (i.e., not Mastery).
According to the article, Audenried just reopened in 2008 after closing in 2005 because of its failing status, with students taking state standardized tests for the first time since ...
The May 22, 2011, Outlook Section of The Washington Post contained a column titled “5 Myths about fixing America’s schools” by Paul Farhi that is one of the few articles in the mainstream press to focus accurately on public education in the United States. At the Learning First Alliance (LFA), we are well aware that all of us at the local, state, and national level need to be vigilant in our efforts to improve the public school experience for all our students, especially those who live in poverty and/or have physical or emotional disabilities. And, at no time do any of the members of LFA suggest that we should do away with achievement testing; however, based on the depth and length of experience working in and with local public schools, the education leadership of the 17 member organizations of LFA know that easy answers, proposed quick fixes, and punitive use of standardized test data contribute nothing to sustained school improvement. A look at the five myths detailed by Mr. Farhi makes the case for a constructive conversation that is built on the truth around the work we do:
- Myth #1: Our schools are failing. What we know is that we have a serious equity issue with US public schools. In areas where communities are affluent and community members value education, the public system is quite good. Such is not the case in poor communities without supportive infrastructure. However, even with the equity challenges, the percentage of American’s earning a high school diploma has risen steadily for 30 years and the percentage of 16-to-24 year olds who were not enrolled in school and ...
An article featured on Edweek this week by Jeffrey Henig and S. Paul Reville, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors” provides a great summary of issues surrounding education that public school advocates have been trying to direct attention to for years. However, the optimism that the public will inevitably invest in these issues may be overly rosy—though I certainly hope their prediction pans out.
The authors point out that “when thinking about their own families, parents take it as a given that non-school factors . . . affect whether their children will thrive.” Likewise, analysts studying patterns of education achievement “take it as a given that socioeconomic status, concentrations of poverty, and school and residential mobility are dominating predictors that must be statistically controlled for before one can accurately register weaker and less reliable effects of teachers and schools.” The authors add: “[t]hat there are exceptions to the rule—that children and schools in poor neighborhoods succeed against all odds—does not gainsay the core reality that the odds are steep.”
Despite these realities that indicate people certainly consider non-school factors to be greatly significant, the authors point out that often times in education reform circles, many fear “[a]ttention to non-school factors . . . as an excuse to ...
The intent of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in its current form is to ensure that all students are held to high achievement standards and that there is accountability for every student’s success. The Learning First Alliance has long applauded these goals and shares a commitment to ensuring that standards of excellence are adopted and implemented in every public school district in the nation. LFA and its members have advocated (and continue to advocate) for improving ESEA in ways that support educators, student learning and local public school reform.
However, ESEA is now more than three years overdue for reauthorization. And despite the noble intentions of the law, it is widely acknowledged that it contains unfair, counterproductive and overly burdensome regulations. These regulations require local districts to focus scarce resources on compliance, sanctions and reporting that do little to contribute to student success.
Given known flaws in the current iteration of ESEA, and concern that reauthorization will not occur prior to the start of the 2011-12 school year, 16 members of the Learning First Alliance have joined together to send the U.S. Secretary of Education a letter urging the Department of Education to explore its authority for offering appropriate and immediate regulatory relief around ESEA.
This request is predicated on our desire to focus the limited resources available for public education in ways most directly ensuring the highest level of student learning and achievement.
Members of the Learning First Alliance signing on to the ...
To kick-off last week’s LFA Leadership Council meeting, the LFA gave its first Education Visionary Award to Richard W. Riley—former Secretary of Education under President Bill Clinton—for his public service, which has benefited all constituencies LFA organizations serve. While governor of South Carolina, Mr. Riley raised funding and support for education through the Education Improvement Act, which the RAND Corporation called “most comprehensive educational reform measure in the United States.” During his two terms as DOE Secretary, he stressed raising academic standards, improving teaching, and increasing education grants to help disadvantaged children. In 2008, Time Magazine named Riley as one of the “Top 10 Best Cabinet Members” of the 20th century. In his address following his award acceptance, he discussed a few major themes, including high standards, good assessment systems, diversity among the student population, and poverty—all major focuses of the LFA as well. ...
The NAACP recently released a report—“Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate”—which, as the title suggests, argues the federal and state governments are misplacing priorities in their allocation of funds to prisons rather than education. In the report and in recent interviews, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and other sympathizers (including some fiscally conservative groups and prison groups) make compelling points about this funding tradeoff.
An Edweek article quotes Jealous saying that this “multidecade trend of prioritizing incarceration over education is not sustainable.” The report cites data from the Pew Center on the States among other sources that backup his assertions about allotment: ...
The debate over school vouchers is heating up once again, as are the accompanying arguments about the role of choice in our education system, and the academic, social and emotional impact of vouchers on the students they serve and the public schools they leave.
But something that I am not hearing a lot about is the cost of voucher programs. I find this surprising given the budget situation in many of the places exploring them.
Consider what is happening at the federal level. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to reinstate the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only program in the nation to use federal tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition. They also voted to increase the amount of federal dollars going to each student: In the past, the program offered vouchers of $7,500 per student per year, but this proposal ups that to $8,000 for elementary and middle school students and $12,000 for high school students. The anticipated cost to taxpayers: $300 million over five years, with $100 million going to the voucher program and the rest going to DC public and charter schools. The bill is now headed to ...
Diane Ravitch has been quite busy of late. Among her recent activities: She has a piece appearing in Newsweek this month, and she herself appeared on The Daily Show. In February she gave a keynote at the American Association of School Administrators' annual convention and attended a meeting of Parents Across America. Last Friday, I had the good fortune of hearing her speak at the 2011 Celebration of Teaching and Learning (and the great fortune of getting a seat – it was standing room only). Over the past year, she estimates that she has talked to nearly 100,000 educators, parents and others across the nation.
Much of her message is the same regardless of her audience. She has a good grasp on the research, of course – and she often makes the point that ideology is trumping evidence in the policies du jour. Little to no evidence supports the merit pay, standardized testing, charter schooling, voucher and changes (as typically proposed) to teacher evaluation policies currently pushed by many politicians.
In addition to her knowledge of education research, what I appreciate about Ravitch is that she always hits on a point that should be (but isn't) at the heart of high-level discussions of education policy: The root cause of poor academic performance is poverty.
But instead of conversations about how we as a nation can best address the poverty within our borders, we just put the burden for eradicating the impact of poverty on our schools. And then we act surprised when ...
The theme of the March issue of Principal Leadership, the publication from NASSP, is “Seeing the Future…” and features thoughtful articles by Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Richard Rothstein, Diane Ravitch, and George H. Wood. Each article explores the complexity of the issues facing public education today and going forward and explicates the simplistic approaches currently in vogue to “fix” schools. In his look at “The Future of Public Education” George H. Wood captures both hope and despair for the institution of public schooling. The despair is the short term view with subsequent hope for long term change.
Wood’s despair, shared by many of us who have spent our careers working in public education, is around the current rhetoric and policy initiatives labeled as “reform” that redirect funds toward programs that fail to address the core problem and result in the scapegoating of professionals in the field. While acknowledging that many institutions of teacher preparation are dropping the ball when it comes to turning out the teachers that schools need, what is now being touted as an innovative approach is teachers who come through “quickie” certification programs and who focus on drilling kids to succeed on tests. Also, the notion that new teachers who come through alternate certification programs are somehow more capable of working with students in ...
According to the National Endowment for the Arts and data from Chorus America, choral singing is the most popular form of participation in the performing arts; however, opportunities to participate in a school choir are declining. The arts are getting slashed from many schools as we become myopically focused on reading and math in this budget-crunched time.
To help schools avoid this fate for programs in their communities, earlier this week, Chorus America released a free advocacy guide schools can use in making a case for choral arts programs. From a pragmatic standpoint, as the American economy increasingly becomes more service-oriented, and creativity-driven, it makes sense to emphasize the arts in schools. From a motivating standpoint, courses and programs that actively engage students and offer some bonafide entertainment make school a lot more pleasurable for students, and provide them with something to look forward to. A Chorus Impact Study reported that 90% of educators believe choral singing can keep some students engaged in school who might otherwise lose interest and/or drop out.
Arts integration in schools is not a pie in the sky dream: arts used to be a much bigger focus in American schools. Dana Gioia, former Chairman of ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!