Is your LEA applying for a district-level Race to the Top grant? Public Impact has made a compilation of materials
(graphics, papers, videos) available focused on the goals of this competition: helping more students have access to highly effective and effective teachers.
Mr. Osborne identified several factors as standing in the way of authorizers’ ability to close low-achieving charters. Authorizers often lack the funding and staff to closely monitor charter performance and collect little data on those schools. Some authorizers receive funding from charters, he noted, so they have an incentive to keep them open. Authorizers also have no clear criteria for renewing or revoking charters, and their decisions about closing schools can, in some cases, be overruled by state officials or courts.
In addition, authorizers recognize that shutting down a charter school may mean that students will be forced to choose from other academically struggling or otherwise unsound schools, Mr. Osborne said. Other barriers are political: Authorizers, particularly local school boards, can face enormous pressure from families and the community not to close schools, even academically struggling ones, he added.
At the start of the school year, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions, posed byGrant Wiggins
- If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced?
- If a primary goal of education is high-level performance in the world going forward, how can marching through old knowledge out of context optimally prepare us to perform?
Rigorous, Relevant Curriculum
This NY high school is using an old approach
to prepare students for the new writing standards of the Common Core.
The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be unfamiliar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but,because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”
Perhaps more helpful than the instructional method is the example of persistent digging through data to find the root of low student achievement:
Scharff, a lecturer at Baruch College, a part of the City University of New York, kept pushing, asking: “What skills that lead to good writing did struggling students lack?” She urged the teachers to focus on the largest group: well-behaved kids like Monica who simply couldn’t seem to cobble together a paragraph. “Those kids were showing up” every day, Scharff said. “They seem to want to do well.” Gradually, the bellyaching grew fainter. “Every quiz, every unit test, every homework assignment became a new data point,” Scharff recalled. “We combed through their writing. Again and again, we asked: ‘How did the kids in our target group go wrong? What skills were missing?’ ”
Van Ton-Quinlivan, the vice chancellor for work force and economic development at the California Community Colleges System, explained to me the four basic skill sets out there today. The first are people who are “ready now.” That’s people with exactly the right skills an employer is looking for at the right time. Employers will give the local labor market and schools the first chance at providing those people, but if they are not available they’ll go the “shortest distance to find them,” she said, and today that could be anywhere in the world. Companies who can’t find “ready now” will look for “ready soon,” people who, with limited training and on-the-job experience, can fit right in. If they can’t find those, some will hire “work ready.” These are people with two or four years of postsecondary education who can be trained, but companies have shrinking budgets for that now and want public schools to do it. Last are the growing legions of the “far from ready,” people who dropped out or have only a high school diploma. Their prospects for a decent job are small, even if they are ready to “work hard and play by the rules.”
In each instance, public and private actors play the roles to which they’re best suited: Private firms compete to develop innovative products and services that deliver social benefits, while public authorities set goals, fund basic research, and police market abuses.
published earlier this year compared spending at charter schools to spending in non-chartered public schools in NY, OH and TX. The authors suggest that the next round of research should follow these principles:
First, we must continue to make strides in improving the precision with which we are able to compare marginal spending differences across organizational units like schools or districts.
Second, beyond looking at average expenditure differences by schools we must also begin to dig deeper into understanding the cost structure of providing specific programs and services— most notably, those programs and services that work, or that make successful charter schools tick. Determining cost structure requires: breaking the expenditures down into their parts, rather than viewing them as a whole; figuring out which programs, strategies or reforms are causing improved outcomes; determining the ingredients of successful strategies —the people, materials, supplies, equipment, physical space, and time it takes to implement these strategies; and then, calculating the cost of each factor and the cumulative cost of putting it all in place.