Monthly Archives: April 2017

April Posts

April 21, 2017


In the past two decades the number of students who qualify for California State University English and Math work has doubled.


Senator Patty Murray published a comprehensive paper on the dangers of the push for extensive public school choice and privatization at the expensive of our public schools entitled Real Choice vs. False Choice: The Repercussions of Privatization Programs for Students, Parents, and Public Schools

Are charters offering true choice? What about the historical beneficial choice of a common public good available to all? The Atlantic magazine published a perceptive article on this issue, How School Choice Turns Education into a Commodity.

The Network for Public Education has published a toolkit explaining various issues of charter schools and privatization such as Do Charter Schools and School Vouchers “Hurt” Public Schools?

Charter school marketing excesses and misleading claims are documented in this extensive report by researchers Jessen and DiMartino, Perceptions of Prestige: A comparative analysis of school online media marketing. In a similar vein the podcast, Truth in Edvertising chronicles the huge emphasis on marketing by charter chains. One chain spends over $1000  per child on selling their brand.

Massive school choice expansion policies with weak oversight in Michigan have resulted in wide-spread segregation.

Charters don’t work well in rural areas. Schools are sparse and charters divert substantial funds from the existing small number of existing public schools.

A troubling report by the Public Interest group Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding, finds that California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. But much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.

In the report, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices. See also

A report by Sephanie Farmer, Closed By Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures, and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools demonstrates the detrimental effect closing large numbers of public schools and replacing many of them by charters. A similar report by the Urban Institute gives chapter and verse on who gets harmed by closing schools.

A recent book by Mercedes Schneider discusses the danger of unfettered school choice policies.

Peter Greene (Curmudgucation blog) breaks down the various types of charter school supporters in this insightful article.


A recent report “State Tax Subsidies for K12 Private Education.”  blew the whistle on the specious nature of voucher tax credits promoted as charitable contributions. Many states are enacting tax credit schemes which give the rich or corporations a 100% credit for scholarships to private schools (some then incredibly allow a further charitable deduction) thus depleting government revenues needed to support education, health, and other services. Some states such as Nevada and Indiana used a bait and switch approach. First pass vouchers for the poor and only those currently enrolled in public schools, then later take off the restrictions and pay all parents for any type of school. This essentially is a subsidy to those currently paying for a private school education. See the coverage by Mercedes Schneider” Profiteering Disguised as Philanthropy.

Another bait and switch voucher scam, this time in Arizona.


Teachers in the US spend 40% more annual hours in the classroom (981) than the average of OECD schools (694). They don’t have the time to participate in the critically important team building that teachers in other countries enjoy.   (Lower Secondary Teacher Annual Hours in 2014)  US 981; Germany 750; UK 745; Canada 740; France 648; Italy 616; Japan 611; Finland 581


DeVos out to scuttle civil rights of our students?


A call to fight for public schools during the Congressional recesses.


The Learning Policy Institute issued a report on the value of socio-emotional learning. and another on how to survey to improve SE learning for accountability and continuous improvement.


Holding back third-graders has been a disaster in Mississippi for many students. A significant number are being held back twice.


A new report from KnowledgeMatters and StandardsWork  demonstrates the importance of a rich curriculum, effective instructional materials, and attention to instruction. These should be central to any effort to improve our schools. Here is a description of David Steiner and his team’s working papers from Johns Hopkins University entitled,  “WHAT WE TEACH ISN’T SOME SIDE BAR ISSUE IN AMERICAN EDUCATION; IT IS AMERICAN EDUCATION” 

Two papers released today by the nonprofit StandardsWork, Inc., on behalf of the Knowledge Matters Campaign, shed new light on the questions raised by the proliferation of K-12 curriculum options. The papers affirm that curriculum choices make a major difference in students’ learning outcomes but also highlight the fact the current research provides little insight into why this is the case.

The first paper, entitled Do Curriculum Choices Matter?, contains results from the most exhaustive analysis to date of the impact of curriculum. The audit, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Center for Research and Reform in Education, examined individual research reports and comprehensive meta-analyses that, all told, comprise more than 5,000 studies of the curriculum effect. While the methodological rigor of the studies varies greatly, the authors confirm the following general findings: curriculum is a critical factor in students’ academic success, and the cumulative impact of top-quality curriculum across a student’s academic career can be significant.

The second paper, a policy brief entitled, “Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go,” is a wake-up call to the research community. The paper identifies seven complex issues affecting the study of curriculum that will need to be tackled if we are, as author Dr. David Steiner says, “to make sense out of the chaos.” The issues include: the field has no shared definition of curriculum; curriculum created by individual teachers is almost impossible to research for collective impact; the absence of a taxonomy that identifies the salient features of a curriculum means it is difficult to isolate their effects; there is suggestive, but not yet confirmatory, evidence that content-rich curricula deliver better results than those that are largely skills-based; and professional development and fidelity of implementation can play a key role in a curriculum’s effectiveness but are often loosely described in the research.

“Perhaps the most important finding from this review is how messy the research on curriculum is,” said Barbara Davidson, President of StandardsWork. “Given its potential impact, and the fact that so much new curriculum is being developed in response to higher college- and career-ready standards, there is an urgent need to organize ourselves to better study the new materials, their methods, and their impact.”

Dr. Steiner, who is Executive Director of the Institute for Education Policy (IEP), notes that the impact of a student’s being taught through a high-quality curriculum can be a full years’ worth of additional learning over that achieved by a comparable student working with weak material – and that this impact only increases the longer a student continues to receive the advantage of a quality curriculum.

Citing mediocre results on the 12th-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past twenty-five years, the persistence of the achievement gap, and the disappointing impact of so many education reform efforts, What We Know and Where We Need to Go concludes by noting, “What we teach isn’t some side bar issue in American education; it is American Education,” and suggests that policymakers should “put the materials we use to teach at the core of serious education reform.”

The policy brief and the full working paper are available on StandardsWork’s website. For interviews, contact  

StandardsWork, Inc. is a nonprofit consulting firm that has worked hand-in-hand with school districts, state agencies, and charter management organizations to improve student achievement for over 25 years. Known for leading collaboration and creating breakthrough solutions, StandardsWork is committed to advancing the vital role of strong curriculum, the importance of deep content knowledge in students, and the impact that evidence-based instructional practices can provide teachers.

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy exists to bridge the worlds of research, practice, and policy, and as such advises state chiefs, superintendents, and national membership organizations across the United States. The Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education’s primary goal is to improve the quality of education for children in grades pre-K to 12 through high-quality research and evaluation studies and the dissemination of evidence-based research.

Contact: Archana Sridhar 202-835-2000


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