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Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed: Reformers Allowed Their Rhetoric to Be Hijacked

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Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Reformers Allowed Their Rhetoric to Be Hijacked

by Bill Honig

One of the unfortunate side effects of the reform movement is that it has allowed anti–public school advocates to hijack the rhetoric that demonizes teachers and trumpets market-based solutions for schools. Policymakers have used negative reform rhetoric to justify severe, highly damaging cuts in public education as they pursue an aggressive agenda of privatizing public schools through unrestricted charter school expansion or voucher plans, emasculating teacher unions, and significantly reducing workplace protections for teachers.

Damaging Cuts in Public Education

Many of these destructive schemes were recently enacted in several states that were once staunch supporters of public education. In Indiana, for example, from 2009 to 2013 public school funding was cut by more than $3 billion. During the same period, charter funding was increased by $539 million, vouchers by $248 million, and virtual schools by $143 million. Students who attend public schools account for 94% of Indiana students and took a huge hit. The remaining seven percent gained more than $900 million.

Similarly, in North Carolina, which had been a lighthouse state in the nation, scoring among the top-performing districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Diane Ravitch reports:

Tea Party Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, and a Republican governor was elected in 2012, the first time in a century that Republicans controlled the state. Since taking power, the Republicans have slashed the budget for public education at all levels. They have enacted a law to authorize charter schools, including for-profit charters. They enacted a voucher law. They welcomed for-profit virtual schools. They have set out to shrink government and diminish the public sector. Per-student spending is now near the lowest in the nation, as are teacher salaries. The legislature has gone after teachers’ tenure and benefits. It shut down a five-year career teaching preparation program at the University of North Carolina, called the North Carolina Teaching Fellows, yet allocated almost the same amount of money to pay for Teach for America recruits, who will come and go.

See also a series of articles published in the North Carolina Observer decrying the severe cuts and negative legislation affecting public schools. Michael Leachman and his colleagues drafted a report for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that documents the severe cuts in education nationally since the 2009 recession:

At least 31 states provided less state funding per student in the 2014 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2014) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold. In at least 15 states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.

Antigovernment and Antiunion Forces at Work

The extreme-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has convinced many Republican-led legislatures and Republican governors to enact a privatization agenda driven by antagonism to government services in general and public schools specifically. This is a continuation of the nineteenth-century fight waged by antitax forces that opposed funding public education and resisted government-sponsored schools, objecting to the cost of educating other people’s children. For an excellent summary of these battles, see Dana Goldstein’s book, The Teacher Wars.

Luckily for this nation, the counterargument won the day and proved to be accurate—public schools for all has a beneficial influence on the economic and democratic health of our country. Public education is universally recognized as the cornerstone of the spectacular growth the country experienced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Regrettably, ALEC and some of its billionaire supporters such as the Kochs are trying to re-litigate the issue. An alarming account of how the libertarian Koch brothers and their billionaire fellow travelers foisted an extreme right-wing agenda on the Republican Party nationally and in many states and thus in much of the country is chronicled chapter and verse in Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, Dark Money.

As an example, Rick Hess, who has solid reform credentials, has taken his fellow reformers to task for the motives underlying the way they structured the passing levels on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), the new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Hess claims reformers advocated setting the passing levels arbitrarily high; then they used the discontent engendered by mass failures to drive their agenda of harsh accountability and privatization of public schools. He argues that their strategy was particularly effective in suburban districts.

Moreover, many wealthy “reform” advocates have spent huge amounts of money promoting wholesale expansion of charter schools and vouchers. One example is the Walton Foundation, which announced in 2016 that it will spend $1 billion on new charter schools. Similarly, Netflix’s Reed Hastings’s new foundation will spend $100 million on charter expansion. His expressed goal is to convert all public schools to charters. The Bradley Foundation in Wisconsin has spent more than $100 million to encourage the privatization of public schools, including voucher programs. A final example is the advocacy group headed by Campbell Brown and heavily funded by the same cast of characters. The former anchor is helping the billionaire-backed charter lobby spread the gospel of educational reform.

Alas, much of the negative reform rhetoric is also driven by a desire to break or curtail teacher unions for political reasons or because reformers believe unions prevent the dismissal of low-performing teachers. Ironically, the most unionized states have the best educational records. Massachusetts is a case in point. Recent research supports this view—the extent of unionization doesn’t lower performance but rather enhances it. As further evidence, many states with weak or no teacher unions lag considerably in student achievement.

Almost all of our highest-performing districts have figured out how to work closely with their unions to focus on improving instruction. Often, the push for enhancing instruction and continuous improvement originates with union advocacy. It is also true that local union recalcitrance sometimes frustrates genuine improvement efforts such as making it difficult to create learning teams at schools. For an example of a cooperative approach, see “Teacher-Community Unionism: A Lesson from St. Paul” and “Turning Around a High-Poverty School,” which discusses how Sanger Unified in California, a high-scoring district, developed working partnerships with its unions. Finally, Humphrey, Koppich, and Tiffany-Morales in their 2016 report Replacing Teacher Evaluation Systems with Systems of Professional Growth: Lessons from Three California School Districts and Their Teachers’ Unions demonstrated how San Jose, Poway, and San Juan school districts created effective working relationships between their district administrations and teachers’ unions.

A Toxic Narrative

One disturbing aspect of the current reform storyline is particularly galling to educators. It is bad enough that reformers and the media ignore the fact that Test-and-Punish measures do not work and fail to consider the compelling body of research that shows the efficacy of Build-and-Support. But there also exists a tendency among reformers and their advocates to ascribe all examples of educational excellence to charter or private schools and to ignore exemplary practices in public schools despite their widespread existence. This is a flagrant case of bias.

In our political, cultural, and social spheres a superficial narrative has taken hold—“Public schools and their teachers are bad; charter schools are good.” We’ve gone from Goodbye, Mr. Chips; To Sir, with Love; and Dead Poets Society to Bad Teacher and the hanger-on teacher in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. One of the most egregious examples of the media’s anti–public school bias and attacks on teachers’ unions is the 2010 documentary Waiting for “Superman.” Sponsored by reformers and praised by the press, the film gives a hallowed view of every charter school. Every vignette from the public school is horrendous. The film could just as easily have profiled a superstar public school and an appallingly ineffective or fraudulent charter school, which would have been similarly one sided and dishonest.

Positive stories about public schools are seldom seen. Two good examples are an article about an inner-city school in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and a story about a low-income public school in Watts whose success was powered by veteran teachers and effective teamwork. Although the story is highly positive overall, its headline begins with a gratuitous slap: “In a desert of school failure …” Another account of home-grown school improvement appears in Dale Russakoff’s book, The Prize. It describes the valiant success of Brick Avon School, a public school in Newark, New Jersey, that faced detrimental district policies.

Even some supporters of the Build-and-Support approach fall into the trap of biased reporting. The book Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works makes the case for the importance of craft and pedagogical knowledge. In the otherwise impressive book, author Elizabeth Green writes only about charter schools when providing examples of excellence. She contends that many started out with a narrow educational philosophy based on a strict, behavioristic “no excuses” approach focusing on reading, math, and test prep. After realizing that this did not produce results, a few responsive leaders shifted to a broader curriculum and an evidence-based educational philosophy that recognizes the importance of engagement. This evolution should be commended. But countless excellent public schools with a rich educational program never succumbed to a prison-like, test-prep atmosphere. They have been producing extraordinary results for years. Green never mentioned them.

Impossible Goals and Severe Consequences

The toxic narrative was exacerbated by federal and state policies that set impossible goals with severe consequences. For example, a decade ago reformers at the national level established an absurd standard: Every school had to reach 100% “proficiency” by 2014. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation may have sounded reasonable on its face, but the standard was based on the NAEP proficiency levels that equate to A or B work and designed to predict readiness for a four-year college curriculum. Only about a third of US students intend to attend four-year institutions. Increasing the number of students prepared for four-year colleges was a laudable goal and should be part of any accountability system given the rising demand for college graduates. But to enshrine that goal as the only measure of success was inappropriate and unfair for a large number of our students who could profit from rigorous alternative pathways. It was also patently unfair for the educators who were working with them.

Tellingly, no country, district, and almost no schools performed at that unrealistic 100% proficiency level. Our highest-performing state, Massachusetts, which scores among the world’s best, had just over 50% of its students reaching proficiency. Widespread failure was built in at the start because politicians were afraid to set reasonable goals for fear of looking weak or reducing pressure on schools. Most of our political and opinion leaders were completely indifferent to the devastating effect that setting this unreachable goal would have on public education. Others were more purposeful—intentionally attempting to discredit public education as more and more schools would be labeled failures. Sadly, the media has joined in this unfair characterization. Although the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) eliminates this impossible requirement, most accountability schemes including the SBAC and PARCC tests as well as media reports of test scores continue to use this level as a standard. Any student not meeting the four-year college preparation level is labeled a “failure.”

During his tenure as US secretary of education, Arne Duncan gave waivers to large numbers of states when it became apparent that under NCLB almost every school in the country was going to be deemed a “failing school.” Unfortunately, he required states to adopt certain policies in exchange for the waiver—one of them being a discredited teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. A few states, including Washington, balked at the requirements and had their waivers terminated. That state was in the ludicrous position of having to brand nearly every school in the state a failure, which would have devastated teacher, parent, and student morale and further eroded public support. Again, the new ESSA legislation not only eliminates unrealistic national goals but abolishes the secretary of education’s ability to unilaterally enforce reform policy.

Lessons from New Orleans

In some extreme instances, states have privatized entire districts, converting all public schools to charter schools. A decade ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana forced New Orleans to follow this path. What ensued was the wholesale elimination of the public schools that were the center of many communities, the firing of most teachers, and the creation of nonaccountable institutions under the umbrella of the state-run New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD). Unquestionably, prior to Katrina the district was severely dysfunctional and one of lowest scoring in the country. But the drastic measures taken in the name of reform created new problems. This is tragic given that better, less disruptive alternatives could have been pursued.

The New Orleans experience has been hyped by reform advocates as an extraordinary success story and, until recently, uncritically covered by the media. Adam Johnson wrote an excellent critique of the fawning media coverage. More objective analyses of the RSD have questioned the purported gains and detailed significant collateral damage: hours-long bus rides and other hardships foisted on children, substantial resegregation, and unaccountable schools as well as community erosion and alienation.

Failing Grades

According to blogger and education activist Mercedes Schneider, one decade later most New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) charter schools received Ds or Fs by a charter-friendly state education department. Out of 57 schools, 15 received Fs or were so low as to be in turnaround status; 17 received Ds; only 7 received Bs; and none earned an A. The RSD schools still rank among the lowest-scoring schools in the country. Schneider also cites a recent report that showed only an embarrassing 12% of the high school students in the district who took the ACT college preparation test scored high enough under the state’s regent requirement to qualify for a Louisiana four-year college. Schneider has also debunked claims of better-than-average graduation rates.

Other people have documented the continued extremely low performance of the RSD despite a decades’ worth of effort. Among them are Julian Vasquez Heilig and Andrea Gabor, who raised potent questions about the viability of the New Orleans model for reform when she wrote a response to the defenders of the district in The New York Times. See also “The Uncounted,” Owen Davis’s blog post that raises the possibility that the New Orleans reform effort harmed the city’s most vulnerable children:

A decade after Hurricane Katrina spurred New Orleans to undertake a historic school reform experiment—a shift to a virtually all-charter district with unfettered parent choice—evidence of broader progress is shot through with signs that the district’s most vulnerable students were rebuffed, expelled, pushed out or lost altogether.

For another negative report on the supposed success of the RSD, see Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans’ All-Charter School System Has Proven a Failure. Finally, an editorial in The New Orleans Tribune, a major African-American newspaper, decried the reform efforts in New Orleans and its meager results.

In 2015, Frank Adamson, Channa Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond produced the most comprehensive and exhaustive examination of the New Orleans experiment in districtwide charters. Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace is their 72-page report developed for the Stanford Center on Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). The authors came to conclusions similar to those I have previously discussed. The New Orleans experiment led to the creation of a stratified system, which more often than not produced low-quality education and was highly detrimental to large numbers of vulnerable students and their communities. They demonstrated that claims of increased performance for the RSD were not warranted and that schools in the RSD still scored extremely low on measures using accurate data.

Limited Gains and Unnecessary Damage

Even reports that found some progress demonstrate that in light of the extremely low starting point, the gains in New Orleans have been minimal. After 10 years, the effect size ranges from only 0.2 to 0.4 SD—still leaving the district as one of the lowest scoring in the nation, with one of the country’s highest levels of economic and educational disparities according to race.

The alleged gains could just as easily be attributed to the substantial increases in funding that occurred over the last decade or to changes in demographics since large numbers of low-achieving students left New Orleans after Katrina. Clearly, these small increases were hardly worth the major disruptions caused by closing just about every local school and firing 7,000 teachers, most of whom formed the backbone of the African-American middle class in the city. For a heart-wrenching account of the callous treatment of New Orleans teachers, see “Death of My Career: What Happened to New Orleans’ Veteran Black Teachers?” in Education Week and the extensive quotations in the SCOPE report cited above. For a forum with differing points of view on the New Orleans experience, see the Albert Shanker Institute’s series of conversations “Ten Years After the Deluge: The State of Public Education in New Orleans.” Finally, Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance, by Kristen Buras (2014), provides a devastating look at the harm caused in New Orleans by the abandonment of public schools.

Unquestionably, some excellent charter schools have been created in New Orleans, and many dedicated teachers and principals are making heroic efforts to improve instruction. Yet better schools and outcomes could have been produced without such drastic measures. Even researchers who supported the reforms have declared that New Orleans should not be held up as a model for the nation.

Other Failed Examples: State Takeovers

Problems similar to those in New Orleans have been found with the Achievement School District (ASD) in Tennessee, which is now being touted as a model for the rest of the country. The ASD forces low-scoring schools into a state-run district. Its mission was to increase schools scoring at the fifth percentile or below to the 25th percentile in five years. Three years into the project, of the six original schools, the percentile scores of two had decreased; two stayed the same; and two increased to only the sixth percentile. Hardly a success story. Chris Barbic, the district’s superintendent, had been promising significant growth. He resigned at the end of the third year. In 2015, Memphis requested a halt to expansion of the Achievement District due to low performance. Other reports show that recovery districts in Philadelphia and Michigan have been similarly ineffective. According to a balanced review of state achievement districts, state-run districts have not been able to turn around most low-performing schools. The Center for Popular Democracy published a report titled State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools: A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement & Student Harm. The report includes a summary of its findings:

The rapid proliferation of the takeover district as an educational panacea is alarming. In this report, we examine the record of the three existing takeover districts, and find that there is no clear evidence that takeover districts actually achieve their stated goals of radically improving performance at failing schools. We find that:

  1. Children have seen negligible improvement—or even dramatic setbacks—in their educational performance.
  2. State takeover districts have created a breeding ground for fraud and mismanagement at the public’s expense.
  3. Staff face high turnover and instability, creating a disrupted learning environment for children.
  4. Students of color and those with special needs face harsh disciplinary measures and discriminatory practices that further entrench a two-tiered educational system.

Similarly, the National Educational Policy Center issued a well-researched report, The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance, documenting the harm done to communities by portfolio or recovery districts closing neighborhood schools. The report instead advocates solutions aimed at improving existing neighborhoods and their schools.

Incredibly, some other states and districts are now pursuing the creation of “district-wide recovery districts.” As a potential model for his state, the governor of Georgia recently visited New Orleans—despite the district’s poor performance. A local editorial took the governor to task for looking at New Orleans, instead of taking his delegation to Massachusetts, which has world-class schools. A conservative Republican legislator objected to the proposal, citing its crony capitalism and support from ALEC. On a more hopeful note, parents, educators, and other citizens in Arkansas recently defeated a statewide privatization attempt by the Walton Family Foundation that would have replaced public schools with charters.

Privatization Failures

Washington, DC, in the past decade and Milwaukee 20 years ago instituted extensive voucher and choice plans, and both continue to score at the bottom of urban districts on the NAEP test, state assessments such as PARCC, and college attendance and graduation rates. Arizona’s 20-year-old voucher program, disguised as a tax credit, has been the object of similar criticism. Denver instituted the full Test-and-Punish and privatization agenda several years ago and remains near the bottom of urban districts.

An evaluation of the Louisiana voucher program found that students using vouchers to enroll in private schools did substantially worse—a 0.4 SD drop in mathematics and a large drop in other subjects. The report states: “Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50%. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children.” David Lubienski has summarized recent research showing that vouchers do indeed harm students.

Those responsible should have examined the harm caused when countries such as Sweden, Chile, and Colombia pursued aggressive privatization agendas. Sweden, which adopted wholesale voucher and choice approaches, suffered a drastic drop in educational performance on international assessments and is reconsidering its privatization policies.

Chile provides another perfect case study on what not to do. Twenty years ago, acolytes of Milton Friedman engineered a privatization voucher scheme. Results were a dramatic decrease in educational funding and a substantial rise in inequality caused by the steady decline into a two-tiered educational system. Chile scores near the bottom on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, and the country is now revising its entire educational plan, including eliminating for-profit voucher schools.

Finally, the argument made by voucher advocates that they assist low-income students turns out to be false. According to a 2016 report by the Southern Education, Race and Ethnicity in a New Era of Public Funding for Private School, recent voucher plans have exacerbated the problems of segregation by diverting over $1 billion to less diverse private schools.

There is evidence from both home and abroad that the privatization of public schools is not the answer. Yet many states—those with newly elected Republican majorities as well as New York—have intensified their interest in reform measures that are actually thinly disguised voucher plans. These initiatives offer substantial business tax credits for “scholarship” plans or donations. The initiatives have not produced worthwhile results but have drained large sums from public schools. Public school budgets must initially absorb the costs of paying tuition for up to 10% of students presently in private schools. Then they suffer further financial burdens when students opt to leave a public school for a private school. The cost to the public schools has been substantial. As an example, in Wisconsin, “according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the voucher program will cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $1.1 billion from 2011 through the end of the 2015–17 budget cycle. Meanwhile, a new report found that Wisconsin schools have suffered the 4th biggest cuts in the nation through 2014.” In light of these realities, in 2016 a Nevada court found that the recently enacted voucher program in that state violated the state constitution and halted the program, saying vouchers diverted funds from public education to the private sector.

Even the most ardent defenders of free-market competition would never countenance requiring their industry to pay for potential competitors, yet that is exactly what states are demanding of public schools.

In many states, governors and legislators are responding to pressure from well-heeled owners of charter school franchises who make sizable political contributions. With minimal financial or educational accountability and transparency, they are pushing through lucrative property deals and public bond funding to replace large numbers of public schools. This type of giveaway is reminiscent of Russia’s gifting billion-dollar state enterprises to a favored few. In a recent interview, Preston Green contends that unregulated charter school expansion will result in a catastrophe comparable to the subprime mortgage crisis.

Finally, while the costs of a few charters do not put a district in jeopardy, if charter expansion becomes widespread, at some point a tipping point is reached. At that point, schools serving the non-charter student must substantially cut back and the district becomes extremely vulnerable. Further widespread privatization plans severely impact communities.

It is disappointing how many politicians from both parties have joined forces with or played into this agenda. One example is New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has vowed to “break” public education. At the urging of a small number of billionaire hedge funders, he has been a forceful advocate for the Test-and-Punish approach. Unlike other states, New York rashly began high-stakes testing before teachers had a chance to implement the Common Core State Standards. It took part in setting the proficiency levels way too high, which forced large-scale failure rates. State leaders then berated the schools and teachers for their low performance. Cuomo has publically denounced teachers and their unions and, most disturbingly, has persuaded Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature to enact an extremely punitive teacher evaluation plan that incorporates all the damaging components of Test-and-Punish. Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, labeled Cuomo’s proposal “insane.” Cuomo is also pursuing voucher plans for private schools. Faced with mounting opposition, the governor backed off some of these proposals in late 2015.

Seeking Common Ground

Thankfully, some original supporters of Test-and-Punish strategies are now revising their views in light of stalled performance gains and evidence of massive disruption and backlash. Chester Finn, president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is a strong advocate of choice and charters, but he now admits that he undervalued the importance of instruction and capacity building. Mike Petrilli, the institute’s current president, has been promoting a more balanced, less punitive approach to reform. Petrilli has also changed his view on what he now perceives as federal overreach. We do disagree on two issues: the relative importance of charters and the supposed harm caused by unions.

Katy Haycock from EdTrust initially argued that it was necessity to put pressure on the schools because without coercion schools would not attend to the needs of minority children. She now supports a more nuanced position, also emphasizing the need for positive engagement and capacity building. Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is another thought leader who recommends a balanced view of teacher evaluation and accountability. Here is an excerpt from his blog post:

Test data also fueled the teacher accountability movement, perhaps the greatest overreach in the reform playbook and surely the source of much of the anger driving the opt-out movement. Hess observed that the reform agenda “was crafted with the troubles of the inner-city in mind . . . many suburban and middle-class parents have issues when those reforms are extended to the schools that educate their children.” He’s right. When well-loved teachers at popular suburban schools tell parents, fairly or not, that testing undermines their work and keeps them awake at night worrying about their jobs, reformers cannot expect those parents to sit idly by.

If reformers want the data that testing provides, they may simply have to abandon attempts to tie test scores to individual teachers. Personally, I think that’s a fair exchange. Test scores in a single classroom can have at least as much to do with class composition, curriculum, and district-mandated pedagogies as teacher effectiveness. Uncoupling tests from high-stakes teacher accountability to preserve the case for higher standards, charters, and choice might be the reasonable way forward. Ultimately, there may be no other choice.

Many Democrats and some Republicans are backing away from severe anti-school and anti-teacher rhetoric. The new ESSA legislation coauthored by Senators Lamar Alexander (Republican) and Patty Murray (Democrat) responded to perceived federal overreach and rejects test-driven high-stakes teacher and school evaluations. President Obama, himself, has warned of the dangers of over-testing and in his 2016 budget proposed $1 billion to engage and support teachers. John King, who replaced Arne Duncan as secretary of education, has also embarked on an effort to reconcile with teachers. In addition, many states and districts are retreating from questionable teacher evaluation programs and devoting more resources to teacher support and development. The school system in Washington, DC, is one example.

Recently, advocates from the two camps—conventional reform and Build-and-Support—have been engaged in finding common ground. Steve Barr, who ran the Green Dot public charter schools in Los Angeles, is now the head of the California branch of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), whose parent organization and state affiliates have been strong advocates of an aggressive reform agenda. In several meetings, it became apparent that both camps could reach agreement on 80–90% of the Build-and-Support ideas championed on this website.

Barr is somewhat of an outlier among reform advocates, having said: “Don’t lead with test-driven teacher evaluation. That would not even make my top ten list of important measures to pursue.” But he seems to represent a growing number of reformers who want to get beyond the conflict and who increasingly agree with many of the planks in the Build-and-Support approach:

  • school- and district-level capacity building
  • continuous improvement
  • implementation of the Common Core State Standards
  • focus on attracting, training, and supporting the next generation of high-caliber teachers

Importantly, almost all of the conventional “reform” and Build-and-Support groups have banded together in TeachStrong, a new coalition of organizations that advocates measures that will strengthen the teaching profession. Another group looking for common areas of agreement is Third Way. I would agree with many (but not all) of their proposed compromises.

Nationally, there is also some movement toward the more engaging Build-and-Support model. In his blog post “One Size Fits Most,” Mike Petrilli offers a window into a potential compromise. He argues that education reform doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition between two of the most powerful strategies for how to improve our schools. He describes the two views as the Coherence Camp, which aims to build the teaching profession around teaching and learning (Build-and-Support), and the Dynamic Camp, which wants to enlist American ingenuity to create new methods of schooling. He does not define the reform group by test-driven high-stakes accountability. He believes that the coherence idea should be the default position with opportunities for the dynamic bunch to create alternatives.

Here is the way Mike Petrilli describes the Coherence Camp:

The Coherence Camp looks longingly at Europe and Asia, where many (national) systems offer teachers the opportunity to work as professionals in environments of trust, clarity, and common purpose. (Japan envy yesterday, Finland envy today?) The members of this camp praise national standards, a national (or at least statewide) curriculum that gathers the best thinking about how to reach these standards and shares this thinking with the teaching corps, authentic assessments that provide diagnostic information, and professional development (pre-service and in-service) that is seamlessly woven into all of the rest. These countries can (and do) pore over their latest PISA results, identify areas for improvement, and get their educators to row in unison toward stronger performance. And their scores go up and up and up.

I would only add that many schools and districts in this country are also raising their scores by following these ideas. The next series of companion articles How Top Performers Build-and-Support address these measures in detail.

Recent Developments

9/14/2016 14 out of 15 schools in Michigan’s state takeover district are still “failing” https://dianeravitch.net/2016/09/07/michigan-14-of-15-eaa-schools-are-failing/

7/30/2016 A recent publication by Eunice Han, who has a PhD in Economics from Harvard, shows that unionized districts experience increased retention of the best teachers, more layoffs of incompetent teachers, and as a result produce higher quality learning. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/07/21/think-teachers-cant-be-fired-because-of-unions-surprising-results-from-new-study/

7/30/2016 Another report demonstrating that massive cuts to education funding are harming kids. https://ourfuture.org/20160610/mindless-underfunding-of-schools-continues-doing-harm-to-kids

BBS Companion Articles

How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Ground Efforts in Unassailable Research
Provide Engaging Broad-Based Liberal Arts Curriculum
Provide High-Quality Instruction
Build Teams and Focus on Continuous Improvement
Provide Adequate School Funding
Lessons Learned from Successful Districts
Exemplary Models of Build-and-Support

Reference Notes

Bryant, J. (2015, Jul 9). State Governments Continue an Assault on Public Schools. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/state-governments-continue-an-assault-on-public-schools/ See also Hursh, D. (2015). The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education. New York and London: Routledge.

Damaging Cuts in Public Education
Ravitch, D. (2015, Oct 10). Indiana: Less Money, More Chaos. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/10/20/indiana-less-money-more-chaos/

Ravitch, D. (2015, Dec 13). North Carolina: Important Discussion of Wrecking Ball Crew Trying to Demolish Public Education. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/13/north-carolina-important-discussion-of-wrecking-ball-crew-trying-to-demolish-public-education/

Seward, C. (2015, Dec 19). “Altered State” Report Measures the Toll of NC’s Shift to Right. The News Observer. http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article50687995.html

Leachman, M., Albares, N., Masterson, K., & Wallace, M. (2016, Jan 25). Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/most-states-have-cut-school-funding-and-some-continue-cutting

Antigovernment and Antiunion Forces at Work
Resseger, J. (2016, Mar 14). ALEC Relentlessly Cashes in on Kids and their Public Schools. https://janresseger.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/alec-relentlessly-cashes-in-on-kids-and-their-public-schools/ See also The Center for Media and Democracy. (2015, Jul 14). Alec Exposed. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Goldstein, D. (2014). The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. New York: Doubleday.

Ehrenhalt, A. (2016, Jan 19). “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/books/review/dark-money-by-jane-mayer.html

Hess, R. (2012, Nov 30). The Common Core Kool-Aid. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rick_hess_straight_up/2012/11/the_common_core_kool-aid.html.

Ravitch, D. (2016, Jan 10). Walton Family Foundation Will Spend $1 Billion to Start New Charters Across the Nation. http://dianeravitch.net/2016/01/10/walton-family-foundation-will-spend-1-billion-to-start-new-charters-across-the-nation/

Brown, E. (2016, Jan 13). Netflix Chief Announces $100 Million Fund for Education. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/01/13/netflix-chief-announces-100-million-fund-for-education/

One Wisconsin Institute. (2015, Dec 17). Bradley Foundation’s Radical Education Privatization Campaign Rolls On. http://onewisconsinnow.org/institute/press/bradley-foundations-radical-education-privatization-campaign-rolls-on/

Holloway, K. (2016, Mar 28). Campbell Brown: The New Leader of the Propaganda Arm of School Privatization. http://www.alternet.org/education/campbell-brown-new-leader-propaganda-arm-school-privatization

Bryant, J. (2015, Dec 8). Study Finds Unions Improve Teacher Quality, Lead to Lower Dropout Rates. https://ourfuture.org/20151208/study-finds-unions-improve-teacher-quality-high-school-dropout-rates

DuFour, R. (2015). In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Ricker, M. C. (2015, Jul 20). Teacher-Community Unionism: A Lesson from St. Paul. http://www.learningfirst.org/teacher-community-unionism-lesson-st-paul

David, J. L., & Talbert, J. E. (2012, Oct). Turning Around a High-Poverty School District: Learning from Sanger Unified’s Success. Final Report. S. H. Cowell Foundation. http://web.stanford.edu/group/suse-crc/cgi-bin/drupal/sites/default/files/Sanger%20Turnaround%2010-14-12.pdf

Humphrey, D., Koppich, J., & Tiffany-Morales, J. (2016, Mar). Replacing Teacher Evaluation Systems with Systems of Professional Growth: Lessons from Three California School Districts and Their Teachers’ Unions. SRI International. https://www.sri.com/work/publications/replacing-teacher-evaluation-systems-systems-professional-growth-lessons-three

A Toxic Narrative
Miles, K. H., & Baroody, K. (2015, Jul 2). Schools Succeeding Because of the System, Not in Spite of It. http://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2015/07/02/schools_succeeding_because_of_the_system_not_in_spite_of_it_1206.html

Stewart, J. (2015, Aug 3). In a Desert of School Failure, 96th Street Elementary in Watts Soars by Rewriting the Rules. LA Weekly. http://www.laweekly.com/news/in-a-desert-of-school-failure-96th-street-elementary-in-watts-soars-by-rewriting-the-rules-5865357

Russakoff, D. (2015). The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Green, E. (2014). Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach it to Everyone). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Lessons from New Orleans
Johnson, A. (2015, Aug 28). Katrina’s “Golden Opportunity”: 10 Years of Corporate Media Celebrating Disaster. http://fair.org/home/katrinas-golden-opportunity-10-years-of-corporate-media-celebrating-disaster/

Thompson, J. (2015, Jun 15). The New Orleans Charter Mentality of “My Way or the Highway” Is Not the Path Toward Building Learning Communities, and Breaking the Cycles of Poverty. http://www.livingindialogue.com/questions-persist-about-new-orleans-test-score-gains/

Failing Grades
Schneider, M. (2015, Jun 16). A Bad Day for the RSD “Improvement” Narrative: The History of La. Graduation Rates. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/a-bad-day-for-the-rsd-improvement-narrative-the-history-of-la-graduation-rates/

Schneider, M. (2013, Mar 5). New Orleans’ Recovery School District: The Lie Unveiled. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/new-orleans-recovery-school-district-the-lie-unveiled/

Sims, P., & Rossmeier, V. (2015, Jun). The State of Public Education in New Orleans: 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University. http://www.speno2015.com/

Heilig, J. V. (2015, Aug 28). Should Louisiana and the Recovery School District Receive Accolades for Being Last and Nearly Last? http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2015/08/policy_brief_louisiana/

Gabor, A. (2015, Sep 9). Why Jon Alter Needs to Do More Homework on Charters. http://andreagabor.com/2015/09/09/why-jon-alter-needs-to-do-more-homework-on-charters/

Davis, O. (2015, Aug 28). The Uncounted. http://www.ibtimes.com/uncounted-2062614

Kimmett, C. (2015, Aug 28). Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans’ All-Charter School System Has Proven a Failure. In These Times. http://inthesetimes.com/article/18352/10-years-after-katrina-new-orleans-all-charter-district-has-proven-a-failur

Miller, L. (2015, Aug 9). New Orleans Recovery District Called a Dismal Failure by the City’s Leading African American Newspaper. https://millermps.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/new-orleans-recovery-district-called-a-dismal-failure-by-the-citys-leading-african-american-newspaper/

Adamson, F., Cook-Harvey, C., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2015, Sep 30). Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1374

Limited Gains and Unnecessary Damage
DeArmond, M., Denice, P., Gross, B., Hernandez, J., Jochim, A., & Lake, R. (2015, Oct). Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities. http://www.crpe.org/publications/measuring-educational-improvement-and-opportunity-50-cities See also Prothero, A. (2015, Aug 4). New Orleans Test Scores Have ‘Shot Up’ 10 Years after Katrina, Report Says. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2015/08/new_orleans_test_scores_improved_with_charter_schools_after_huricane_katrina.html

Berkshire, J. C. (2015, Aug 3). “Reform” Makes Broken New Orleans Schools Worse: Race, Charters, Testing and the Real Story of Education After Katrina. http://www.salon.com/2015/08/03/reform_makes_broken_new_orleans_schools_worse_race_charters_testing_and_the_real_story_of_education_after_katrina/

Mitchell, C. (2015, Aug 19). “Death of My Career”: What Happened to New Orleans’ Veteran Black Teachers? Education Week. http://neworleans.edweek.org/veteran-black-female-teachers-fired/?cmp=eml-sr-nola10

Albert Shanker Institute. (2015, Sep 9). Ten Years After the Deluge: The State of Public Education in New Orleans. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/event/public-education-new-orleans

Buras, K. L. (2014). Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance. New York and London: Routledge.

Harris, D. N. (2015, Aug 31). How Everyone Is Getting It Wrong on New Orleans School Reform. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/31/how-everyone-is-getting-it-wrong-on-new-orleans-school-reform/

Other Failed Examples: State Takeovers
Rubenstein, G. (2014, Jul 31). Underachievement School District 2014 Edition. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/underachievement-school-district-2014-edition/ For a 2015 Vanderbilt report showing little or negative effect for the Achievement District, see also Zimmer, R., Kho, A., Henry, G., & Viano, S. (2015, Dec). Evaluation of the Effect of Tennessee’s Achievement School District on Student Test Scores. http://www.tnconsortium.org/projects-publications/turn-around-schools/index.aspx

Rubenstein, G. (2015, Jul 31). The Underachievement School District 2015 Edition, Part 1. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/the-underachievement-school-district-2015-edition-part-i/

Ravitch D. (2015, Dec 19). Tennessee: Memphis School Board Calls for Moratorium for Achievement School District. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/19/tennessee-memphis-school-board-calls-for-moratorium-for-achievement-school-district/

Felton, E. (2015, Oct 19). Are Turnaround Districts the Answer for America’s Worst Schools? http://hechingerreport.org/are-turnaround-districts-the-answer-for-americas-worst-schools/

Electablog. (2015, Dec 6). The Sad, Predictable, Outrageous, and Infuriating History of the Education Achievement Authority in 127 Headlines. http://www.eclectablog.com/2015/12/the-sad-predictable-outrageous-and-infuriating-history-of-the-education-achievement-authority-in-127-headlines.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+eclectablog%2FkInS+%28Eclectablog%29

Sen, A. (2016, Feb 5). State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools: A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement & Student Harm. The Center for Popular Democracy. http://populardemocracy.org/news/publications/state-takeovers-low-performing-schools-record-academic-failure-financial See also Downey, M. (2015, Aug 19). Opinion: Who Sees Greatest Opportunities from Deal’s Opportunity School District? http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/08/19/opinion-gov-deals-opportunity-school-district-offers-opportunity-but-not-for-students/

Mathis, W. J., & Welner, K. G. (2016, Mar). The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance. National Education Policy Center. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options

The Center for Media and Democracy. (2015, Jul 14). Alec Exposed. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Holloway, K. (2015, Sep 1). How the Billionaire Kingpins of School Privatization Got Stopped in Their Own Back Yard. http://www.alternet.org/education/how-billionaire-kingpins-school-privatization-got-stopped-their-own-back-yard

Privatization Failures
Ravitch, D. (2015, Dec 1). D.C. Test Scores Are Disastrous. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/01/d-c-test-scores-are-disastrous/ See also the massive evaluation report on Washington, DC, schools, which found mixed results: Merrow, J (2015, Dec 8). A Premature Celebration in DC. http://themerrowreport.com/2015/12/08/a-premature-celebration-in-dc/ and Heitin, L. (2016, Mar 2). 3rd Grade Reading Scores in D.C. Show No Improvement. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2016/03/3rd_grade_reading_scores_in_dc_show_no_improvement.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

Luzer, D. (2015, Aug 5). Arizona’s Magic Private School Tax Credits Don’t Work. Washington Monthly.

Kaplan, J. (2016, Feb 29). Parents, Teachers, Students, Communities Unite and Fight: A Speech to Boston’s Teachers and Communities. https://kaplanforkids.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/parents-teachers-students-communities-unite-and-fight-a-speech-to-bostons-teachers-and-communities/ See also Kaplan, J. (2016, May 17). What’s Next? https://kaplanforkids.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/whatsnext/

Abdulkadiroglu, A., Pathak, P. A., & Walters, C. R. (2016, Mar 25). School Vouchers and Student Achievement: Evidence from the Louisiana Scholarship Program. National Bureau of Economic Research.http://www.nber.org/papers/w21839 See also Bryant, J. (2015, Jun 26). Lessons to Be Learned from New Orleans Style Education Reform. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/lessons-to-be-learned-from-new-orleans-style-education-reform/ and National Education Policy Center. (2015, Jul 13). New Orleans Recovery School District Not Quite as Recovered as Advertised. http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2015/07/new-orleans-recovery and Bigard, A. (2015, Aug 13). From New Orleans: Washing Machine-Style Education Reform. The Progressive. http://www.progressive.org/news/2015/08/188260/new-orleans-washing-machine-style-education-reform?mc_cid=53865994c1&mc_eid=efac155d28

Lubienski C. (2016, Mar 7). New Studies of Vouchers Show Harm to Students. http://dianeravitch.net/2016/03/07/christopher-lubienski-new-studies-on-vouchers-show-harm-to-students/

Ravitch, D. (2014, Apr 20). Swedish Experiment in Privatizing Schools Floundering. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/20/swedish-experiment-in-privatizing-schools-floundering/ See also Pollard, N. (2013, Dec 10). Insight: Sweden Rethinks Pioneering School Reforms, Private Equity Under Fire. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/10/us-sweden-schools-insight-idUSBRE9B905620131210#0GQKi5YX6VylbD1j.97 and Hargreaves, A. (2016, Mar 2). Teachers and Professional Collaboration: How Sweden Has Become the ABBA of Educational Change. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/teachers-and-professional-collaboration-how-sweden-has-become-abba-educational-change

Hatch, T. (2014, Oct 29). Proposals for Change in Chile. http://internationalednews.com/2014/10/29/proposals-for-change-in-chile/ See also Ravitch, D. (2014, Apr 20). Chile: Dismantling the Most Pro-Market Education System in the World. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/20/chile-dismantling-the-most-pro-market-education-system-in-the-world/ and Carnoy, M., & McEwan, P. (2014, Jul 25). Does Privatization Improve Education? The Case of Chile’s National Voucher Plan. Research Gate. http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Martin_Carnoy/publication/237545374_DOES_PRIVATIZATION_IMPROVE_EDUCATION_THE_CASE_OF_CHILE’S_NATIONAL_VOUCHER_PLAN/links/53d28d770cf228d363e94866.pdf

Southern Education Foundation. (2016). Race and Ethnicity in a New Era of Public Funding for Private Schools. http://www.southerneducation.org/PubliclyFundedPrivateSchoolSegregation

One Wisconsin Institute. (2015, Dec 17). Bradley Foundation’s Radical Education Privatization Campaign Rolls On. http://onewisconsinnow.org/institute/press/bradley-foundations-radical-education-privatization-campaign-rolls-on/

Education Law Center. (2016, Jan 11). Court Declares Nevada Voucher Law Violates State Constitution. http://www.edlawcenter.org/news/archives/national/court-declares-nevada-voucher-law-violates-state-constitution.html See also Heilig, J. V., & Portales, J. (2012, Nov 10). Are Vouchers a Panacea or Problematic? http://cloakinginequity.com/?s=are+vouchers+a+panacea+or+problematic&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=Go

Berkshire, J. (2016, Jan 4). Are Charter Schools the New Subprime Mortgages? http://edushyster.com/are-charter-schools-the-new-subprime-mortgages/ See also Grant, P. (2015, Oct 13). Charter-School Movement Grows—for Real-Estate Developers. The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/charter-school-movement-growsfor-real-estate-investors-1444750383

Heilig, J. V. (2016, Jan 25). Updated: Hostile Charter Takeovers Sideline Communities. http://cloakinginequity.com/2016/01/25/hostile-charter-takeovers-sideline-communities/

Clukey, K. (2015, Dec 9). Common Core Panel to Call for Teacher Evaluation Moratorium, Test Overhaul. http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/12/common-core-panel-to-call-for-teacher-evaluation-moratorium-test-overhaul-028942

Taylor, K. (2015, Nov 25). Cuomo, in Shift, Is Said to Back Reducing Test Scores’ Role in Teacher Reviews. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/26/nyregion/cuomo-in-shift-is-said-to-back-reducing-test-scores-role-in-teacher-reviews.html?ref=topics&_r=0

Joseph, G. (2015, Mar 19). 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York’s Public Schools—Here’s Their Story. The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/article/9-billionaires-are-about-remake-new-yorks-public-schools-heres-their-story/ See also Di Carlo, M. (2015, Mar 9). How Not to Improve New Teacher Evaluation Systems. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/how-not-improve-new-teacher-evaluation-systems

Seeking Common Ground
Finn, C. E., Jr. (2014, Jul 30). Education Reform in 2014. http://edexcellence.net/articles/education-reform-in-2014

Petrilli, M. J. (2015, Mar 9). How to End the Education Reform Wars. http://edexcellence.net/articles/how-to-end-the-education-reform-wars

Petrilli, M. J. (2015, Aug 12). The New ESEA Will Be “Loose-Loose” Because Arne Duncan Went Overboard with “Tight-Tight.” http://edexcellence.net/articles/the-new-esea-will-be-%E2%80%9Cloose-loose%E2%80%9D-because-arne-duncan-went-overboard-with-%E2%80%9Ctight-tight%E2%80%9D

Pondiscio, R. (2015, May 8). Four Lessons from the Opt-Out Debate. http://edexcellence.net/articles/four-lessons-from-the-opt-out-debate?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=31e674bf67-051315_EducationGadflyWeekly5_13_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-31e674bf67-71491225

Sawchuk, S. (2016, Feb 12). Could $1 Billion Make Teaching the Best Job in the World? http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2016/02/could_1b_make_teaching_the_best_job.html

Brown, E. (2016, Feb 20). John King Is Trying to Repair the Obama Administration’s Frayed Relationship with Teachers. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/john-king-is-trying-to-repair-the-obama-administrations-frayed-relationship-with-teachers/2016/02/19/a28b88de-d666-11e5-9823-02b905009f99_story.html

Brown, E. (2016, Feb 10). D.C. Public Schools, Closely Watched for its Reform Efforts, Is Overhauling Teacher Evaluation and Training. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-public-schools-to-overhaul-teacher-evaluation-and-training/2016/02/10/bdb9ed2a-cf41-11e5-b2bc-988409ee911b_story.html?wprss=rss_education

TeachStrong. http://teachstrong.org/

Hiler, T., & Hatalsky, L. E. (2016, Feb 22). The New Normal in K–12 Education. http://www.thirdway.org/report/the-new-normal-in-k-12-education

Petrilli, M. J. (2011, Aug 26). One Size Fits Most. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-j-petrilli/one-size-fits-most_b_937850.html

Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed: Four Nostrums of Conventional School Reform

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Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Four Nostrums of Conventional School Reform

by Bill Honig

The reform movement has failed to produce results overall, and reputable evaluations have shown that individual reform measures also proved to be ineffective. Turnaround schools, charter schools, incentive schemes, or test-based school and teacher accountability have had either nonexistent or trivial effects. In his book Visible Learning, John Hattie writes that even when reforms produced small gains, they fall far below the improvements brought about by validated initiatives. In this article, I examine four other nostrums of reform.

Major Problems with Teach for America (TFA)

Teach for America (TFA) attracts bright, motivated graduates from our top colleges who agree to teach in public or charter schools for two years. They receive just five weeks of training and then are thrown into schools to sink or swim. Not surprisingly, many flounder and, at the end of their two-year commitment, leave the classroom in large numbers. By the end of five years, large numbers have left teaching. You cannot build a profession on a two-year commitment with minimal training.

Gary Rubenstein is a former TFA teacher. For a devastating, ongoing critique of TFA’s practices, see his blog. In another alumni critique, Andrew Gerst offers suggestions for improvement based on the Aspire charter management organization training model. Aspire has a one-year internship, which results in large numbers of neophytes performing well in their second year and staying in the profession. Both critics claim that TFA is unwilling to spend its considerable profits to fix flagrant deficiencies. Many former TFA teachers, now dissident apostates, have written about major flaws with the program. See also an interview with Daniel Katz who recommends that his students not consider Teach for America. The organization has been addressing some of these issues. TFA has a small pilot that requires a longer commitment and provides an initial year’s internship, is beginning to invest more heavily in first year coaching, and is allowing local TFA regions to institute changes in the model.

One of Rubinstein’s most powerful points is that although many TFA teachers leave at the end of two years, some stay in education and wind up as unseasoned principals and superintendents. Despite the teachers’ limited backgrounds in education and minimal experience, good political connections enable them to move into these important positions. Many of these young TFA veterans prove to be disasters as administrators. In part, this is due to their unwillingness to learn from competent educators and their ignorance of educational best practice. Of course, it did not help matters that they often were cast as knights in shining armor coming to save inept over-the-hill educators.

Mathematica conducted an evaluation of a small number of high school TFA teachers and found essentially no advantage in hiring them. The analysis found no difference in reading scores and only a negligible difference in math. A recent report on elementary TFA teachers also found no effects and revealed that most were planning to leave the profession quickly. In addition, their view of the training received had fallen compared to that of participants in previous years. For a critical review of the report, see Vasquez Heilig’s blog.

Barbara Veltri is a former TFA trainer. She wrote a disparaging analysis of TFA’s practices claiming, among other deficiencies, that a large number of TFA teachers are especially ill equipped to teach math. Katie Osgood adds to the discussion by describing how TFA’s heavy indoctrination of teachers hampers their classroom effectiveness. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the program and its infrastructure could have been invested in supporting new teachers who wanted to make education a career and who were willing to get the proper training. Finally, Julian Heilig and Jameson Brewer have produced several podcasts titled Truth for America detailing the shortcomings of TFA by former TFA teachers.

Teach for America has turned into a massive financial enterprise—with assets worth nearly $500 million and managers earning absurdly high salaries. In 2013, its two co-CEOs received $382,000 and $342,000, respectively, and TFA founder Wendy Kopp received $156,000 for an eight-hour workweek during that same year. TFA obtains large federal and state grants as well as funding from conservative foundations that seem eager to replace competent experienced teachers with cheap raw recruits. For providing these low-cost replacements, TFA charges districts a hefty sum. In 2013, it received grants of $74 million in “government grants” and charged districts an additional $32 million in “service fees.” Not bad for a supposedly charitable nonprofit organization staffed by raw recruits, many of whom will be gone in two years. Fortunately, the word is getting out about TFA. Its enrollments are down, and districts are starting to eliminate the program.

In 1969 I was part of a similar federally funded project called Teacher Corps, which truly was a solid program. Our cycle had 40 people from different walks of life and different ethnic/racial backgrounds. We were 10 African-Americans, 10 Asian-Americans, 10 Hispanics, and 10 whites. The major difference between Teacher Corps and Teach for America’s program was that we did not limit our commitment to two years, and a respected school of education at San Francisco State University managed the program. We were given extensive training, not only in the summer before we started as interns, but for one full year after that. The education I received both at the college and on-site in the schools was excellent. No sink or swim. The Aspire charter school network has a similar internship program as do some of our best performing public school districts.

In promoting itself, Teach for America has used rhetoric closely aligned with the narrative used by some of the more extreme members of the “reform movement.” Its leaders have the unfortunate habit of claiming that public schools and teachers are inept and have nothing of value to teach TFA, and that only its recruits can save America’s failing schools. This is how the organization attempts to energize and motivate its trainees—by tearing down the existing structure. We got some of that in Teacher Corps, but were very quickly disabused of this arrogant attitude when it turned out that our supervising teachers in the schools actually knew what they were doing. We learned a great deal from them.

Many Teach for America teachers who chose to stay in education have become stellar professionals. Many others have left under duress after two years or to take more lucrative jobs in the corporate sector. But it is absolutely indefensible to build up your own organization by castigating public schools, allowing your teachers to replace qualified veteran teachers because they are cheaper, and allying yourself with extreme reformers who are bent on privatizing public education.

How About Merit Pay?

Merit pay sounds like a good idea. Pay our best teachers more and teachers will strive harder and stay in the profession longer. Unfortunately, just about every study has found that merit pay does not improve student or teacher performance. A few evaluations have reported gains from merit pay, but the increases were negligible. Merit pay schemes cause considerable collateral damage by forcing teachers to compete against each other, instead of encouraging and rewarding team-building and collaboration. Often merit pay proposals also use ill-conceived mechanisms for determining who gets rewarded. The result is that a significant number of deserving teachers get overlooked, while low-performing teachers get rewarded. Ironically, the extra money is not what motivates most teachers; they would rather be part of an effective group effort.

At any rate, there is a much better way to reward our best teachers and keep them in the profession—career ladders. Let our most proficient educators earn more money, but we should require them to mentor existing or new teachers and take on instructional development or leadership roles in addition to their classroom duties. They would earn more pay, but instead of merit pay’s something-for-nothing approach, they would contribute their talents to the continuous improvement efforts at the school. See the report written by Catherine F. Natale and her colleagues, Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: A 21st Century Imperative. Why pay our best teachers stipends without receiving additional help from them? Most teachers strongly oppose merit pay, but few have objections to paying our best practitioners for taking on additional responsibilities. In fact, there is already a strong precedent for career ladder strategies. In secondary schools, department chairs receive a stipend when assuming additional duties.

Is Test-Based Retention Effective?

Similar problems occur when test results have high-stakes consequences for students. Comparable to using test performance for teacher evaluations and merit pay, single application tests should not be used to decide whether a third grader gets promoted to fourth. As discussed in the companion article Have High-Stakes Testing and Privatization Been Effective?, performance on a standardized test isn’t sufficiently accurate, and there are much better ways to determine student progress. It might be acceptable to use the information from once-a-year test results as one piece of data (albeit a very weak source of information) to ascertain what a student knows and to fashion appropriate instruction or intervention. But relying primarily on a broad-scale assessment to determine a high-stakes decision such as promotion is especially dangerous and unfair.

Many states that have adopted retention schemes offer students alternative methods to avoid being retained. Even so, holding students back is still an unsound policy. Sadly, many districts have lately been forced to adopt retention policies under state legislation authored by conservative governors and legislatures, many of whom are at the beck and call of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These harsh legislative mandates were passed under the guise of ending “social promotion.” This flies in the face of 30 years of research that has shown this strategy does not work and causes substantial harm to those children held back. These policies are tantamount to educational malpractice—research condemns them as academically, emotionally, and socially harmful to the student retained and to the class he or she is placed in. Retention is also very expensive—costing about $11,000 per student for one additional year of schooling. The money could be spent on far more effective approaches. See also David Berliner and Gene Glass’s 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools and the Education Week article “Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading?” Thankfully, some states are now retreating from such an ill-advised policy after witnessing its disastrous results. However, Nevada just adopted a retention scheme.

This valid and reliable research has found that when compared to the performance of students who are held back, the performance, graduation rates, and emotional health of similar struggling students who are promoted are all appreciably higher. The retention strategy often is based on noneducators’ unsound assumption that first-, second-, and third-grade students fail because they are not trying hard enough, and if they are held back or threatened with retention, they will exert more effort. The fact is that these students do not lack motivation. I have yet to encounter a child who doesn’t possess an intense desire to learn how to read. But I have witnessed the pain caused to youngsters who are separated from classmates and made to feel like failures because of misguided policies.

Two reports that studied retention found improvement in performance in later years. But, as critics of the reports and the report writers themselves point out, what the studies actually showed was that intensive intervention will lower failure rates. They never compared intensive intervention for comparable students not held back with intensive intervention and retention, which of course is the issue.

Virtually all cases of reading failure stem from a deficiency in initial reading instruction and the lack of proper intervention, even in kindergarten. There really is no excuse for not implementing the powerful knowledge about how to teach youngsters to read. Successful reading instruction and timely intervention will teach almost every student to read, and for those still having problems, support in the next grades will be much more fruitful than retaining those students. In addition, most retention plans concentrate policy on the third grade, which is several years too late. For a review of this research covering best first teaching practices and timely intervention, see the white paper on foundational skills in the California ELA/ELD framework and an article by Linnea Ehri summarizing what is known about beginning reading. Struggling students should not pay the price for a school’s failure to provide evidence-based instruction and early intervention. See also David Kilpatrick’s Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties and Louise Spear-Swerling’s The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems.

Further, all too often the retained student encounters the same instruction in the new class that the student received previously, thus producing little improvement. Then too, placing a resentful, older, and usually male student in a third-grade class when he is chronologically and socially ready for fourth grade, isolated from friends, and labeled a failure is a recipe for a problem-plagued year.

Forced retention of elementary students is a cruel and mean-spirited policy. What is frustrating for educators is that this politically imposed “solution” to reading difficulties hardly ever helps struggling students but does cause tremendous damage to those children and the school. It is another example of a highly touted “reform” that ignores a compelling body of research, adopts a simple but wrong solution to a complex problem, fails to pursue what does work, and then blames the victim.

How destructive this “reform” could be was brought home to me personally a decade ago. I will never forget the poignant conversation I had with a retained first grader. I was at the park with my three-year-old granddaughter, Annika. While she was playing, I struck up a conversation with a boy who was amazingly skillful on the monkey bars and who turned out to be quite engaging—overall, a great kid. In the course of our chat, I asked him how old he was (since he was so physically coordinated) and what grade he was in. He was old enough for second grade but had been retained in first. This was his previous teacher’s recommendation as the best approach for helping his struggles with reading. All of a sudden, these strong emotions emerged as he started to talk about being held back, his sadness over being cut off from his friends, his anger at what had been done to him and not knowing why they did it, and his sense of personal failure.

All this surfaced during a 15-minute conversation. I did talk to his grandparents who were with him at the park and counseled them to raise the issue with the parents, but they seemed reluctant to challenge the teacher or the school on the issue. What has never left me was how mature and outgoing this child was—even while suffering from a profound sadness from what had happened to him. And I was struck by how the people in the system, while thinking they were doing something helpful, had in fact caused him tremendous humiliation and anguish for naught by following such a benighted policy. What also bothered me enormously was that he was made to pay for the school’s mistakes. The school did not know how best to teach him to read, did not have support systems in place to help him other than holding him back, and placed misguided faith in the efficacy of retention. It reminded me of the doctors hundreds of years ago who caused patients substantial harm by bleeding them, under the mistaken belief that such a practice was beneficial.

A similar heartbreaking story unfolded for thousands of children in Mississippi who were held back when the governor sponsored legislation for strict retention but never funded support for early intervention.

Is Technology Innovation Key to School Improvement?

Many reform advocates tout technology as a critical disruptive element that will enable schools to perform better at less cost. Many opponents of conventional market-driven reform strategies initially worried that the movement to incorporate more technology in schools or to replace teachers with computers was just a ploy to sell unneeded devices or an invitation to corporate America to privatize education by replacing public schools with low-cost corporate schools. The experience in many states gives credence to these concerns. The terrible results from virtual charter schools, discussed at the end of this article and in the companion article Charter Schools Are Not the Key to Improving Public Education, are clearly a cautionary tale. For a 306-page handbook on the corporate takeover of our schools, see American Revolution 2.0: How Education Innovation Is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the US Economy.

A second objection to the use of technology to improve schools is based on Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation, one of the theories promoted by reformers. Christensen’s innovation has wreaked havoc on many neighborhood community schools without actually improving student or teacher performance. Critics argue that massive disruption does not seem appropriate for important public institutions like our schools. Jill Lapore seriously questions Christensen’s research in “The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong.”

Finally, the critics of technology express concerns that standards, test production and grading, and newly required materials and training are all being proposed in order to create huge new markets for the private sector. I am less apprehensive about this point. There is plenty of room for a vibrant public school sector to use the expertise of private and charitable entities in its pursuit of an effective Build-and-Support strategy. Proprietary instructional materials can supplement open-source materials. For an excellent example of the growing open-source material segment, visit the ISKME website. For an article about open-source materials, see “Free Online Content Helps Teachers Meet Common Core Demands.” See also the Common Sense Media website for reviews of digital and other educational materials or the tips for blended learning.

The more active curriculum envisioned by the Common Core standards and the Next Generation Science standards could profit from digitally delivered activities that are sophisticated, dynamic, and engaging. For example, a digital platform offers students the chance to investigate an epidemic in another country using online synchronous collaboration, access digital content that explains why the Industrial Revolution started in England, or participate in virtual science labs with simulations and graphic modeling. Relevant materials could be organized for these activities, thus avoiding open-ended Internet searches that are often overwhelming and unproductive for students.

Further, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) demonstrate how technology has the potential to provide all students with access to rich, effective curricula, including those with physical disabilities, learning differences, or limited proficiency in English.

For information about web tools, see the links provided by EdTechReview. Adaptive technology can drive instructional improvement by giving students immediate feedback, adjusting content and the amount of scaffolding to their individual needs, and organizing and reporting student performance data to help teachers track growth in important standards in real time. See, for example, the GOORU site.

One exciting development in the educational technology sector is the growing interest in gamification, or the use of game-design mechanics and principles to motivate and engage students. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center is at the forefront of research in this field. For a list of 100 websites in this area, see “Play to Learn: 100 Great Sites on Gamification” and The Game Believes in You, a recent book on the subject by Greg Toppo. See also the article “Frontiers of Digital Learning Probed by Researchers” and “Can Digital Games Improve Our Schools?,” a nuanced perceptive article by John Thompson.

Two books offer a critical analysis of eLearning games and digital simulation, questioning whether virtual activities actually produce results or work for all children. Our past experience with other supposedly “breakthrough” innovations suggests that the most appropriate approach is to avoid going overboard and to insist on balance.

Some educators and parents are worried about student privacy issues, but with proper prohibitions against selling data and restricting its use to feedback to teachers, those fears can be minimized. The potential power of these initiatives is too important to ignore.

Finally, there is the push for blended learning and performance-based instruction using technology. In blended-learning settings, a student works with a teacher and digital devices. In proper balance and if done right, blended learning could greatly enhance the curriculum. For an example, see Blackboard K–12. However, as widely documented, blended learning can be misused. For an international cautionary note, see a recent report that recommends a balanced approach after finding that too much technology in the classroom actually lowered student performance.

The jury is still out on whether technology innovation will improve instruction or suffer the same fate as previous technological fixes such as hyped teaching machines several decades ago, which turned out to be a huge fiasco.

As mentioned previously, virtual or online charter schools have had major problems in performance. Investigations have revealed some high-profile scams and exploitation. A 2015 report produced by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), Mathematica Policy Research, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that virtual charters result in the loss of a full year’s worth of instruction—a disastrous result. Both Samuelsohn and Stober have questioning the value of virtual schools have been published by many different sources.

Unquestionably, some technology advocates go too far and envision a future where machines and software replace expensive teachers and eliminate the social aspects of learning under the guidance of a competent, caring teacher. So far, that nightmare has not been realized.

Several major issues need to be more fully explored. One major question is how different students profit or fail to profit from technological solutions. Some youngsters have no problem with digital learning, while others become easily flummoxed or bored. Another concern is how to avoid overindulgence in unproductive games, prevent the hampering of social development, and escape the tendency to replace robust traditional instructional activities with low-level computer-based busywork.

Summing Up: The Failure of Conventional Reform

The ineffectiveness of current federal and state policies based on conventional reformers’ agendas should not have been surprising. Fifty years ago, W. E. Deming warned of the negative side effects of an overreliance on evaluation strategies and incentive schemes. Fear tends to make employees disengage, narrow their efforts, or game the system so they appear compliant. It diverts attention from and decreases motivation for collaborative teams and local structures that allow for continuous improvement. This ruinous situation is well known in the social sciences, articulated as Campbell’s law.

As Diane Ravitch explains:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

That is exactly what has occurred far too often in our educational system during the past decade under policies pursued by conventional “reformers.” Knowledgeable educators predicted that these initiatives would fail, but their warnings were ignored. As foretold, high-stakes, test-driven accountability has resulted in narrowing the curriculum, gaming the system or cheating, using unproven and unfair reward and punishment tools (such as the recent teacher evaluation debacles in many states), and encouraging superficial teaching to the test to the detriment of deeper learning. It has diverted attention from, de-emphasized, or belittled the policies that actually produce substantial results. No wonder the results have been disappointing.

More importantly, punitive management techniques and demonization of teachers and schools have not only eroded support for the institution of public education but have created widespread alienation among teachers.

This is why recent polls found that teachers in the US score among the highest on scales of liking their profession but among the lowest on satisfaction with their working environment, the very opposite of the engaged professionals we need to perform effectively in the difficult circumstances encountered in schools across the country. For example, a recent survey of 30,000 teachers by the American Federation of Teachers found high stress levels among teaching staff:

  • Only one in five educators feels respected by government officials or the media.
  • Fourteen percent of educators strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.
  • More than 75% say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
  • Seventy-eight percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.
  • Eighty-seven percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life

A MetLife survey found that in the face of ill-conceived reforms and political and societal censure, the percentage of teachers who were “very satisfied” dropped dramatically from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012. See also Jeff Bryant’s blog post “We Won’t Get Great Teachers by Treating Them Badly.”

Worse yet, the Test-and-Punish regime has convinced many teachers to leave the profession, a costly decision for schools and students, as reported in Revolving Door of Teachers Costs Schools Billions Every Year. High-stakes testing is one of the major causes of the wholesale flight of teachers from harsh “reform states” to more supportive jurisdictions. There are serious shortages of teachers in states such as North Carolina, Utah, Indiana, and Kansas. England has suffered similar effects from a Test-and-Punish regime.

Ironically, these studies also show that teachers yearn to break out of the traditional isolated culture of most schools and work together with their colleagues in an effort to become better at what they do. We should give them the chance to enlist in this crucial effort.

Broad swaths of the public have begun to turn against Test-and-Punish and privatization strategies; it is time for our political and opinion leaders to follow suit. The reaction to Arne Duncan’s resignation on October 1, 2015, as national secretary of education is instructive. Of the 228 comments written in response to a New York Times article reporting the event, it was hard to find even one supporting the aggressive policies the Obama administration had pursued. The comments were uniformly negative and angry—accusing the administration of devastating public education and providing the least effective educational leaders in recent history.

A statement by the Network for Public Education captures the spirit of the commentators:

The policies of the US Department of Education [under Duncan’s (and Obama’s) watch] have inflicted immeasurable harm on American public education. The blind faith in standardized testing as the most meaningful measure of students, teachers, principals, and schools has distorted the true meaning of education and demoralized educators. Punitive policies have created teacher shortages across the nation, as well as a precipitous decline in the number of people preparing to become teachers. The Race to the Top preference for privately managed charter schools over public schools has encouraged privatization of a vitally important public responsibility.

As I stated in the conclusion to the introductory remarks on this website: Public education has always been central to the continued health of our democracy and our way of life. So-called reformers have foisted a set of initiatives on our schools based on an outmoded management philosophy and a flawed analysis of what it takes to improve education. These policies ignore history, research, and experience, which is why our best schools and districts have studiously avoided them. The reformers’ proposals not only thwart the measures actually needed to improve our schools but their initiatives threaten to put the whole enterprise of public education at risk. We need an immediate course correction to follow the lead of our most successful schools and districts in creating effective learning communities at each school and, finally, building the educational profession that this country deserves.

Recent Developments

9/1/2016  A new report by the US Department of Education finds teacher incentive schemes ineffective. https://www.cabinetreport.com/curriculum-instruction/teacher-bonus-pay-barely-moves-the-dial-on-test-scores

7/30/2016 On-line Algebra students fare worse than those taught by a face-to-face teacher. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2016/07/online_algebra_worse_for_high-performing_students.html?r=1556213501

7/30/2016 Larry Cuban questions whether the hype on blending learning is accurate. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/proof-points-selling-and-marketing-blended-learning-to-educators-and-parents/

BBS Companion Articles

The Big Picture
Have High-Stakes Testing and Privatization Been Effective?
Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Charter Schools Are Not the Key to Improving Public Education

Reference Notes

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge.

Major Problems with Teach for America (TFA)
Blanchard, O. (2013, Sep 23). I Quit Teach for America. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/i-quit-teach-for-america/279724/

Rubinstein, G. (2015, Sep 19). Category Archives: Teach for America. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/category/teach-for-america/

Gerst, A. (2015, Jun 2). How I Would Fix Teach for America. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/06/02/a-tfa-teacher-how-i-would-like-to-fix-teach-for-america/

Davis, O. (2013, Aug 2). Teach for America Apostates: A Primer of Alumni Resistance. http://www.truth-out.org/articles/item/17750-teach-for-america-apostates-a-primer-of-alumni-resistance See also Brewer, J., & Matsui, S. (2015, Aug 3). Teach for America Counter-Narratives: Two Alumni Books Frame the Discourse. http://www.livingindialogue.com/teach-for-america-counter-narratives-two-alumni-books-reframe-the-discourse/ and Brewer, T. J., & deMarrais, K. (eds.). (2015). Teach for America Counter-Narratives: Black Studies and Critical Thinking. New York: Peter Lang Publishing; and Schaefer, P. (2015, Sept 11). After 25 Years, Teach for America Results Are Consistently Underwhelming. http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/09/11/after-25-years-teach-for-america-results-are-consistently-underwhelming/

Katz, D. (2015, Dec 18). Advice for My Students: Don’t “Teach for America.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielkatz/advice-for-my-students-do_b_8840714.html

Sawchuk, S. (2016, Jan 20). At 25, Teach for America Enters a Period of Change. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/15/at-25-teach-for-america-enters-period.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1-RM

Decker, P. (2001–2004). National Evaluation of Teach for America 2001–2004. Mathematic Policy Research. http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/projects/teach-for-america

Vasquez Heilig, J. (2015, Mar 10). Do You Have Five Minutes to Understand Whether Teach for America Is Effective? http://cloakinginequity.com/2015/03/10/do-you-have-five-minutes-to-understand-whether-teach-for-america-is-effective/

Veltri, B. (2015, Jun 3). Inside Information and Reflections from a Former TFA Instructor. http://cloakinginequity.com/2015/06/03/inside-information-and-reflections-from-a-former-tfa-trainer/

Osgood, K. (2016, Feb 10). The Dangers of Teach for America Indoctrination. http://mskatiesramblings.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-dangers-of-teach-for-america.html

Ravitch, D. (2016, Apr 23). Truth for America Podcast Episode 5. https://dianeravitch.net/2016/04/23/truth-for-america-podcast-episode-5/

Schneider, M. (2015, Jul 28). Teach for America Seeks Help Promoting Itself on Capitol Hill. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/teach-for-america-seeks-help-promoting-itself-on-capitol-hill/comment-page-1/

How About Merit Pay?
Moran, M. (2010, Sep 21). Teacher Performance Pay Alone Does Not Raise Test Scores. Vanderbilt News. http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2010/09/teacher-performance-pay/ See also Lavigne, A. L., & Good, T. L. (2014). Teacher and Student Evaluation: Moving Beyond the Failure of School Reform. New York: Routledge.

Tucker, M. (2016, Apr 14). How to Get a First-Rate Teacher in Front of Every Student. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/04/how_to_get_a_first-rate_teacher_in_front_of_every_student.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

Natale, C., Gaddis, L., Bassett, K., & McKnight, K. (2013). Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: A 21st Century Imperative. National Network of State Teachers of the Year and Center for Educator Learning and Effectiveness at Pearson http://researchnetwork.pearson.com/educator-effectiveness/personal-perspective-creating-sustainable-teacher-career-pathways-21st-century-imperative

Is Test-Based Retention Effective?
The Center for Media and Democracy. Alec Exposed. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed See also Berger, E. 2016, Jan 25). Arizona: Strangled by an Organized Minority. http://edwardfberger.com/arizona-strangled-by-an-organized-minority/

Xia, N., & Glennie, E. (January 2005). Grade Retention: A Flawed Education Strategy. Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. http://childandfamilypolicy.duke.edu/pdfs/pubpres/FlawedStrategy_PartOne.pdf See also Stipek, D., & Lombardo, M. (2014, May 20). Holding Kids Back Doesn’t Help Them. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/21/32stipek.h33.html

Berliner, D., & Glass, G., et. al. (2014). 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sparks, S. D. (2015, May 13). Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading? Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/13/should-3rd-grade-be-the-pivot-point.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1

Heitin, L. (2015, Jun 12). Can Most Kindergarteners Really Tackle ‘Emergent-Reader’ Texts? Most Coaches Say Yes. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/06/can_kindergartners_tackle_emer.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

Yopp, H. (2015). Resource Guide to the Foundational Skills of the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/search/searchresults.asp?cx=001779225245372747843:gpfwm5rhxiw&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=1&num=20&start=0&q=Yopp%202015%20Resource%20guide

Ehri, L. C. (2013, Sep 26). Orthographic Mapping in the Reading of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading 18 (1). http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10888438.2013.819356#.VXr1tOsqvzI

Chiles, N. (2015, May 28). As Mississippi Delivers Bad News to 5,600 Third Graders, Stressed-Out Parents Say There Must Be a Better Way. http://hechingerreport.org/as-mississippi-delivers-bad-news-to-5600-third-graders-stressed-out-parents-say-there-must-be-a-better-way/

Is Technology Innovation Key to School Improvement?
Strauss, V. (2015, Oct 31). Study on Online Charter Schools: “It Is Literally as if the Kid Did Not Go to School for an Entire Year.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/31/study-on-online-charter-schools-it-is-literally-as-if-the-kid-did-not-go-to-school-for-an-entire-year/

Moe, M. T., Hanson, M. P., Jiang, L., & Pampoulov, L. (2012, Jul 4). American Revolution 2.0: How Education Innovation Is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the U.S. Economy. GSV Asset Management. http://gsvadvisors.com/wordpress/wp-content/themes/gsvadvisors/American%20Revolution%202.0.pdf

Lepore, J. (2014, Jun 23). The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/the-disruption-machine

Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. http://www.iskme.org/

Ellison, K. (2015, Oct 15). Free Online Content Helps Teachers Meet Common Core Demands. http://edsource.org/2015/free-online-content-helps-teachers-meet-common-core-demands/88916

Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Blackboard. http://www.blackboard.com/k12/index.aspx

CAST. (2011, Feb 1). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines–Version 2.0. Universal Design for Living. http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines See also CAST. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines–Version 2.0: Research Evidence. Universal Design for Living. http://www.udlcenter.org/research/researchevidence/checkpoint5_1

Gupta, P. (2015, Dec 31). 100 Popular (from 2015) Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers and Educators to Explore. EdTech Review. http://edtechreview.in/research/2256-web-2-0-tools-for-teachers-educators?utm_source=EdTechReview%E2%84%A2+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=cb71fd3b7a-Top_11_Complementary_Guides_2_1_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94aed71205-cb71fd3b7a-105652173

Gooru. http://www.gooru.org/#home

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/

Play to Learn: 100 Great Sites on Gamification. http://top5onlinecolleges.org/gamification/

Toppo, G. (2015). The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Herold, B. (2015, May 6). Frontiers of Digital Learning Probed by Researchers. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/06/frontiers-of-digital-learning-probed-by-researchers.html?cmp=ENL-CM-NEWS2-RM

Thompson, J. (2015, Sep 1). Can Digital Games Improve Our Schools? http://www.livingindialogue.com/can-digital-games-improve-our-schools/

Clark, R. E., Yates, K., Early, S., & Moulton, K. (2009). An Analysis of the Failure of Electronic Media and Discovery-based learning: Evidence for the Performance Benefits of Guided Training Methods. In Silber, K. H., & Foshay, R. (eds.) Handbook of Training and Improving Workplace Performance, Volume I: Instructional Design and Training Delivery. New York: John Wiley and Sons. http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/recent_publications.php See also Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist. http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/recent_publications.php

Blackboard. http://www.blackboard.com/k12/index.aspx

Strauss, V. (2015, Jun 21). Blended Learning: The Great New Thing or the Great New Hype. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/21/blended-learning-the-great-new-thing-or-the-great-new-hype/ See also Corcoran, B. & Madda, M. J. (2015, Aug 8). Blended Learning and Flipping the Classroom: You’re Doing It Wrong. https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-08-08-blended-learning-and-flipping-the-classroom-you-re-doing-it-wrong and Dobo, N. (2015, Feb 10). What Mistakes Did They Make? Lessons from Blended Learning’s Early Adopters. http://hechingerreport.org/what-mistakes-did-they-make-learning-from-blended-learnings-early-adopters/ and Zhao, Y. (2015, Dec 6). ”Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job”: Five Big Mistakes in Education Technology and How to Fix Them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/06/never-send-a-human-to-do-a-machines-job-five-big-mistakes-in-education-technology-and-how-to-fix-them/

OECD. (2015). Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection. PISA, OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd.org/publications/students-computers-and-learning-9789264239555-en.htm For an erudite discussion of this dilemma, see Cuban, L. (2016, Jan 19). Technology Integration in Districts and Schools: Next Project (Part 1). https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/technology-integration-in-districts-and-schools-next-project-part-1/ and Cuban, L. (2016, Jan 22). New Project in Technology Integration in Schools and Classrooms (Part 2). https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/new-project-in-technology-integration-in-schools-and-classrooms-part-2/

Glass, G. V. (2015, Oct 14). Outrageous “Class” Sizes at a Virtual Charter School. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2015/10/outrageous-class-sizes-at-virtual.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EducationInTwoWorlds+%28Education+in+Two+Worlds%29 See also Miron, G., & Urschel, J. L. (2012, Jul). Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools. nepc.colorado.edu/files/nepcrbk12miron.pdf

Pazhouh, R., Lake, R., & Miller, L. (2015, Oct). The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools. The Center on Reinventing Public Education. http://www.crpe.org/publications/policy-framework-online-charter-schools

Samuelsohn, D. (2015, Sep 23). Virtual Schools Are Booming: Who’s Paying Attention? http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/09/virtual-schools-education-000227;

Stober, D. (2015, Oct 16). Massive Open Online Courses Haven’t Lived Up to the Hopes and the Hype, Professors Say. http://phys.org/news/2015-10-massive-online-courses-havent-hype.html

Summing Up: The Failure of Conventional Reform
Ravitch, D. (2012, May 25). What Is Campbell’s Law? http://dianeravitch.net/2012/05/25/what-is-campbells-law/

American Federation of Teachers. (2015, May 13). Survey Shows Need for National Focus on Workplace Stress. http://www.aft.org/news/survey-shows-need-national-focus-workplace-stress

Bryant, B. (2015, Jul 30). We Won’t Get Great Teachers by Treating Them Badly. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/we-wont-get-better-teachers-by-treating-them-badly/

Phillips, O. (2015, Mar 30). Revolving Door of Teachers Costs Schools Billions Every Year. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/03/30/395322012/the-hidden-costs-of-teacher-turnover

Bangert, D. (2015, Aug 3). Ed Reform’s Next Trick? Teacher Shortage. http://www.jconline.com/story/opinion/columnists/dave-bangert/2015/08/01/bangert-ed-reforms-next-trick-teacher-shortage/30981611/

Klein, R. (2015, Aug 8). A Memo to States: This Is How You Create a Teacher Shortage. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kansas-teacher-shortage-recipe_55c28ce6e4b0f1cbf1e3a2d7

Gilbert, F. (2016, Mar 1). Here’s the Real Reason Teachers Are Quitting (It’s Not Just the Money). http://theconversation.com/heres-the-real-reason-teachers-are-quitting-its-not-just-the-money-55468

Harris, G., & Rich, M. (2016, Oct 3). Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, to Step Down in December. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/us/politics/arne-duncan.html

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