Five Edu-Reads to Start the Year Off Right

It’s that time of year when we guilt ourselves into better behavior—vowing to lead a more abstemious lifestyle, go to the gym more often, improve personal finances…

Way too hard.

Here’s a New Year’s resolution you can follow through on: five good edu-reads to start the year off right!

If you care about accountability systems, you really must read the new report by New America’s Anne Hyslop, “It’s All Relative.” The study shows the major difference between the NCLB era and the waiver era in 16 states. There are way too many lessons to be captured in this short blurb—each table and figure deserves a paragraph—but the overarching takeaway is that states with waivers are addressing struggling schools very differently than they had over the previous decade. That might not turn out to be a good thing.

The KIPP Foundation’s CEO posted a blog on seven exciting developments for the nation’s largest CMO during 2013. The highlights: they now have 141 schools serving 50,000 kids; they continue to serve high-need students and get great results; more than 4,500 alumni are in college; and the organization is making strides to make school leadership more sustainable.

Check out a good article in Education Next about Rhode Island’s innovative “Mayoral Academies,” a model that gets teams of mayors involved in starting and attracting high-performing charter schools. The story of its beginnings and evolution is interesting and should serve as an example for policymakers in other states.

CRPE has another report out on strengthening state departments of education; this one is about beefing up SEA capacity so they can play a larger and better role in improving the lowest-performing schools. Through interviews with state chiefs and their deputies, budget analyses, and a document review, the authors analyzed efforts to build agency capacity in three key areas: resources, organizational structure, and authority. There are lots of interesting findings and recommendations. I’m increasingly of the mind that SEAs should NOT have their capacity grown because they are hardwired to act in ways very different than what’s being asked of them today (I have a paper coming out on this subject soon). But for those of you interested in SEAs, this report is a good read—you’ll learn important lessons about these entities and either embrace the study’s recommendations or start to lean in my direction.

50CAN’s newest outpost, JerseyCAN, has produced a user-friendly “Framework for Excellence” for the state’s leaders. It gives the Garden State credit for some noteworthy accomplishments then spells out some of its biggest challenges. For example, fewer than 10 percent of folks who took the SAT in Newark reached the college-ready mark. In Camden, only 1 percent did. In Asbury Park, zero. The report’s recommendations include early-childhood initiatives, changes to the charter law, building on the success of tenure and teacher-evaluation reform, and more. The organization plans to set baseline scores in a number of areas and then report on the state’s progress.

-Andy Smarick

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

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