Andy Smarick

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    Author Bio:
    Andrew R. (Andy) Smarick is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on education and related domestic and social policy issues. Concurrently, he serves as president of the Maryland State Board of Education and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Mr. Smarick started his career as a legislative aide in the Maryland General Assembly. He went on to serve as director of the Charter School Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization. He was also the cofounder and chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


To Improve Rural Schools, Focus on Their Strengths

Facilitate real school choice, charter conversions, and individual solutions for specific regions

A Pragmatic Approach to Systems Reform

A review of Reinventing America’s Schools by David Osborne

Innovation in Catholic Education

New approaches to instruction and governance may revitalize the sector

Diplomatic Mission

President Obama’s path to performance pay

Winter 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 1

Toothless Reform?

If the feds get tough, Race to the Top might work

Spring 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 2

Wave of the Future

Why charter schools should replace failing urban schools

Winter 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 1

The Turnaround Fallacy

Stop trying to fix failing schools. Close them and start fresh.

Winter 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 1

Blog Posts/Multimedia

The Unified Education Reform Team Is No More, But That’s Ok

Those who want to improve kids’ opportunities are searching in lots of different places for different types of solutions.


The Complications of State-level Education Policymaking

With the US Department of Education now approving state ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plans, attention turns to those plans’ contents. This includes how states intend to help kids assigned to persistently struggling schools.


Balancing College and Career Readiness

ESSA accountability plans are a window into how states are trying to find the balance between preparing students for college or for careers.


Some Basics on President Trump and Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are especially popular among policymakers at the moment because of our national labor force-participation and skills-gap challenges.


Authority, Schools, and America’s System of Government

While technocrats have been trying to centralize and homogenize and control everything about education, school choice and charters have done the exact opposite.


On Bears and US Secretaries of Education

We should get accustomed to the idea of intense debates over future secretaries for as long as the US Department of Education wields such significant authority.


The $7 Billion School Improvement Grant Program: Greatest Failure in the History of the U.S. Department of Education?

The final IES report on the School Improvement Grant program is devastating to Arne Duncan’s and the Obama administration’s education legacy.


Civil Society and Job Training

Instead of trying to use public policy to develop training programs for the workforce of the future, let’s instead rest our hopes on a vast array of small-scale, nimble, local solutions crafted by civil-society actors.


100 Must-Read Articles on the Shape of 2016

Here are 100 of my favorite articles of 2016.Together I think they paint an arresting picture of an extraordinary year.


A Flexible Way Forward for a Wobbly Standards-and-Testing Apparatus

What if we create a common pool of test items that states would use on a voluntary basis?


Uncle Sam and America’s Schools in the Trump Administration

The most important question for any incoming Republican president is, “Are you hoping to advance particular programs or a steady, coherent conservative philosophy?”


School Accountability and the Infinite Information Problem

We should recognize the government’s limited ability to collect, analyze, and make use of the extraordinary amount of information relevant to school quality and family preferences.


Graduation Rates: What Does a Diploma Tell Us?

As policymakers reconsider the “college for all” mindset, they face tough questions about what a high school diploma should mean and how best to ensure that every young adult has the chance to build a professional future that’s honored, fruitful, and rewarding.


How Chartering Makes Possible An Entirely New Approach to Accountability

The leadership of an urban district should ask state policy makers for permission to apply charter-type accountability to all schools in the district.


The Accountability Legacy of a Hundred-Year-Old Decision

Our current understanding of “state accountability systems” is a reflection of a decision made one hundred years ago to have a single government provider of schools.


Can Charter School Autonomy Coexist with Community Control over Schools?

A community’s voters want to have a say over what types of schools exist, what constitutes “good schools,” who runs them, how an area’s culture and traditions are passed on, and much more.


What “Hamilton” and Its 11 Tonys Say About Grit and Privilege

What we teach our kids about responding to adversity says a lot about our vision of America.


Why I Would’ve Voted No on Putting the School Board in Charge of New Orleans Charter Schools

Louisiana has decided that all New Orleans charter schools now overseen by the state’s Recovery School District will be placed under the control of the local school board.


Is Dumping the District the Way to Break the Link between Socioeconomic Status and Student Achievement?

If we know that high-performing, high-poverty schools are possible, why is it that not a single urban district in this entire nation has been able to bring those results to scale—even after fifty years of effort?


Local Control Versus State Obligation

Even a careful observer of education policy could wonder, “Who’s actually in charge of public schooling?” That is, at which level of government does the buck stop?


Could D.C. Give Its Schools the Same Autonomy as Charter Schools?

How Washington, D.C. could lay the foundation for the next decade of improvement for its schools.


The Next Phase of D.C. Reform

The most valuable contribution of a new report by David Osborne on the last two decades of reform in Washington D.C. schools is the implicit question it raises about the future.


Steering and Rowing in the Age of ESSA

ESSA returns to states the authority to create K–12 accountability systems. So what, exactly, should schools and districts should be held accountable for? What do we want them to actually accomplish?


How Should States Measure School Success?

Most of today’s K–12 accountability systems are, themselves, persistently underperforming.


Star Wars and Education Reform

In both the movie and the school reform world, advocates of modernity can be snootily proud of their creations and dismissive of the tools of older generations.


Retreating to an Education System Without School Choice is Not an Option

Many of today’s most difficult education debates are the result of our transition from a highly legible, single-provider model to a decentralized, choice-based model.


The Five Themes of ESSA Coverage

I re-read about fifty major articles, blog posts, and other missives about ESSA over the break, since this written record will serve as the foundation for years of commentary and analysis.


My Favorite Writing of 2015

As 2015 was coming to a close, I compiled a list of my fifty favorite reads of the year.


States v. Districts in the Every Student Succeeds Act

The dominant narrative about ESSA is that it shifts authority over schools back to state governments. But this belies a key feature of the legislation.


Accountability and the Every Student Succeeds Act

If your primary interest is in getting Uncle Sam to back off of America’s schools, you can start to prepare the Mission Accomplished banner. If your primary interest is in great K-12 accountability systems, you can’t direct your attention to state superintendents and state boards of education fast enough.


Competitive Grants and Federal Education Policy

Conventional formula-based programs can divvy up dollars evenly, but they don’t change behavior much. The right kind of competitive grant, however, allows the federal government to set a priority while enabling state and local direction and innovation.


Six Headlines From 2015 NAEP TUDA

The results from 2015 NAEP TUDA data didn’t get much media coverage. That’s a shame because these are the best assessments for understanding student performance in America’s biggest urban districts.


Charter Schools Are Much More Than R&D Labs for School Districts

When Hillary Clinton recently told an audience that the purpose of charter schooling is to “learn what works and then apply (it) in the public schools,” she made two mistakes.


Is It Really Possible That Professional Development Doesn’t Work?

What TNTP’s report “The Mirage” gets wrong on teacher development


New Orleans and the Remaking of American Urban Public Schooling

New Orleans is just one chapter in the much bigger story of a shift from a single government operator of schools to an array of nonprofit operators.


What I Learned From Today’s Young Education Innovators

Earlier this year, Forbes released a celebration of edu-wunderkinds, its “30 under 30” in education.


The Resurgence of Urban Catholic Education?

Religious and lay leaders are creating new schools, networks and governance models.


Education Reformers Need To Look Beyond Ideas, Ideology, and Innovation and Learn About The Efforts That Preceded Them

Schools have been around forever. There are mountains of accumulated wisdom to study if we’re willing to look up from our Twitter feeds.


In God We Trust; All Others Bring Data

I promise that you’ll learn interesting stuff by just spending some time with “Conditions of Education.” And maybe if we all do that, our debates would be a bit more fruitful and a bit less contentious.


Don’t End Accountability for Federal Education Dollars

We should scale back NCLB’s federal micromanagement , but not all accountability is micromanagement.


Speak Up! Change The World! Ruin Your Career!

Bad ideas are preserved when current experts are afraid to fall out of favor with their colleagues and ambitious, budding experts are afraid to be rejected by the establishment so nobody speaks up.


Real Autonomy, Real Accountability: Pacts Americana

Can the performance-contract approach of chartering be used to re-envision ESEA?


Understanding Incentives in Charter Authorizing

Are charter school authorizers requiring too much paperwork from prospective school founders?


What We Didn’t Know About School Choice in 2001

An opinion piece by Delaware Governor Jack Markell ignores all we’ve learned about private school choice.


A Student of School Reform on the Maryland State Board of Education

I suspect one of the toughest parts of this job will be projecting a sense of urgency about necessary reforms while heralding the very good things taking place


Baltimore and the Societal Factors Influencing Our Schools

I’ve spent a good bit of time looking into a wide range of issues associated with the tough conditions faced by millions of city kids and what we might do to offer these boys and girls better opportunities.


School Closures, Student Learning, and the New System of Schools

There are ways to far better serve millions of low-income kids than the turnaround- and district-focused strategies of the last several generations.


Education Reform’s Women — and the Credit and Opportunities They Deserve

When the history of this era’s urban-education reform movement is written, four big policy innovations are sure to get attention: the nation’s first voucher program, first charter law, first mayor-controlled charter authorizer, and first “extraordinary authority” unit (the RSD).


A Test of Education Reform

I’m a strong supporter of assessments and accountability, and I wouldn’t opt out, but I think it’s unfair to discount the views of those who disagree.


The Great Achievements of the Every Child Achieves Act

The bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill crafted by Senators Alexander and Murray represents a very smart compromise on the key issue of accountability


Choice, Accountability, and Charter Performance

If you’re at all interested in school choice, you really should read a trio of recent reports.


Time For a New Non-District Charter Authorizer in D.C.

Washington, D.C. could offer America’s cities an invaluable new example of an all-charter approach.


The Complications of Educational Returns in Rural America

Idaho finds itself in a chicken-egg situation. Improve educational attainment without improved employment opportunities inside Idaho and the state might risk investing in a strategy that merely exports talented young Idahoans.


New Systems of Schools and Common Enrollment

If cities simply add more choice schools in the absence of changes to the enrollment process, parents can struggle to find information on schools, be forced to fill out widely varying school applications, and then receive a staggered barrage of acceptance and rejection notices.


Innovation, Technology, and Rural Schools

Rural superintendent don’t consider teacher recruitment and retention among their biggest challenges…and mixing rural schooling and technology is more complicated than you might think.


The Limits of Equity

Some reforms may exacerbate inequality because they don’t help every last needy student. But pursuing equity above all else could jeopardize the gains of some very needy kids.


School Choice Technocrats Wanted

As the traditional urban school district is slowly replaced by a system marked by an array of nongovernmental school providers, new policies (undergirded by a new understanding of the government’s role in public schooling) are needed.


The State-Led ESEA Compromise

A compromise around the idea of accountability for results would require the right to agree to include explicit performance targets and the left to agree to give states greater flexibility in tackling challenges.


ESEA Testing Proposals in One Picture

NCLB assessments appear safer than I would’ve guessed sixty days ago.


Teacher Evaluations: Uncle Sam, Exit Stage Left

The work of teaching is so extraordinarily complex and teachers are so tightly woven into the fabric of school communities that any attempt by faraway federal officials to tinker with evaluation systems is a fool’s errand


Obama’s Year-Seven Budget

Given today’s political conditions, President Obama’s education request is actually quite savvy. It retreats where necessary, digs in where possible, and has an eye on history.


Optimistic Predictions Notwithstanding, Common Core Faces Brutal 2015

Common Core proponents need an updated advocacy playbook. The political terrain of 2010 and 2015 are very, very different.


Ten Things To Know About Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Reauthorization Speech

It’s pretty clear that the coming reauthorization debate is going to focus on accountability. But in addition to early childhood and more funding, Duncan also talked about educator evaluation, teacher preparation and support, and more.


State Chiefs Speak on ESEA

State education chiefs may have helped turn the tide against what appeared to be a mounting anti-assessment, anti-accountability wave.


Homeostasis and the End of Today’s Era of Reform?

Three signs of homeostasis—a reversion to the old tried-and-true way of doing things.


Implementing Teacher Evaluation in New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Education has produced a report on the status of its new teacher evaluation efforts.


Strong Charter Accountability in D.C.

In Washington, D.C., more kids are in high-performing charters, the number of high-performing charters is growing, and the number of struggling charters is shrinking. But why?


D.C.’s Outstanding and Improving Charter School Sector

Test scores in D.C. offer reason to believe that chartering—if done smartly—can replace the district system for delivering public education in America’s cities.


Ten Things To Know About The 2014 Elections

My admittedly late thoughts on last night’s results.


The Shock of the New

The greatest friction between contemporary education reform and conservatism is the former’s obsession with “new” and the latter’s deep skepticism of it.


Is Uncle Sam Ed Reform’s Biggest Liability?

Many of today’s most prominent reforms are quite popular, but it looks like folks are perturbed by a meddlesome Uncle Sam


Ten Things To Know About The CCSSO-CGCS Testing Plan

The organization of state superintendents and the organization of big urban school districts will work together to audit the number and types of tests administered and develop new systems that are leaner and more integrated.


A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come

Before we retreat to the pre-NCLB era of grade-span testing or revert to some other testing-light position, let’s at least recall some of the benefits of annual testing of all kids.


Ed Reform’s Blind Spot: Catholic Schools and Social Capital

By ignoring the closure of urban Catholic schools, we have not only allowed high-quality seats to disappear, we’ve also allowed the further deterioration of the threadbare social fabric of fraying communities.


District School Authorizers and Next-Generation Accountability

Two important events provide the outlines for a new approach to state-level accountability.


A Lion in Winter and a Coming of Age

Over the last month or so, there’ve been a number of notable stories highlighting the passing of the torch from urban districts to urban chartering.


Where Does Government Education Research Really Come From?

When Congress convenes in lame-duck status between November and January, taking up the future of NCES would be timely.


Common Core and the Era of Good Behavior

The moderating of the debate over the Common Core seems to be mirroring the field’s increased focus on implementation.


Smart Markets, Diverse Options, and Burke’s Caution

Mike McShane’s new book Education and Opportunity offers a sophisticated view of public school markets, how to understand them, use their strength, and appreciate their limitations.


Ferguson, Reparations, and Institutional Roots

The most convincing argument against conservatism is that by defending longstanding institutions it ends up protecting longstanding injustices.


Stuck in the Middle with State-Level Reform

There is a yawning gap between the stirring language in state constitutions promising great primary and secondary schools and the nitty-gritty work of actually living up to that responsibility.


Energized Retrenchment: The Coming Conservative K-12 Approach?

The new conservative approach attempts to advance positive change, not through massive new federal programs or fanciful technical solutions but via traditional, experience-informed means.


Change and Preservation in Education Reform

Education reform has never thoughtfully discussed, much less enumerated, what ought to be conserved.


Is Education Reform Anti- Conservative?

How could I be disposed to preserve venerable institutions and yet favor dramatic K–12 change?


Two Charter School Debates: When Philosophical Opposition Masquerades as Policy Commentary

There’s lots of important work out there aimed at improving the way the charter sector works, but it often gets overshadowed by articles that are just thinly veiled attacks on the idea of charter schooling.


Vergara, Harris, and the Fate of the Teacher Unions

We’re in a period of profound change in teacher-union leadership, with more combative leaders in ascendance, But what the unions really need are leaders able to craft winning platforms with a new orientation.


The Three-Sector Approach and Decision-Defending

Why is it so hard to get education reformers to support initiatives that make high-quality private schools accessible to low-income families?


10 Things to Know about the Vergara Decision

Yesterday, a California superior court overturned five state laws related to the employment of teachers. Here’s what you need to know.


Beach Edu-Reads, Part 2

Common Core, MOOCs, teachers of the year, student surveys, rural education, and more


Beach Edu-Reads, Part 1

Choice, teacher effectiveness, charter schools, and more


NACSA’s Sixth Annual Survey and the Future of Authorizing

If charter schooling is to live up to its promise, charter school authorizing must get more attention.


The ‘Public’ in the Urban Public Education System of the Future

When schools are not run by locally elected school boards, can there still be local control?


The Resilience of Common Core

Given the news coverage, you’d think Common Core’s fate was daily hanging in the balance—that pro and con forces were trading massive victories, swapping gains with each successive battle. But that’s emphatically not happening.


SEA Reform and Violent Agreement

Our report on reforming state departments of education has generated some very thoughtful responses.


USED, Indiana’s ESEA Waiver, and an Unexpected Federalism Paradox

Now that Washington State has lost its waiver and Indiana could be on a path to nonrenewal, we shouldn’t be surprised if people start asking increasingly pointed questions about why other states, similarly noncompliant, haven’t been dinged.


Job Well Done

Friday was Michele McNeil’s last day at Ed Week.


Great Recent Reform Reads

Catholic schools, charter schools, college, unions and more


The New SEA: At the Helm, Not the Oar

The state education agency was never intended to lead complex, contentious, large-scale reforms that require original thinking, nimble action and constant adaptability.


Charter Paean Disguised as a Donors’ Guide

From Promising to Proven is a meditation on the history, status, and future of charter schooling


The Bay State, British Blues, and Barber

A new report by Sir Michael Barber Barber’s is an exhaustive—if exhausting—assessment of Massachusetts’ standing and a thorough plan for generating improved results.


Eye-Opening Snapshot of State-Level Reform Activity

Developments in South Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, and Louisiana


The Testing Pendulum

If NCLB represented the farthest point of the testing pendulum’s swing to the right, many forces beyond gravity alone are now pulling it leftward.


The Broad Prize and the Courage to Change

Is the best urban district good enough?


Next for Neerav, NSNO, and NOLA

After eight years of helping make New Orleans the most exciting American city for K–12 education, Neerav Kingsland is going to focus on bringing NOLA-style reform to other cities.


Friday Catchall: Job Opportunities and Quick Reads

CRPE, DFER, CEE-Trust and more


The Challenges Facing Struggling Rural Schools

Struggling rural schools face different challenges than struggling urban schools, so different interventions may be called for.


Recent Edu-Reads, For Your Perusing Pleasure

School boards, charter schools, and more


Five Takeaways from Race to the Top Year-Three Reports

Today, the U.S Department of Education released Year-Three reports on the 12 states that won funding via Race to the Top’s first two competitions.


IES on SIG: Troubling Foreshadowing

We probably spent billions of dollars to get the same outcomes as if this program had never existed. And yet, these dollars continue to flow.


Top Recent Edu-Reads

Teacher pensions, school productivity, virtual school accountability, and more


Chris Cerf: In Appreciation

Last week, Chris Cerf stepped down after three extraordinarily successful years as New Jersey’s commissioner of education.


The De Blasio Paradox: Private Money and Public Schools

One could infer from Mayor de Blasio’s comments about charter schools that private money and public schooling should not mix. So why is the mayor’s chancellor of schools, Carmen Fariña, the board chair of the Fund for Public Schools?


The Invaluableness of ‘Obscure’ Words and the SAT

Ostensibly “obscure” words give us powers of description that can inform our surroundings, and they can bring clarity and insight to our understanding or the world.


The Obama Administration’s 2015 K–12 Budget Request

The Obama administration has just released its 2015 budget proposal. Here are its most notable K-12 edu-features.


School Improvement Grants: The Disaster Continues

The most persistently low-performing schools in America got several million dollars, on average, and yet a third of them got worse.


Ten Map Meditations on Economic Mobility

The places in our nation with the highest percentages of African Americans offer the lowest-income kids the bleakest hopes of making it to the top.


Stuff to Read While You’re Snowed In

Charter schools, vouchers, Louisiana, Ohio, and more


Charter Lessons for School Choice, Including Accountability via Authorizers

Having state-approved authorizers oversee private schools that participate in voucher programs would expand the educational options available to disadvantaged kids, ensure that participating schools are high performing, and allow private schools to maintain their distinctive characteristics.


Utilizing Charter Schooling Strengthens Rural Education

Better policy alone won’t expand the public-school options available to rural kids. Charter advocates need to better understand rural communities—their strengths, challenges, hopes, and fears.


The Principled Opposition to Common Core

George Will’s column isn’t the real story here. It’s what the column represents: the quiet but growing and hardening principled opposition to Common Core.


Systemic Reform in Kansas City

If the state board of education accepts this plan, things will never be the same. It will be a state-led initiative to replace the urban district as the delivery system for public schooling, thereby breaking with 100 years of history.


Weekend Reading

There were many important releases and developments this week—invaluable new SIG information from IES, Race to the Top audits, new Brookings “choice index”—and I couldn’t keep up!


The Horror and Hope of Camden

In a state with deeply troubled urban school districts—Newark, Paterson, Asbury Park—Camden’s stands apart for its calamitous results.


Five Edu-Reads to Start the Year Off Right

Waivers, KIPP, and more


Five Edu-Reads to Close Out the Year in Style

School closures, poverty, economic mobility, and more


School Improvement Grants in Colorado

SIG is failing both because turnarounds seldom work and because state processes for doling out funds have been unsound.



One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2013 NAEP TUDA data release, especially for those inside the beltway, were the results for District of Columbia Public Schools.


The 10 Things to Know About NAEP TUDA 2013

The performance of students in urban districts is distressingly low.


More Good Reads

Charter schools, principal recruiting, South Africa, and more


Quick Hits for a Snow Day

Good reads on gifted kids, value-added analysis, urban school reform, and more


America’s Rural Schools and Communities

Rural public schools enroll eleven million children, fully a quarter of students nationwide. Yet, sadly, the challenges faced by rural educators and their students have received scant attention from national education leaders.


Nashville’s Schools, What It’s Like to be Poor, John White, Waivers, and More

What I’ve Been Reading


Why and How Parents Choose Schools

I agree with the study’s authors that we ought to do all we can to make school information widely available so parents can make informed choices, but I’m still of a mind that some level of regulation is needed


Worthwhile Reads for your Thanksgiving Journey

Tom Loveless on NAEP, Emily Richmond on class size, Rick Hess and Mike McShane on the Common Core, and more


Recent Teacher Evaluation Reform Happenings

We’ve taken care of policy in lots of places but implementation is a major challenge


Interesting SIG vs. Non-SIG Comparisons

It’s hard to make the case that this massive program had a transformative influence on the state’s most troubled schools.


School Improvement Grants and the Lessons of History

The data are so discouraging that even the Department’s press statement found it difficult to conceal disappointment.


Tough Advice for Faith-Based Schools from a Critical Friend

Families are becoming smarter and pickier customers. Why has the faith-based schools community barely reacted or adapted to this new environment?


If You Like Your Federal Education Policy, You Can Keep It!

The administration wanted us to believe it had a smart, coherent vision and clear implementation plan for its federal education policy…until we realized it didn’t.


Alternative Charters and Alternative Accountability Systems

It makes sense for states to develop accountability systems that make space for alternative schools.


Worth the Read

Articles you may have missed.


The Evolving Geography of Reform

As statewide teacher-evaluation laws, Common Core implementation, tougher assessments, and other reforms really begin influencing suburbia, the ed-reform debate is going to seriously evolve.


Louisiana and the Promise and Pitfalls of Accountability Systems

Early indications are that Louisiana’s strong accountability system is contributing to improved student results.


America And Its High-Potential Kids

People believe major efforts aimed at high-performing students aren’t all that important because these kids will do fine without any additional “favors” from the rest of us.


Hold Me Accountable on SIG

I’ve predicted that SIG was not going to produce anything remotely close to the results the Department and others were promising. If I got it wrong, I’ll say so.


The Impact of IMPACT

IMPACT is an educator-evaluation system that provides the necessary tools for teachers to improve


By the Company It Keeps: J.B. Schramm

Andy Smarick interviews J.B. Schramm, the founder of College Summit


Systems vs. Classrooms: And, Not Or

Everyone I know who works on systemic reform cares deeply about what happens in the classroom. But everyone specializes in one way or another.


End. The Broad Prize. Now.

If we want to help disadvantaged urban kids, we must stop propping up the failed urban district.


By the Company It Keeps: Scott Morgan

Andy Smarick interviews Scott Morgan, founder and CEO of Education Pioneers


Arne Duncan’s Muddled Line on Testing

The transition to new assessments was always going to be rough, but this was not the right way to handle it.


By the Company It Keeps: Preston Smith

Andy Smarick interviews Preston Smith, CEO and co-founder of Rocketship Education


Some Late Summer Reads

If you’re itching for some edu-reading over the long weekend (what else would you do while grilling?), here are some suggestions.


By the Company It Keeps: Joanne Weiss

Andy Smarick interviews Joanne Weiss, who recently left her position as Chief of Staff to Arne Duncan


By the Company It Keeps: Jean-Claude Brizard

Andy Smarick interviews Jean-Claude Brizard, the former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, who now works for the College Board


By the Company it Keeps: Emily Barton

Andy Smarick interviews Emily Barton, Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education.


By the Company It Keeps: Neerav Kingsland

I met Neerav Kingsland in 2009. I was on my tenth trip to New Orleans post-Katrina, meeting with a foundation newly interested in supporting the local reform effort, and I wanted to spend a little time with New Schools for New Orleans.


The Tony Bennett Flap: First, Think About the Kids

The reforms Tony Bennett advanced in the Hoosier State were invaluable. The Christel House situation puts Indiana at a fork in the road. Do they use this as a reason to roll back the last era’s reforms?


By the Company It Keeps: Derrell Bradford

Derrell Bradford is a fighter for low-income kids, and he has the compelling personal story to back it up. He’s a prized possession of the ed-reform community.


By the Company It Keeps: Howard Fuller

Andy Smarick interviews Howard Fuller, former superintendent of Milwaukee and founder of BAEO


That’s How the Consortia Crumble

On Monday, PARCC released the cost of its tests—and right on cue, another state, Georgia, dropped out of the testing consortia. This is a disaster.


By the Company It Keeps: Ethan Gray

Andy Smarick interviews Ethan Gray, executive director of CEE-Trust


The Enduring Saga of SIG Shenanigans

I’ve been yearning for real data showing how the program is doing. I’m not the only one.


By the Company It Keeps: Independence Day

What better way to head into this long weekend than with a dose of inspiration drawn from two of the most famous Fourth of July speeches in our nation’s history.


By the Company It Keeps: Marc Porter Magee

An interview with Marc Porter Magee, founder and president of 50CAN


Big Takeaways from CREDO’s 2013 Charter Study

There are lots of articles out today about the study. But many miss some of the most important findings—both in terms of the sector’s basic descriptive statistics and the quality of its schools.


By The Company It Keeps: Kaya Henderson

An interview with Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools


Some Early-Summer Reads, Part 2

Here’s the second half of my compilation of recent publications you might want to read.


Some Early-Summer Reads, Part I

A bunch of very good publications have been released over the last few weeks.


By The Company It Keeps: Mashea Ashton

An interview with the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund


By the Company It Keeps: Robin Lake

An interview with Robin Lake, the director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education


Authorizer Of, Not In, the District

D.C. has recently undertaken two invaluable reforms that, when combined with the city’s other systemic features, place D.C. on the brink of becoming the urban school system of the future.


By the Company It Keeps: Nelson Smith

An interview with the former president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools


Top Ten Takeaways: Common Assessments (Part 2)

The U.S. Department of Education seems to be retreating from its earlier stance that common assessments are crucial, but it has signaled that it will still fight for rigor and alignment.


Top Ten Takeaways: Common Assessments (Part 1 of 2)

What I’ve learned from talking with the two consortia developing tests linked to the Common Core standards.


By the Company It Keeps: Tim Daly

An interview with Tim Daly, President of TNTP


By the Company It Keeps: The U.S. Department of Education

This revealing back-and-forth with the United States Department of Education is the third and final installment in our testing-consortia series.


By the Company It Keeps: Smarter Balanced

The second installment of my testing-consortia series is a conversation with Smarter Balanced.


By the Company It Keeps: PARCC

An interview with PARCC, one of two consortia of states funded by the federal government to develop “next-generation” assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards.


District Replacers, Drama Standards, and Cranky Composing

Big happenings on the urban-schools front. In recent weeks, numerous cities have announced they’re looking for new district leaders.


The State of Charter Authorizing

It is troubling that many authorizers still don’t have high-quality practices in place.


One Giant Leap for Teacher Development

I’m all but certain a number of states will take this report’s lessons to heart, and once again it will be said that TNTP influenced for the better our educator policies and practices.


The Recovery School District

The Recovery School District is infinitely superior to the failed urban district and, though the Achievement School District is still the understudy, we may soon see its name in lights.


The End of the Testing Consortia As We Know It?

Alabama’s decision to drop out of both consortia and choose a battery of ACT exams is enormous. This is the “Plan B” that many states have been looking for.


What’s Your “Summer 2015 Plan”?

When scores from the first Common Core-aligned assessments are publicly released in the summer of 2015, lots of parents are going to be looking for solutions. The reform community should have a response.


Mr. Secretary, Please Don’t Do It

Unless Secretary Duncan can be prevailed upon to reconsider, decades of education policy will be overturned and a federal agency will have assumed authority that should remain squarely in the hands of Congress.


Camden and Big Data in the Big Apple

According to news reports, New Jersey governor Chris Christie is on the verge of announcing that the state will take over the deeply troubled Camden school district.


Catherine the Great, Frederick Douglass, and Education Reform

The stories of these historical giants have three associations particularly relevant to our work.


SIG, Tests, and State Legislative Proposals

The U.S. Department of Education just announced more SIG money going out the door.


Setting the State Stage for Improved Teacher Preparation

If I could go back in time and begin my stint at an SEA all over again, I’d dedicate more energy to educator-preparation policy for three reasons.


A Conflicted Conservative and Online Learning

Online and blended learning alter some of the most basic characteristics of traditional schooling. They change the relationship between student and teacher, student and student, student and device, family and school.


Ending the SEA As We Know It

While working for the New Jersey Department of Education, I consistently struggled with a basic problem. My organization wasn’t designed to do the things that our leadership team prioritized.


Can Bad Schools Be Good For Neighborhoods?

Might there be compelling civic or social reasons for keeping open persistently failing or unsafe inner-city schools?


The Common Core Implementation Gap

A new report on state-level implementation of Common Core merits some attention—but less for its top-line findings and more for how it confirms what I’m now calling the “Common Core Implementation Gap.”


Nixon, His Staff, and the Art of Government Reports

Some recent reading has me adjusting my jaundiced view of Mr. Nixon and his team.


The Unheralded Virtues of Grown-Up Policymaking, New Jersey-style

How New Jersey has tried to bridge the gap between policy and practice on teacher evaluations.


The Alternative

In the simplest terms, chartering should replace the urban district.


We Can Change

Public education is a set of guiding principles—a combination of beliefs about something that ought to be provided. How we bring them to life is up to us.


Republicans Questioning School Reform Agenda

In education reform, we have a myopic view of our work, we’re failing to appreciate the complex ecosystem of which we’re a part, and we’re focusing on short-term matters and tactics instead of looking far ahead.


The Complicated Economics of Testing in the Era of Common Core Standards

Assessments, beyond being technically complicated to produce and administer, may very well determine the future of Common Core.


MET: Now What?

The Gates Foundation’s MET study was a grand success in K–12 research. But what happens next is what matters.


The MET Study: Implications, Winners, and Losers

The final report from the Gates-funded “Measures of Effective Teaching” project may prove to be the most important K–12 research study of this generation.


Happy Birthday, NCLB!

The next four years are probably going to be mostly about implementation of the last four years’ worth of policy changes. I hope that we dedicate equal bandwidth to monitoring the impact of NCLB waivers and making course corrections.


Were RTT Applications Graded on a Curve?

I’m very disappointed with the Department’s decision to name 16 states RTT finalists. A number of these states have glaring deficiencies that would make them unable to get over a medium bar much less the “very, very high bar” that Secretary Duncan said he would set.


Last Word on School Turnarounds?

In its Winter 2010 issue, Ed Next published my article, “The Turnaround Fallacy.” I appreciate the careful reading of and thoughtful responses to the article by those who have written. It’s encouraging that so many talented and energetic people are working to improve the opportunities available to kids assigned to troubled public schools. But I’m as convinced as ever that closing schools in a persistent state of failure is necessary.


Keeping the Race to the Top on Track

Today, at close of business, state applications are due for the first round of Race to the Top funds. Coinciding with today’s deadline and the important work about to begin, Education Next is releasing my new article “Toothless Reform?” which makes the case that previous ARRA education funding hasn’t been used for reform and that the department needs to go to great lengths to ensure that the RTT generates the changes needed. As I write in the article, “when state proposals hit Arne Duncan’s desk, the secretary must become the toughest schoolmarm in America.”


Race to the Top Forecast

Podcast: Andy Smarick and Joe Williams (Democrats for Education Reform) discuss efforts to ensure that Race to the Top funds are used to promote reform.


Will Education Stimulus Spending Promote School Reform?

Video: Andy Smarick talks with Education Next about how $75 billion in stimulus funds have been spent to sustain the status quo in education and whether Race to the Top funds will be spent differently.


Should Failing Schools Be Fixed or Closed?

Video: Andy Smarick talks with Education Next about why the Obama administration needs to rethink its embrace of turnarounds and adopt a new strategy for the nation’s persistently failing schools.


Putting the Brakes on Turnarounds

Though the inclination to fix our worst schools is understandable and is often the result of the best intentions, it is misguided. Turnarounds have not only consistently failed in education; they fail in the vast majority of instances in other industries and sectors. Moreover, and most importantly, continuing to pursue turnarounds actually inhibits our ability to build healthy urban school systems.

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