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The California Context: How the CA Reading Wars Got Resolved: A Personal Story

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The California Context
How the California Reading Wars Got Resolved: A Personal Story

by Bill Honig

Too many children in the United States do not learn to read well in their early years, and that failure damages them in their future school careers. Yet the research and evidence on how best to teach beginning reading is largely settled. (For a summary of foundational reading research and best practice, see the section below “The Role of Foundational Reading Skills.”) There is no excuse for any youngsters beyond a very small number to fail to learn to read. Our most successful districts incorporate these ideas in instruction, but we still have a major problem in this country. Many less successful districts do not use this evidence-based approach, and a growing number have adopted alternative, discredited strategies such as “balanced literacy” programs that teach beginning readers to sound out only the first letter of a word (rather than all the letters) and use context clues to guess what the word is. Many of the students in these schools and districts never learn to decode properly and, as a result, are destined to remain weak readers. This situation is much like the case of military doctors who fail to put into practice the lessons learned in recent wars on how to minimize battlefield deaths from injuries.
I devoted a substantial part of my educational career to advocate for improved reading instruction based on the most potent research. I founded a group to promulgate these ideas (CORE) and wrote a book on the subject. The following is the story of that effort.

The Rise of Whole Language

Back in the 1970s when I was a member of the California State Board of Education, I wrote a pamphlet on reading instruction with JoEllen Taylor from Far West (now WestEd) entitled Planning an Effective Reading Program and published by them. We integrated using a skills approach to teach decoding and phonics with literature and writing-based strategies—a consensus that was blown apart in the late 1980s by the whole language movement’s opposition to phonics instruction.

During my tenure as California’s superintendent of public instruction, in the late ’80s we developed the Reading and Literature Framework, which stressed the importance of students being well read and encountering and discussing rich, varied literature. The framework mentioned phonics, but as it turned out not forcefully enough to withstand the whole language movement, which was then gathering steam.

The proponents of whole language believe that teaching skills such as phonics hurts children. Instead, they advocate an alternative approach that stresses reading together and using pictures, syntax, and context to guess the meaning of words instead of learning how letters map to sounds to sound out the words on a page in a linguistically justified sequence of instruction. When they do use word attack skills they suggest students sound out the first letter and then use context to guess the word. They provide “leveled readers” that are not designed to practice letter/sound correspondences students have learned and don’t distinguish between the sequence of letter/sound correspondences already taught and the more complex ones still to be addressed. Since English is complex linguistically such a strategy leaves many children confused and frustrated. Their position is based on the mistaken belief that learning to read is like learning to speak—a natural, unconscious process that is hindered by organized skill instruction. It isn’t.

I had seen the deleterious effects of this approach 20 years before when it became widespread in the ’60s as part of the free school movement. As a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, I noticed that many of my entering students were never taught to read. Sitting them on a couch and giving them a book to read just didn’t cut it.

Because of my work with JoEllen Taylor, I made the mistake of assuming that stressing the importance of literature and rich content would not detract from the necessity of teaching phonics. At the time, I had not yet even heard of the whole language movement and was not aware of its growing strength among educators so I was oblivious to the need to include in the framework very clear and detailed guidance about the importance of phonics.

Jeanne Chall had published the definitive study on teaching children to read, which demonstrated that teaching phonics produced much better readers than the looser strategy being pushed by an unfounded belief system like whole language. I had met and respected Jeanne, and when she saw a draft of the framework she called and warned me that people would use it to stop teaching phonics. I didn’t believe her and assured her that educators would never make such a ridiculous mistake. It turned out she was right and I was wrong because that’s exactly what happened. The framework was hijacked by the whole language movement.

It took a few years to realize what had happened. In one of his more destructive acts, Governor George Deukmejian eliminated the testing program in California in 1990, after a long campaign against me personally and public education in general. The long-standing California Assessment Program (CAP) was one of the best in the nation. We only tested at three grades. We used matrix sampling, which meant that each child only took a portion of the test. This allowed more thorough questions in less testing time and avoided the negative consequences of attaching tests to accountability. The current well-regarded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is patterned after CAP.

In the ’80s, CAP scores, including reading, were improving substantially—proof that our efforts were working. Reading scores leveled off at the end of the decade, but we didn’t yet detect a trend to worry about. The governor claimed he abolished the program as a cost-cutting measure, but no one believed him. The result was a calamity. We were flying blind precisely when whole language started to significantly impair reading instruction. Thus, we made no course correction.

Persuasive Reading Research

In my years as superintendent, I had to think about a broad array of educational issues. When I left office in 1993, I felt it would be a welcome change to concentrate on just one educational area and get deeply involved in it. I picked beginning reading because I felt responsible for the way our framework was used by the whole language movement with such damaging results. So I started reading in depth and talking to experts about how children learn to read. In 1990, Marilyn Adams had published her groundbreaking work, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. It was based on extensive research confirming and extending Jeanne Chall’s previous work on the processes children need to master to learn to read. I had not had time to read Marilyn’s book because of an all-encompassing political conflict with the governor and legal proceedings stemming from that fight, but now tackled the book. The tome was hard for me to understand. I had to read it three times before I could comprehend all of what she was saying. Luckily, I knew Marilyn, and over the course of many phone calls, she graciously played the role of tutor, answering all my questions.

She then invited me to the 1995 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, which had been formed two years before. At the meeting Marilyn introduced me to the top reading researchers in the country. For several years Reid Lyon, who was head of the Behavior and Development branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, had made large grants to a network of research projects investigating why some children learn to read so easily and why others have great difficulty. The studies delved into how children learn to read, identified the difficulties many encounter, provided a broader definition of requisite foundational skills, and confirmed the importance of an organized, structured program for teaching beginning readers.

For those who are interested, what follows is a short description of their research: why, contrary to the claims of whole language advocates, most children do not learn to read naturally in the same way they learn to speak (especially in English, which is linguistically complex) and why children need to be taught in an organized fashion.

The Role of Foundational Reading Skills

First, these researchers examined speaking since print represents spoken words. When we listen to someone speak, a stream of sounds like the phonemes /m/ and /a/ /n/ all run together and we hear the word man. We have been programmed to recognize this sequence of sounds as a word and immediately connect that spoken cluster of sounds to the concept or meaning underlying it. For the process to be rapid, we have learned not to pay attention to or even discern the individual phonemes that make up a word but to perceive groups of these sounds as words. The process is very fast, unconscious, and efficient; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the meaning of what the speaker is saying.

Initially, reading for understanding depends on recognizing the symbols on a page set off with spaces as a word that’s part of our speaking vocabulary—sounding out the letters in the word until it is recognized as if it were being spoken (assuring that students are familiar with the meaning of the word being decoded at the start is crucial especially for English-language learners and low-income children). Later, meaning also comes from more sophisticated strategies that require recognizing syllables and morphemes, navigating complex syntax and text structures, extensively developing vocabulary, connecting to what you know and drawing inferences, and extending meaning by writing or discussing what you read.

So reading initially is a double code. The printed word stands for the spoken sounds of the word, which in turn represent the meaning behind that spoken word. Luckily, English uses the alphabetic system to represent spoken words in print. That system was invented eons ago by some unsung geniuses who figured out that spoken words in a language are made up of a limited number of discrete sounds (about 44 in English), which allowed for millions of potential combinations or words to represent concepts. Crucially, these prodigies also determined that one could represent those sounds by symbols (letters or combinations of letters), which when decoded and combined would generate the spoken word. The catch was how to make the process as rapid, automatic, and unconscious as speech so that a reader could concentrate on thinking about what was being read. Complicating the task of understanding what one reads is evidence that comprehending meaning suffers if more than about five percent of the words are not known automatically. The same is true of speech. It doesn’t take many words that you don’t hear or don’t understand to stop you from comprehending what’s being said.

The research community, relying on the latest brain research, discovered how good readers do it. The secret is to develop a growing corpus of automatically recognized words so that a word instantly pops into your head by just looking at it. Then students can read material with large numbers of automatically recognized words and keep growing their lexicon by reading new text, sounding out or decoding (eventually assisted by pattern recognition, as explained below) the few previously unencountered printed words found there.

What did these researchers discover about how people learn to automatically recognize a word? One of the most important findings was that both sounds (phonemes) and symbols (graphemes, or letters and letter combinations) were crucial to rapid retrieval of words. Hearing-impaired children, for example, usually read several grades below expected levels because their information about a word is limited to its letters. When they are taught to substitute signing for the sound information they reach grade level.

To make use of the full bundle of necessary information for rapid retrieval, a student must initially read through the whole word (sounding it out), which requires attending to all of the letters, connecting the letters and letter combinations to the sounds they represent, blending the sounds together, and linking the sounds to the meaning of the word in the context. When this process is successfully repeated several times, the student forms a neural model of that specific word in the brain that gets automatically activated upon seeing the word in print. The sounds of the word are stored in one part of the brain, the symbols connected to those sounds in another, and both are connected to the meaning stored in the frontal cortex. After a student has analyzed and correctly read a word several times, a neural model with all the information necessary for rapid retrieval is formed. (Some reading-disabled youngsters need focused interventions to succeed because they have brain-processing issues that make creating these connections or retrieving the information difficult.)

Thus, the royal road to master beginning reading is to develop the decoding tool—the ability to sound out words thoroughly so that they can eventually be stored and retrieved rapidly. As more and more words become automatic, students can read increasingly difficult text.

After a time, when students have mastered enough letter/sound correspondences, pattern recognition speeds up the decoding process. For example, if a student has learned to automatically recognize the word weight, by using analogy the student can more easily read and create a neural model for the word freight. This can only take place after the spelling pattern eight and its corresponding sounds were initially sounded out, practiced several times, and stored in permanent memory.

A critical piece of eye research demonstrated that effective readers see every letter in a word as they scan it, which activates the exact spelling and associated sounds stored in memory. I’m getting older now and sometimes catch myself misreading an i for an e in a word, which changes the meaning and makes me stop but proves I’m seeing each letter.

When teachers shortchange the process by teaching students guessing strategies such as looking only at the first letter and using context to “infer” what the word is, the full package of information never gets stored and quick retrieval is hampered the next time the student encounters the word (unless after guessing, the student uses phonics to sound out the word and confirm it’s correct and then has enough practice to store the word—a process the whole language advocates discourage). Repeating the guessing strategy each time a word is encountered is far too cumbersome and error prone for efficient reading.

Most importantly, guessing from context, even if given the first letter of a word, doesn’t work that well. In our Consortium on Reaching Excellence trainings (more about CORE later) we show a paragraph from Jack London’s Call of the Wild, with every fifth word redacted except for the first letter. We then ask teachers who believe context can help them decode words to read the passage. In hundreds of trainings, not one person could read and understand the excerpt until, finally, one teacher read the entire passage fluently. I was amazed and asked her how she did it. It turns out she has a photographic memory and had stored the passage in her brain from previous readings. It is important to note that context clues are useful to determine if a word has been correctly decoded and makes sense in the context. There are also occasions when context clues can help readers figure out a word that is not yet in their vocabulary, but context strategies can’t replace decoding. Finally, students need enough flexibility in decoding to try out various potential solutions to generating and combining sounds until they hit on a word that makes sense. For example, trying to break a word into syllables in different ways with different vowel sounds—“Is it re•cent or rec•ent?”

Alternatively, memorization strategies don’t work either. If students try to memorize the unique configuration of each word they quickly are overwhelmed. There are just too many words in English for that approach to be successful, and children who rely on memorizing words without learning phonics flame out quickly.

As a caution, when educators use the word decoding, they may be referring to two distinct ideas, which is confusing. First, there is the automatic recognition of words that are stored for rapid and unconscious retrieval. Second, there is the conscious, effortful process of sounding out the word that must occur several times before it becomes automatic.

So why is this latter process difficult to master for many students? One complicating factor with learning to read in English is the linguistic complexity of the language. Learning to read in Spanish is much easier than learning to read in English because Spanish is almost completely transparent—there is nearly a one-to-one correspondence between the 22 phonemes in the Spanish spoken in the Americas and the 29 letters that represent those sounds. What you see is what you get. English, on the other hand, is all over the map reflecting the various historical contributions to the language—Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Norman French, Spanish, and so on, each with different linguistic patterns.

As a result, there are 44 sounds in English but only 26 letters, so some sounds are spelled with letter combinations. A student has to decide whether to look at one letter or a combination to generate the correct sound. Second, in English, unlike Spanish and other more transparent languages, there are many individual letters that stand for more than one sound. The letter a, for example, represents different sounds in the words cake, hat, and along. Conversely, many sounds are represented in several ways such as the long-a sound, which is spelled a in basin, a with silent e in late, ai in paid, ay in day, and so on. This lack of regularity confuses many children when they are first learning to read. Many get so frustrated they give up.

One major breakthrough in teaching reading in English was to structure the sequence of initial instruction to make it more like the transparent languages so that children aren’t overwhelmed by the multiple ways sounds are represented in English—that is, make it more like Spanish. Beginning instruction should focus on the highest-frequency sound/spelling correspondences (single consonants and short vowels) and avoid multiple representations of sounds until students begin to understand how the alphabetic system works and get the hang of sounding out words. Then the less frequent and more complex combinations can be added without causing as much confusion.

That’s why experienced researchers and practitioners advocate a sequenced rolling out of sound/spellings—from simple to complex—and teaching children how to read through, or sound out words thoroughly so the words are stored and can be automatically retrieved. It takes some time and practice for most children to master this skill, while others learn it without much effort. To support beginning readers, teachers must also provide reading materials that are made up primarily of words containing the sound/spelling relationships they have taught (decodable text). The materials should also include some irregular high-frequency words such as was and of, which must be memorized with the help of explicit instruction. Carefully selecting materials for decoding practice avoids overwhelming students with multiple sound/spellings they have not yet encountered.

Learning to sound out words in late kindergarten and early first grade—the tool a student needs to become automatic with a growing number of words—depends on the acquisition of several key precursor concepts and skills. Students must know print concepts (e.g., English text is read from left to right), be fluent in recognizing letters, be able to name letters and connect them with sounds, and extremely important, be able to hear the discrete sounds in spoken words (phonemic awareness), beginning, ending, and medial. In this last task, students must unlearn what has become second nature in understanding speech—they have learned to ignore the discrete sounds in words and just hear the whole word. Now we are asking them to reinstate their ability to hear the discrete sounds. For some that takes a bit of work. In fact, many adults, including teachers, have difficulty identifying the discrete sounds in words. For example, how many sounds do you hear in the word French? (There are five: /f/ /r/ /e/ /n/ /ch/.)

Most students can identify beginning sounds by mid-kindergarten and ending and medial sounds by the conclusion of kindergarten. Playing sound games especially with kids who haven’t developed these abilities can help them master the technique. Many finally nail the skill of hearing discrete sounds as they learn to match sounds with letters in the course of phonics instruction.

Researchers also found that if students fail to master decoding by late kindergarten to mid–first grade to sound out and recognize simple words they haven’t seen, their chances of ever becoming on-grade readers rapidly diminish. Since they don’t have a workable method for automatically recognizing a growing number of words, they fall further and further behind. Many become confused or frustrated with the complexities of English and eventually give up or become alienated from reading. That is why Response to Instruction (RtI) strategies are found to be so effective. Good initial reading instruction teaches most to decode early, and the teacher intervenes rapidly when a student is not catching on. Giving students “the gift of time” by waiting to assist under the mistaken belief that they will eventually understand the process when they are more “developmentally ready” condemns large numbers of faltering readers to a lifetime of grief. Of course, teaching phonics and decoding must be accompanied by a rich oral language, literature, writing, discussing, and vocabulary development program as described in the California ELA/ELD Framework, explicated below.

One of the more unfortunate developments currently is the tendency in many schools and districts to ignore the significant number of students not mastering beginning reading because of the absence of a research-based beginning reading program and then assigning them to intervention groups when they are not making progress. A much better strategy is to teach them well initially and support those students who are confused immediately and not wait until the damage is done and they have become frustrated.

In later grades, students are taught how to decode multisyllabic words by recognizing syllable types and division patterns; using prefixes, suffixes, and knowledge of root words; and identifying larger patterns, or chunks, encountered in similar words already learned to help them decode new words. For more about multisyllabic word instruction and assessment, see Word ID: Assessment Across the Content Areas.

Also children should receive fluency instruction, if needed, to smooth out and speed up their oral reading. All these efforts should be accompanied by extensive reading of good stories and literature by and to kids, discussing stories, a good spelling or encoding program aligned with the sound/spelling instructional sequence, assigned writing, and the buildup of content knowledge.

Three Important Decisions

Reading researchers were reporting on exciting stuff, which explained a great deal about how best to teach our children. What they were saying was powerful, but it was presented in fairly esoteric technical language. I thought there might be a needed role for a translator—to put the research findings in a form that practitioners could readily understand and to work with schools to promulgate their ideas. So I made three important decisions. I started the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE) with Linda Diamond, Sheila Mandel, Ann Cunningham, and Ruth Nathan to work with teachers and administrators on incorporating this powerful research into practice. I also I wrote a succinct book published in 1996, Teaching Our Children to Read: The Role of Skills in a Comprehensive Reading Program. Here is the dedication:

This book is dedicated to those teachers, researchers, and leaders who have kept their common sense and are beseeching the educational community to reach an effective, working consensus on how best to teach our children to read. I hope the information provided here—which summarizes and highlights a tremendous amount of research and thinking by the leading experts in the literacy field—will help them achieve this laudable goal.

The third decision was to lobby at the state level for policies reflecting this new research. After leaving the state superintendent’s office, I teamed up with Marion Joseph, a true force of nature, who had become convinced that the whole language movement was ruining the teaching of reading to California’s children. I met Marion in 1965 when I was working for Pat Brown, then California governor, and she was working with Wilson Riles, then state superintendent. We became close (she always said she viewed me as her younger brother) but fell out when I ran against her boss in 1982. After I won, she withdrew from education and we lost contact. When I was the subject of a lawsuit brought by the state, she came to see me to find out if there was anything she could do to help. After the Language Arts Framework was disseminated, Marion noticed her granddaughter was not learning to read. After hearing gobbledygook from the teacher, she checked with her extensive school contacts. Marion was horrified at what she discovered about how reading instruction was being conducted under the influence of whole language.

Together we started lobbying key people in the state to change direction. The legislature, the new superintendent Delaine Eastin, Governor Wilson, and subsequently Governor Gray Davis got behind the effort. Marion was appointed to the State Board of Education, along with other phonics advocates, the legislature passed phonics bills and appropriated funds for professional development, and new textbooks were eventually adopted that were based on the new compelling research. An engrossing account of this effort was written by the well-respected Nicholas Lemann, published in The Atlantic magazine in 1997. The article captures how heated the controversy was during that decade.

The research findings on teaching reading I discovered in 1995, incorporated in my book which was used to start CORE, were the basis for the lobbying effort in California and were eventually enshrined in the 2000 National Reading Panel report, which was developed by some of the country’s leading reading experts. The panel reviewed more than 100,000 studies and recommended the explicit and systematic teaching of phonemic awareness and phonics, a guided oral reading strategy, and fluency and comprehension strategies. A recent neuroscience research project from Stanford confirmed the earlier findings that supported the role of phonics and decoding. For a current summary of the latest research, see Linnea Ehri’s article in the 2014 issue of Scientific Studies of Reading. The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems by Louise Spear-Swerling and Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties by David Kilpatrick are among the best research-based books on how to teach children to read and explain some current misguided reading approaches that are still in widespread use. For an article featuring top educators affirming that almost all students can learn to read if they are initially taught correctly, see Liana Heitin’s post in Education Week.

For a useful compendium on research-based reading instruction and strategies, see Honig, Diamond, and Gutlohn’s Teaching Reading Sourcebook, Updated Second Edition, and its companion book, Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures, 2nd Edition. Both books were produced by CORE, where I am president. The Sourcebook was one of only 10 publications endorsed by the National Council on Teacher Quality to cover beginning reading adequately. Of the 10, it was the fourth most used publication for preservice teachers.

The same ideas were incorporated in the recently developed Common Core State Standards and in the new California ELA/ELD Framework based on those standards, which also stressed wide reading and the importance of a systematic buildup of content knowledge in the major disciplines. For a useful executive summary on the California ELA/ELD standards, go to this website.

Here is a short quote from a 2014 article authored by Jo Ann Isken, Carol Jago, and myself, which explains the ideas behind the framework:

The outer ring of the graphic [a symbol used in the framework] identifies the overarching goals of ELA/ELD literacy and instruction. By the time California’s students complete high school, they should have developed readiness for college, career, and we added civic life; attained the capacities of literate individuals; become broadly literate; and acquired the skills for living and learning in the twenty-first century.

California has grounded the framework in these broader purposes of the language arts. We want students to be able to understand complex text and ideas as well as reason, analyze, persuade, and problem solve. We also wish them to encounter a rich liberal arts education—learning about the world, civic life, and the human heart, being well-read, and helping them reach their potential. We would like our youngsters to encounter a significant representation of the best classic and contemporary literature including novels, biographies, essays and plays as well as coherent content informational text in science, history, and the humanities. We would like them to experience the joy of reading engrossing stories and fascinating material.

So the ELA/ELD framework is about two main thrusts: First, attention to the totality of what students read both on their own in independent reading and in school in their liberal arts disciplines (including literature) during their school years, and second, the analytical, reasoning and literacy skills necessary to comprehend and apply knowledge gleaned from a variety of text structures. Both ideas are stressed in the multi-state Common Core ELA standards. To this end, the framework also recommends an organized independent reading program for each student to supplement what is read in school and provides advice on how to implement such a strategy in Chapter 2.

The developers of the ELD standards made a crucial decision from the start. They designed the standards to aid the large number of English-language learners in mastering the California Common Core Standards, which greatly facilitated the integration of the two sets of standards. They organized the ELD standards around five overarching themes—foundational skills, language, written and oral expression, content knowledge, and meaning-making strategies such as drawing inferences and making connections. The integrated ELA/ELD Framework adopted this architecture. All five themes work together to develop student comprehension.

The first strand is foundational skills. To understand the ideas in a text, the reader needs to automatically recognize almost all the words. For words already in the reader’s speaking vocabulary, that is the role of foundational skills—to teach them a process for becoming automatic with a growing number of words. Foundational skills address how to teach them these skills and include phonics, word attack skills (learning how to sound out new words, handle multisyllabic words, and recognize word structures such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words), and fluency instruction. The foundational skills in the California framework are summarized in an extremely well written resource guide by Hallie Yopp, one of the authors of the framework.

The second theme, language, deals with the crucial topic of vocabulary, text structure and syntax, and academic language—all critical to understanding text. Academic texts in English contain a large number of words that appear infrequently but are essential to understanding. To successfully complete high school, students need to understand approximately 65,000 words, although some words are members of the same word family. Consequently, from the outset, there must be a rich vocabulary development strand coupled with an extensive independent reading program. This is particularly crucial for the large numbers of low-income or ELL students who start school knowing far fewer words than their middle-class and English-speaking peers. For a valuable resource, see the Vocabulary Handbook and CORE’s Word Intelligence, which is a vocabulary program for middle-grade students. In addition, as material and sentence structure become more complex and demanding in upper elementary, students must learn to handle challenging elements such as complex sentences with multiple dependent clauses. Finally, different disciplines such as history and science organize information in different ways and students need help in navigating these varied text structures.

The third theme enhances comprehension by concentrating on a student’s ability to express ideas in writing and speaking. This strand also includes spelling and writing conventions such as grammar. Often, until you have tried to explain something, you really don’t know it.

The fourth theme deals with the vital role content knowledge plays in comprehension and the importance of a systematic buildup of disciplinary and cultural knowledge through organized class work and independent reading. See the vast work on this subject at Core Knowledge and “For Reading, Knowledge Matters More Than Strategies, Some Experts Say.” See also “Why Reading to Learn Is Seldom Taught.” And, finally, meaning making addresses the meta-cognitive skills of self-monitoring, drawing inferences, and thinking about what is being read.

For ELD students, the frameworks recommend that these strands be integrated into the regular instruction program (integrated instruction) and that schools provide a designated time for supportive instruction tailored to the language needs of the students (designated instruction).

Similar to math, English language arts shifts to a more active instructional program including book discussions, projects, research, and making arguments and taking positions in both writing and speaking.

I believe we have reached a broad-based consensus in California on the elements of good reading instruction and how best to deal with our large numbers of second-language learners. The frameworks are widely supported by educators and policymakers, although there are still too many schools and classrooms that have not yet incorporated the breadth of what these well-researched documents are recommending.

Reference Notes

Phillips, M. M. (2016, Jan 7). Military Doctors Fault Pentagon on Battlefield Casualty Care. The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/military-doctors-fault-pentagon-over-battlefield-casualty-care-1452194963

The Rise of Whole Language
Chall, J. S. (1983). Stages of Reading Development. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Persuasive Reading Research
Adams, M. J. (1996). Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

The Role of Foundational Reading Skills
Gutlohn, L., & Bessellieu, F. (2014). Word ID: Assessment Across the Content Areas. Novato, CA: Arena Press. http://www.wordidassessment.com

Three Important Decisions
Consortium on Reaching Excellence (CORE). http://www.corelearn.com/

Honig, B. (1996). Teaching Our Children to Read: The Role of Skills in a Comprehensive Reading Program. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/teaching-our-children-to-read/book7412

Lemann, N. (1997, Nov). The Reading Wars. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/11/the-reading-wars/376990/

National Reading Panel, & National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction: Reports of the subgroups. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/pages/smallbook.aspx

Yoncheva, Y. N., Wise, J., & McCandliss, B. (2015). Hemispheric Specialization for Visual Words Is Shaped by Attention to Sublexical Units During Initial Learning. Brain and Language. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0093934X15000772

Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading. http://eric.ed.gov/?q=%22%22&ff1=subVocabulary+Development&id=EJ1027413

Spear-Swerling, L. (2015). The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Kilpatrick, D. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (Essentials of Psychological Assessment). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Heitin, L. (2015, Jun 12). Can Most Kindergartners Really Tackle ‘Emergent-Reader Texts?’ 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

Honig, B., Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2013). Teaching Reading Sourcebook, Updated Second Edition. Novato, CA: Arena Press. http://www.corelearn.com/Products/Publications/ – Teaching-Reading-Sourcebook-Updated-2nd-Edition

Diamond, L., & Thorsnes, B. J. (Eds.). Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures. 2nd Edition. Novato, CA: Arena Press. http://www.corelearn.com/Products/Publications/ – Assessing-Reading-Multiple-Measures-2nd-Edition

National Council on Teacher Quality. (2014). Standard 2: Early Reading: What Consumers Need to Know About Teacher Preparation. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Std2

California Department of Education. (2015, Jul). English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools: K–12. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/cf/elaeldfrmwrksbeadopted.asp

Slowik, H. Y., & Brynelson, N. (2015). Executive Summary: English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools: K–12. California Department of Education. http://www.scoe.net/castandards/

Isken, J. A., Honig, B., & Jago, C. (2015, Oct 15). California’s Recently Adopted English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework: Translating the Common Core State Standards to a Coherent and Sequenced Curriculum for All Students. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/cf/documents/elaeldfwsummaryoct15.pdf

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%3Agpfwm5rhxiw&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=1&num=20&start=0&q=Resource+Guide+to+the+Foundational+Skills+of+the+California+Common+Core+State+Standards+for+English+

Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2006). Vocabulary Handbook. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes. http://www.corelearn.com/Products/Publications/ – Vocabulary-Handbook

Word Intelligence. http://www.wordintelligence.net/

Core Knowledge. www.coreknowledge.org

Heitin, L. (2015, Oct 29). For Reading, Knowledge Matters More Than Strategies, Some Experts Say. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/10/for_reading_knowledge_matters_more_than_strategies.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

Cobb, V. (2015, Jul 21). Why Reading to Learn Is Seldom Taught. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vicki-cobb/why-reading-to-learn-is-s_b_7841040.html

The California Context: CA Policymakers and Educators Shift from Test-and-Punish to Build-and-Support

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The California Context
California Policymakers and Educators Shift from Test-and-Punish to Build-and-Support

by Bill Honig

California, under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, and the legislature, and backed by almost the entire educational establishment and advocacy groups in the state, including the teacher unions, has embraced the long-range and comprehensive Build-and-Support strategy. California’s approach is based on valid, reliable school improvement research and patterned after the practices and policies of high-performing states such as Massachusetts. All California stakeholders agree that educational performance in the state must improve substantially and that it will take 10–15 years of concerted effort to successfully implement the more demanding instructional program envisioned by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The specifics of the California strategy follow.

Ensuring Adequate Funding Levels

Early in his term, Governor Brown sponsored Proposition 30, a tax increase initiative that temporarily raised income tax rates on top earners and provided for a ¼-cent sales tax increase. It passed. Those funds and the economic recovery in the state allowed the governor, working with the state legislature, to increase per-pupil funding for K–12 by about 40% during his first term. The hefty increase was designed to make up for the precipitous drop in support caused by the recession. The governor and the legislature also revamped the educational funding system under the Local Control Funding Program (LCFP). It now gives districts more flexibility in how to manage their funds and to provide additional resources for high-risk students.

Adopting a Rigorous, Standards-Based Liberal Arts Curriculum

After widespread discussions, the State Board of Education (SBE) in California approved the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the English Language Arts (ELA) Standards, and the English Language Development (ELD) Standards. The later two were both later integrated into the ELA/ELD Framework. It also signed on to the CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Program (SBAC). California policymakers were careful to emphasize that the primary purpose of the assessments was to feed back information to improve instruction, not for high-stakes consequences. At the same time, they eliminated a cluster of existing state tests. The SBE, backed by the political establishment, postponed testing until the new SBAC tests were ready and refused to submit to federal pressure requiring that testing be tied to teacher evaluations. The state legislature also gave the SBE two years to devise a new accountability system.

Delivering High-Quality Instruction

Recognizing the need for additional support, the SBE authorized the development of frameworks to advise teachers and districts on how best to translate the standards into curriculum and instruction, deliver effective professional development, build collaborative teams, and adopt instructional materials consistent with the standards.

Useful California Content Frameworks and Support Documents

These frameworks have been widely supported in the state. The California Department of Education, county offices, districts, educational organizations, newly created networks of schools and districts, and especially the state teacher unions have been aggressively pursuing the implementation of the more active and deeper instruction envisioned by the CCSS. The California Teachers Association has been in the forefront of standards implementation efforts and has formed partnerships with Stanford and other educational entities to that end.

In 2012, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson formed a prestigious commission chaired by Linda Darling-Hammond and Chris Steinhauser. Darling-Hammond is one of the most respected school improvement researchers in the country, and Steinhauser is superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, which was designated one of the top school districts in the world. The commission produced Greatness by Design, a superb policy document that provides the blueprint for a Build-and-Support strategy in the state. In 2015, it followed up with A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0. These documents have had a major influence on practice in California, as has the expert advice of Michael Fullan.

In addition, the governor and the legislature invested almost $2 billion specifically for supporting the CCSS implementation and associated curricular and assessment changes and another $500 million for similar purposes in the 2015 budget. That latest allocation also included attracting, training, inducting, and supporting new teachers as one of the primary goals of the item, consistent with the recommendations of Greatness by Design, although there is still much to be done to revitalize the teaching profession.

Creating Useful and Fair Accountability Systems

In California, political and educational leaders proposed and the legislature enacted a plan to develop a new assessment and accountability system using multiple measures of student performance. The primary goal of the new system is to feed back information that will support local improvement efforts and not to punish schools and teachers. State leaders also created a new entity, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, to support and review the CCSS and LCFP implementation and organize site visits and support for struggling schools.

Most districts have been hard at work on the day-to-day business of implementing the Common Core State Standards. In addition, two effective networks of districts have been collaborating on the CCSS implementation. One network, CORE Districts, is composed of some of the largest districts in the state; the other is the California Collaborative on District Reform. CORE Districts obtained a federal waiver to develop its own broader assessment system (although it had to agree to test-based teacher evaluation, which each district will soon be able to ignore under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Engaging Stakeholders

A potent informal network funded by foundation support, the Consortium for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards, was formed with representatives from major educational and government entities, districts, county education offices, teacher groups, the research community, higher education, and advocacy groups. It has helped on such key issues as implementation planning, coordinating the work of support providers, communication, technology, understanding the state mathematics and ELA/ELD frameworks, accountability, and new teacher policies. Its first publication, Leadership Planning Guide California, was intended to assist districts and schools in addressing the implementation of the CCSS. In 2015, the consortium produced user-friendly summaries of the math and ELA/ELD frameworks.

Resisting High-Stakes Testing

Moreover, almost every educational group has joined the political and educational leadership and the legislature to successfully resist federal demands for excessive high-stakes testing and accountability and not-ready-for-prime-time student and teacher evaluation schemes. The one exception has been the CORE Districts, which sought a waiver from severe No Child Left Behind (NCLB) penalties and were forced to accept test-driven teacher evaluation as the price for the waiver. Many of the districts are now struggling with implementing those evaluations, which have caused disharmony within the districts. In addition, although many in management continue to support such measures as test-driven teacher evaluation, their numbers are decreasing in the face of the Build-and-Support agenda being promoted by educational leaders across the state. Finally, the presidents and chancellors of the four higher education segments all signed a letter pledging support for the Common Core State Standards.

A brief summary of California’s approach is available in a slide presentation by Michael Kirst and an article in CALmatters, “A Stanford Professor’s High-Stakes Plan to Save California Schools.” See also Jeff Bryant’s 2015 interview of me in Salon and his follow-up article on California as a potential role model for the country. Lastly, see Charles Kerchner’s blog post, “Can the ‘California Way’ Turn Around Underperforming Schools?”

How California Avoided the Push-Back Against the Common Core

There is widespread backing for Common Core in the state thanks to these efforts, particularly the tempered rolling out of the CCSS, the postponing of testing and accountability to allow time for implementation, and the divorcing of accountability from evaluations. The resistance to the CCSS that has erupted in other states from abrupt implementation and tying the standards themselves to high-stakes accountability has not occurred in California. The study Leveraging the Common Core to Support College and Career Readiness in California reports finding widespread excitement among high school teachers for the promise of the more active instruction offered by the CCSS.

In 2015, a poll by Children Now found 67% support among the general public in California for the CCSS. Interestingly, if respondents were asked only about the ideas behind the standards, without mentioning the name Common Core, support rose to between 85% and 93%. The findings were similar for parents who had children in public schools, and for those employed in the education field, 82% expressed support for the standards.

Build-and-Support Is Working in California

In 2013, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised a few cherry-picked states that had followed the administration’s proposed reforms and improved their National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results. Duncan failed to mention the larger number of states that had also implemented the policies but did not grow and experienced lackluster results overall. In a glaring case of omission, Duncan never acknowledged California’s reform efforts, which, although resisting many of the federal reform policies, topped the nation in growth in eighth-grade scores.

That trend has continued. From 2009 to 2015, California was first in growth, along with Washington, DC, in eighth-grade scaled reading score growth—up six points from 2009 compared to the national growth rate of one point. California was among the four-highest states in eighth-grade growth in mathematics—up five points from 2009 compared to a national decline of one point. California did not fare as well on NAEP fourth-grade scores. They have remained low with flat growth, mirroring the rest of the nation.

Added note: 2017 NAEP results have accelerated this trend, though there is still much work to do.

NAEP 8th and 4th Grade Reading and Math Average Scaled Score Growth for 2009-2017  California has the most second language students, the most diversity, and high levels of low income children compared to other states. Top growth scores nationally for 8th grade reading, 4th grade reading, 8th grade math. Weak growth for 4th grade math.  

Reading: 8th grade: First in the nation. California growth +10 and now within 2 points of the national average. National growth +3 https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2017/#states/scores?grade=8

4th grade: Tied for 2nd nationally California growth +6  and now within 6 points of the national average. National growth +1 https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2017/#states/scores?grade=4 

Math: 8th grade: Tied for 2nd nationally. California growth +6, Now within 5 points of the national average. National growth 0. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/#states/scores?grade=8

  4th grade: Tied for 15th in growth +1. 7 points behind nationally. National growth 0. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/#states/scores?grade=4 

Gaps have actually narrowed in the state. White student scores have not grown as fast as Hispanic and Black children.
Some subgroup info: 
 Hispanic growth scores for reading 2009-2017; 8th grade reading +10; 4th grade reading +8
  Black: 8th grade +7; 4th grade -1!!!.
   Hispanic growth scores for math: 8th grade +6; 4th grade +4
   Black: 8th grade +5; 4th grade +1 

Two California Urban Districts under the Federal Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) program showed top gains in NAEP. 

LA: 8th grade reading average score growth 2009-2017. +11.  1st in nation. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2017/#/districts/scores?grade=8
       4th grade reading: +10;  1st in nation (Tied DC)

       8th grade math:  +8 (Tied for 3rd)
       4th grade math: +1 (Not good—tied for 7th)

San Diego

        8th grade reading: +10. (2nd nationally after LA) https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/#districts/scores?grade=8
        4th grade reading: +9.  (tied for 2nd nationally)
        8th grade math:  +3 (tied for 7th)
        4th grade math +1 (tied for 7th)

Another set of data from the Urban Institute app which adjusts NAEP scores for language, poverty, race, and special ed. And whether the adjustments are accurate or not,  comparisons using the same standards are legit. http://apps.urban.org/features/naep/  
One caveat is that the intervals on the ranks are still being scaled which might change 
rank growth somewhat but the overall picture will remain very similar. 

I took off the age control but let the others stay. (If you look at the website be sure to refresh after looking at math to allow you to click from math to reading and when you do remember to put off the age control) These data are ranks based on average scores, and if you mouse over the state it shows the growth in rankings. It is apparent that California has made large jumps in rankings this year from the past few years. (Florida has not grown as much but is at the top or near the top nationally in all the rankings—whether from state policy or district independent efforts needs to be determined) 

In 8th grade reading we are now 14th in the country up from the low 40’s as recently as 2013. In 4th grade reading we are 19th in the country up from the high 30’s in 2015. 

In 8th grade math we are 22nd up from the low 40’s as recently as 2013.In 4th grade math (our weakest area where we need to undertake considerable work) we are 37th up from the low 40’s in 2011 and 2015.   

Some confirmation is provided by our most recent state testing, the SBAC. 11th grade reading scores. 60% now reach the “proficient” level—a level consistent with 4yr college work and the NAEP proficiency level which compares favorably to the other SBAC states that are much less diverse. To me, getting 60% of our diverse students to that level is impressive and a tribute to the hard work of our educational practitioners and policy direction. On the other hand, the state is much weaker in SBAC math performance at 11th grade (although improving) and math will be a major area of subsequent improvement efforts. 

In addition, from 2010 to 2015, the Golden State improved its high school graduation from 74.7 to 82.3, an increase of 7.6 points, which is significantly greater than the improvement in the national rate. Despite having one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, the state graduation rate is now higher than the national average. California Latino and African-American students progressed even faster. The rate of Latinos has increased 15% since 2010 to 78.5%; African-American students increased 11% to 70.8. Finally, in 2015, 43.4% of graduates completed all the necessary coursework to meet the minimum admissions requirements for the University of California and the California State University systems, a substantial jump from the 36.3% meeting the requirements in 2010.

Even though California scores have been increasing on NAEP, at least at the eighth-grade level, student achievement must improve substantially in the next decade. The first Smarter Balanced assessments based on the Common Core State Standards were given in 2015 and formed the base year for determining growth rates and improvements.

Preliminarily, SBAC reported four levels—standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met. It is important to understand what “standard” means. It was established to be comparable to the NAEP proficiency standards, which predict success in a four-year college credit-bearing course. Massachusetts, whose students score among those in the top countries worldwide, is the only state in which just over 50% of its students score proficient on NAEP.

The number of students in California meeting or exceeding the standard on the SBAC test at 11th grade is one indication of how many students are being adequately prepared for both four-year colleges and community colleges where students transfer to four-year colleges after two years or to one of the more demanding career tech pathways.

The 2015 scores in the 11th grade were decent in English language arts—58% of students reached the four-year college-bound level. The scores were low in mathematics—only 28% reached or exceeded the college-bound standard. This may be due to the shift in instruction called for by the CCSS or the greater language demands of the math test, or the test may have been too dependent on Intermediate algebra, which is not appropriate for many career paths. Researchers are currently examining the discrepancy between student performance in math and reading.

At elementary and middle grades, the percentage of students meeting the on-track to a four-year college standard was generally in the mid-30% in math and mid-40% in reading. The achievement gaps between low-income children or children of color and their higher-income or Caucasian peers increased from previous tests. This is most likely due to the fact that the new SBAC assesses deeper learning and provides a more accurate picture of actual performance.

Meeting the Challenges of Diversity and Underfunding

California has one of the most diverse groups of K–12 students in the nation: 54% Hispanic/Latino; 25% white; 12% Asian, Pacific Islander, or Filipino; 6% African-American; 3% mixed race; and 0.6% Native American. Its English-language learner (ELL) population is 25%, the largest in the nation. The states with the next largest ELL populations are Texas with 15%, Florida with 10%, and New York with 9%. Our state also ranks high in poverty levels.

Importantly, California spends significantly less per pupil than other states. In 2014–2015, it ranked 42nd after adjusting for cost of living, and it is significantly behind other states in additional support measures that affect school quality as well.

Yet, compared to the 12 other states that took the SBAC, California ranked in the middle of 11th-grade scores for both reading and math. None of the other states are as diverse. In the lower grades, however, California was either at the bottom or near the bottom. Unquestionably, much work is to be done in the state, but the Build-and-Support policy framework being pursued offers the best chance of substantial improvement during the next decade.

Career Tech Pathways

Many of us in California have one major problem with the Common Core State Standards, which is how the SBAC standards were set and how the CCSS in general are portrayed in the media. Although the literature maintains that the goal is “career and college readiness,” as I explained above, the high school standards are actually primarily aimed at preparing students for four-year colleges or alternative career paths that demand the highest educational levels. This is particularly true of third-year high school courses in mathematics.

Many have questioned whether intermediate algebra (made more demanding by Common Core Standards) is an appropriate course for those preparing to be dental hygienists or to be trained in precision manufacturing. For those tech/prep students, rigorous substitutes such as statistics and quantitative reasoning or embedding these subjects in career tech application courses seems to be a better alternative. In fact, many states have pursued this direction. For example, Texas just recently changed its requirements.

The Charles A. Dana Center in Texas recently examined 34 career paths—from accounting to visual communication—to determine which math skills were needed. Most careers only demanded the use of the math learned through eighth grade that can be applied in complex and unique situations. See also “Programs of Study & Mathematics Alignment” on the Dana Center’s website. It presents an analysis of the mathematical demands for nursing, communications, criminal justice, and social work.

Currently, about 40% of students nationally reach the levels needed for succeeding in a credit-bearing four-year college course. We should definitely be trying to increase that number, and the Common Core State Standards are valuable for that goal. Yet even for the college bound some flexibility is warranted. The University of California’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) establishes the courses that count for college admission, and the state university and community college systems follow its lead. Recently the BOARS committee approved some substitutions for intermediate algebra http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/committees/boars/documents/BOARSStatementonStatway.pdf and the community colleges are considering changes along these lines.

But that still leaves a large number of students who could profit from rigorous tech-prep pathways yet are usually neglected in a system that is primarily geared for the four-year college bound. California has lagged behind some other states showing leadership in developing these pathways such as Illinois, but it is now devoting resources and attention to this problem.

Robert Schwartz, of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, has been one of the major national proponents of improving the pathways for the non–four-year college bound. See his Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century and Career Pathways: A Route to Upward Mobility, a paper he coauthored with Nancy Hoffman. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute also has been promoting alternative pathways. See the papers and video presentations from its Education for Upward Mobility Conference that are devoted to the issue. David Conley and Linda Darling-Hammond have also been champions of this approach. See the handouts on the California Department of Education web page that summarize their work. For a California perspective, see Career Technical Education Pathways Initiative, and for a national perspective, see The State of Career Technical Education. See also the fall 2014 online issue of American Educator, which is devoted to this topic.

Pamela Burdman has authored three excellent reports on mathematics college placement issues in California sponsored by the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) as well as a short article on the inaccuracies of college placement exams. A compendium of research from a conference on this subject can be found at a LearningWorks conference on the future of college math placement. The conference focused on three main issues:

  1. Are there alternative paths to college other than the usual mathematics sequence that ends in intermediate algebra such as statistics or quantitative reasoning?
  2. Is relying on a placement test an accurate and fair way to force students into remedial classes based on Algebra 2, which many will not pass. Are there better alternatives? Placement tests provide only a tiny percentage improvement on the predictions generated by merely relying on transcripts but do result in high levels of misplacement.
  3. Are there more successful ways to teach the remedial classes?

In 2016, a major report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement made similar points about the deficiencies in our system of remediation, and a summary of the research demonstrates the defects of community college placement exams that 87% of community college students are forced to take.

Some extremely effective groups have been formed to support alternatives for the college bound and programs that offer rigorous preparation for the tech/prep bound. Among them are Linked Learning and ConnectEd. See also the High Tech High charter organization, which is devoted to school/career integration with an emphasis on project-based learning, and the many career academies that over the past two decades have been providing successful career preparation in important fields such as health, business, and manufacturing.

California has invested one-and-a-half-billion dollars in collaborative tech/prep grants aimed at two-year community college pathways to careers or four-year colleges or apprenticeships. This has been accomplished under the leadership of Governor Brown and the state legislature, with the full support of State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson. The investments have been made over the past few years and are slated to continue for the next few years.

Although some civil rights advocates are reluctant to support the premise that it is an unattainable goal for all students to become prepared for four-year institutions of higher learning, we are doing a disservice to many youngsters by only concentrating on that pathway. Many students who could succeed in a rigorous alternative route will falter under a four-year college prep sequence. These substitute pathways are a far cry from the old vocational education, which often became a dumping ground for low-performing students and devolved into tracking for minority and low-income students. One policy goal should be to maximize the number of students who qualify, attend, and graduate from four-year colleges, but we should also attend to the needs of those students who could profit from a rigorous tech/prep pathway.

The jury is still out on whether our large, diverse state will successfully implement the ambitious instructional program envisioned by the Common Core Standards over the next decade by following a Build-and-Support approach. So far, so good.

Recent Developments

7/30/2016. Michael Petrilli has edited a just-released book Education for Upward Mobility (2016). This work contains essays under three headings. First, Transcending Poverty through Education, Work, and Personal Responsibility which includes chapters on the “Success Sequence” (graduate high-school, obtain a full-time job, and wait to have children until 21), tech-prep pathways, certification, and apprenticeship. Second, Multiple Pathways in High School: Tracking Revisited? which includes chapters on small schools of choice, college-prep high schools for the poor,  and high-quality career and technical education. Finally, there is a section, The Early Years with chapters on the importance of the first five years, the centrality of knowledge acquisition in the elementary years, and issues of tracking in middle schools. Many of these authors support the main points in the article above.

7/30/2016 Two reports from the Education Commission of the States on what states require for early reading. California doesn’t do as much as many other states. Although our ELA/ELD framework is solid, we are missing some of the other infrastructure. http://www.ecs.org/50-state-comparison-k-3-quality/; http://www.ecs.org/companion-report-50-state-comparison-k-3-quality/


Reference Notes

Adopting a Rigorous, Standards-Based Liberal Arts Curriculum
Fensterwald, J. (2015, Jun 22). State Board Gets Extra Year to Create Measures of School Progress. http://edsource.org/2015/state-board-gets-extra-year-to-create-measures-of-school-progress/818666

Delivering High-Quality Instruction
Fensterwald, J. (2014, Dec 1). CTA Launches Large-Scale Teacher Training. http://edsource.org/2014/cta-launches-large-scale-teacher-training/70687#.VLg-31fF9D9

Tom Torlakson’s Task Force on Educator Excellence. (2012, Sep 17). Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/ee.asp

Blueprint 2.0 Planning Team. (2015, Jul 27). A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0. State Superintendent of Public Instruction. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/bp/bp2contents.asp

Fullan, M. (2015, Jan). A Golden Opportunity: The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence as a Force for Positive Change. http://www.michaelfullan.ca/california-release-a-golden-opportunity/

Mead, S., Aldeman, C., Chuong, C., & Obbard, J. (2015, Jul 28). Rethinking Teacher Preparation: Empowering Local Schools to Solve California’s Teacher Shortage and Better Develop Teachers. http://bellwethereducation.org/publication/Rethinking_Teacher_Prep_California See also Ellison, K., & Fensterwald, J. (2015, Jul 14). California’s Dwindling Teacher Supply Rattling Districts’ Nerves. http://edsource.org/2015/californias-dwindling-teacher-supply-rattling-districts-nerves/82805

Creating Useful and Fair Accountability Systems
CORE Districts. http://coredistricts.org/

California Collaborative on District Reform. http://cacollaborative.org/topics/district-collaboration

Engaging Stakeholders
Consortium for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards. (2013, Oct). Leadership Planning Guide California: Common Core State Standards and Assessments Implementation. California County Superintendents Educational Service Association. http://ccsesa.org/ccsesa-common-core-leadership-planning-guide-now-available/

Yakes, C., & Sprague, M. (2015). Executive Summary: Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools: K–12. California Department of Education. http://www.scoe.net/castandards/

Slowik, H Y., & Brynelson, N. (2015). Executive Summary: English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools: K–12. California Department of Education. http://www.scoe.net/castandards/Pages/default.aspx

Gewertz, C. (2014, Sep 4). California Higher Education Systems Pledge Common-Core Support. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2014/09/california_higher_education_sy.html

Resisting High-Stakes Testing
Kirst, M. W. (2015, Jul). California Education Policy Overview 2015. Education Policy Fellowship Program. http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/epfp.iel.org/resource/resmgr/AERA_IEL/Final_MK_IEL-AERA_July_2015_.pdf

Lin, J. (2016, Jun 4). A Stanford Professor’s High-Stakes Plan to Save California Schools. https://calmatters.org/articles/a-stanford-professor-disrupts-california-schools/

Bryant, J. (2015, Apr 14). Common Core Consequences: What Currently Passes for “Reform” Has Caused Considerable Collateral damage to Schools and Teachers. http://www.salon.com/2015/04/14/common_core_consequences_what_currently_passes_for_reform_has_caused_considerable_collateral_damage_to_schools_and_teachers/

Bryant, J. (2015, Apr 23). An Alternative to Failed Education “Reform,” If We Want One. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/an-alternative-to-failed-education-reform-if-we-want-one/

Kerchner, C.T. (2016, Jun 6). Can the “California Way” Turn Around Underperforming Schools? http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/2016/06/can_the_california_way_turn_around_underperforming_schools.html

How California Avoided the Push-Back Against the Common Core
Freedberg, L. (2016, Jan 10). Common Core: New York Stumbles, California Advances on Common Core Implementation. http://edsource.org/2016/new-york-stumbles-california-advances-on-common-core-implementation/92986

Venezia, A., & Lewis, J. (2015, Aug). Leveraging the Common Core to Support College and Career Readiness in California. Education Insights Center. California State University, Sacramento. http://edinsightscenter.org/Publications/ctl/ArticleView/mid/421/articleId/1007/Leveraging-the-Common-Core-for-College-and-Career-Readiness-in-California

Children Now. (2015, Apr 20). New California Poll Shows Strong Support for Common Core and Its Approach. http://www.childrennow.org/about-us/press-releases/new-california-poll-shows-strong-support-common-core-and-its-approach/

Build-and-Support Is Working in California
National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). NAEP State Profiles. U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/?utm_source=Michael%27s+daily+email%2C+Oct.+28%2C+2015&utm_campaign=Daily_4-24-15&utm_medium=email

Leal, F. (2016, May 17). California’s Graduation, Dropout Rates Improve for the Sixth Straight Year. http://edsource.org/2016/californias-graduation-dropout-rates-improve-for-the-sixth-straight-year/564357?utm_source=May+18+digest+Jane&utm_campaign=Daily+email&utm_medium=email

Blume, H. (2015, Sep 11). Achievement Gaps Widen for California’s Black and Latino students. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-achievement-gaps-widen-20150911-story.html

Meeting the Challenges of Diversity and Underfunding
Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. Public School Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity. http://www.kidsdata.org/topic/36/publicschoolenrollment-race/table – fmt=451&loc=2,127,347,1763,331,348,336,1&tf=84&ch=7,11,621,85,10,72,9,73&sortColumnId=0&sortType=asc

Federal Education Budget Project. (2012, Mar 28). Student Poverty Rate. http://febp.newamerica.net/k12/rankings/cenpov

Kerchener, C. T. (2015, Nov 23). Tax Proposals Would Lift California’s Low School Funding. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/2015/11/tax_proposals_would_lift_californias_low_school_funding.html

Kaplan, J. (2015, Nov). California’s Support for K-12 Education Ranks Low by Almost Any Measure. http://calbudgetcenter.org/?s=fact+K-12

Smarter Balance Results by State: 2014–2015.http://edsource.org/smarter-balanced-results/state.html and McCrea, D. (2015, Nov. 20). Personal letter to author.

Career Tech Pathways
Schulzke, E. (2015, Dec 12). How Much Math Do College-Bound Students Really Need? http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865643586/As-math-standards-nudge-upward-is-it-time-for-a-national-dialogue-on-how-much-math-high-schoolers.html

Fechter, J. (2014, Jan 31). State Nixes Algebra 2 for Most Students, Offers Other Math Options. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/State-nixes-Algebra-2-for-most-students-offers-5194326.php

The Charles A. Dana Center. (2013, Jul). What Students Need to Know: Mathematics Concept Inventories for Community College Workforce Education Programs. The University of Texas at Austin. http://www.utdanacenter.org/higher-education/higher-education-resources/policy-resources/programs-of-study-mathematics-alignment/

The Charles A. Dana Center. Programs of Study & Mathematics Alignment. The University of Texas at Austin. http://www.utdanacenter.org/higher-education/higher-education-resources/policy-resources/programs-of-study-mathematics-alignment/

UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. (2015, Jan 16). Statement on Approval of Statway. University of California. http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/committees/boars/documents/BOARSStatementonStatway.pdf See also UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. (2013, Jul). Statement on Basic Math for All Admitted UC Students. http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/committees/boars/BOARSStatementonMathforAllStudentsJuly2013.pdf

Walton, I. (2013, Jun). Alternatives to Traditional Intermediate Algebra. Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. http://www.asccc.org/content/alternatives-traditional-intermediate-algebra

Symonds, W. C., Schwartz, R., & Ferguson, R. F. (2011). Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard University Graduate School of Education. https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4740480

Schwartz, R., & Hoffman, N. (2014, Dec 2). Career Pathways: A Route to Upward Mobility. edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Schwartz-Hoffman%20Paper-KLM%20(1).pdf

Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (2014, Dec 2). Education for Upward Mobility. http://edexcellence.net/publications/education-for-upward-mobility The papers from this conference have been published in a 2015 book edited by Michael Petrilli, Education for Upward Mobility, and a second video conference on the book was held in 2016. http://edexcellence.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=628bd73f1e90c900ee5ef4166&id=7894a573bc&e=ebbe04a807

California Department of Education. PSAA Meeting Webcast Archive 2014. Meeting Handouts. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/pa/psaawebcastarchive14.asp#dec2014handouts

California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2013, Aug). Career Technical Education Pathways Initiative. http://californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu/Portals/0/reportsTB/REPORT_CTEPathwaysInitiative_082613_FINAL.pdf

Advance CTE. The State of Career Technical Education. http://www.careertech.org/state-CTE

American Federation of Teachers. (2014, Fall). American Educator. http://www.aft.org/ae/fall2014

Burdman, P. (2015). Publications. Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). http://edpolicyinca.org/authors/pamela-burdman

Burdman, P. (2015, Nov 5). Math Placement Tests Deserve More Scrutiny. http://edsource.org/2015/math-placement-tests-deserve-more-scrutiny/90132?utm_source=Nov.+6+newsletter+John&utm_campaign=Daily+email&utm_medium=email

Learning Works. (2015, Nov 10). Testing and Beyond: A Summit on the Future of College Math Placement. http://www.learningworksca.org/testing-and-beyond-conference-nov-10th-2015-oakland-california/

Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2016). Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges. The University of Texas at Austin, College of Education, Department of Educational Administration, Program in Higher Education Leadership. http://www.ccsse.org/nr2016/

Belfield, C., & Crosta, P. M. (2012, Feb). Predicting Success in College: The Importance of Placement Tests and High School Transcripts. Columbia University Teachers College Community College Research Center. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/predicting-success-placement-tests-transcripts.html

Linked Learning Alliance. http://www.linkedlearning.org/

The California Center for College and Career (ConnectEd). www.connectedcalifornia.org

High Tech High. www.hightechhigh.org

Leal, F. (2016, Jan 26). $1.5 Billion Helping Career Pathways Take Off in California’s High Schools. http://edsource.org/2016/1-5-billion-helping-career-pathways-take-off-in-californias-high-schools/93950

How Top Performers Build-and-Support: Exemplary Models

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How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Exemplary Models

by Bill Honig

Build-and-Support strategies not only have been based on extensive research but have proved to significantly improve performance in those districts, states and provinces, and nations that have followed their ideas.

School Districts

There are examples of stellar districts that have achieved successful results by following Build-and-Support ideas. These include Long Beach, Garden Grove, Sanger, Whittier High School, Elk Grove, the High-Tech High School Summit, and the Aspire charter school networks, all in California; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Union City, New Jersey. All have pursued this more comprehensive, positive approach for years and place in the top ranks of international assessments. Conversely, Dallas, Texas, and Newark, New Jersey, are examples of the damage caused by a full “reform” strategy and its failure to produce results.

Sanger’s journey—from a low-performing, high-poverty district suffering from substantial labor strife to a high-performing district where teachers and administrators have forged a close working relationship—demonstrates the power of the Build-and-Support strategy. Ironically, as a prime example of the deleterious effect of federal policy, in 2014 Sanger accepted a federal waiver under duress to avoid the severe penalties of NCLB (imposed by the feds even though Sanger grew faster than almost every other district in the state). However, district leaders then became worried that forced implementation of a test-driven evaluation would reverse its successful collaboration efforts. The problem should be solved in 2016 when the new ESSA measure becomes operative and when required high-stakes evaluation of teachers can no longer be mandated.

Similarly, Long Beach Unified School District, identified as one of the three top school jurisdictions in the country and among the top 20 in the world, has been building professional capacity around a strong, core curriculum for several decades with significant results. According to its superintendent, Chris Steinhauser, Long Beach’s success stems from its attention to human and social capital development, including clinical experiences for new teachers; treating educators, parents, and community members with respect and trust; providing extensive coaching support for teachers and principals; orienting the district administrators to support schools; building teams at schools; implementing a strong liberal arts curriculum with a districtwide focus; developing cooperation with colleges and community organizations; and continuing a shared focus by all on instructional and curricular quality. Again, Long Beach has had consistent leadership for the past two decades under Carl Cohn (1992–2002) and Superintendent Steinhauser (2002–present). Long Beach has pursued educational improvement by developing a districtwide strategy that engages all teachers and schools in the effort as opposed to a punitive approach aimed at the lowest-performing schools. For why this is important, see Fiske and Ladd’s comments. Finally, Long Beach has struck the right balance between school and teacher autonomy and district leadership, which is crucial in allowing each school to implement improvement efforts in its own way while adhering to an overall district strategy. For a perceptive article on this issue, see Larry Cuban’s blog.

Another example is Garden Grove, which has one of the largest percentage of English-language learners in large districts in California yet has improved performance substantially in the last 15 years. Under the exemplary leadership of Laura Schwalm, superintendent from 1999 to 2013, and Gabriela Mafi since 2013, the district, among other Build-and-Support measures, has developed a robust human resources development program with two aspects. First, the district finds and keeps the best teachers by developing effective systems of recruiting, proper placement, inducting, granting tenure, and compensation. Second, it builds the capacity of current staff by comprehensive professional development, creates effective school site teams, and offers career advancement pathways that allow our best teachers a hybrid teaching and leadership role and the possibility of higher earnings.

These successful jurisdictions don’t ignore accountability. But effective accountability must not rely solely or primarily on test scores. It should be designed around providing useful, timely feedback that will assist school, district, and local community efforts in improving instruction and student performance. And it should assiduously avoid causing the type of extensive collateral damage we have seen under high-stakes testing: narrowing the curriculum, discouraging cooperation, and emphasizing looking good on tests rather than providing quality instruction.

This more supportive philosophy guides the accountability system being developed in California and many other states. The state will be establishing an integrated hybrid of state and local indicators such as graduation rates, college preparation, career preparation, passing advanced placement courses, curriculum breadth and depth, student and teacher engagement, school climate, student suspensions or teacher absences, reclassification rates for English-language learners, and implementation and team-building efforts. The main locus of accountability is the school and district with local community participation, under the assumption and trust that the professionals in the school, not the federal government or the state, will be the driving force for improvement if they have the support they need. For an up-to-date report on these broader accountability ideas, see a 2016 paper by Linda Darling-Hammond and colleagues, Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act. In addition, see a 2016 report by Cook-Harvey and Stosich of the Stanford Learning Policy Institute, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States.

Data based on reasonable student testing and just-in-time student assessment are helpful when such data provide information back to the teachers, schools, and local communities to assist their continuous improvement efforts. California is a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and administered the first state assessments in 2015. However, results won’t be used for accountability purposes until enough data are available for growth measures and potential targets can be validated. The state also wants to give teachers a chance to implement the curricular changes envisioned by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, as mentioned above, these end-of-year, broad-scale tests should be only one part of a broader accountability system and need to be combined with more sophisticated, accurate, and authentic measures of student performance such as end-of-course and periodic assessments, passing competency-based measures such as certificates, performances, portfolios, and projects.

Furthermore, state and district policy should recognize that negative fallout from testing is minimized if tests are not used primarily for formal, high-stakes teacher or school evaluations or to assess school progress toward impossible goals established by political entities that are far removed from the facts on the ground. Test results are most useful when viewed as one aspect of the main driver of improvement—a broad, collaborative, well-resourced effort to improve school, student, and teacher performance over the long haul.

There will be schools that struggle and need assistance. Site visits and support need to be organized, as envisioned by the new California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. The group will offer help, support, and site visits to struggling schools. For a national proposal along these lines, see Marc Tucker’s blog post “ESEA Reauthorization and Accountability: A Chance to Do It Right.”

Successful jurisdictions do not neglect the problem of incompetent teachers. It turns out that giving low-performing teachers a chance to improve is more effective when the efforts are part of a cooperative endeavor to improve instruction. First, many low-performing teachers will improve with helpful support. Second, low performers cannot easily hide in their classrooms if a concerted team effort is under way. For many, the exposure pushes them to improve or resign. California districts such as Long Beach, San Jose, and Garden Grove, as well as places such as Montgomery County, Maryland, and Massachusetts, are examples of jurisdictions that have embedded teacher evaluations in a broader instructional improvement effort, obtained union and teacher support, and used peer review techniques. They have found that this approach has proved more successful in dismissing or counseling out the worst teachers who cannot or will not improve, with considerably less collateral damage than the traditional method that relies entirely on a negative, high-pressure strategy.

A 2016 Aspen Institute report, Teacher Evaluation and Support Systems: A Roadmap for Improvement, chronicles exemplary practices in the nation exemplifying this more supportive approach.

Nations and States

What have the most successful nations and states done to improve student performance?

On the world stage, high-performing Finland had a mediocre system two decades ago. It initiated a long-term positive engagement strategy and revitalization of the teaching force and now substantially outscores Norway, which has a similar population and demographics but is stuck in a test-driven accountability mode. Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? is one of the best books on the topic. The author is Pasi Sahlberg, one of the primary leaders of the reforms.

William Doyle spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship studying the Finnish success story. He writes of a fantastic school in rural Finland and conversations with one of its top teacher educators. He contrasts the Finnish attention to revitalizing the teaching profession to the prevailing conventional “reform” strategy in this country:

[I]n the U.S., instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment.

I should note, however, that Finland has stalled or declined in recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) tests. For a contrary view of Finland’s rise and recent stall or decline, see The Real Finnish Lessons: The True Story of an Education Superpower. The author attributes Finland’s past successes not to its education initiatives, but to the prominence teachers always enjoyed in that country as nation builders, the determination of families stemming from Finland’s recent industrialization, and traditional teaching methods. The author further argues that the abatement of these factors is causing Finland’s test results to decline. This report was prepared by a conservative think tank in England created by Margaret Thatcher, comparable to our Hoover Institution. The author doesn’t think much of student or teacher collaboration. But there has been a raft of studies showing that collaboration among teachers and improving social capital and the prestige of the profession do make a significant difference. It will be interesting to see the analysis of this contrarian position.

In Canada, the province of Ontario has followed the same successful trajectory—revitalizing the teaching profession, creating effective professional learning communities at each school around teaching a vigorous curriculum, and using the capacity-building approach. The result was a substantial improvement in student performance. Poland has undergone a similar transformation using team building and continuous improvement strategies to boost performance. Also, Poland has chalked up enviable progress, as described in Amanda Ripley’s book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. (Ripley visited three foreign countries for examples of world-class educational efforts—it’s a shame she didn’t visit comparable examplesin the US, for example, Massachusetts.) Many Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Singapore and the city of Shanghai are among the highest performers in the world. All have been implementing continuous improvement strategies for decades. See, for example, Developing Shanghai’s Teachers. On the flip side, Chile and Sweden adopted wholesale charter and voucher approaches and suffered severe negative consequences.

There are many success stories closer to home, but, unfortunately, they are the exception not the rule. Massachusetts is a poster child for why Build-and Support works. Over the past 20 years, the state has consistently pursued the comprehensive positive approach engaging, not vilifying, educators. It placed instruction at the core of its reforms, built capacity around improving classrooms and schools, upgraded the quality of the teaching force, and substantially increased funding. The Commonwealth carefully avoided most of the extreme reform approaches such as widespread charterization, attacking unions and weakening due process protections, and adopting punitive measures. Most importantly, Massachusetts has stayed the course for nearly two decades.

Specifically, in 1993 under the leadership of Commissioner of Education David Driscoll, the Bay State approved standards and curricular frameworks, developed an assessment system geared toward instructional improvement based on those standards and frameworks, organized professional development around the documents, raised requirements for graduation, installed rigorous charter school evaluations for approval, and initiated more stringent requirements and support for incoming teachers. Policymakers in Massachusetts also insisted that teachers earn a master’s degree over the course of their careers. (For a comparison with Finnish initiatives, see Lisa Hansel’s post “Seeking Confirmation” on the Core Knowledge blog.)

As a result, Massachusetts scores number one in our national NAEP scores by a wide margin. In international assessments it ranks right near the top in math and science, and at the top in mathematics in growth and performance level. Yes, it is home to numerous universities with high-level candidates who pursue teaching careers, a well-educated population, and a history of educational excellence, but such benefits aren’t enough to explain its phenomenal world-class performance. Why the Massachusetts model has not become the guide for national and other states’ improvement efforts, as Marshall Smith suggested several years ago, is bewildering.

Reference Notes

School Districts
Ravitch, D. (2015, Jun 23). Mike Miles Resigns as Dallas Superintendent. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/06/23/breaking-news-mike-miles-resigns-as-dallas-superintendent/

David, J. L., & Talbert, J. E. (2012). Turning Around a High-Poverty School District: Learning from Sanger Unified’s Success. http://web.stanford.edu/group/suse-crc/cgi-bin/drupal/publications/report

Amadolare, S. (2014, Feb 27). Which Is Worse? A California District Makes a Tough Choice Between No Child Left Behind and Obama Education Policies. http://hechingerreport.org/which-is-worse-a-california-district-makes-a-tough-choice-between-no-child-left-behind-and-obama-education-policies/

Long Beach Unified School District. About Long Beach Unified School District. http://www.lbschools.net/District/

Mongeau, L. (2016, Feb 2). How One California City Saved Its Schools. http://hechingerreport.org/how-one-california-city-saved-its-schools/

Steinhauser, C. (2015). Personal conversation with author. See also Freedberg, L. (2016, Feb 22). State Must Adopt Guidelines for Parent Engagement in Schools. http://edsource.org/2016/report-state-must-adopt-guidelines-for-parent-engagement-in-schools/95124?utm_source=Feb.+23+daily+digest+–+Michael&utm_campaign=Daily+email&utm_medium=email

Fiske, E. B., & Ladd, H. F. (2016, Feb 13). Learning from London About School Improvement. The News & Observer. http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article60118256.html

Cuban, L. (2016, Feb 17). Reflecting on School Reforms: Scaling Up versus Short, Happy Life or Hanging In. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/reflecting-on-school-reforms-scaling-up-versus-short-happy-life-or-hanging-in/

Knudsen, J. (2013, Sep). You’ll Never Be Better Than Your Teachers: The Garden Grove Approach to Human Capital Development. http://www.cacollaborative.org/publications

Darling-Hammond, L., Bae, S., Cook-Harvey, C.M., Lam, L., Mercer, C., Podolsky, A., & Stosich, E. (2016, Apr). Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act. Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/our-work/publications-resources/pathways-new-accountability-every-student-succeeds-act/

Cook-Harvey, C. M., & Stosich E. L. (2016, Apr 5). Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1406

Tucker, M. (2015, Dec 3). ESEA Reauthorization and Accountability: A Chance to Do It Right. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2015/12/esea_reauthorization_and_accountability_a_chance_to_do_it_right.html

Brown, C., Partelow, L., & Konoske-Graf, A. (2016, Mar 16). Educator Evaluation: A Case Study of Massachusetts’ Approach. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2016/03/16/133038/educator-evaluation/

Thompson, J. (2015, Mar 30). John Thompson: A Teacher Proposes a Different Framework for Accountability. https://educationpost.org/john-thompson-a-teacher-proposes-a-different-framework-for-accountability/

The Aspen Institute. (2016, Mar). Teacher Evaluation and Support Systems: A Roadmap for Improvement. http://www.aspendrl.org/

Nations and States
Hancock, L. (2011, Sep). Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful? Smithsonian Magazine. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/?no-ist=

Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? New York: Teacher’s College Press.

Doyle, W. (2016, Feb 18). How Finland Broke Every Rule—and Created a Top School System. http://hechingerreport.org/how-finland-broke-every-rule-and-created-a-top-school-system/

Sahlgren, G. H. (2015, Apr). Real Finnish Lessons: The True Story of an Education Superpower. Centre for Policy Studies. http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/reports/real-finnish-lessons-the-true-story-of-an-education-superpower/

Ripley, A. (2014). The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tucker, M. (2016, Feb 29). Asian Countries Take the U.S. to School. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/us-asia-education-differences/471564/

Zhang, M., Ding, X., & Xu, J. (2016, Jan). Developing Shanghai’s Teachers. http://www.ncee.org/developing-shanghais-teachers/

Alliance for Excellent Education. David Driscoll. http://all4ed.org/people/david-driscoll/

Chang, K. (2013, Sep 2). Expecting the Best Yields Results in Massachusetts. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/science/expecting-the-best-yields-results-in-massachusetts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 See also Khadaroo, S. T. (2012, Sep 5). Is Top-Ranked Massachusetts Messing with Education Success? The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2012/0905/Is-top-ranked-Massachusetts-messing-with-education-success

Hansel, L. (2015, Jul 9). Seeking Confirmation. http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2015/07/09/seeking-confirmation/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCoreKnowledgeBlog+%28The+Core+Knowledge+Blog%29

Carnoy, M., García, E., & Khavenson, T. (2015, Oct 30). Bringing It Back Home: Why State Comparisons Are More Useful Than International Comparisons for Improving U.S. Education Policy. Economic Policy Institute. http://www.epi.org/publication/bringing-it-back-home-why-state-comparisons-are-more-useful-than-international-comparisons-for-improving-u-s-education-policy/

How Top Performers Build-and-Support: Lessons Learned from Successful Districts

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How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Lessons Learned from Successful Districts

by Bill Honig

When we examine assessments of educational outcomes, it is important to be aware of a potential trap articulated by social science statistical research. The fact that there are common measures in successful districts does not necessarily mean that a low-performing district will experience similar improvements if it adopts those measures. Each district, city, state, and nation has some special circumstances, and there may be prerequisites or unique tweaks required before the approaches will work in a new context. Moreover, the process of implementing new policy initiatives and maintaining a comprehensive, strategic view that interweaves various improvement proposals may be more important than the individual measures themselves. Yet there are some essential initiatives that every successful district has employed.

Components of Successful Strategies

Virtually every world-class district has adopted policies that actively engage teachers and administrators, build social capital, and develop collaboration and teamwork. These districts also put systems in place to ensure continuous improvement centered on building craft knowledge and becoming more proficient at delivering a demanding, broad-based liberal arts curriculum. They have a robust human resources development program with two aspects. First, the districts find and keep the best teachers by developing effective systems of recruiting, proper placement, inducting, granting tenure, and compensation. Second, they build the capacity of current staff through comprehensive professional development, create effective school site teams, and offer career advancement pathways that allow our best teachers a hybrid teaching and leadership role and the possibility of higher earnings. Successful districts also have implemented a pre-K or early education program and extensive extracurricular involvement of students. Researchers in both education and business recommend these methods as essential to success. In addition, while successful jurisdictions have carefully avoided the punitive approaches advocated by conventional reformers, most low-performing districts have succumbed to that agenda and thereby neglected the more effective, positive Build-and-Support approach.

A second major point is that just as teachers must become proficient in the many dimensions of teaching (as delineated in the companion article Provide High-Quality Instruction), districts must become adept in many aspects of leadership and support. Crucially, districts have to integrate improving teaching and learning a demanding curriculum into all their initiatives so that each effort pulls in a common direction. As important, they must shift from a superficial checklist-compliance approach to an approach that provides real support for schools and teachers.

Transforming the Central Office

University of Washington professor Meredith Honig (no relation) and her team at the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy published a significant report on how districts can reorient their administration to a school support approach. Their recommendations are based on the most valid and reliable research and the experience of our top-performing districts. The document delineated five components of successful district improvement efforts:

The Five Dimensions of Central Office Transformation

Dimension 1: Learning-focused partnerships with school principals to deepen principals’ instructional leadership practice.

Dimension 2: Assistance to the central office–principal partnerships.

Dimension 3: Reorganizing and re-culturing of each central office unit, to support the central office–principal partnerships and teaching and learning improvement.

Dimension 4: Stewardship of the overall central office transformation process.

Dimension 5: Use of evidence throughout the central office to support continual improvement of work practices and relationships with schools.

Michael Fullan, professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, advises districts to address the entire school system using a small but powerful set of integrated initiatives. He cautions against an overly complex, by-the-book compliance orientation. Another helpful document on district effectiveness is the Common Core Leadership Planning Guide. It was developed in conjunction with some key policymakers, researchers, and educational and community leaders in California. The guide lists 10 areas that school districts should examine:

  • curriculum and instruction
  • instructional materials and resources (both print and electronic)
  • professional development
  • capacity building and leadership
  • student learning feedback and assessment
  • alignment of fiscal and human resources—the recruiting, induction, assisting, and providing career advancement for teachers and other staff
  • support programs that bolster implementation
  • communication with stakeholders (including parents and community)
  • transition to higher education and careers
  • technology support for instruction, data, and assessment

A very comprehensive inventory, indeed.

Improving System Performance

The documents I’ve cited reflect the strategies pursued by the most successful districts in this country and around the globe—districts that avoided the more negative Test-and-Punish methods in favor of a Build-and-Support strategy. These districts respect and encourage their teachers and pay them decently. They placed instruction and teaching at the center of their improvement efforts and turned schools into learning institutions. These districts have a long-term strategic plan for building the knowledge and capacity of the staff and continuous improvement. They create positive working conditions that allow on-site collaborative teams to thrive. These districts use the most effective instructional materials. They have reoriented management (especially principals and teacher leaders) and provided time, knowledge, and resources to assist these efforts.

Improvement initiatives in the US come none too soon. According to the article “Want to Close the Achievement Gap? Close the Teaching Gap,” on the whole, our teachers spend more time in the classroom than their counterparts in top-performing countries, significantly less time collaborating with other teachers on how best to improve instruction, and work in a much less supportive school atmosphere. See also Dana Goldstein’s recent book, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Embattled Profession, and the National Center for Education and the Economy’s 2016 publication Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. Conversely, staffs in the most successful countries and districts in Asia, Europe, and North America spend less time teaching and invest the difference in working with one another to improve instruction. Consequently, they get better results.

Revitalizing the Teaching Force

These top performers have also substantially upgraded the quality of and respect for the teaching force by attracting new teachers from the top tier of college students, training and paying them well, supporting them in their school careers, and offering career advancement for the best practitioners who remain in the classroom and help other teachers as mentors. As an example see Joel Knudson’s You’ll Never Be Better Than Your Teachers: The Garden Grove Approach to Human Capital Development. Mentoring improves the performance of both the mentor and the teacher being helped.

Building a cooperative and supportive atmosphere was found to be essential for attracting and retaining these high-quality professionals. Two major national efforts along these lines have been initiated: Deans for Impact and the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR). See also a report on the importance of a long-term strategy for revitalizing the teaching profession.

Another key objective for districts is determining the best way to select, train, and support principals to lead continuous improvement efforts at their schools. On-site leadership is critical in building the systems that connect teaching, curriculum, and instruction, continuously improving all three, and increasing the degree of engagement of teachers, students, parents, and the wider community—all of whom shape the school climate. For a perceptive two-part series on how best to train principals to lead such a capacity-building effort currently under way in four states, see Marc Tucker’s “Organizations in Which Teachers Can Do Their Best Work.” For a comprehensive report on principal training, see The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning and 2015 standards for educational leaders.

BBS Companion Articles

How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Provide High-Quality Instruction

Reference Notes

Mehta, J. (2016, Jan 8). Why “Queen Bees” and “Wannabees” Is Not the Right Way to Think About Global Education. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2016/01/why_queen_bees_and_wannabes_is_not_the_right_way_to_think_about_global_education.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

Components of Successful Strategies
Knudson, J. (2013, Sep). You’ll Never Be Better Than Your Teachers; The Garden Grove Approach to Human Capital Development. http://www.cacollaborative.org/publications

Kirp D. L. (2016, Feb 13). How New York Made Pre-K a Success. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/how-new-york-made-pre-k-a-success.html See also Farran, D. C. (2016, Feb 25). We Need More Evidence in Order to Create Effective Pre-K Programs. http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2016/02/25-need-more-evidence-create-effective-prek-programs-farran Some experts have raised questions about the research base supporting early education and whether there should be massive expansion of the program. For example, see Kirp D. L. (2015, Oct 3). Does Pre-K Make Any Difference? The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/opinion/sunday/does-pre-k-make-any-difference.html and Frey, S. (2016, Feb 28). Groups Want Early Ed Block Grant Pulled From This Year’s State Budget. http://edsource.org/2016/groups-want-early-ed-block-grant-pulled-from-this-years-state-budget/95285?utm_source=Feb.+29+daily+digest+-+Erin&utm_campaign=Daily+email&utm_medium=email

Early Learning. http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/index.html

Kronholz, J. (2012, Winter). Academic Value of Non-Academics. http://educationnext.org/academic-value-of-non-academics/

Transforming the Central Office
Honig, M. I., Copland, M. A., Rainey, L., Lorton, J. A., & Newton, M. (2010, Apr). Central Office Transformation for District-wide Teaching and Learning Improvement: Executive Summary. Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. University of Washington. http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/district-policy-and-practice/pages/central-office-transformation-district-wide-teaching-and-learning.aspx

Fullan, M. (2015, Jul). California’s Golden Opportunity. LCAP’s Theory of Action: Problems and Corrections. The Stuart Foundation. http://www.michaelfullan.ca/california-release-a-golden-opportunity/

Consortium for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards. (2013, Oct). Leadership Planning Guide California: Common Core State Standards and Assessments Implementation. California County Superintendents Educational Service Association. http://www.scoe.net/castandards/Pages/default.aspx

Improving System Performance
Darling-Hammond, L. (2014-2015, Winter). Want to Close the Achievement Gap? Close the Teaching Gap. American Educator. http://www.aft.org/ae/winter2014-2015/darling-hammond.

Goldstein, D. (2015). The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Embattled Profession. New York: Anchor. See also Goldstein, D. (2015, Spring). Quieting the Teacher Wars. What History Reveals About an Embattled Profession. American Educator. http://www.aft.org/ae/spring2015/goldstein

Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K., & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. http://www.ncee.org/beyondpd/

Revitalizing the Teaching Force
Knudson, J. (2013, Sep). You’ll Never Be Better Than Your Teachers; The Garden Grove Approach to Human Capital Development. California Collaborative on District Reform. http://www.cacollaborative.org/publications

Kirby, A. (2016, Mar 7). Teacher Mentorship Improves Performance on Both Sides. https://www.cabinetreport.com/human-resources/teacher-mentorship-improves-performance-on-both-sides

Deans for Impact. http://deansforimpact.org/ See also Deans for Impact. From Chaos to Coherence: A Policy Agenda for Accessing and Using Outcomes Data in Educator Preparation. http://www.deansforimpact.org/policy_brief.html

Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR). http://www.ceedar.org/

Richardson, J. (2015, Nov 9). Looking Abroad for Answers at Home. http://www.learningfirst.org/looking-abroad-answers-home

Hull, S. J. (2015, Oct 14). Principals Matter—and They Need the Right Start. http://www.learningfirst.org/principals-matter-and-they-need-right-start?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LFA+%28Public+School+Insights%3A+What+is+WORKING+in+our+Public+Schools%29

Tucker, M. (2015, Aug 13). Organizations in Which Teachers Can Do Their Best Work: Part I. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2015/08/organizations_in_which_teachers_can_do_their_best_work_part_i.html See also Tucker, M. (2015, Aug 20) Organizations in Which Teachers Can Do Their Best Work: Part II. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2015/08/organizations_in_which_teachers_can_do_their_best_work_part_ii.html

The Wallace Foundation (2013). The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Pages/The-School-Principal-as-Leader-Guiding-Schools-to-Better-Teaching-and-Learning.aspx

Superville, D. R. (2015, Oct 23). New Professional Standards for School Leaders Are Approved. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2015/10/new_professional_standards_for.html?r=608789257

How Top Performers Build-and-Support: Provide Adequate School Funding

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How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Provide Adequate School Funding

by Bill Honig

Many reformers argue that expenditure levels are not a key component of quality and claim that school spending is out of control. Both assertions are false. According to recent research and even reports by moderate and conservative institutions, the level of school funding matters. Increasing funding results in improved student performance and conversely, cutting school budgets depresses outcomes. When adjusted for personal income, school spending has not increased in the past generation. Teacher salaries in the US are now significantly below those in other industrial nations in terms of the percentage of salaries earned by professionals with comparable levels of education.
Unfortunately, the money-doesn’t-matter philosophy, combined with political antipathy toward public education, has severely hampered school funding in this country. As I explained in Reformers Target the Wrong Levers of Improvement, boosting student achievement requires comprehensive reform and an understanding of the many powerful leverage points that directly influence school quality and student achievement. Without adequate funding, many of these necessary initiatives—such as capacity and team building efforts—will be underfunded, teacher morale and engagement will suffer, and chances for improved instruction thwarted.

The Importance of Adequate Funding

There is extensive research confirming the link between per-pupil spending and student outcomes. For an excellent review of the literature, see Does Money Matter in Education? by Bruce Baker. For more recent reports, see The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms and “At the Intersection of Money Reform, Part III: On Cost Functions & the Increased Costs of Higher Outcomes,” part of a series Baker wrote for his blog, School Finance 101. According to a paper written by Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach for the National Bureau of Economic Research, student performance improved when courts forced increased state spending.

In January 2014, the prestigious Center for the Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported the results of its survey of K–12 state and local funding. The report provides further evidence that money matters and documents the damage caused by massive cuts in education expenditures. Quoted by the authors of the report:

As common sense suggests, money matters for educational outcomes. For instance, poor children who attend better-funded schools are more likely to complete high school and have higher earnings and lower poverty rates in adulthood.

Drawing on the CBPP report, Jeff Bryant forcefully argues that increased funding is one of the most effective school improvement strategies, whereas decreased funding is a major cause of low performance:

Importantly, as the CBPP commentary states, “money matters for educational outcomes,” especially for low-income children, whose best interest, many have said, is the main intention of federal education policy. The CBPP commentary points to two recent studies showing the positive impact of increased school funding on students.

The most recent of the two studies found “a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty. . . . The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.”

In the executive summary of the second edition of Does Money Matter in Education?, Bruce Baker states:

This second edition policy brief revisits the long and storied literature on whether money matters in providing a quality education. It includes research released since the original brief in 2012 and covers a handful of additional topics. Increasingly, political rhetoric adheres to the unfounded certainty that money doesn’t make a difference in education, and that reduced funding is unlikely to harm educational quality. Such proclamations have even been used to justify large cuts to education budgets over the past few years. These positions, however, have little basis in the empirical research on the relationship between funding and school quality.

In the following brief, I discuss major studies on three specific topics: (a) whether how much money schools spend matters; (b) whether specific schooling resources that cost money matter; and (c) whether substantive and sustained state school finance reforms matter. Regarding these three questions, I conclude:

Does money matter? Yes. On average, aggregate measures of per-pupil spending are positively associated with improved or higher student outcomes. The size of this effect is larger in some studies than in others, and, in some cases, additional funding appears to matter more for some students than for others. Clearly, there are other factors that may moderate the influence of funding on student outcomes, such as how that money is spent. In other words, money must be spent wisely to yield benefits. But, on balance, in direct tests of the relationship between financial resources and student outcomes, money matters.

Do schooling resources that cost money matter? Yes. Schooling resources that cost money, including smaller class sizes, additional supports, early childhood programs and more competitive teacher compensation (permitting schools and districts to recruit and retain a higher quality teacher workforce) are positively associated with student outcomes. Again, in some cases, those effects are larger than in others, and there is also variation
 by student population and other contextual variables. On the whole, however, the things that cost money benefit students, and there is scarce evidence that there are more cost-effective alternatives.

Do state school finance reforms matter? Yes. Sustained improvements to the level and distribution of funding across local public school districts can lead to improvements in the level and distribution of student outcomes. While money alone may not be the answer, more equitable and adequate allocation of financial inputs to schooling provide a necessary underlying condition for improving the equity and adequacy of outcomes. The available evidence suggests that appropriate combinations of more adequate funding with more accountability for its use may be most promising.

While there may in fact be better and more efficient ways to leverage the education dollar toward improved student outcomes, we do know the following:

  • Many of the ways in which schools currently spend money do improve student outcomes.
  • When schools have more money, they have greater opportunity to spend productively. When they don’t, they can’t.
  • Arguments that across-the-board budget cuts will not hurt outcomes are completely unfounded.

In short, money matters; resources that cost money matter, and a more equitable distribution of school funding can improve outcomes. Policymakers would be well advised to rely on high-quality research to guide the critical choices they make regarding school finance.

The crucial point of these studies: The effect size of these increased expenditures dwarfs the effect sizes of the most commonly proposed reform measures by Test-and-Punish advocates.

Alarming, Widespread Cuts in Educational Funding

In 2015, most states were spending below their 2008 funding level, and some were cutting even further, according to the CBPP report. In 15 states, the cuts exceeded 10%, and 12 states have imposed new cuts. This is happening even as our national economy continues to improve post-recession. Arizona has cut its state education funding by a whopping 23% in the face of widespread voter support for ameliorating the cuts. The CBPP report then documents some of the serious consequences of states’ funding decreases. Bryant lists some of the specifics for those states that have drastically reduced state funds:

In Virginia—where education funding is still over 11 percent below 2008 levels, according to CBPP—the Washington Post reports schools have cut 11,200 staff members statewide while student enrollment increased more than 42,000 students during the same time period.

Many of the additional students pose greater challenges to more time-strapped teachers—39 percent more are economically disadvantaged, 33 percent more don’t speak English as their first language, and the number of homeless students is up 73 percent.

In Pennsylvania, an ongoing funding crisis has driven many schools to borrow in order to make payroll. Some schools that are closing for the upcoming Winter break may not have the money to open up when the students return in January.

In North Carolina—where education funding is still nearly 14 percent below 2008 levels, according to CBPP—the impact of funding cuts are especially glaring.

As education correspondent Lindsay Wagner reports from the Tar Heel State, since 2008, “the economy has recovered significantly, but state spending on education has not. And that is reflected in the disappearance of teacher assistants and in schools left scrambling for supplies, textbooks, and professional development for their educators.”

Wagner’s ground level reporting from districts across the state reveals schools where lack of funding has bloated class sizes to out-of-hand levels and eliminated one-to-one assistance for struggling students. In many of these schools, lack of money means textbooks and teaching supplies are scarce, vital art, music, and other elective programs are a memory, and classes that help low-performing students no longer exist.

“There’s no turnaround in sight,” Wagner reports. “For fiscal 2015, state lawmakers cut funding for at-risk student services programs by more than $9 million.”

The chaos that ensued after Indiana slashed its education funding is well documented. 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 7% gained more than $900 million.

Are Teachers Overpaid?

Another argument put forward by some “reformers” is that school funding should be cut because teachers are overpaid. The evidence shows this claim also to be unfounded. A major report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as quoted by the National Center for Education and the Economy’s Center on International Education Benchmarking states:

Around the world, teachers continue to be underpaid relative to their level of education. Across OECD countries, teachers earned, on average, 80 percent of what similarly educated workers did, in line with top performers Finland, Poland, and Estonia. The U.S. has an even greater disparity between the earnings of its teachers and similarly educated workers: it pays its teachers only 68 percent of what similarly educated workers earn.

The Facts on School Spending

Finally, “reform” advocates and their supporters in the media question the need for increased school funding contending that inflation-adjusted spending for schools has doubled in the past 45 years yet school performance has declined. The second part of the statement is patently false since performance on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), especially among lower-income students, had risen steadily for the past 30 years until it slowed with the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and then stalled altogether when tough high-stakes consequences became widespread. But the first part of the statement is also very misleading. A large percentage of the increase (25%) in funding was to accommodate special-education students who were substantially ignored before 1970—surely a legitimate new expenditure. Spending for the regular education program has grown much more slowly.

But most importantly, adjusting only for inflation is approximately 2% a year less than personal income growth (standard of living growth) over the past 45 years, especially for professionals. So if personal income growth were used as the fair measure of how much school funding should increase to allow teachers and other staff to share in standard-of-living growth, you would expect expenditures to grow faster than inflation.

If you add the 2% extra for personal income growth to inflation, it would double every 35 years due to compounding. A shorthand way to calculate this is to divide 70 by the percentage growth, 2%, which is 35 years. Expenditures actually doubled over 45 years. Since over two-thirds of school spending is for staff members, to keep them sharing in prosperity would mean total expenditures adjusted for inflation would need to double over the 45-year period, which is exactly what happened. In contrast, successful nations worldwide have increased the salaries of teachers in relation to other professionals. In the US, teachers earn only two-thirds of average college graduates—ranking us 28th out of 33 OECD countries. See also Baker and Weber’s reportDeconstructing the Myth of American Public School Inefficiency.


What a difference it would have made had the US Department of Education and many “reform” states and districts implemented policies that followed what top-performing districts and states have pursued instead of a narrow, punitive agenda. The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) now gives states the opportunity to shift direction and model their improvement efforts on the success of states such as Massachusetts. California has adopted this strategy, and the companion articles in The California Context tell its story.

Recent Developments

8/9/16 According to a new report by EPI: The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994http://www.epi.org/publication/the-teacher-pay-gap-is-wider-than-ever-teachers-pay-continues-to-fall-further-behind-pay-of-comparable-workers/

7/30/2016 Another source demonstrating the extremely low pay of US teachers compared to professionals in other industrial nations. One of the results: lower numeracy scores. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2016/07/us_teachers_score_below_average_numeracy_skills.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

7/30/2016 Class size matters. William Mathis has compiled the latest research showing lower class sizes pay off. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options

BBS Companion Articles

Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Reformers Target the Wrong Levers of Improvement
The California Context
California Policymakers and Educators Shift from Test-and-Punish to Build-and-Support
How the California Reading Wars Got Resolved: A Personal Story

Reference Notes

Sawhill, I. V. (2015, Sep 8). Does Money Matter? Brookings Institution. http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2015/09/08-does-money-matter-education-sawhill See also Jackson, C. K., Johnson, R. C., & Persico, C. (2015, Fall). Boosting Educational Attainment and Adult Earnings. Education Next. http://educationnext.org/boosting-education-attainment-adult-earnings-schoolspending/

The Importance of Adequate Funding
Baker, B. D. (2012). Does Money Matter in Education? Second Edition. Albert Shanker Institute. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/resource/does-money-matter For the first edition, see http://eric.ed.gov/?q=ed528632

Jackson, C. K., Johnson, R., & Persico, C. (2015, Jan). The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms. National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/w20847

Baker, B. D. (2015, Dec 16). At the Intersection of Money and Reform, Part III: On Cost Functions & the Increased Costs of Higher Outcomes. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/at-the-intersection-of-money-and-reform-part-iii-on-cost-functions-the-increased-costs-of-higher-outcomes/?blogsub=subscribed#blog_subscription-3 See also Baker, B. D. (2015, Dec 28). School Finance Reality vs. the Money Doesn’t Matter Echo Chamber. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/school-finance-reality-vs-the-money-doesnt-matter-echo-chamber/

Lafortune, J., Rothstein, J., & Whitmore Schanzenbach, D. (2016, Feb). School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement. National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/w22011

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

Jackson, C. K., Johnson, R., & Persico, C. (2015, Oct 1). The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms. Quarterly Journal of Economics. http://www.nber.org/papers/w20847

Bryant, J. (2015, Dec 16). The Important Education Issue Leaders Are Still Ignoring. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/the-important-education-issue-leaders-are-still-ignoring/

Baker, B. D. (2016). Does Money Matter in Education? Albert Shanker Institute. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/resource/does-money-matter

Alarming, Widespread Cuts in Educational Funding
Bryant, J. (2015, Dec 16). The Important Education Issue Leaders Are Still Ignoring. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/the-important-education-issue-leaders-are-still-ignoring/

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

Are Teachers Overpaid?
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2015). Education at a Glance 2015. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2015_eag-2015-en

Driskell, N. (2015, Dec 17). International Spotlight: New Data Abounds in OECD’s 2015 Education at a Glance. Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB). http://www.ncee.org/2015/12/international-spotlight-new-data-abounds-in-oecds-2015-education-at-a-glance/

The Facts on School Spending
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2015/united-states_eag-2015-86-en#page7

Baker, B.D., & Weber, M. (2016). Deconstructing the Myth of American Public School Inefficiency. Albert Shanker Institute. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/resource/deconstructing-myth-american-public-schooling-inefficiency

How Top Performers Build-and-Support: Ground Efforts in Unassailable Research

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How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Ground Efforts in Unassailable Research

by Bill Honig

The failure of the reform movement could have been easily predicted. Reformers’ solutions are inconsistent with research findings on the best ways to build high-performing schools, and fly in the face of modern management theory. Unfortunately, policymakers continue to ignore what the most successful schools, districts, states, and nations have actually done. In becoming world-class institutions, none of the top performers used a fire-the-worst-teachers-and-reward-the-best strategy. Nor did they rely on the pressure of test-driven, high-stakes accountability, competition, privatization, and choice as the centerpiece of their improvement initiatives.

A Blueprint for Success

Over the past 30 years, a widespread consensus has emerged in the educational community on the best ways to improve school quality and student performance. These educators do not deny that large numbers of schools and classrooms need to greatly upgrade learning, but they believe that with the proper leadership, social and educational resources, and organizational support, most failing schools have the potential to succeed. The advocates of this Build-and-Support approach base their efforts on an overwhelming body of impeccable scholarship, indisputable evidence, and compelling experience.

This powerful consensus supports placing instruction at the center of improvement efforts, with a rigorous and active liberal arts curriculum. It recognizes the need to build teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge and to provide effective instructional materials and tools. It emphasizes strategic long-term efforts aimed at building capacity and continuous improvement systems to support enriching instruction and focuses on the interaction of all these elements.

These measures also aim to improve working conditions by developing school, district, parent, and community social capital and teamwork. They base accountability on respect for the professionals at the school, and they connect school and district improvement efforts to usable information about best practice. This Build-and-Support approach recognizes the need for districts and states to reorient from a top-down command-and-control compliance mentality to a field-facing support approach based on dialogue and discussion of needed improvements.

Prominent Experts and Authors

An enormous and powerful cadre of respected researchers, educators, and practitioners has forcefully advocated and implemented the positive Build-and-Support strategy. The following pages present a few of those whose work has deeply influenced the positions and policies promoted on this Building Better Schools site. We will begin with Michael Fullan and Linda Darling-Hammond.

Michael Fullan is professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. He is one of the prominent researchers and policy experts who promote building continuous improvement capacities around powerful instruction. He has been the intellectual godfather of Ontario, Canada’s successful rise from mediocre to world-class education. Fullan is currently advising many districts and states, including California, as well as other countries. For an example of his thinking, see Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform. He recently coauthored Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems (2015) with Joanne Quinn.

A seminal thinker of the Build-and-Support approach, Fullan examines policy and strategy levers that drive reform. He has found that the four “drivers” now in favor in the US are inadequate and often counterproductive. He offers an alternative four that have proved to be more effective at improving student performance and closing the gap for lower-performing groups relative to higher-order skills and competencies. Fullan says these successful drivers foster intrinsic motivation of teachers and students, engage educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning, inspire collective or team work, and affect all teachers and students 100%.

In Fullan’s view, the key to systemwide success is to appeal to the energy and dedication of educators and students, aligning the goals of reform with the intrinsic motivation of participants. Though superficially compelling, the prevailing drivers do not work. According to Fullan, these are the four “wrong” drivers:

  • accountability—using test results and teacher appraisal to reward or punish teachers and schools (vs. capacity building and continuous improvement)
  • individual teacher and leadership quality—promoting individuals (vs. collaboration and group solutions)
  • technology—investing in computer systems and digital media assuming they will be a quick fix to low performance (vs. using the best of a blended learning approach with a variety of educational media)
  • piecemeal reform measures (vs. integrated or systemic strategies)

Although each of these “wrong” components may be useful at times, they can never be successful drivers. In fact, Fullan notes that none of the top-performing countries in the world led their reforms with the four drivers that are the current favorites in the US.

Another way to describe Fullan’s more positive effort is “building a teaching profession around effective instruction.” A 2010 McKinsey report, How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better, supports his position. The report concludes that improving system performance “ultimately comes down to improving the learning experience of students in their classroom” and that systems achieve the best results when they “change their processes by modifying curriculum and improving the way that teachers instruct and principals lead.”

Linda Darling-Hammond is faculty director of Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCORE). She is one of the most respected school improvement researchers in the country and a true national treasure. Darling-Hammond has been a tireless advocate of the Build-and-Support approach and an outspoken critic of the dangers of Test-and-Punish strategies. She has published hundreds of books and articles on these issues. Her book The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future received the coveted Grawemeyer Award in 2012. Among her most recent books are Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What Really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement and Beyond the Bubble Test: How Performance Assessments Support 21st Century Learning. She also wrote an article that appeared in American Educator (2010, Winter) about what it takes to build an effective teaching profession, citing examples from this country and abroad.

In 2012, California superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson created a prestigious commission chaired by Darling-Hammond and Chris Steinhauser, superintendent of Long Beach, which was designated one of the top districts in the world. The commission produced Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State, a superb road map for the Build-and-Support strategy, as it applies to supporting and improving teachers. California has used it to guide statewide improvement efforts. This document should greatly assist other states as they shape educational policy under the new powers given them in the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Greatness by Design delineates many of the key components of the Build-and-Support strategy:

  • a strong liberal arts curriculum and active instruction envisioned by the Common Core standards as the driver of improvement efforts
  • a focus on team building and capacity for continuous improvement with the structures to support those efforts
  • attracting, training, induction, effective individual and team professional development, evaluation geared to program improvement, and career opportunities for our best teachers to remain in the classroom but also to become master teachers with additional responsibilities as peer mentors

Professor Darling-Hammond also coauthored an excellent guide pertaining to professional learning, the Learning Policy Institute’s publication Maximizing the Use of New State Professional Learning Investments to Support Student, Educator, and School System Growth. This topic will be further explored in the companion article Build Teams and Focus on Continuous Improvement.

Lee Shulman, also of Stanford University, is president emeritus of the respected Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching, an organization that champions the Build-and-Support strategy. Throughout his career, he has championed the importance of craft knowledge and pedagogical practice in improving schools.

Michael Kirst, whose authorship has bolstered the Build-and-Support position, is president of the California State Board of Education and has led the charge for a more supportive strategy in California. Kirst was coauthor of an EdSource report that examined middle school math programs. It found that what distinguished high-performers from laggards was the extent to which the schools organized and collaborated around how best to teach a strong instructional program with district support.

Edward Haertel is professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and one of the top psychometricians in the country. He has persistently warned of the dangers of misusing tests for evaluation schemes.

Richard F. Elmore has also written extensively on the Build-and-Support approach. For example, he authored the chapter “Leadership as the Practice of Improvement” in Improving School Leadership, Volume 2.

Jal Mehta, a strong advocate for instruction-driven reform and capacity building, edited The Futures of School Reform. Mehta coauthors Learning Deeply, an influential blog, with Richard Rothman, a perceptive opinion leader.

Andy Hargreaves, of Boston College, is a policy expert who has supported and consulted on the positive Build-and-Support approach. Like Mehta and Rothman, he has written extensively about the importance of building social and professional capital and teacher engagement aimed at deeper learning for students. He coauthored Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School with Michael Fullan.

David Cohen is an important researcher who with coauthor Susan L. Moffitt wrote about the missing ingredient in federal policy—building capacity—in The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools?

Marshall Smith is the former dean of the Stanford School of Education and was undersecretary at the federal Department of Education during the Clinton years and program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. He has ceaselessly lobbied for a course correction of federal policy along the lines I have discussed. Smith was one of the first policy experts to encourage the feds to look at Massachusetts as a model rather than to pursue the Test-and-Punish approach.

Anthony Bryk is the president of the prestigious Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In 2010, it published a study examining the reform efforts that actually worked in the Chicago schools, which were in stark contrast to those undertaken by Arne Duncan when he was Chicago’s superintendent. Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago stresses school collaboration, along with strong curricular and instructional focus, principal leadership, community involvement, and student service support as the critical elements that characterized successful schools. Bryk’s team recently authored the superb book Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better.

Marc Tucker is president of the National Center for Education and the Economy. He authored Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform and an EdWeek article, “Creating Education Success at Home.” In 2011, Tucker published Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, which advocated the Build-and-Support approach. Tucker’s extremely informative blog Top Performers is an excellent source of information about positive strategies being used worldwide.

In one of his blog posts, Tucker pointed readers to Is School Reform Working?, a must-read document bolstering the more constructive and effective measures. The author is Geoff Masters, chief executive officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research and one of the brightest educational theorists. Masters was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, the highest honor the Australian government can bestow on its citizens. No slouch.

In his paper, Masters contrasts two improvement strategies. The first is incentive driven, using rewards, punishments, and competition—the familiar Test-and-Punish strategy. The second strategy focuses on building the capacity of teachers and educators to deliver high-quality instruction for all students and to continuously improve—the Build-and-Support approach. He found that the countries with falling scores on international assessments such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) are those that adopted the Test-and-Punish approach, including Australia, New Zealand, England, and the United States. The countries that experienced improved results are those that followed the Build-and-Support strategy.

Master’s paper also provides one of the best descriptions of what successful nations do to support school improvement, specifically:

  • attracting and retaining high-quality teachers
  • ensuring that teachers know subject matter content and pedagogy
  • developing and supporting the capacity of teachers and leaders to work together toward improving teaching and instruction; and
  • guaranteeing that talent is widely distributed

Is School Reform Working? has a detailed description of the measures that school leaders should follow if they want results—measures that are completely aligned with the Build-and-Support approach proposed on this website.

Diane Ravitch has written extensively about the failures of the reform strategies, the widespread collateral damage to public schools, and the threat to the existence of public education by the “privatization” movement. Diane is the author of two recent books sounding the alarm about the punitive and privatization approaches being foisted on schools: Reign of Terror: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She also edits one of the most influential blogs in the country, mentioned below.

Greg Anrig Jr. from the Century Foundation wrote Beyond the Education Wars, an important book about the importance of building social capital.

E. D. Hirsch, the founder of Core Knowledge, has advocated tirelessly for building students’ content knowledge and content’s role in comprehension. Core Knowledge promotes the steady buildup of knowledge. Schools using Core Knowledge materials have done spectacularly well.

Lisa Hansel is a perceptive commentator on the Core Knowledge blog.

David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass cowrote 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education.

Pedro Noguera is the author of excellent books and articles. He contributes to the Bridging Differences blog, focusing on the dangers of the “reform agenda” and the importance of funding student support efforts and involving communities.

Two experts from management science have also made important contributions to our understanding of schools as complex, dynamic institutions:

Carrie Leana is George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management at the University of Pittsburgh. She argues that collaboration at the school site is the most powerful strategy for improving instruction. Her research found that instructional conversation and help from fellow teachers outweigh all other improvement initiatives. Professor Leana calls into question reforms that pursue test-driven rewards and punishments. Since, according to her estimates, only about five percent of US schools are actually managed this way, the unrealized potential in expanding this approach far outweighs other strategies. Team building around powerful instruction and curriculum should be one of our major priorities.

Professor Leana emphasizes that this approach requires the following:

  • training principals how to promote collaboration and holding them accountable for it
  • building the infrastructure to support instructional improvement and team building
  • striving to get more talented people into our schools
  • avoiding rhetoric and policies that make collaboration more difficult

Writing for the Albert Shanker Institute blog, Esther Quintero has published a series of articles on the crucial importance of building social capital.

Content and Pedagogy Advocates

To build teacher’s content knowledge and pedagogy in mathematics, we can turn to several expert content specialists:

Deborah Ball from the University of Michigan is one of the foremost authorities on teacher knowledge necessary to teach mathematics and ascertain what students actually know. There are also Phil Daro, Jason Zimba from Student Achievement Partners, and Bill McCallum, who has developed the progressions tools and the fantastically helpful, illustrative math blog, Tools for the Common Core Standards. Daro, Zimba, and McCallum were primary authors of the Common Core Mathematics Standards that call for a more active classroom combining procedural, conceptual, and application instructional practices. Each is extremely active in Common Core implementation.

Other content experts include Karen Fuson from Northwestern University, one of the top researchers and experts on elementary mathematics, and Jo Boaler from Stanford, author of What’s Math Got to Do With It?, a book every teacher of math should read. Boaler is a strong advocate for the shift to more active and engaging instruction and a leading proponent of problem-driven and project-based instruction. She taught a widely popular MOOC course on the subject, and thousands of followers visit her website, Youcubed.

Also of note is Alan Schoenfeld from the University of California, Berkeley, whose writings on conceptual understanding, problem solving, and performance assessments have been very influential.

Professor Boaler has been an effective disciple of Carol Dweck, who wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The breakthrough book demonstrated the power of teacher attitude and active instruction in persuading all students that they can be proficient at math if they work at it. This is very different from the prevailing view of most teachers, students, and US citizens that math ability is fixed—you’re either good at it or not. Finally, there are the contributors to the Second Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning whose writings address necessary teacher knowledge in math. Ensuring that their ideas, which are incorporated in the Common Core Standards, become standard practice should drive improvement efforts.

To build teacher’s content knowledge and pedagogy in language arts, we can turn to the work of these authorities:

Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois; Linnea Ehri of the City University of New York (CUNY), one of the most respected theoreticians of beginning reading; Louisa Moats, contributing writer of the Common Core State Standards, Foundational Reading Skills; Louise Spear-Swerling, whose 2015 book The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems is one of the best summaries of how best to teach children to read; Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University and one of the architects of the English Language Development Standards adopted in California that are now incorporated in a powerful ELA/ELD Framework; the writers of the California ELA/ELD Framework, Hallie Yopp Slowik, Nancy Brynelson, and Pam Spycher; Susan Pimentel and David and Meredith Liben from Student Achievement Partners; and Linda Diamond from the Consortium for Reaching Excellence in language arts.

In other disciplines, outstanding educational leaders include the following:

In science—Helen Quinn, a world-famous physicist from Stanford, wrote the national science framework on which the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was based and co-chaired the California Science Curriculum Framework Committee.

In history/social sciences—Michelle Herzog is president of the National Council for the Social Studies, which produced the C3 Framework for Social Studies, and Nancy McTygue, from the University of California, Davis, directed the writing of the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools.

In music, the arts and humanities, and physical education—Kristine Alexander is from the California Arts Project, and Diane Wilson-Graham is from the Physical Education-Health Project. Lynne Munson leads Great Minds, which brings schoolteachers together in collaboration with scholars to craft exemplary instructional materials and share them with the field.

Finally, under the leadership of Michael Cohen, the Achieve organization has been a major force for implementing the deeper learning envisioned by the CCSS.

Website Contributors and Bloggers

A number of influential bloggers and authors promote the Build-and-Support approach and caution against relying on more punitive measures:

Diane Ravitch, mentioned above, is one of the country’s most prominent educational historians. Her blog has a huge number of followers. A great deal of the content of Building Better Schools has relied on the extensive articles and authors she has published.

In addition to Marc Tucker, also mentioned above, there is Matthew Di Carlo a capable and fair researcher who writes on Albert Shanker Institute’s blog. He has written many pieces on the issues raised in this article. He also authored and sponsored a series on the importance of social capital, featuring Esther Quintero whom I have also mentioned previously.

Carrie Leana and Frits Pit contribute to the excellent Albert Shanker Institute blog. See, for example, “A New Focus on Social Capital in School Reform Efforts.”

For another preeminent authority, see Stephanie Hirsh’s website Learning Forward. It is one of the best sources of advice and protocols for building collaborative efforts at school sites.

Since 2012, Jennifer Berkshire has relentlessly and with great humor unmasked deceptive reform claims and practices on her blog, EduShyster.

Jeff Bryant writes for Salon and the Education Opportunity Network about the benefits of the more supportive option.

On his blog, Living in Dialogue, Anthony Cody writes about punitive reform measures and corporate overreach in schools.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley critiques VAMs on her blog VAMboozled.

Lisa Hansel writes for the Core Knowledge blog. Her post “Seeking Confirmation” explains the complex nature of school improvement and investigative pitfalls.

On his blog, Dan Willingham gives commonsense advice and published a powerful series of articles on instruction.

David Kirp, of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote the recent book Improbable Scholars. It chronicles how Union City, New Jersey, and two other districts rose to excellence by following a supportive approach to reform.

Charles Kerchner writes an Education Week blog about California’s exceptional path.

Robert Pondiscio writes for Flypaper at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Educational Excellence Network.

Julian Vasquez Heilig is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at California State University, Sacramento. His Cloaking Inequity blog examines the inequities of the reform agenda.

Mercedes Schneider is a Louisiana-based researcher who brilliantly refutes many of the reformers’ excessive claims on her blog, deutsch29.

Bruce Baker is professor of education finance and policy at Rutgers University. His website, School Finance 101, debunks many of the “reformers” arguments.

John Thompson is a historian who became an award-winning inner-city teacher. Writing for the Huffington Post, he deflates reform rhetoric.

The blogger Jersey Jazzman (Mark Weber) provides in-depth analysis of reform nostrums and the value of the alternative Build-and-Support approach.

KQED, a public TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area, has an excellent blog, MindShift, which is a fount of valuable educational ideas.

One of the best places to find theoretical support and practical advice related to the Build-and-Support philosophy is American Educator, the American Federation of Teachers magazine available online. Issued quarterly, it has been a consistent vehicle for top-notch scholarship in this area.

State and Local Leaders

As commissioner of education in the 2000s, David P. Driscoll helped lead Massachusetts to greatness. Tom Torlakson, California’s current superintendent of public instruction, has been a strong voice for the more collaborative approach centered on improving instruction.

Local leaders of exemplary California school districts successfully translated these supportive ideas into practice. Among them are Chris Steinhauser and Carl Cohn from Long Beach, Ronald Johnson from Sanger, Gabriela Mafi and Laura Shwalm from Garden Grove, Sandra Thorstenson from the Whittier High School District, Michael Hanson from Fresno whose attention to the potentially college bound has almost doubled the number of students who actually enroll in college, Dave Gordon and Sue Stickel from the Sacramento County Office of Education, Tom Adams from the California Department of Education, Joshua Starr and Jerry Weast from Montgomery County in Maryland, and Donald Shalvey, who previously ran the Aspire Public Schools, a charter school network. I must also acknowledge the many extremely capable administrators and teachers who work for and with these educational leaders. (Be sure to look at Turning Around a High-Poverty District: Learning from Sanger by Joan Talbert from Stanford and Jane David, a fascinating description of Sanger’s success story published by S. H. Cowell Foundation.

Successful districts have enjoyed the support of networks such as Jennifer O’Day’s California Collaborative on District Reform, which has sponsored scores of meetings between large districts and researchers in California to advance a Build-and-Support strategy and provides reports on major issues discussed. Rick Miller from the California Office to Reform Education (CORE), which comprises some of the largest districts in the state, is examining broader assessment alternatives, and the New York City Collaborative on Performance-Based Assessment is offering replacements for fill-in-the-bubble tests. Also see the list of networks compiled by the Carnegie Foundation.

In addition, David Plank from Policy Analysis for California Education has provided very helpful reports on implementation of Common Core issues. Three advocacy group leaders—Ted Lempert from Children Now, Ryan Smith from Education Trust West, and Arun Ramanathan from Pivot Learning—have supported Common Core because of the potential of those standards to improve the performance of low-income students and students of color.

The expert advocates I have named in these pages make up an impressive list of Build-and-Support proponents. I offer my apologies to the countless others who have also contributed to redirecting reform on a positive path but are not included here. The list could go on, but the main point is that there is extensive and unassailable backing for a supportive approach and validation of the dangers of the punitive strategies that are being promoted and implemented throughout our country.

In summary, the experts cited have found that all successful schools, districts, states, and nations have framed their initiatives around respect and trust. They eschewed short-term “silver bullet” approaches. Instead, they focused on long-term, comprehensive measures and adequate resources to encourage engagement, cooperative effort, relational trust, and continuous improvement. All efforts were aimed at improving the quality of instruction of individual teachers centered on a broad, liberal arts curriculum as well as developing the capacities of the whole school staff—the building of social capital. These strategies are emphasized in business and management schools, are widely used in industry, and are especially appropriate for high-performing professional enterprises. Such organizations are staffed by professionals who deal with complicated and difficult problems on a daily basis and require skilled practitioners to repeatedly adapt craft knowledge to complex situations.

Highly productive schools and districts understand that the secret to top performance is participation and teamwork. Only by unleashing their power can institutions improve and enhance the performance of each individual. To that end, they devote significant efforts to helping teachers trapped in isolated classrooms learn how to work together in becoming better at what they do. These exemplary districts understand that punitive, high-stakes schemes often undermine engagement and cooperative effort.

BBS Companion Articles

How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Build Teams and Focus on Continuous Improvement

Reference Notes

A Blueprint for Success
Tucker, M. (2016, Mar 3). Why the Common Core Will Be Declared a Failure. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/03/why_the_common_core_will_be_declared_a_failure_and_why_that_will_be_dead_wrong.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

Prominent Experts and Authors
Fullan, M. (2011, May). Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform. Centre for Strategic Education. www.janhylen.se/wp-content/uploads/…/Fullan-Wrong-Drivers-Paper.pdf

Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Mourshed, M., Chijioke, C., & Barber, M. (2010, Nov). How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better. http://mckinseyonsociety.com/how-the-worlds-most-improved-school-systems-keep-getting-better/ See also Paine, S. L., & Schleicher, A. (2011, Mar). What the U.S. Can Learn from the World’s Most Successful Education Reform Efforts. McGraw-Hill Research Foundation. http://hub.mspnet.org/index.cfm/22436

Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Linda Darling-Hammond. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/node/46

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College Press.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2013). Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What Really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement. New York: Teachers College Press.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Adamson, F. (2014). Beyond the Bubble Test: How Performance Assessments Support 21st Century Learning. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.

Tom Torlakson’s Task Force on Educator Excellence. (2012, Sep 17). Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/ee.asp

Bishop, J., Darling-Hammond, L., & Jaquith, A. (2015, Nov). Maximizing the Use of New State Professional Learning Investments to Support Student, Educator, and School System Growth. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1394

Williams, T., Haertel, E., Kirst, M. W., Rosin, M., & Perry, M. (2011, Feb). Preparation, Placement, Proficiency: Improving Middle Grades Math Performance. EdSource. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED516660

Haertel, E. (2013, Oct 21). The Flaws of Using Value-Added Models for Teacher Assessment. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/multimedia/video/1033

Elmore, R. F. (2008, Jul 31). Leadership as the Practice of Improvement. OECD. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/improving-school-leadership/leadership-as-the-practice-of-improvement_9789264039551-4-en

Learning Deeply. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cohen, D. K., & Moffitt, S. L. (2009). The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bryk, A. S., Sebring, P. B., Allensworth, E., Luppescu, S., & Easton, J. Q. (2010). Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Tucker, M. S. (2011, May 24). Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform. National Center for Education and the Economy. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED522108

Tucker, M. (2011, Oct 17). Creating Education Success at Home. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/10/19/08tucker_ep.h31.html

Tucker, M. Top Performers. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/

Tucker, M. (2015, Mar 19). Why Is Achievement Rising in Some Countries, Going Down in Others? http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2015/03/why_is_achievement_rising_in_some_countries_going_down_in_others.html

Masters, G. N. (2014, Dec). Is School Reform Working? Policy Insights, Issue 1. ACER. http://research.acer.edu.au/policyinsights/1/

Ravitch, D. (2014). Reign of Terror: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Vintage Books.

Ravitch, D. (2011). The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books.

Diane Ravitch’s Blog. https://dianeravitch.net/

Anrig, G. (2013). Beyond the Education Wars: Evidence That Collaboration Builds Effective Schools. New York: The Century Foundation Press.

Core Knowledge. http://www.coreknowledge.org

Berliner D. C., Glass, G. V., & Associates. (2014). 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Noguera, P. (2012, Sep 25). The Origins of My Views on Education. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2012/09/i_have_been_in_the.html

Leana, C. R. (2011, Fall). The Missing Link in School Reform. Stanford Social Innovation Review. http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_missing_link_in_school_reform/

Quintero, E. (2015, May 21). Trust: The Foundation of Student Achievement. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/trust-foundation-student-achievement

Content and Pedagogy Advocates
Tools for the Common Core Standards. http://commoncoretools.me/author/wgmccallum/

Boaler, J. (2015). What’s Math Got to Do with It? New York: Penguin Books.

Youcubed. https://www.youcubed.org/

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Lester, F. K., Jr., (Ed.). (2007). Second Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Shanahan on Literacy. http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/

Spear-Swerling, L. (2015). The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks.

California Department of Education. (2014, Jul 9). English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools: K–12. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/cf/elaeldfrmwrksbeadopted.asp

Consortium for Reaching Excellence. www.corelearn.com

Great Minds. (2015). Lynne Munson. http://greatminds.net/board-of-trustees/lynne-munson

Achieve. http://www.achieve.org/

Website Contributors and Bloggers
Diane Ravitch’s Blog. www.dianeravitch.net

Albert Shanker Institute. Matthew Di Carlo. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/author/matthew-di-carlo

Quintero, E. (2015, May 21). Trust: The Foundation of Student Achievement. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/trust-foundation-student-achievement See also Quintero, E. (2014, Jul 17). Do Students Learn More When Their Teachers Work Together? http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/do-students-learn-more-when-their-teachers-work-together

Leana, C. R. & Pil, F. K. (2014, Oct 14). A New Focus on Social Capital in School Reform Efforts. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/new-focus-social-capital-school-reform-efforts

Learning Forward. www.learningforward.org

EduShyster. www.edushyster.com

Education Opportunity Network. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org

Living in Dialogue. http://www.livingindialogue.com/

VAMboozled. http://vamboozled.com/

Hansel, L. (2015, Jul 9). Seeking Confirmation. http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2015/07/09/seeking-confirmation/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCoreKnowledgeBlog+%28The+Core+Knowledge+Blog%29

Daniel Willingham. http://www.danielwillingham.com/articles.html

Kirp, D. L. (2013). Improbable Scholars. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kerchner, C.T. (2016, May 24). On California: Analyzing K-12 Politics and Policies in the Golden State. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/

Thomas Fordham Institute. Robert Pondiscio. http://edexcellence.net/about-us/fordham-staff/robert-pondiscio

Cloaking Inequity. http://cloakinginequity.com/

deutsch29. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/

School Finance 101. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/

The Huffington Post. John Thompson. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/

Jersey Jazzman. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/

MindShift. http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/

American Educator. http://www.aft.org/our-news/periodicals/american-educator

State and Local Leaders
David, J. L., & Talbert, J. E. (2012). Turning Around a High-Poverty District: Learning from Sanger. S.H. Cowell Foundation. http://www.smcoe.org/assets/files/about-smcoe/superintendents-office/Sanger%20Turnaround%20.pdf

California Collaborative on District Reform. www.cacollaborative.org

California Office to Reform Education. www.coredistricts.org

New York City Collaborative on Performance Based Assessment. http://performanceassessment.org/

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (2016, Feb 4). Organizing a Network for Collective Action. http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/blog/organizing-a-network-for-collective-action/

Policy Analysis for California Education. www.edpolicyinca.org

Children Now. www.childrennow.org

The Education Trust West. https://west.edtrust.org/

Pivot Learning. http://www.pivotlearning.org/

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

Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2015, Oct 3). U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan Resigning in December. http://vamboozled.com/u-s-secretary-arne-duncan-resigning-in-december/

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