I've enjoyed corresponding with a number of people about school choice and charters lately, and the issue of parent empowerment has come up repeatedly. I see two possible ways that parent empowerment can function: 1. Parents become empowered to demand excellence from their community schools, and advocate successfully for improvements in the school, benefiting all students. 2. Parents become empowered to pursue alternatives for their own children, and use their advocacy to shift their students into an alternative tier of schools. The first dynamic is essentially one of advocacy, in which parents insist on quality. The problem is that such ...


Over the past few months, I've met many fantastic educators who work in charter schools, and I certainly have no gripe with them. Charter schools are great labs for innovation, and I'm glad they exist. Having a small number of charter schools is probably a good thing. Too often, though, complex policy issues tend to get reduced to simplistic "think of the children!" arguments, and charters are no exception. In Washington State, for example, we're hearing that we supposedly need charter schools because we have students stuck in "failing" schools and we need to give them another option. While charters ...


Why don't we look at school effectiveness as a question of efficiency - given its inputs, do this school's outputs suggest that it underperforms, or that it exceeds expectations? Instead of looking at overall achievement, in terms of test scores or graduation rates, what if we sharpened our focus on efficiency, and set out to learn exactly what it takes to educate all students well? We've known for some time that some students are easier to educate - those with higher incomes, more stable families, fewer learning disabilities, and the like - while other students are more difficult, and thus ...


I wasn't planning to ever write the terms "good education policy" and "Chris Christie" in the same sentence, but it appears that state Sen. Teresa Ruiz has pulled off something of a miracle: a substantive education reform bill that satisfies both the teachers' union and New Jersey's hard-charging governor. Her bill, signed into law by Gov. Christie on Monday, falls short of ending LIFO but accomplishes quite a bit, namely:Bumping the tenure timeline from 3 years to 4 yearsRequiring positive evaluations (3 or 4 on a 4-level scale) at least two of the final three years before being granted ...


I've been thinking a lot lately about why the national reaction was so strong to Andrew Hacker's op-ed in last Sunday's NY Times, "Is Algebra Necessary?" After engaging with various blog posts and comments on the subject, I've identified a couple of reasons. First is "tl;dr" syndrome—"too long; didn't read." Relying too heavily on the headline, thousands of readers simply fail to engage with Hacker's substantive and thoughtful argument. For example, many readers seem to think he's advocating for the end of all advanced math instruction, a scenario that would leave our society with a crippling lack of engineers...


Yolie Flores is President & CEO of Communities for Teaching Excellence, and a former LAUSD school board member. I asked her a few questions regarding the first successful use of California's parent trigger law in Adelanto, CA. On Performance: Do you think the primary impact of California's law will be through actual parent takeovers, or through increased responsiveness from districts that anticipate potential takeovers? Yolie Flores: I think most parents want to see their school district be responsive to them and address their concerns. They are eager for solutions and a commitment from school officials to improve their children's schools. But ...


Andrew Hacker has a bombshell opinion piece in last Sunday's NY Times, arguing that teaching algebra to all students is a wasted effort. Students are routinely told that math is a gateway subject—you have to take advanced math to get into a good college—and Hacker suggests that this is precisely the problem:In the interest of maintaining rigor, we're actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention...


In a recent post, I suggested that standardization is a good thing at the more coarse "grain sizes," but that administrators should leave substantial room for professional autonomy when it comes to the finer-grained choices teachers make. Today I want to address the same issue from a different angle. Micromanaging is not a virtue, and teachers appreciate it when administrators stay out of the fine-grained decisions that comprise their daily practice. But it's not as if this level of practice is inscrutable magic. When you look at what the best teachers do, you see something that might be surprising: many ...


The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama's budget proposal includes $1 billion over the next several years for a STEM "Master Teacher Corps." US News & World Report offers some additional details about the plan's rationale:The teachers will be chosen by local school officials, and Duncan anticipates that when the program is in full swing, about 5 percent of STEM teachers will be enrolled. Public schools have long faced a shortage of STEM teachers who have degrees in the subjects they teach, and many of the better-qualified teachers leave for jobs as engineers or mathematicians within five years. Duncan ...


Teacher and writer/speaker/tech expert Bill Ferriter suggested in a blog post last Thursday that scripted curriculum is the equivalent of running shoes that do more harm than good, constraining healthy, natural functioning. I don't know anyone that particularly likes scripted curriculum (except people who are selling it), but I also think it's useful to an extent; it's merely a question of degrees. I agree with Ferriter that over-standardizing can take away something crucial, but there's something to be said for having everyone on the same page—though not literally. My district's elementary math curriculum does have a fairly...


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