What If We Built a Voucher Program and No One Came?

The Nashville Tennessean reports that Vanderbilt University researchers find limited appetite for or space in Tennessee private schools to take on students who receive vouchers from a voucher program proposed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. This, to my mind, has always been the greatest weakness of voucher programs--they can move a marginal number of children around spaces in existing schools, but don't actually adress the greater problem: A shortage of high-quality school slots, period. This is also why I've always found charters, which provide a mechanism for the creation of new organizations and new high-performing school slots, so much more ...


How K-12 Education Policy Contributes to Graduate Student Debt

Loads of interesting stuff in this new New America Foundation report on graduate student debt--a major and underacknowledged contributor to sky-hight national student debt levels. But what strikes me is that a lot of the growth in this sort of graduate debt is directly related to public and licensure policies. Consider: Fully 16% of graduate student debt holders hold a master's degree in education--many as a direct result of certification policies that require individuals to earn such credentials to become teachers through alternative route programs and/or to earn a certain number of graduate credentials every so many years in ...


How to Make Head Start Better

Robert Gordon and I have a new article about Head Start up at The New Republic today. We argue that Head Start works better than many of its critics--and many K-12 education wonks--realize, but that it could--and must--do a much better job of preparing our nation's poorest kids for school. We also offer some suggestions for how to make Head Start better. Read the whole thing here....


Childcare Work: Underpaid and Downwardly Mobile

I'm pretty fascinated with these NPR charts comparing adults' professions and earnings today with their families' incomes when they were children (even though my own profession is too obscure to show up in them)! But dang, the information on childcare workers in these charts is depressing. Of all the professions included, childcare workers tend to come from families with some of the lowest earnings--and their economic status is worse as adults. In other words, childcare is downwardly mobile work, even for people from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds to start with. What a sad reflection of how we as a society value ...


What a Difference Charter Caps Make....

Charter supporters nationally are focusing on New York City, where recently-elected Mayor deBlasio seems to be making good on campaign promises to oppose charter co-locations and charge charter schools rent (never mind charter parents are city taxpayers, too...)--a potentially a significant blow to the city's charter sector that has garned significant national criticism for the Mayor. While lots of smart folks have written on this, I can't help be struck between the contrast between what's going on in New York right now--and the consternation among charter supporters leading up to last year's election there--and the current D.C. Mayor's ...


Snow Days and Seat Time

Today's weather has schools closed throughout the DC area. This year's high number of snow- and cold-related school closures along the East Coast has frustrated a lot of parents and teachers--who are particularly concerned about how districts are going to make up for the high number of closures, which has already exceeded the excess days many school systems built into their calendars this year. I spoke to one teacher recently whose school district has chosen to make up days by holding Saturday classes, and others frustrated that they may have to cancel planned (and paid for) spring break trips due ...


What GDP Doesn't Count in Early Childhood

Interesting piece by Matt Yglesias on recent arguments that the growth of free stuff on the internet creates social benefits that fail to be captured by GDP. I'd just note that this problem is nothing new--GDP numbers have never captured the unpaid home and childcare work done by (mostly) women. E.g.: If a woman stays home to take care of her 2-year-old, she's not contributing anything to GDP. But if she pays someone else to watch her 2-year-old while she works, the money she pays that person is counted towards GDP. This has always struck me as stupid, and ...


The Woeful State of Early Childhood Data

Great new report from the Early Childhood Data Collaborative highlights the gaps and disconnections in states' early childhood data systems. Only one state--Pennsylvania--can link child-level data across all the state's early childhood programs and connect it to the state's data system. As a result, policymakers and other key stakeholders often lack the data they need to answer fundamental questions about how well a state's or community's early childhood programs are serving children or where the gaps and need are (and are not). As someone who works with both early childood and K-12 policy issues and clients, the gaps in early ...


Do We Care Too Much About "Bad" Schools?

Mike McShane thinks education reformers care too much about bad schools. Having visited some truly bad schools in my day--including a few places where it took incredible force of will not to grab the children and run screaming from the building--I have to disagree. When children are involved, and when public funding is at stake, we--both society as a whole and the government entities that oversee school funding--there is a level of quality and performance below which is it just unacceptable to allow a child to remain in a school. Period. Our moral obligations as adults demand this.The schools ...


The Need to Bring Reform Energy to Head Start

David Brooks and Gail Collins also discussed pre-k in their Opinionator web dialogue series this week. I'm not sure that David Brooks really knows much about Head Start (his comment that the program needs to provide more "many more wraparound services" suggests he's unaware of Head Start's core and long-standing focus on comprehensive child development, including nutrition, health, and family services). But he does have one really key point: "Head Start needs to see the same reform energy that K-12 is seeing." Yet, Head Start has been largely ignored by K-12 reformers, even though it's an $8 billion annual program ...


The opinions expressed in Sara Mead's Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.
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