PHILADELPHIA'S RENAISSANCE SCHOOLS AT 18 MONTHS: RFA'S NEW REPORT
Can chronically low-performing schools dramatically improve in a short period of time? That was the question that the Renaissance Schools Initiative - Philadelphia's approach to the turnaround school reform model - sought to answer when it was implemented in 2009.
Eighteen months into the Initiative, as the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission deliberate its future against the backdrop of severe budget cuts, RFA has released results of its evaluation of the Renaissance Schools. RFA's research represents the most exhaustive study of school turnarounds - a key element in federal and state education reforms - in the commonwealth and region to date. The study focused on determining whether the first group of 13 schools - both District-run Promise Academies and Charter-managed schools - made early progress toward the longer-term goal of dramatically improving student outcomes.
Overall, both district- and charter-managed models of Renaissance Schools made notable progress in Year One of the Initiative, improving significantly on all other student outcomes measured. However, these schools remain among the lowest performing in the District. It is also too early in the life of the Initiative to determine whether these preliminary results will be sustained over time.
NEW YORK JOINS OBAMA-BACKED MOVEMENT TYING TEACHER REVIEWS TO TEST SCORES
An agreement between New York (STONY1) and its largest teachers union on evaluations makes the state part of a movement backed by President Barack Obama to hold educators responsible for student performance.
The deal announced yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, may save New York $700 million in federal funding. It’s also an example of how the push to hold teachers accountable has been taken up by both sides of the negotiating table, said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based group that supports charter schools and diminished union power.
“This is a big step in the right direction that puts New York up there in the top tier of states that have already begun down the road of codifying an evaluation system with some portion based on student test scores,” Allen said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It’s terrific that we have people from both parties finally recognizing that evaluation is an important component of creating student achievement.”
Last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that New York would have to return $700 million if it didn’t fulfill its promise to Obama’s Race to the Top program to implement teacher evaluations. The president, a Democrat, has proposed $5 billion in incentives for states and school districts to tie teacher pay to performance as part of his $69.8 billion education-budget proposal.
A NEW, IMPROVED NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
NOW THAT we’ve marked the 10th anniversary of the No Child Left Behind law, let us examine its strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations about its future.
Actually, it’s possible that the law may not have a future. Congressional reauthorization, due in 2007, has been stalled for more than four years. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has effectively modified the law through Race to the Top and, even more recently, the process for states to seek waivers of many of NCLB’s requirements.
In both cases, substantial federal funding is the carrot dangled in front of fiscally starving states. To qualify, they have to sign on to the Obama administration’s favored education reforms such as teacher evaluations based on student test results and greater availability of charter schools.
If it turns out NCLB is on its death bed, that could signal the end of an ambitious bipartisan education reform program. NCLB incorporated most of President George W. Bush’s educational platform, but it won strong Democratic support, including from Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Decrying the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” Bush argued that we should make a national commitment to “leave no child behind.”
EDUCATION PANEL'S REPORT QUESTIONED
A RECENT education task force report provides a detailed critique of New Jersey’s current educational accountability system.
The Governor’s Education Transformation Task Force proposes that QSAC (the Quality Single Accountability Continuum) be replaced by a new system that its report outlines broadly.
But some task force proposals raise concerns. Indeed, they threaten to return us to the problems that led to QSAC in the first place.
As co-authors of studies commissioned by the state Department of Education about accountability and QSAC in 2002 and 2006, this is a matter of special interest to us.
In our 2006 study of the Department’s piloting of QSAC, we expressed concern about key elements of that accountability law and its implementation, and recommended a number of changes.
NEW JERSEY STUDENTS AGAIN FACE NO DIPLOMAS IF AHSA TEST NOT PASSED
Once again, thousands of New Jersey students could be in danger of not graduating unless they pass the state's alternative exit exam in coming weeks. The state Education Department declined to estimate how many are in jeopardy of not graduating this year, because the test-taking and appeals are continuing, said spokeswoman Allison Kobus. She said a total graduation rate will not be available until at least September…
Stan Karp, Director of the law center's Secondary Reform Project, faulted the state for not making information available sooner this year. "The lesson they've learned from last year is to sit on information until it's too late to do anything about it," he said. Karp also the state was not doing enough to address problems in the state's high schools. "We haven't seen any credible secondary reform effort," he said. "Obviously we're still having problems preparing students to graduate."