Beach Edu-Reads, Part 1

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror and Labor Day far over the horizon, miles and miles of beach-filled days stretch ahead of us. Nothing complements SPF 325 and drinks with umbrellas like some high-quality recent edu-reads.  Here’s the first installment of some good stuff I’ve come across; you’ll get tranche two tomorrow.

More to come as researchers’ keyboards allow and sunny days demand.

I recently wrote about my evolving thinking on the “public” in public education, especially as it relates to “local voice” and “system-wide coherence” in increasingly choice-based urban locales. If these issues interest you, I highly recommend a paper by Ashley Jochim and Michael DeArmond presented at a recent conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy. They explore the influence that choice-based “fragmentation” has on “collective action.” Unlike too many conference papers, this one is not only informed by recent policy developments and current activities, it also has timely, actionable recommendations. Great stuff from the team at CRPE.

Andy Rotherham and Ashley LiBetti Mitchell, my colleagues at Bellwether, recently penned Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges: A Decade of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms, which captures and analyzes the major efforts to improve educator effectiveness over the last several decades. Readers will learn about the research findings and policies that predated today’s focus on growth scores, teacher evaluations, and preparation programs. The report also provides a list of sober recommendations for an area of work prone to bingeing.

Speaking of educator-effectiveness policies, about four years ago, I wrote an article for Education Next trying to explain how the Obama administration’s views on educator effectiveness were reflected in a handful of programs and how those programs were influencing state policies. Though I was quite proud of it, I’m not sure if anyone other than the journal’s editors read the piece; let’s just say it didn’t change the world. But this not-dissimilar new Mathematica report for IES deserves attention because it says a good bit about the ability of Uncle Sam to change state behavior. The study examines the extent to which Race to the Top played a role in changes to a range of state policies. The answer is a qualified yes, and the qualifications are important. Lesson: even high-dollar incentive grant programs have limited influence over the most contentious policies.

The team at the University of Arkansas has a new report out on charter-school funding, and the top-line results are discouraging. Charters continue to receive considerably less funding per student than public schools run by districts. The more you dig into the report (and the associated state-level digests), the more you realize how complicated state funding formulas can be and how the exact statutory culprits vary from state to state. Those generally interested in charters should take a look at the summary report, and if you have an interest in a particular state, you might want to spend some time on its specific report.

Speaking of charters, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has an interesting new report out on charter market share and congressional districts. The districts with the highest numbers of charter schools and charter-school students are mostly represented by Democrats. Almost all of these Democrats voted in favor of the recent reauthorization of the federal charter-schools program. I’d love to know how many of these members of Congress were charter-hostile before their constituents started choosing to exercise public school choice.

-Andy Smarick

This first appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

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