October 2011 Archives

Do Struggling Charter Schools Deserve a Second Chance?

Last week, I wrote about the "Struggling Schools and the Problem with the 'Shut It Down' Mentality." The post seemed to strike a chord, so I would like to encourage my readers to consider the same framework for struggling charter schools. Most people who follow research on charter schools would agree that there is little evidence that, on average, students in charter schools gain any more than similar children in non-charters. Charter advocates admit this to be true, but point to positive effects documented for outstanding charter networks, such as KIPP, and often vow to "weed out" failing charters from ...


Is Whole School Reform Poised for a Comeback in ESEA?

Whole school (or comprehensive) reform models are making a remarkable comeback in policy and practice. Popular in the 1990's, with as many as 6,000 schools using whole-school models by 2001, the Bush administration tried to eliminate the approach in the 2000s, despite strong positive effects in evaluations of several of the most popular models. Recently, whole-school reform has re-appeared in the Senate's proposals for reauthorization of ESEA. Here's the proposed language: (iv) WHOLE SCHOOL REFORM STRATEGY- A local educational agency implementing a whole school reform strategy for a school shall implement an evidence-based strategy that ensures whole school reform. ...


Struggling Schools and the Problem with the "Shut It Down" Mentality

One of the solutions often proposed for schools in which students perform poorly is closing down the school. It's one of the four options required for schools to receive School Improvement Grants in the current administration and has been an option for consistently low-achieving schools under No Child Left Behind. The Senate HELP Committee's proposal for reauthorizing ESEA maintains school closure among seven options for persistently low-achieving schools. "Shut it down" sounds like a logical, if extreme, option when all else has failed, but a study by John Engberg from RAND and his colleagues presented some disturbing data about school ...


What Else Could We Do With $800 Million?

Tutor students after class? No! says every lad and lass Yes! replies the ruling class But will it help the children pass? My colleague Steve Ross, writing in yesterday's guest blog on Sputnik, refers to the noble intentions and disappointing outcomes of Supplemental Educational Services (SES). I wanted to add some additional perspectives on what we can learn from the many SES evaluations and their larger meaning for policy. Ross notes that most would raise participating students from the 25th to the 28th percentile, and a recent review of SES evaluations from Old Dominion University suggests the effect is even ...


Supplemental Educational Services: Noble Ideas + Unreasonable Expectations = Disappointing Results

NOTE: This is a guest post by Steven Ross, Professor in the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University With the upcoming reauthorization of ESEA pending, and the future of Supplemental Educational Services (SES) in question, it is due time to reflect on the research and implementation lessons of this program. Making tutoring available to increase the academic performance of low-achieving and disadvantaged students is a noble idea. After all, one-on-one and small-group tutoring have been supported by extensive research evidence, while having universal appeal as a teaching strategy. However, expectations that tutoring can be delivered ...


Failing to Succeed

The road to wisdom? Well, it's plain And simple to express: Err and err and err again But less and less and less. -Piet Hein This past summer, a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) carried out a test of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), the fastest airplane ever built. Traveling at 13,000 miles per hour, the pilotless plane will be able to go anywhere on Earth in an hour or less. In the test, the plane worked perfectly, soaring into near-space orbit and then gliding as planned for nine minutes. It then "lost...


Evidence-Based Reform in England

Fans of evidence-based reform in education have likely been spending some time this week combing through Sen. Harkin's draft proposal for any language that could encourage or bolster greater use of effective strategies and programs. Meanwhile, there are extraordinary developments taking place in England that can teach us some lessons on advancing evidence based reform here in the States. The new Conservative-led coalition government has been slashing government expenditures in every area, including education. However, despite the same budget pressures we have in the U.S., David Cameron's government is investing in proven programs in education, on the basis that, ...


Evidence of Evidence in Senate ESEA Draft

The Senate draft language for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), released yesterday, gives me hope for evidence-based reform in education. Busy policy shops and newsrooms are still digesting the 860-page draft, and will surely provide thorough analysis in the coming days. In the meantime, I would like to highlight three critical developments for evidence-based reform: 1) The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), only funded through appropriations in the past, would be codified in law. Already in its second round of competition, this program is no longer "new," but a permanent authorization would be a real ...


Leveraging ESEA Innovation for Impact

In federal education policy, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the big kahuna, the 800-pound gorilla, the nec plus ultra. As the Senate HELP committee prepares to take action on the long-stalled ESEA renewal next week, it is timely to consider the law's role in innovation. ESEA is the bedrock of educational innovation, at least for high-poverty schools. It's been around since 1965, and it may be renamed (No Child Left Behind) or repurposed, but it's unlikely to ever go away. Including over $14 billion a year for Title I alone, ESEA is a big chunk of change, ...


Gold-Standard Program Evaluations, on a Shoestring Budget

Note: This is a guest post by Jon Baron, President of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, and Chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences In today's tough economic climate, quality evaluations of education reforms - to determine which are truly effective in improving student achievement, graduation rates, and other key outcomes - are especially important. They enable us to focus our limited resources on strategies that have been proven to work. Well-conducted randomized controlled trials are generally recognized as the most reliable method (the "gold standard") for evaluating a program's effectiveness. However, widespread misconceptions about what such studies involve ...


Making the Most of Common Core State Assessments

For 30 years, education policymakers have been promising that if we just had the right tests and the right accountability systems, our education outcomes would advance by leaps and bounds. Yet each stage of enthusiasm is followed by a period of disappointment, and then a new improved set of tests and accountability (and a shiny new set of promises). Texas, which has always been ahead of the curve in assessments and accountability, started its TAAS system in 1982, but remains near the bottom of all states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The latest enthusiasm about new tests ...


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