Redesigning Denver's Schools


In October 2021, when Tom Boasberg stepped down as superintendent of Denver Public Schools (DPS) after 10 years at work, he was no doubt frustrated to see his longtime critics rejoice. What likely disappointed him most, though, was that his strongest supporters abandoned him, too.

Boasberg's opponents were happy to see him go simply because they think he \”destroyed public education\” in Denver by transforming the 92,000-student district in ways they disdain. Some of his once-strongest supporters lost confidence in his leadership because they don't think he transformed it enough. And everyone seems to blame him for not closing the city's wide and persistent achievement gap between middle-income, largely white students and lower-income and minority students.

Boasberg began his tenure by declaring Colorado's largest district and it is centralized, top-down model for providing public education fundamentally broken. In the years that followed, the superintendent and college board implemented a wide array of unconventional reforms aimed at transforming DPS from the closed school system into a dynamic system of faculties.

When Boasberg first took the reins, it might have seemed wildly improbable that Denver would nearly erase its 25-point lag behind the state in average reading and language-arts proficiency, or the Latino graduation rate would increase by 17 points, or which more than 65 new schools would open. But that is exactly what happened.

In light of those changes, how did Boasberg acquire so many adversaries? The answer is not simple, but a far more seminal question is, how did he manage to gather enough support to effect these radical alterations in the initial place? Boasberg would be a centrist, and that he built a coalition based on pragmatism and a shared belief that change was a long overdue moral imperative. At the height from the national bipartisan consensus on education reform, he was its standard bearer, and, for over anyone before him, he earned his strategy work. His lengthy tenure and also the changes he implemented show traditional school districts and their elected boards can handle reinventing themselves. His work in Denver is really a rebuke to people who insist that traditional districts are the \”one best way\” to supply public education-but it is also a reminder of methods difficult it is to construct an alternative model.

Boasberg first joined DPS in April 2007 as its chief operating officer (COO), hired by then superintendent Michael Bennet, a childhood friend. (Note: Parker Baxter, one of authors of this piece, worked for DPS under both Bennet and Boasberg, from 2008 -11.)

The following month, the Rocky Mountain News painted a dire picture from the district: \”A quarter of the city's school-age children don't attend Denver Public Schools. Among Anglo students, a quarter visit private schools. In some southwest Denver neighborhoods, half the children visit suburban districts. Enrollment at independent charters has skyrocketed 300 percent in six years.\”

District leaders were not angered through the report. Actually, they'd partnered with the reporters to collect and analyze the data. Bennet and also the school board publicly accepted responsibility for the state from the district and issued a phone call for radical change. Located in part around the report, they figured \”operating an urban school district these days based on a century-old configuration will result in failure for too many children.\”

They proceeded to stipulate a vision for any different of district, one which embraced choice and competition and empowered educators and schools by holding them responsible for results. Bennet and the board argued that the district required to \”function a lot more like someone [with educators], building capacity and leadership in the school level and becoming an incubator for innovation.\”

Although Boasberg wasn't yet superintendent once the district published its \”Vision for any 21st Century School District,\” that vision set the path of his tenure.

Boasberg was named superintendent in January 2009, after Bennet was tapped to fill a U.S. Senate seat. Boasberg had played a vital role in developing Bennet's reform plan, and the school board decided to skip a national search.

Aside from Boasberg's 2 yrs as COO of DPS, his only prior education experience was a brief stint as an English teacher in Hong Kong. An attorney by training, and skilled in operations and finance, he had worked on telecommunications policy in the Federal Communications Commission after which being an executive in the private sector. At the time, Boasberg's supporters touted his outsider status as evidence that he would accelerate Bennet's reforms.

Boasberg started by updating the strategic plan launched 5 years earlier. At the time, the Council of the Great City Schools known as the Denver Plan \”one of the very most promising and comprehensive in the nation.\”

Given his private-sector background, it's tempting to see Boasberg as just another \”businessman\” coming in to fix a broken school system. Although he based his reforms partly on private-sector concepts, he demonstrated an in-depth dedication to improving public education in Denver over his decade of service. And unlike some outsiders who attempt to impose business or military discipline on chaotic systems, he took office with an articulated theory of change along with a mandate to implement it. Moreover, Boasberg was targeting transformation, not simply tweaking around the edges. He meant to redesign Denver's traditional city school system from the ground up.

In outlining his vision, Boasberg called around the district to \”acknowledge that our culture historically has not been one consistently based on high expectations, service, empowerment, and responsibility,\” arguing that DPS, like districts nationwide, \”has operated for generations like a monopoly and has suffered from a monopoly's potential to deal with fundamental change, deficiencies in urgency and inflexibility that usually puts the interests of the system and its adults over and above the requirements of our students.\”

The district would still fail its students, he asserted, especially its most vulnerable, unless it had been prepared to recommit to its fundamental purpose-educating students-by reimagining its function and redesigning its structure to satisfy contemporary demands. Boasberg proposed new organizing principles for the district: accountability, empowerment, choice, transparency, and equity.

Over the next decade, these concepts informed the controversial reforms he implemented, including new approaches to school and teacher evaluation, merit pay, and openness to charter and innovation schools (see sidebar). These reforms weren't random. Each was part of a deliberate strategy launched by Bennet and implemented by Boasberg to revamp the city's school district.

The original Denver Plan, introduced by Bennet in 2005, was the very first vision statement in the district's more than 100-year history. Although bold for its time, it had been conventional compared to the revisions Boasberg led 4 years later. In 2010, Boasberg and the board made explicit their intention not just to continue Bennet's controversial reforms but to accelerate them by coupling new organizing principles with a \”theory of action\” to steer the district's work. Boasberg and the board framed the program being an effort to \”fundamentally chang[e] the culture and structure of public education\” in Denver. They praised the progress made under Bennet but were brutal in condemning the district's continued failings. Whether it hoped to make real progress for those students, they argued, the district didn't need only a new thought process, but additionally a new way of acting.

When Boasberg took office, DPS had already implemented a teacher pay-for-performance system called ProComp (Professional Comp plan). Developed in tandem using the teachers union, ProComp had been piloted, supported financially by voters, and was due for renewal when Boasberg became superintendent. At the time, it was one of the nation's first and many comprehensive efforts to evaluate teacher quality and reward strong performance with higher pay.

Although ProComp did not revolutionize the district's relationship with teachers, research has shown it improved teacher satisfaction and retention. It also demonstrated the viability of compensating teachers using an alternative to the traditional step-and-ladder system.

Implementation of ProComp was rocky under Boasberg and is made more complex when the district, in reaction to a state mandate, designed a new and largely separate teacher-evaluation system, Leading Effective Academic Practice (LEAP), which triangulated teacher evaluations according to classroom observations, student academic-growth scores, and student evaluations. LEAP increased flexibility in how teachers were deployed and freed up here we are at strong teachers to support their peers' development; additionally, it expanded teacher-leadership opportunities.

LEAP and ProComp were operated in parallel when, in hindsight, they might happen to be more effective if merged into one system. Later studies show that teachers struggled to know how they could earn more base pay and bonuses under both of these systems. And despite evidence the pay incentives open to teachers under ProComp were built with a significant effect on year-to-year retention, specifically in hard-to-staff positions and schools, Boasberg was never in a position to convince the union of the merits from the system.

Boasberg also focused on other less visible but significant aspects of the district's method of human capital-for example, through his decade-long fight for mutual-consent hiring between school leaders and teachers. For a long time, DPS had frequently involved in \”direct placement\”-the practice of assigning an instructor to a different post, even over the objections of the teacher and principal. Even before he became superintendent, Boasberg zeroed in on the practice as inconsistent having a culture of empowerment and accountability. This year, he partnered with Colorado legislators to prohibit districts from placing teachers into schools without the mutual consent from the teacher and also the principal. Since then, DPS led the state's districts in ending forced placement, also it did so while successfully fighting a lawsuit by the teachers union to maintain the practice.

In 2008 DPS launched its first Call for New Quality Schools, a public invitation for college start-up proposals, whether charter or district-operated. Based on best practices for authorizing charter schools, the procedure developed by Boasberg evaluated applications around the strength from the proposal and also the operator's record of success, without regard to governance type. Charter and innovation schools have raised in number relative to traditional public schools (see Figure 1).

Since launching the annual call for new schools, the district has approved the opening of more than 75 new charter and district schools. Not all have succeeded, and some haven't yet open, owing to lack of space, however, many are now among the district's best performers while serving the highest-need students. The phone call for New Quality Schools fostered the growth of local charter-management organizations, such as DSST Public Schools, STRIVE Prep, Rocky Mountain Prep, and University Prep. Each started with just one school.

Boasberg directed the introduction of something for assessing school quality-both district-operated and charter-and to inform decisions about closing, expanding, and replicating schools. The end result was the college Performance Framework (SPF), a strong model concentrating on student academic growth and achievement and employing multiple measures of performance.

Boasberg and also the school board used the SPF to reshape the district through performance management. Although it is true that he became less prepared to impose consequences on low-performing schools over time, whether in reaction to the larger politics of education reform, resistance from internal stakeholders, pushback from the local community, or the disruption that accountability requires, he nonetheless led radical interventions in a large number of schools.

Using evidence from the SPF, the board intervened in approximately 40 underperforming schools, requiring them to close, restart, or accept replacement by another operator. (As of 2021 -19, the district comprises more than 200 schools. Approximately 150 seem to be district-managed, 50 of which have particular autonomy as Innovation Schools; and 60 schools are district-authorized charters.) DPS hasn't closed or replaced a district-operated school since 2021, and following the most recent board election in November 2021, it suspended its intervention policy. But last year, right before Boasberg left, the board approved a revised policy that requires more community input but maintains the intervention requirement for chronic underperformance.

He argued that \”accountability without autonomy is compulsion\” which real accountability for student outcomes requires giving educators treatments for inputs. In 2008, Boasberg, as COO, caused state legislators to enact the Innovation Schools Act. What the law states allows districts to free some district-operated schools from various rules and policies so they can operate (and innovate) more as charters do, wielding greater autonomy over their time, staff, and cash. DPS has utilized what the law states to create new schools and as a turnaround strategy for troubled ones. According to some observers, Boasberg became more unwilling to relinquish control to varsities with time, especially as the impact of these decisions around the district's central office grew. Still, DPS today has a lot more than 50 innovation schools and three innovation zones, enrolling one fourth from the district's students.

Boasberg certainly did not end inequity in Denver's schools, however the changes he implemented appear to have produced real improvements for the district's diverse students.

Rightly or wrongly, superintendents get much of the credit or blame for district performance. Upon Boasberg's departure, DPS touted improvements under his leadership, including enrollment growth, improved graduation rates, a reversal from worst to first in student academic growth among major Colorado districts, a tripling of Advanced Placement activity, a dramatically reduced drop-out rate, and the opening of more than 65 new schools alongside turnaround or closure in excess of 30 others. Boasberg himself has cited the growing numbers of Latino and black graduates being an especially meaningful accomplishment. Despite these measurable gains, his critics remain unconvinced of his success.

Was the development in DPS enrollment purely a byproduct of Denver's rapidly growing population? Some evidence suggests otherwise. In a state that embraces school choice, the marketplace provides some clues regarding changing demand. Because the 2008 -09 school year, the amount of students choosing to attend DPS from another district is continuing to grow quicker than students opting out of DPS schools-though more students still choose other districts every year than decide to attend DPS schools from elsewhere. In terms of students opting from the public system altogether, the number of children attending private schools located within DPS boundaries fell by more than 30 percent between 2009 and 2021, when compared with merely a 9.4 percent decline statewide (see Figure 2).

Measures of improvement in student performance must be evaluated considering any changes towards the district's student composition over Boasberg's tenure. Despite a remarkable DPS enrollment gain of more than 17,000 students, measures of racial, ethnic, and economic diversity are little changed. In 2021, as in 2009, a majority of DPS students were members of minority groups, though there has been a slight increase in white students (see Figure 3a). The share of Denver Public Schools students receiving free or reduced-price lunches has always been stable, while the share of English learners has increased slightly (see Figure 3b).

DPS experienced substantial improvement within the four-year graduation rate since the 2009 -10 school year, when a new formula for graduation rates was adopted (see Figure 4). Latino students registered the greatest gains. The progress in graduation rates is mirrored by a declining drop-out rate. And lastly, remediation rates-proxies for how prepared graduates are for higher education-also fell during Boasberg's term, while the immediate college-going rate rose.

Improvements in the district's academic performance were already happening when Boasberg took the helm of DPS. Outside observers noted that between 2005 and 2010, DPS moved from worst in median student academic growth to join the top large districts in Colorado in achievement. Under Boasberg, the district has experienced faster-than-average development in student achievement based on the state's growth model but nonetheless lags state levels of proficiency, with worrisome gaps between student subgroups (see Figure 5).

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the organization A+ Colorado figured DPS students in 2021 performed roughly in the midpoint of huge urban districts nationally, but with more dramatic achievement gaps along socioeconomic lines. Attributing changes in district performance to specific kinds of schools (traditional, innovation, or charter) is challenging. Education Research Strategies reports growth in ELA achievement for all types of DPS schools, but highlights an outsize contribution from charter schools. A+ Colorado found in May 2021 the \”schools using the largest gains in relative performance reveal that a variety of schools and academic programs have demonstrated improvement: from traditional district-run schools, to specialized programs, to charters and innovation schools.\”

Still today, a number of Boasberg's critics, dedicated to the monolithic system he sought to transform, are demanding the district return to its old ways. The teachers union really wants to jettison the district's pay-for-performance system and revert to the traditional step-and-ladder salary scale. Some community groups wish to abandon the common-enrollment system and return to attendance boundaries. The union has called on the district to exchange its multi-measure school performance framework with the state's less rigorous version. And Boasberg's most ardent adversaries don't cherry-pick. They oppose all the changes.

Why, though, do some who originally supported his approach also see his tenure as a failure (or at best absolutely nothing to celebrate)? The answer says a great deal about Boasberg, but it says much more about the state of bipartisan education reform.

When Boasberg became superintendent in 2009, a pro-reform Democrat was at the White House, Boasberg's friend and predecessor was at the U.S. Senate, and Democrats for Education Reform was increasing. His boldest reforms arrived these early years, when his support among fellow reformers was strongest. He could implement radical changes by framing them in terms of which were at once pragmatic and aspirational. Attractive to liberals' feeling of fairness, he confirmed their thought that the system was rigged against the least advantaged. By making transformation from the district a moral imperative-one essential to right a historic and ongoing injustice-Boasberg managed an assorted coalition of support among civic and business leaders, community advocacy groups, and supporters of charter schools and choice. However the trajectory of his impact and influence in Denver tracks neatly using the fate of bipartisan education reform in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. As the shared enthusiasm for standards, accountability, and selection began to fade, so too did Boasberg's shine.

By their own admission, Boasberg is an introvert who lacks the charisma and political skills of his predecessor. Perhaps partly for that reason, he may happen to be more prepared to make decisions that may have ended his political career. This courage earned him a national reputation as a bold reformer and helped him secure the support of numerous advocates who had long attacked the district.

For a period, Boasberg seemed unstoppable. Ironically, he implemented a lot of his most aggressive reforms in the first four years at work as they had the support of only four of the board's seven members. Boasberg eventually gained the support from the entire board whenever a slate of reform-friendly candidates replaced his three detractors in 2021. But by that time cracks had already commenced to emerge in his coalition. With the board's unanimous support, his advocates expected him to maneuver their agenda along more aggressively. When he didn't, he sealed his fate.

In the years that followed, even while Denver continued to rise in national prominence, a lot of Boasberg's leading supporters grew frustrated because it became clear that he was content to allow the district, as you onetime supporter complained, \”coast on its past successes.\”

In 2021, Boasberg lost the unanimous support of the board when two opponents of his reforms won seats. Additionally that year, he a break down major setback when education and civil-rights advocates succeeded in pressuring the district to revise its controversial school-rating system after acknowledging the inclusion of measures advocates said masked low performance. Looking back, that debacle might have caused the final crack in Boasberg's fragile coalition. To opponents and supporters alike, it was proof that the district couldn't be trusted.

In the end, even his strongest stalwarts turned against him. Theresa Pe

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Is Career and Technical Education Just Enjoying Its Fifteen minutes of Fame?


Over yesteryear couple years, career and technical edu-cation has garnered a lot of attention. Politico reported that 49 states and Washington, DC, enacted 241 career and technical education -related laws, executive actions, and budget provisions in 2021. [1] The National Governors Association has tagged career and technical education among its 12 priorities, and Jobs for the Future has observed that career and technical educa-tion \”has become the 'next best thing' in senior high school reform.\” [2] A 2021 AEI study discovered that career and tech-nical education was the only real education issue most gubernatorial candidates supported. [3] Meanwhile, a 2021 analysis reported the number of students concentrating in career education rose 22 percent, to three.6 million, in the past decade. [4]

All this raises a large question, given education's long experience with fads and shifting sentiment: Is the boom in career and technical education yet another fad, or does it reflect something more substantial? That answer mat-ters for how much attention this push deserves from educators, parents, and policymakers.

In a stab at addressing this question, we examined the media attention dedicated to career and technical educa-tion in the last two decades-and how that comes even close to the interest dedicated to other popular 21st-century education reforms.

We used google LexisNexis (a database of news articles from national and international media outlets) to identify the amount of articles every year that mentioned career and technical education and, for comparative purposes, various other terms. We looked for \”career and technical education\” instead of \”CTE\” not to inadvertently include articles about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has gotten extensive coverage because of its effect on former football players' health.

In every case, we looked for articles in the LexisNe-xis category \”US Publications,\” a selection of major US media sources.5 While that LexisNexis category is comprehensive, it's not exhaustive. For example, blogs plus some education-specific media, for example Edu-cation Week, aren't included. The exclusion of special-ized outlets ensures that the results are a pretty good gauge of how much attention the appropriate issues received across the broad sweep of US media.

Since 1998, the number of articles mentioning career and technical education has increased more than a hundredfold, as displayed in Figure 1. Since 2004, media mentions have become over tenfold, and they've doubled since 2012. In short, the cover-age dedicated to career and technical education is growing during the past two decades.

This heightened curiosity about career and techni-cal education is part of a bigger trend, which entails increased attention to skills training and workforce preparedness (Figure 2). Indeed, media mentions of workforce development increased with a factor of 13 in the past two decades.

Meanwhile, other training-related terms which were once more common than career and technical educa-tion haven't kept pace. In 1998, career training was more ubiquitous than career and technical educa-tion was, however it was surpassed by career and techni-cal education in 2004 and is now mentioned not even one-third as frequently. Vocational education was once mentioned 10 times more frequently than career and tech-nical education was, but starting in regards to a decade ago, it plateaued and was surpassed by career and technical education. It seems reliable advice that mentions of career and technical education came at the cost of vocational education and career training; less clear is whether or not that shift has any substantive import or perhaps is mostly a question of branding.

To put coverage of career and technical education in context, Figure 3 shows the attention dedicated to three from the 21st century's noticably education reforms: No Child Left out (NCLB), Common Core, and also the Obama-era push to overhaul teacher evaluation. In their peaks, No Child Left Behind and Common Core received three to five times just as much media attention as career and technical education garnered last year. At its height this year, teacher evaluation received 50 percent more attention than career and technical education received this past year. Yet, while it has not come anywhere close to those peaks, career and technical education indicates a markedly different public pro-file than these other reforms-all which exploded to public consciousness on the length of 3 or 4 many then declined. Career and technical edu-cation, on the other hand, has seen a long, dramatic, and uninterrupted build over an extended time period. With all this long pattern as well as an attendant insufficient controversy, career and technical education seems unlikely to experience the rapid declines in public places interest endured by these more polarizing reforms.

Career and technical education even outpaces the interest devoted to other familiar education improvement strategies (Figure 4). For instance, one of the most high-profile education reforms of history two decades has been school vouchers. From 1998 to 2008, media mentions of faculty vouchers significantly exceeded the ones from career and technical education. Over the past decade, however, career and technical education swept up to after which surpassed attention devoted to vouchers. This really is noteworthy given that vouchers have always been the kind of controversial issue that attracts press attention, while career and tech-nical education has tended to not evoke such strong emotions. Meanwhile, whereas attention to career and technical education was once indistinguishable from that shown for other long-standing enthusiasms, such as school turnarounds, personalized learning, and 21st-century skills, career and technical education has steadily distinguished itself in the last 10 -15 years.

Mostly out of curiosity, and partly to get a little per-spective on how much attention these tallies actually represent, Figure 5 compares the mainstream US media mentions of career and technical education to people of some recognizable pop culture figures. In the last five years, for instance, career and technical edu-cation has held its own against Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth while generally outdistancing celebrity Kim Kardashian and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Steph Curry. Indeed, career and technical edu-cation's press mentions outpaced Kardashian's in four of the past five years and Curry's in most five-including both of his MVP campaigns.

Given the ebbs and flows of education reform, it is important to closely take notice of the evolution and public fate of numerous education enthusiasms-both to assist see where situations are going and to make sense of the way we got here. In the case of career and technical education, such scrutiny suggests some things.

First, and many obviously, career and technical education's prominence has increased steadily and significantly over two decades. What is not so clear is whether or not this reflects the emergence of something new or the (seemingly successful) rebranding of the famil-iar concept of vocational education. Notably, mentions of vocational education haven't budged in the past decade, while interest in career and technical educa-tion has taken off.

Second, this increased interest in career and tech-nical education is part of a broader growth in the prominence of training and workforce development. Regardless of the reason behind this growth-whether economic anxiety or disenchantment with college for all or perhaps a simple evolution in public places taste-career and technical education advocates are earning their case in a propitious time for career-centric education.

Third, career and technical education's rise continues to be unusually consistent and long-running when compared to other 21st-century education reforms and it is espe-cially notable to have an concept that generates little contro-versy. After all, the reforms which have garnered a lot more notice than career and technical education, in gen-eral, rapidly retreated after being catapulted to prom-inence. Meanwhile, even seemingly popular reforms (such as school turnarounds, personalized learning, and 21st-century skills) have failed to gain nearly as much fanfare as career and technical education.

It seems a good bet that career and technical education's gradual build can offer more endurance than other contested, high-profile 21st-century reforms. For better or worse, career and technical education appears poised to become a focal point within the post-NCLB, post -Common Core world.

1. Kimberly Hefling, \”States Embrace New Career and Technical Education Policies,\” Politico, January 26, 2021, https://www.

2. National Governors Association, \”Policy Positions,\”; and Jobs for future years, \”10 Equity Questions you should ask About Career and Technical Education,\” February 13, 2021,

3. Frederick M. Hess and Sofia Gallo, \”What Do Would-Be Governors Have to Say About Education,\” American Enterprise Insti-tute, February 21, 2021,

4. Michelle Hackman, \”Vocational Training Has returned as Firms Pair with High Schools to Groom Workers,\” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2021,

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Suing for Desegregation in Minnesota


In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that language in democracies is seen as a almost limitless malleability. Democracies turn the concrete into the abstract, and for that reason, words become like boxes \”with a false bottom\”: what you remove could be entirely not the same as that which you place in.

There is hardly a better instance of this linguistic magic trick than \”adequacy\” litigation-lawsuits that press the federal government to provide additional funding for schools. Adequacy advocates have successfully invoked the training clauses of state constitutions, not just to secure billions of dollars in additional school spending but additionally to lay claim to an array of new rights, for instance, that each student is eligible for have \”sufficient grounding within the arts . . . to understand their cultural and historical heritage,\” because the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in 1989 in Rose v. Council for Better Education, the nation’s first adequacy lawsuit.

Recently, litigants in Minnesota have extended the logic of adequacy and claimed their state’s education clause includes a to be educated inside a racially and socioeconomically integrated setting. The state’s education clause compels the legislature to \”establish an over-all and uniform system of public schools\” and also to fund them so as to \”secure an intensive and efficient system of public schools through the state.\”

In 2021, seven families along with a nonprofit organization sued their state, alleging a variety of constitutional violations, including the state government’s refusal to alter the boundaries of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts; creating charter schools; and inequitably distributing resources. Since the Minneapolis and Saint Paul school systems enroll a disproportionately high number of minority and low-income students, the plaintiffs declare that the districts’ boundaries violate the uniformity dependence on the constitution. They contend that because so many charter schools within the Twin Cities are racially homogeneous, they too violate that clause. And, as expected in an adequacy suit, the plaintiffs contend that the lower academic performance of scholars in Minneapolis and Saint Paul is attributable to insufficient funding and thus requires more state spending. However, the primary remedy sought in the case, Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota, is a metropolitan-wide busing plan much like the one struck down through the U.S. Top court in 1974 in Milliken v. Bradley. Dan Shulman, the plaintiffs’ attorney in Cruz-Guzman, advocates for this solution because \”if the whole seven-county area belongs to a remedy, there won’t be white flight. Where are they likely to go?\”

The trial court declined to dismiss the suit, but an appellate court ruled in 2021 that the case raised a political question inappropriate for judicial resolution and, therefore, needed to be dismissed. In July 2021, in a 4 -2 opinion, the Minnesota Top court overturned that ruling, asserting that judicial intervention was indeed allowable and sending the case back to the trial court. Officially, a legal court denied any intent to engage in policymaking, proclaiming that \”specific determinations of educational policy are matters for that Legislature.\” However, it also said, \”It does not follow the judiciary cannot adjudicate whether the Legislature has satisfied its constitutional duty under the Education Clause,\” and \”some degree of qualitative assessment is essential to determine if the State is meeting its obligation to supply an adequate education.\” Inside a footnote, a legal court added, \”It is self-evident that the segregated system of public schools is not ‘general,’ ‘uniform,’ ‘thorough,’ or ‘efficient.’\”

Despite this nod of support for the plaintiffs, one doubts the court would actually participate in a wholesale redrawing of school-district maps in Minnesota. Once the federal courts did that in Detroit, the backlash helped George Wallace win the Michigan Democratic presidential primary in 1972. Too, many Black leaders inside the charter-school movement oppose the lawsuit. After the state supreme court’s decision, Charvez Russell, the African American director of Minneapolis’s Friendship Academy of the Arts, that is 96 percent minority, criticized the suit, saying, \”The truth is, an atmosphere like Friendship Academy serves students of color much better, and that's why parents choose us.\” Thus, if this lawsuit goes anywhere, it will likely morph into a traditional adequacy lawsuit, using the state supreme court demanding more spending and also the state legislature complying to some extent. Judicial mapmaking faded away within the 1970s, which lawsuit probably won’t take it back.

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Article On School Choice Ignores Key Evidence


University of Kansas Professor Yong Zhao has jumped into the school choice debate together with his recent essay in the Phi Delta Kappan. Welcome, Dr. Zhao.

Zhao makes several important claims about private school choice. He says that researchers who're proponents of school choice exaggerate the positive tilt from the findings. He claims that the debate over the achievement effects of school choice has largely ignored substantial variation in those effects across student subgroups. Finally, he concludes that we know almost nothing about the effects that school choice has on civic outcomes but should expect those effects to become negative.

School choice is new academic territory for Zhao, a Distinguished Professor who specializes in education technology and virtual learning. Permit me to provide him some friendly advice from someone who has studied the topic for more than 20 years.

First, don't call someone names. Zhao labels school choice researchers as either “proponents” (a.k.a., “advocates”) or “independent researchers.” He doesn't inform us how he arrived at those determinations, but two possibilities immediately spring to mind. A scholar may well be a school choice “proponent” if their intention would be to promote choice and an “independent researcher” if their intention would be to arrive at the truth about choice. To judge accurately who's which, Zhao would need to possess the ability to look within the hearts of his fellow people and for that reason observe their intentions. He would have to possess the God-like ability of comedian Woody Allen's character in the movie Annie Hall, who said:

Human beings in general, and social scientists particularly, are terrible at judging other's intentions. We're best classifying school choice researchers in line with the rigor of their methods, not really a feigned ability to be aware of deepest desires of the hearts.

Zhao might, instead, be classifying school choice scholars as “proponents” or “independent researchers” based on the nature from the findings that we report. It appears that, in Zhao's view, a college choice “proponent” is any scholar who reports that a school choice program has results on student achievement. In contrast, an “independent researcher” is any analyst who agrees with Zhao that school choice is bad. Zhao's claim that school choice “proponents” report “more significant positive effects than independent researchers” (p. 64) thus reduces to some tautology. Proponents report more positive effects because reporting more positive effects means they are proponents. A better method for Zhao yet others would be to forgo the arbitrary and unscientific labels he foists around the researchers and concentrate, instead, around the quality and findings of the research itself.

Second, get your facts right. Zhao criticizes the body of research around the achievement effects of school option for focusing “only around the average effect of faculty choice around the students who see it.” Really? Few education interventions have been evaluated with greater focus on their possibly varied effects on different subgroups than has private school choice. The first study published about a school voucher enter in the U.S. examined differences in the achievement results of this program across student subgroups. Nearly every certainly one of more than two dozen major private school choice evaluations within the subsequent 21 years has examined the extent that voucher achievement effects vary by student characteristics. The main focus from the three-city evaluation that informed William Howell and Paul Peterson's seminal book The Education Gap: Vouchers and concrete Schools (see “Vouchers in Ny, Dayton, and D.C.,” research, Summer 2001) was the discovering that Black students experienced larger and more consistent achievement effects from soccer practice choice than students of other ethnicities. It's possible to easily find additional peer-reviewed publications of the possible heterogeneous results of vouchers in New York City here, here, here, and here; in Washington, DC here, and here; in Milwaukee, here and here; in Indiana here and another one under review; and in Louisiana here and here. Contrary to Zhao's claim, examining possible variation in voucher achievement effects has been an obsession of faculty choice researchers, not really a blind spot. Who and does not benefit academically from school vouchers has been central towards the debate.

There is a scientific method for determining when the results of an intervention vary across subgroups that Zhao seems not to use. Zhao claims that voucher programs have heterogeneous achievement effects when the impacts are positive and statistically significant for many subgroups but not statistically different from 0 (i.e. null) for other subgroups. He makes the same claim regarding voucher effects that are null for many subgroups but statistically significantly negative for other subgroups. Zhao is making much of nominal differences in the pattern of voucher achievement effects which may be due to statistical noise endemic towards the small subgroup samples in most of those studies. A program has a single, general impact on participants unless its effects on different subgroups are, themselves, significantly different from one another based on statistical tests. The only statistically valid heterogeneous pattern to date uncovered inside a study of the achievement effects of school vouchers may be the positive and statistically important effect from the private school choice program in New York City on African American students, which itself was significantly not the same as the program's null impact on non-African American students. School choice scientific study has uncovered few scientifically valid variations in the impacts of school choice on achievement for various subgroups of students, though not for insufficient trying.

Third, know the subject which you speak. Zhao concludes his essay with the declare that, “Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other essential outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society.” Actually, there's a deep and broad research literature on the mostly results of school choice in general and schooling in particular on civic values for example political tolerance, volunteering in one's community, political knowledge, political engagement, social capital, and patriotism. I co-edited a book, Educating Citizens, on the subject in 2005. Rigorous studies demonstrating the positive private school effects on enhancing civic values are available here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, okay you receive the picture. A lot of studies of the relationship exist-when Zhao claims you will find “little, if any”-that comprehensive peer-reviewed summaries from the evidence have been published in these pages (see “Civics Exam,” research, Summer 2007) and elsewhere.

The evidence supporting the non-public school advantage in promoting civic values is really compelling that one would think it would be a settled matter by now. So long as doubters like Professor Zhao still ignore the wealth of published evidence on the contrary, empirical research on school choice and civic values will continue. Many commentators, however, insist on trusting their ideological preferences on the matter of school choice and civic values rather than their lying eyes. I would say that “proponents” of the public school advantage in promoting civic values present a different picture “than independent researchers”, however i tend not to call people names.

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To enhance Rural Schools, Concentrate on Their Strengths


A consistent criticism of education reform is the fact that much of the agenda continues to be based on what some call a \”deficit mindset.\” That is, reformers saw individuals, institutions, and communities as broken as well as in necessity of fixing (or worse, saving), less individuals, institutions, and communities with culture, history, and potential that may be cultivated and built upon. As education reform enters rural schools, it may learn from this error and never make it again.

Most rural schools and also the communities they serve are not broken. These communities are often the place to find deep wells of social capital, tradition, and values that educators can build upon to improve schools. In fact, survey data from rural communities shows higher levels of social cohesion, stronger beliefs in community safety, and stronger opinions that individuals locally consider one another. Rural communities also begin to see the largest number of two-parent families raising children (and those people are more prone to read for their children regularly). With regards to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scores, rural 8th-grade students outperform their counterparts in towns and concrete communities (Figure 1).

That said, rural schools have issues. They struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and leaders. This issue becomes particularly acute when state- and Washington-driven turnaround strategies hinge on replacing considerable amounts of staff, or when teacher-quality policies prioritize firing low-performing teachers. Which side hard-to-staff schools find replacements? Rural schools also find it difficult to offer diverse classes for their students. Rural schools lag behind all others with regards to offering AP classes, foreign language classes, along with other dual-enrollment classes.

Rural communities have problems, too. We suspect that lots of education reformers donrrrt know that, in excess of 50 years, the poverty rate in non-metropolitan areas has exceeded the poverty rate of metropolitan areas. Rural communities have higher rates of idleness (individuals neither working nor attending school), particularly for younger people. Forty-five percent of rural 18- to 24-year-olds with no high school diploma are idle. This demographic is particularly at risk for substance abuse, the effects which happen to be tearing rural communities apart for some years.

Something ought to be done. This is not because city-dwelling education reformers know more by what is best for rural students than their loved ones and communities, but because uniting urban and rural communities is better for the polity than dividing them. Finding educational reforms that work for both rural and concrete communities (or at least don't help one in the cost of the other) is a worthy pursuit.

There are a couple of primary areas where these policies are important: increasing the pipeline of teachers and leaders into rural schools and broadening the choices available to rural school students.

There are lots of ways that the challenges facing urban and suburban schools act like those facing rural schools. Every school wants great teachers and leaders, looking for a curriculum that is rigorous and appropriate, and working under financial constraints to maximise offerings. But you will find distinct challenges that rural schools face, and they're worth considering.

The last decade has witnessed a tremendous amount of effort put into teacher-effectiveness reform. Many of these have been \”demand side\” reforms, finding out how schools and districts attract, retain, and evaluate their teachers. One high-profile part of this reform agenda continues to be identifying minimally effective teachers and removing them from the classroom. This strategy does not fit very well in labor markets that struggle to attract many teachers. If your school cannot look for a better teacher to exchange the one which it's letting go, it will be worse off. Research from the School Improvement Grant program highlighted the particular struggles of rural schools in finding effective teachers. Actually, a few of the potential school turnaround plans that required a change from the school's faculty had to be removed the table, since the schools could not find alternative teachers.

So what can rural schools, and also the policymakers who oversee them, do relating to this? Four things:

First, rural schools can heavily recruit their own graduates to come back to show. Nationwide, most teachers wind up working close to where they was raised. Whereas a potential teacher in a denser urban community may have scads of schools inside a few miles of her childhood home, a rural teacher has far fewer options. While this presents challenges for both rural schools (having a limited supply of prospective teachers) and prospective teachers (with a limited number of possible employers), you will find great social-capital and social-cohesion advantages associated with a school's employing a significant number of its own graduates.

Second, as Daniel Player and Aliza Husain from the University of Virginia have outlined, states and rural districts can create programs to assist paraprofessionals become full-fledged and certified teachers. This can increase the supply of teachers and staff with knowledge of the school and connections towards the community.

Third, when drafting school turnaround programs or identifying strategies for improving chronically low-performing schools, federal and state policymakers must recall the wide selection of labor market problems that different schools face. Incentivizing or requiring schools to exchange large numbers of their staff is not really a viable solution in many rural areas. Flexibility must be included in these programs to consider this fact into account.

Finally, states can rework their funding formulae to help rural schools offer better wages for their staff. In many states, legislatures make the protection of agricultural land a policy priority and written property-assessment rules that, as a result, inadvertently make raising local funds harder. It is usually assessed in a lower rate than residential or commercial property and thus generates less revenue for local school districts. Even if rural districts vote to raise their property tax rates, the base can be they canrrrt generate the revenue schools believe they require. You will find important tradeoffs to make with regards to changing property assessment rates, but hamstringing communities based on the industries within their geographic catchment areas deserves reconsideration.

Deindustrialization and lack of economic opportunity breeds a vicious circle for rural communities. You will find fewer good jobs for young adults in rural areas, or the good jobs which exist require middle-skills training they don’t have. Consequently, employable young people often move to cities with better opportunities, draining the local labor market and decreasing the number of talented potential employees open to the firms (and schools) that remain. Fewer companies are eager to relocate and existing businesses close, further exacerbating the problem. This then hurts the tax base for schools and causes it to be to recruit great teachers and leaders.

Preparing students for any changing workforce is important, so schools have to be able to provide a wide variety of potential courses, from advanced science and math to career and technical education. Rural schools often find it difficult to run this gamut due to limited manpower, resources, and demand. It's tough to warrant hiring an AP Physics teacher for a type of two or building a whole woodshop for a single student thinking about carpentry.

Students need choices, but school-choice advocates should look at how funding flexibility can improve what schools are already doing rather than centering their arguments on closing schools, replacing schools, or starting new schools. Efficiency-minded approaches based on school consolidation and closure happen to be put on rural communities for a while now and also have, understandably, generated resistance and resentment.

One potential option would be course access. Course-access programs allow students to take 2 or 3 courses each day from outside providers instead of their public school. If your student desires to take calculus, for instance, but her school only offers math up to Algebra II, she can go to the library to take an online Calculus I course offered by a university or any other provider when her classmates head to math class. Instead of pushing schools to purchase costly technical education facilities, states can certify courses in carpentry, welding, or perhaps a host of other skills offered by vocational schools or at trade unions' apprenticeship centers. Students may take the one-sixth or one-seventh of the funding that would otherwise purchase an in-school class to these outside providers. They'd then get credit for the class, much like if it were offered within the four walls of the school. This method can combine the very best of school choice without having to sacrifice the cohesion from the school community or even the operations of an existing school.

There can also be, as Juliet Squire of Bellwether Education Partners persuasively argues, potential for charter schooling in rural communities, though this potential is different from that in urban communities. (Actually, we already have some 800 rural charter schools across the nation.) Charter schools can help solve two issues that rural schools have: compliance burdens and specialization. This could, consequently, prevent requires closure or consolidation.

A rural district-run school could choose to convert to charter status. Numerous states around the country have language in their charter-school laws that provide existing public schools to become charter schools. When district schools become charter schools, they are often free of their state or district regulations and compliance decrees that sap the time of the generally smaller staffs. Charter-school regulations are written with independently operated schools in your mind; traditional public school regulations often aren't. Whereas larger urban and suburban districts have the central-office staff to adhere to state requirements, rural schools are often stretched too thin to do this. Chartering could solve this issue and allow the college to become more nimble, agile, and student-focused.

Chartering can also help create smaller, specialized schools in rural school districts. If districts wish to target particular populations, such as English-language learners, students thinking about jobs inside a particular local industry, or students that are suffering from substance abuse or whose people are experiencing substance abuse, they might use chartering to create tailored school environments. Schools would then have fewer burdensome compliance mandates to deal with and much more freedom to recruit staff and offer nontraditional calendars or schedules. They might also access federal funds for charter schools to help provide their offerings.

Given that many statistical definitions simply define rural as whatever remains as we have classified everything else, rural communities and also the schools that serve them are vastly different from one another. Some rural areas are affluent, some are really poor. Some are flat farmland, other are rugged mountains. Any category that groups an urban area in the thick forests of Vermont with towns in the cotton fields of Mississippi and also the high desert of New Mexico and the chaparral of California omits as much as it explains. Demographically, rural schools vary widely too, with rural schools which are predominately white, rural schools which are predominately black, rural schools which are predominately Hispanic, and rural schools that are predominately Native American. With regards to performance, there's more variation within rural schools than between rural schools along with other locales. Rural schools in the Northeast and Midwest, for instance, outperform their urban counterparts, while rural schools in the South and West lag behind (Figure 2).

If we would like these schools to perform better later on, education reformers will have to put a finer point on their analysis than statisticians. What rural schools do share are families' pride within their schools and rely upon those running them, and also the widespread belief that these schools are linchpins of their communities. Reforms built about this understanding have promise. Likewise, reforms which are viewed as efforts to villainize schools, undermine social cohesion, or force schools to compete for limited resources will almost certainly be met with resistance.

There is no single policy that can help all rural schools, given the incredible variation in the needs of those schools. Some schools are thriving and need help to get better still. Some have fallen far behind and want substantial support to have their heads above water. Within a given state or region, not to mention the entire country, different schools will have different needs regarding staffing, infrastructure, and much more, and they will need bespoke solutions. One size will not fit all.

Rural schools in addition have a strong foundation upon which school improvement can be built. Cohesive communities built on strong families provide schools with ample social resources to educate children. Policy, whether school funding, teacher recruitment and assignment, or school choice, must develop this foundation, and policymakers need to understand where there are unmet needs and then tailor methods to individual communities.

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Bullying Bolick


As a lawyer, Clint Bolick worked for decades to protect educational choice for families and challenge barriers to economic entrepreneurship. He co-founded the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm; advocated for choice in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, where the U.S. Top court upheld a college voucher enter in Cleveland; and served as president from the Alliance for School Choice and v . p . of litigation for that Goldwater Institute. His distinguished record-in 2008 the Legal Times called him one of D.C.'s \”greatest lawyers\” of history 30 years-led Arizona's Republican governor Doug Ducey to appoint Bolick towards the Arizona Supreme Court in 2021. But Bolick has drawn opponents, too. In November, they tried to end Bolick's judicial career.

In Arizona, top court justices face a retention election two years after their initial appointment and every six years thereafter. These elections are normally pro forma, with voters retaining judges by large, comfortable margins. During his first couple of years, Bolick established himself being an independent jurist, together with his committed textualism leading him to sometimes vote against political expectations.

But in August Bolick drew the wrath from the state teachers union once the Arizona Top court voted to remove an education-funding measure in the November ballot. Proposition 207, referred to as Purchase Education Act, was based on the union-the Arizona Education Association (AEA). The measure might have provided an assured funding source for teacher salary increases. It would have risen the wages tax rate on individuals earning a lot more than $250,000 and households earning a lot more than $500,000 by 3.46 percentage points, to eight percent. For individuals earning a lot more than $500,000 and households earning more than $1,000,000, the speed would have spiked to 9 %.

Opponents from the measure sued, stating that the outline provided by the initiative's sponsors was misleading and, therefore, violated state law. The first problem was that the sponsors erroneously stated the measure would trigger increases of 3.46 and 4.46 percent, rather than percentage points. In fact, the proposed percentage-point hikes amounted to respective increases of 76 and 98 percent over the current rates.

What's more, Arizona indexes state income taxes according to inflation. Because the initiative was written, it would have eliminated that indexing and increased taxes much more. Proposition 207's supporters said their intent wasn't to eliminate indexing, but the language from the initiative would have had that effect. In Arizona, sponsors of ballot measures have the choice of submitting their draft text to a legislative council that looks at the language for ambiguities and conflicts, but 207's creators did not submit their draft.

In August 2021, the state top court ruled 5 -2 that the description created \”a significant danger of confusion or unfairness\” and ordered the measure be taken off the ballot. The court majority appeared to discover the effect on indexing to be probably the most troubling issue, stating that if the act's supporters had allow the legislative council evaluate the measure beforehand, \”the question might never have be a judicial one and also the measure could be before the voters.\”

The outcry from the measure's supporters was swift and focused, focusing on two justices up for any retention vote, Bolick and Justice John Pelander, who had been in the eighth year in the game. The AEA and it is allies immediately took to social media to launch an offer to remove both justices in the bench, even though nobody knew until weeks later how any of the justices had voted on the ballot initiative.

The union had amassed a large war chest to aid 207, which it redirected to the campaign against Bolick and Pelander. The union also had support in the National Education Association. In reaction, many leaders from the state legal community, including Paul Bender, the previous dean of Arizona State University's law school, criticized the campaign. Even though he personally disagreed with the court's decision, Bender praised both judges as \”high-quality\” jurists and specifically praised Bolick for being \”thoughtful\” and never \”political.\” Bolick himself didn't operate a formal campaign but did give interviews and speeches to various groups, emphasizing his strong scores from the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance.

AEA's campaign failed in November. Bolick was retained with 70 % from the vote and Pelander with 71 percent. Judges on lower courts were retained with slightly larger margins of 73 to 75 percent. Bolick now has another six years to place his textualism into action. One suspects it won't be the parade of horribles predicted by the individuals who just attempted to remove him.

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What Social and Emotional Learning Must Succeed and Survive


Social and emotional learning (SEL) has caught a big wave in American K -12 education. Googling the saying can get more than 400 million hits. It's the focus of the high-profile Aspen Institute national commission that issued its final report captured [1] as well as innumerable policy powwows, professional development programs, and philanthropic initiatives. It's its very own advocacy group, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), based in Chicago having a 33-member staff and most 20 blue-ribbon funders.

What is SEL exactly, and what's all the fuss about? CASEL defines SEL as \”the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and get positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and keep positive relationships, making responsible decisions.\” [2] The Aspen Commission frames it as \”the integration of social and emotional development with academic learning.\” [3]

Obvious, you say? Self-evidently desirable? Items that good schools (and parents) have always done? An appealing if nebulous concept with much to like for those on both left and right? Of course, say we. It's all regulated those activities along with an attempt for rebalancing instruction system that in recent decades has focused overmuch on reading and math scores while giving short shrift to character development, civic formation, and the cultivation of ethics among its young charges.

Hence, superintendents, principals, and policymakers are right to embrace the (age-old) notion put forward by the SEL crowd that schools are about more than academics. The educational experience itself ought to be engaging, safe, and collaborative, and its goals must transcend the cultivation of literacy and numeracy. As they embrace SEL, however, practitioners and policymakers alike have to be cautious about some clear dos and don'ts because their well-meaning efforts could also wind up making schools worse.

The case for SEL must not become an excuse to decrease attention to academic skills and data or serve to deflect educators in the centrality of academic instruction. Sensibly configured, SEL should complement instruction in reading and math, as well as history, science, civics, literature, composition, and also the arts. We're persuaded by common sense plus some decent research that kids are better in a position to master academics once they feel safe, valued, emotionally secure, and socially comfortable. After all, preparing students to become responsible citizens in a liberal democracy is a crucial part of what schools are for. Academic instruction alone doesn't cultivate that sort of competence. Both of them are essential.

Unlike academic achievement, however, that we have all manner of time-tested (if imperfect) metrics, gauging progress on the SEL front is exceptionally difficult. You may know good SEL when you see it, but it's hard to document gains, a smaller amount convincingly and reliably measure them when (and if) they occur. That elusiveness can make it tempting for educators whose schools and pupils are struggling academically to get rid of their balance and switch towards the celebration of SEL as a refuge from mediocre academic outcomes.

One people recently observed a small instance of this dynamic in an awards ceremony for secondary school principals, in which a prize winner took great pains to glowingly, lovingly depict her school like a place having a family-like atmosphere. It does really well, she said with evident and legitimate pride, at making everyone feel welcome and forging a staff-wide commitment to meeting student needs. That, however, was only after she observed-without evident concern-that her school doesn't perform all that well on conventional gauges of academic performance. This, bear in mind, is a principal receiving peer accolades for that congrats she's done like a school leader.

A principal's leadership agenda should, of course, incorporate \”making everyone feel welcome.\” But success at SEL must complement and buttress academic learning, not become a substitute or excuse because of not having enough. Different color leaves, SEL will be counted a dismal failure if it encourages educators to stay for pillowy paeans to \”happiness,\” \”self-esteem,\” and \”inclusivity\” at the expense of harder things such as character, ethics, virtue, and civility.

If SEL does tip toward the lax and banal, history suggests that it will have in all probability a relatively short shelf life, much like the self-esteem fad from the 1980s. There ended up being no solid research foundation underneath the work of California's celebrated Task Force to advertise Self-Esteem and private and Social Responsibility. On the contrary, its \”findings\” were ultimately exposed as fraudulent. Long before that, its recommendations were widely mocked for his or her feel-good soft-headedness. (We suspect this sorry excursion also played a role in the Golden State's long-term slide in academic performance.) Much the same thing sank the nationwide passion for \”values clarification\” education in the 1960s and \”outcomes-based education\” within the 1990s. These movements faltered due to a lack of evidence they worked and have become politically untenable once they came to be seen as inimical to \”traditional\” values and basic skills.

To be clear, today's most thoughtful SEL proponents strike us as serious about seeking to steer clear of the hostility to academic instruction that bedeviled those earlier efforts. Indeed, the very best evidence for SEL concerns being able to support academic learning. The authors of a worthy research summary developed for the Aspen Commission pay particular focus on \”how emotionally safe and cognitively stimulating environments bring about brain development; how brain development that supports learning depends on social experiences; and how sensitive periods in brain development align with opportunities for learning and needed supports.\” [4] All well and good.

But while such sentiments are compelling on paper, the question is whether this vision of SEL will win in practice. As with those earlier failed efforts, lots of educators, advocates, funders, and vendors hold their own visions of what SEL is for-and those views may not align with Aspen's no-nonsense mantra. In the end, it's quite tempting to allow efforts like SEL to tread a kinder, gentler path. It is because educators (like the majority of people) prefer to be kind than judgmental and delicate rather than hectoring. This is also, however, due to a basic asymmetry within the relationship between SEL and academics: While SEL can serve as an important enabling condition for academic achievement, the converse isn't true. It's possible to maintain excellent social and emotional shape without knowing how to multiply two-digit numbers, write a cogent paragraph, or explain what causes the Civil War. We're reminded of the unfortunate but well-documented fact that exceptionally high amounts of self-esteem and satisfaction in young Americans often go hand in glove with dangerously low levels of academic success.

A further problem is that, since the metrics now available for gauging SEL success are limited and subjective, you can assert that things are running smoothly or that \”programs are working\” largely on the basis of anecdote or cherry-picked survey data-and it's difficult for doubters to disprove such claims. This breeds uncertainty over how best to infuse SEL into schools or know whether such efforts are succeeding. Some states are relying heavily on \”school climate\” surveys, the outcomes which may estimate the state's Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan and college report cards. We discover ourselves waiting to be believing that these tools will prove as valid and reliable as advocates hope.

Continued research, experimentation, and evaluation are certainly warranted, and an earnest resolve for these-coupled with candor about what we do and don't know-may help SEL steer clear of the pitfalls that have undone earlier efforts to succeed most of the same intuitions. There is however much more that partisans and funders should consider because they aim to deliver on SEL's promise. Within the remainder of this paper, we offer seven suggestions, born of hard experience, that may help.

1. Slow down and focus on getting it right.

2. Be clear by what SEL is and isn't.

3. Ensure that character and civic education loom large within the SEL portfolio.

4. Making schools safer is an appealing part of SEL, so long as the transcendent point is student safety, not adult agendas.

5. Parental enthusiasm for SEL is healthy, however it ought not be a free pass for academic frailty.

6. Make it a priority to develop valid, reliable, intuitive metrics for SEL-and be honest regarding their limits.

7. In celebrating \”evidence-based\” practices and inspiring further research, be wary of analysts who give short shrift to how their findings mean real life.

For example, we recall the innocent dawn of charter schooling, once the impulse to produce as many schools as quickly as possible in as numerous places as you possibly can overwhelmed the capabilities of those creating, supporting, or authorizing schools. In states for example Ohio and Texas, a large number of schools opened that fell short on instruction, managerial know-how, integrity, facilities, staffing, financing, curriculum, and far else. More than a few sleazy operators seized the opportunity to pursue their own ends. The end result would be a mixed track record and a troubling quantity of outright scandals. This tainted charter schools in many states, inviting overregulation, fueling understandable resistance, and providing talking points to political opponents.

A useful counterexample continues to be the College Board's meticulous ramp-up of their new Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone courses and pre-AP 9th grade courses, both additions to the familiar AP portfolio. Capstone is really a set of advanced research-based courses, meant to ready students for that independent learning obligations of school, while pre-AP seeks to take underprepared 9th graders and boost these to the reality that they are able to successfully tackle challenging coursework. In the two cases, the school Board has striven to make sure school and teacher preparedness before expanding use of these new offerings. That can be a elongated ramp-up has denied immediate participation with a, growing these programs slowly makes it possible to concentrate on doing them wisely and well.

When dealing with complex instructional initiatives, where execution is everything and lots of fervent but ill-prepared advocates, administrators, and educators are keen to leap on board, a calibrated rollout can be a powerful force for steering change onto a positive long-term path. There's much to become said for enthusiasm and rapid diffusion, but much more to become said for it right, which also demands considerable sophistication and self-restraint on the part of practitioners.

Saying this once, or perhaps repeating it every so often, is not enough. The desire to pay attention to rapid implementation while genially embracing a big tent approach is natural enough. Sadly, that approach won't safeguard either the perception or the practice of SEL from individuals with their very own agendas. Now you ask , what genuine advocates are prepared to do when it comes to flagging the frauds, identifying the charlatans, calling out practices that lack evidence, and otherwise helping communities separate the wheat from the chaff. Put another way, good communication is not only explaining what advocates think good SEL is but additionally taking pains to indicate what it really isn't. Doing this entails using the uncomfortable next thing of calling out those who are pitching dubious wares under the SEL banner or deploying problematic programs in their schools.

This implies that a few days of \”professional development\” for educators or the simple embrace of some favored \”best practice\” is inadequate. It will be useful, for instance, for SEL proponents to examine the way they might certify principals as school-level SEL leaders and teachers as bona fide SEL providers. Maybe schools themselves might get gold stars for it right, much as buildings get LEED certified if they are environmentally sound. We're definitely not suggesting a more sophisticated system of recent governmental regulations or education-school credentials. It might be far better for any competent private organization, backstopped by like-minded philanthropy, to produce and confer these additional credentials-and do their finest to ensure they are worth earning.

Indeed, SEL is visible as a way for educators to recover and propagate-sans religion-the emphases on virtue, integrity, and empathy that were long ago flagged by scholars such as James Coleman, Valerie Lee, and Tony Bryk as core traits of successful Catholic schools. It's also a path toward the strengthened civic education that almost everybody agrees is sorely without today's America (and the lack of that is painfully evident in our public square), encompassing issues of civic consciousness, civil engagement, and civilized behavior. Those are links that SEL advocates should forge as energetically as they perform the connection between SEL and academic achievement.

At the same time, some SEL proponents seem particularly invested in \”discipline reform\” and \”restorative justice\” because the method to help students feel at ease and promote school safety. They are doing so in a fashion that to all of us appears to egregiously overstate the evidence concerning the efficacy of these approaches while dismissing concerns or contradictory data. At issue is whether SEL will be based on its goals or by the preferred tactics of some devotees. How faithfully will it hew to the evidentiary standards the Aspen Commission championed? And just how vigorously will proponents challenge people who would exploit a unifying concern for example \”safe schools\” to advance their very own favorite strategies, even when those strategies prove disappointing or divisive? We encourage thoughtful SEL advocates in reality the overriding goal would be to help students feel safe and valued, to insist that techniques for doing this take place to similar standards of evidence, and to reassure skeptics that they're not putting a thumb around the scale for strategies they occur to find ideologically congenial or politically useful.

All that said, schools must be places of learning. From parents' perspective, the long-term prospects of their daughters and sons hinge in large part on how they fare academically. While the conviction that SEL and academics are inseparable may incline SEL advocates to wave off concerns about any latent tensions, they'd prosper to help keep loudly insisting that the emphasis on social and emotional considerations should be tightly associated with a focus on children's academic learning, and they must do their finest to assist parents insist upon that linkage in their children's schools. Policymakers might help by looking into making those connections vivid on school report cards and accountability systems. And outside groups that rate and compare schools-organizations for example GreatSchools-can assist (as they typically already do) if you are paying equal attention on their own information pages to \”academics\” and \”environments.\”

School climate surveys are a start, but let's not kid ourselves. They share the vulnerabilities of all subjective \”how do you think things are going\” polls and questionnaires, including selective answers by adults who would like their school to look great (or bad!) and plain old game-playing by students. SEL needs more reliable instruments. Precisely how practical it will likely be to build up them remains an open question, which should be addressed with a transparency and modesty all too often absent recently in high-profile efforts to advertise some other type of novel measures for example student assessment and teacher evaluation.

It's also vital to resist overselling the instruments that we do have. Some of what we should most value in SEL may ultimately prove hard to measure systematically or credibly. Indeed, it is easy to imagine scenarios by which shoddy instruments are clumsily applied, disrupting healthy routines and relationships. Transparency and a willingness to continuously solicit feedback from skeptical students, parents, and teachers-not just supportive ones-will prove invaluable in addressing these tensions. A relentless resolve for evidence will help guard against goofiness whilst helping reassure parents and educators. Once the evidence is shaky or uncertain, SEL advocates have to forthrightly acknowledge the fact-not duck it or downplay it. Sometimes the very best data we've when forming a judgment about something-as with reviews of movies, books, and restaurants-is the judgment of others by means of expert or crowd-sourced opinion (think Zagat and TripAdvisor). The job of advocates is to emphasize transparency and integrity, including distinguishing between \”solid evidence\” and \”thoughtful opinion.\”

This dynamic also means that evidence-based recommendations can wind up being helplessly naive concerning the challenges of how some program or intervention that works well inside a controlled setting will have out in less hospitable environs. SEL doesn't yet cash by way of large data sets, and of course it needs to acquire them. However it neglects at its peril the unsexy study of implementation, the careful evaluation of efficacy, and the development of unpopular but vital experiments that yield solid details about which interventions actually make what differences under what conditions. Those commissioning and engaging in SEL research will have to seek feedback and evidence that can help anticipate what can go wrong in the real world.

Social and emotional learning may become a sturdy pillar of yankee K -12 education. Or it might prove faddish, contentious, and evanescent. Which of those futures lies ahead depends in significant part on the choices produced by supportive educators, advocates, policymakers, funders, and scholars in these early days from the SEL movement. We hope they choose wisely.

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How To Tackle Student Absenteeism


Late winter – with colds, extended family vacations, and general fatigue – is really a peak period for college absenteeism. Just how can schools best combat this problem?

They're certainly trying – and even for good reason. Absenteeism is associated with lower academic performance, increased dropout, and even higher rates of future incarceration. In reaction towards the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, most states now use reducing absenteeism as one of their core measures of school performance and improvement. For many schools, there's also financial incentives, as some funding is linked to average daily attendance.

With the pressure on to lessen the number of school days missed, many schools have introduced attendance awards to incentivize students.

A couple of years ago, we set out to test this tactic. Together with Jana Gallus at University of California, Los Angeles and Monica Lee at Stanford University, we conducted a randomized controlled experiment involving 15,329 middle and school students across 14 districts in California. These students, who had a perfect month of attendance during the preceding fall semester, were randomly assigned to one of two groups involving awards, or perhaps a control group that received no additional communications and served as the comparison. After January, we sent students within the two award groups a mailing to their homes. One group received a letter informing them when they'd an ideal month of attendance in February, they'd receive a high-quality embossed certificate acknowledging their achievement. The letter the second group received said excitedly they earned an award for having had a perfect month of attendance earlier that school year, and also the certificate was actually enclosed within the mailing.

California Experiment: Sample Mailing

Like the a large number of schools which use similar symbolic awards to motivate students, we predicted they'd reduce absenteeism. In fact, we publicly posted these predictions before analyzing the data.

To our surprise, though, students who earned an award for any past month of perfect attendance missed more school in February than students who didn't earn an award. The award increased the amount of school days students missed by 8 %. Students who have been offered the opportunity to generate the award to have an ideal month of attendance in February showed, on average, no decrease in absences in accordance with the control group. When we checked out these students' absences in March, everybody attended fewer days of school than students who have been never offered the award. In both cases, following the award period was over, student absences increased.

To realise why attendance awards hurt student attendance, we conducted a follow-up survey experiment. The results claim that awards may unintentionally signal to students that they had attended more school than their peers and that they had overshot their schools' expectations for his or her attendance, leaving them feeling licensed to miss school continuing to move forward. To be certain, that one experiment does not claim that all education-related awards are useless or counterproductive. Our exploratory analyses claim that the sale of an award for perfect attendance may slightly motivate junior high school students but not high school students. The intuition that these awards would reduce absenteeism seemed sensible, like a lot of intuitions. Only through rigorous research such as this randomized experiment, though, were we in a position to assess their true impact.

Although the award strategy for improving attendance may backfire, not all interventions targeted at reducing absenteeism are ineffective. Using insights from behavioral science, we have developed and studied interventions which do indeed work as intended. For instance, another randomized field experiment that delivered repeated mailings to students' parents meaningfully reduced the amount of school days students miss every year. The research, conducted by Todd Rogers and by Avi Feller in the University of California, Berkeley, involved the families of over 28,000 students vulnerable to high absenteeism within the School District of Philadelphia.

In the Philadelphia study, parents were randomly allotted to a control group a treadmill of the range of treatment groups that received personalized attendance reports composed of messages encouraging daily attendance plus tailored data elements that aimed to correct two false beliefs widely held by parents. First, parents tend to underestimate their own child's absences by 50 %. That is, if a student has missed 20 times of school, the student's parent tends to believe a student only has missed 10 days. Second, parents – like several people – become a victim of the river Wobegon effect, named following the community described in the radio show \”A Prairie Home Companion,\” where all of the children are thought to be above average. So, when it comes to attendance, parents of scholars who have missed more school than their classmates have a tendency to believe their children have missed the same or fewer days than their classmates. It is understandable for parents to harbor these inaccurate beliefs, considering that it's cognitively difficult to keep accurate tabs on absences because they accumulate over time, parents receive virtually no information about how their children's absences compare to other students, and parents are motivated to consider well of their children (and themselves).

Philadelphia Experiment: Sample Mailing

Sending personalized reports to correct false beliefs about attendance was inspired by behavioral research on energy conservation. Many bills now provide consumers with personalized information on how much energy they use and just how their consumption comes even close to those of their \”most efficient neighbors.\” This strategy has shown to be one of the most effective ways to encourage home energy conservation. When people receive information that corrects their false beliefs, they're motivated to change their behavior to align using their updated beliefs. In the case of energy consumption, people believe they expend the same or less energy than the others because, like attendance, it's difficult to track, not easily comparable, along with a domain where individuals are motivated to consider well of themselves. So, when individuals learn they're using more energy than people they live near, they respond by cutting back their own energy use. Therefore, we hypothesized sending parents a study with up-to-date and accurate info on their child's attendance record several times over the course of the college year would result in parents intervening to lessen the number of school days the youngster missed.

The intervention reduced chronic absenteeism by 11 percent, though different variants from the treatment showed varying effects. The absence-reducing effects were consistent across grades, races and ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic status. Interestingly, the effect spilled over to siblings residing in exactly the same household because the students being targeted through the intervention: increasing one student's attendance increased the attendance of that student's siblings.

Teaming up with Monica Lee and Eric Dearing from Boston College, we conceptually replicated the findings in a second experiment involving almost 11,000 kindergarten through fifth graders in ten California school districts. Although absenteeism is usually touted as a problem emerging in middle and high school, it is usually just like prevalent in the early grades and could have longer-term impacts. Along with correcting parents' false beliefs, we enhanced the treatment by featuring attention-grabbing images and numbers that reinforced the messaging.

The most of parents reported showing the mailing to others in their homes or hanging them on their own refrigerators. This might explain why these two studies of repeated mail-based interventions decrease absenteeism, while other studies suggest absence-interventions using cellphone texts have no detectable effect on the attendance of school-age children. The postal mail-delivered personalized attendance reports reduced absenteeism at a cost of between $5 and $10 per absence avoided. The intervention, which uses already collected student data, is especially cost-effective in contrast to current guidelines that involve mentors and truancy officers. They can cost Fifty to one hundred times more per absence avoided.

Each student absence has its own human story, and meaningfully reducing the number of school days students miss each year will need a wide range of interventions. By systematically evaluating these interventions, some common practices will be unexpectedly debunked. But then we can leverage the science of human behavior to identify new and cost-effective strategies that districts can easily adopt to reduce student absenteeism at scale.

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Education Reform's Dark blue Hue


Close observers of 21st-century education reform realize that champions of charter schooling, teacher evaluation, and accountability are routinely characterized as right-wingers bent on undermining public education. Thus, the education-reform battles are usually depicted as left versus right or blue versus red, with progressive teachers unions as well as their allies fending off the attacks of right-wing reformers.

These tropes are omnipresent. The most visible indicating education reform-such as Teach for America (TFA) as well as other charter school networks and also the foundations that fund them-are characterized as neoliberal, corporatist, conservative, and right-wing. In the Atlantic, the KIPP charter schools happen to be attacked for his or her role “in the project of neoliberalizing public goods.” [1] Success Academies founder Eva Moskowitz continues to be excoriated for promoting a Trojan horse which contains “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos.” [2] The Walton Family Foundation has been dismissed as “conservative” or “deeply conservative” by the Huffington Post [3] and historian Diane Ravitch. [4]

Regarding Teach for America, Rethinking Schools has published “An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits,” which reads: “Many of you without doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement; that's the message TFA sells very well. But TFA is not progressive. The width=\”690\” />

The political imbalance among Walton grantees was modestly less pronounced than among Gates grantees. Since Walton Family Foundation has a larger set of grantees, we tracked results for a sample of 194 organizations receiving support from Walton (sucked from the 380 organizations listed in the foundation's financial report). Of those 194 organizations, 125 had at least one staffer create a recorded campaign contribution. These Walton grantees included organizations for example Teach for America, KIPP, Education Reform Now, 50CAN, the 74 Media, Chalkbeat, and also the Education Trust.

In total, we found 3,887 political campaign contributions from employees of those 125 organizations. Of those contributions, 3,377, or 87 percent, went to Democrats. On average, the dollar value of contributions to Republicans among Walton grantees was higher than those to Democrats. As a result, 74 percent, or $1,239,958 from the $1,685,207 in total contributions, went to Democrats. Whether measured in contributions or funds contributed, staff at grantees from the “very conservative” Walton Foundation clearly favor Democratic candidates over Republican ones with a margin of somewhere between 3-to-1 and 7-to-1.

We conducted a similar analysis for any set of scholars who focus on education reform: the presenters at most recent conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). We examined the presenters at AEFP due to their investment in evaluating reform initiatives for example charter schooling, school turnarounds, and teacher-evaluation systems. AEFP is different from the much larger and older American Education Research Association, whose members include the majority of the nation's education professoriate and tend to be skeptical of policies such as school choice and test-based accountability. Indeed, AEFP split in the American Education Finance Association to create a research organization more hospitable to the analysis and discussion of reform. AEFP's membership is drawn, mainly, from public policy and economics departments. In a nutshell, AEFP could be understood as encompassing many of the more reform-minded economists and econophiles who study education. Considering that, it seems worth going through the degree to which AEFP is home to more conservative, Republican-friendly academics.

To compile our AEFP sample, we identified what they are called and institutional affiliations of everybody who was listed as a presenter at AEFP's 2021 conference [17] and then searched for each individual to identify their campaign contributions.

In total, we researched information on all 749 scholars who presented in the AEFP 2021 national conference. Of those 749, we found at least one campaign contribution from 74 people. Those 74 people designed a total of 336 contributions worth $78,308. Of these 336 contributions, 324, or 96 percent, visited Democrats. And of that $78,308, $75,958, or 97 percent, visited Democrats. Of the 74 AEFP presenters who made campaign contributions, only four had ever given to a single Republican. Like the Gates and Walton grantees, AEFP is nearly entirely populated with individuals who offer the Democratic Party.

Information on AEFP conference participants also allows us to glean some sense of how politically active education reformers are. For Gates and Walton grantees, we do not know the universe of employees who might have given. But for AEFP, we know that 74 of 749, or 10 percent, of individuals have led to political campaigns. Based on, only 0.68 percent [18] of the adult US population made campaign contributions during the 2021 election cycle exceeding the $200 minimum requiring that the form be completed. When we restrict our AEFP sample towards the 2021 election cycle and eliminate those who gave less than $200, we have seen that 23, or 3.07 percent, of the AEFP sample contributed, relative to 0.68 percent for the general population. That means that AEFP presenters contributed to campaigns at approximately four to five times the rate of American adults.

The countless researchers and analysts involved with AEFP are an essential constituency within the education-reform world. Their evaluations and scholarship help shape public knowledge of education reform and whether or not this works. Thus, that the ideological views of those that study education reform align with those pursuing those efforts raises useful questions about the role of potential biases, blind spots, and groupthink.

Remarkably, the deep blue hue of Gates and Walton education grantees (and reform-friendly education researchers) rivals the leftward lean we see in Democratic precincts such as Hollywood and public-employee unions. For example, the Center for Responsive Politics, which operates, reports that 78 percent of campaign contributions from the TV, movies, and music business go to Democrats since 2000. [19] If we consider only movie production and distribution (e.g., producers, actors, directors, technicians, and agents), then 90 percent of the contributions made since 2000 went to Democrats. [20]

Meanwhile, public-sector unions have given 90 percent of the contributions to Democrats in the last 2 decades. In other words, Hollywood and public-employee unions are just as liberal as advertised, however the allegedly right-wing ranks of K -12 education reformers grow to be every bit as one-sided in their partisanship (Figure 2).

Some readers may wonder whether education reform leans toward Democrats simply because everyone in K -12 education is a Democrat. In short: Nope. For instance, Education Week polling reports that simply 41 percent of educators identify as Democrats, with 27 percent identifying as Republicans and 30 percent as independents. [21] Even the National Education Association (NEA), the country's largest teacher union, gives a larger slice of its campaign contributions to Republicans compared to the workers of Gates education grantees (Figure 3). Since 2000, 93 percent of NEA PAC money went to Democrats. [22] Staff from the grantees funded through the “very conservative” Walton Foundation are barely more favorable to Republicans than are members of the country's largest teacher union.

These results paint an unexpected picture of education reform: one of a movement dominated by Democratic partisans. Actually, the school-reform community's leftward tilt is wholly at odds using the popular narrative that school reform may be the project of right-wing privatizers-and with reformers' claims that theirs is a centrist, bipartisan movement. Indeed, it is fair to wonder how these depictions have grown to be so detached in the reality of who populates the world of education reform.

This lack of right-leaning representation has important implications for education reform's practice, popularity, and political prospects. Because of the paucity of Republicans (or of individuals inclined to support Republican candidates), it is no great surprise that school reform appears to reflect the politically progressive impulses from the contemporary left. One consequence is this fact (overlooked) ideological homogeneity may create an echo chamber that hinders the movement's ability to detect and address political and practical challenges. These risks are heightened by reformers laboring underneath the mistaken impression that their coalition is politically and ideologically diverse-when the information suggest it is not.

Education reform's political uniformity also offers implications for its political prospects. More so compared to many major policy areas, K -12 policy is shaped in the local and state level. Especially considering that two-thirds or even more of the states are conservative or politically contested-including such reform bellwethers as Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, and Tennessee-reform suffers towards the extent that it struggles to anticipate and address Republican concerns or speak credibly to Republican audiences. Indeed, unencumbered by Republicans in their midst, school reformers have discovered themselves energetically embracing aggressive progressive stances on hot-button issues such as immigration, tax policy, and gun control. Meanwhile, given the ongoing resistance to reform from prominent Democratic constituencies, a Democrats-only reform coalition faces an all natural ceiling on its prospects.

All this matters for at least three good reasons. First, that education reform seems to be populated by Democrats raises obvious questions regarding the political and ideological breadth of the movement. A coalition whose staff and scholars are so identified with one political party will probably suffer when forging bipartisan coalitions, finding new converts, or anticipating and addressing opposition concerns. Reform advocates who support a Democratic Party that's lurching left might not know (or care) how their proposals and rhetoric are perceived by those in the center or on the right.

Second, that major foundations allocate their funds in this manner is noteworthy. After all, the Gates and Walton foundations spend considerable time developing comprehensive strategies, surveying their grantee portfolios, and looking methods to advance their agendas in a number of political contexts. Despite such efforts, they have few Republican-leaning organizations within their grantee mix. An open question is whether foundation giving helps fuel reform's partisan tilt or perhaps is a reflection of it. The answer may reveal the dynamics of educational philanthropy and, perhaps, on why a lot of its efforts have encountered rough sailing.

Third, it's remarkable to determine how far the truth is in the commentary about K -12 school reform. Observers of the national conversation would not suppose school reform is equally as left-leaning as such liberal bastions as Hollywood and public-employee unions. Reform critics, for ideological and tactical reasons, have opted to explain Democratic reform organizations as right-wing. Journalists and analysts have accepted these charges at face value, helping frame public discourse about schools and schooling. We suspect these assertions also have fostered not just confusion among the public but also miscalculations made by reformers and public officials.

Education reform's partisan tilt might help explain a number of its setbacks and reversals of recent years. A movement whose membership is so thoroughly partisan are affected when forging bipartisan coalitions and winning converts. This really is doubly true in a time of deep political polarization. Quite simply, a movement for education reform this monochromatically blue is an unhealthy movement. How Democrats have started to so heavily dominate education reform-and why this state of affairs went unremarked-are questions that need further analysis and reflection. Whether one is gone to live in cheer these bits of information or jeer them, those questions are fascinating, timely queries that deserve serious scrutiny going forward.

1. Jason Blakely, “How School Choice Turns Education right into a Commodity,” Atlantic, April 17, 2021,

2. Andrew O'Hehir, “Eva Moskowitz, Public Education and also the Crisis of Neoliberalism,” Salon, September 16, 2021,

3. Julia Sass Rubin, “CREDO's Study of Charter Schools in NJ Leaves Many Unanswered Questions,” Huffington Post, February 9, 2021,

4. Diane Ravitch, The Death and Lifetime of the truly amazing American School System (Ny: Basic Books, 2010).

5. Katie Osgood, “A wide open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits,” Rethinking Schools 28, no. 3 (Spring 2021):

6. Chiefs for Change (@chiefsforchange), “Chiefs for Change is really a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education Chiefs,” Twitter, September 6, 2021,

7. Are a symbol of Children Washington, “Our Values,”

8. 50-State Campaign for fulfillment Now, “Prospectus 2021 -2021,”

9. Naomi Schaefer Riley, “How Trendy Politics Is Killing Teach for America,” New York Post, April 18, 2021,

10. Teach for America, “House Immigration Bills Fall Shorts,” June 21, 2021,

11. Educators for Excellence, “Letter towards the US Education and Justice Departments: Preserve School Discipline Guidance to Protect Students' Civil Rights,” July 10, 2021, .

12. Education Trust, “The training Trust's Priorities for Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act,” , 2021,

13. Jonah Edelman and Randi Weingarten, “School Vouchers Don't Just Undermine Public Schools, They Undermine Our Democracy,” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2021, .

14. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “Awarded Grants,”

15. Walton Family Foundation, “2021 Grants Report,” https:\\\\2021-grants-report .

16., “Donor Lookup,” .

17. Association for Education Finance and Policy, “Association for Education Finance and Policy 43rd Annual Conference,”

18., “Donor Demographics,” .

19., “TV/Movies/Music: Long-Term Contribution Trends,” .

20., “Movie Production & Distribution: Long-Term Contribution Trends,” .

21. Alyson Klein, “Survey: Educators' Political Leanings, Who They Voted for, Where They Get up on Key Issues,” Education Week, December 12, 2021, .

22., “National Education Assn,”

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The Achievement Gap Fails to Close


Income inequality has soared in the usa over the past half century. Has educational inequality increased alongside, in lockstep?

Of course, say public intellectuals from over the political spectrum. As Richard Rothstein from the liberal Economic Policy Institute puts it: \”Incomes have grown to be more unequally distributed in the United States in the last generation, and this inequality contributes to the academic achievement gap.\” Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, citing research by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon, says, \”Rich Americans and poor Americans live, learning, and raising children in increasingly separate and unequal worlds.\” Another well-known political scientist, Charles Murray, argues that \”the Usa is tied to a large and growing lower class that's able to care for itself only sporadically and inconsistently. . . . The brand new upper class has continued to prosper because the dollar worth of the talents they convey towards the economy has continued to grow.\”

These analysts have valid reason to express concern. National competitiveness is at stake, as education advocates have argued because the Soviet Sputnik launch inspired the nation's Defense Education Act of 1958. Economic productivity and growth are greater in countries where students perform better in math, reading, and science than in the ones that don't provide their youth exactly the same opportunities to learn (see \”Education and Economic Growth,\” research, Spring 2008). Even though some might see income inequality as the result of life choices about matters for example how hard to work or where you can live, educational inequality seems unfair, because the economic status of the child is away from child's own control. It is an inequality of opportunity that runs counter towards the American dream.

Despite the topic's importance, surprisingly little scholarship has focused on long-term changes in the size of the achievement gap between students from higher minimizing socioeconomic backgrounds. Our new information, presented here, tries to fill this void, using data from four national assessments of student performance administered to representative examples of U.S. students over nearly 50 years.

Contrary to recent perceptions, we find the opportunity gap-that is, the connection between socioeconomic status and achievement-has not grown in the last Half a century. But neither has it closed. Instead, the gap between your haves and have-nots has persisted.

The stubborn endurance of achievement inequalities suggests the need to reconsider policies and practices targeted at shrinking the gap. Although policymakers have repeatedly attempted to break the link between students' learning as well as their socioeconomic background, these interventions so far have been not able to dent the connection between socioeconomic status and achievement. Perhaps it's time to consider alternatives.

Before drawing this conclusion, though, it is important to document the long-term trends within the connection between socioeconomic background and school achievement. Press coverage of the subject typically mentions just the most recent shifts in achievement levels and gaps. Our study broadens the perspective by making full use of nearly 50 years' price of historical data available from four intertemporally linked assessments of achievement in math, reading, and science administered to nationally representative samples of adolescent students born between 1954 and 2001. (By \”intertemporally linked,\” we imply that the test makers in every of those assessments design the tests to be comparable with time by doing items like repeating some of the same questions across different waves.) These testing programs also collect information on students' socioeconomic backgrounds, which we use to create an index of socioeconomic status. We report changes in the gaps in performance between students from more- and less-advantaged backgrounds in the last 50 years.

We discover that the socioeconomic achievement gap among the 1950s birth cohorts is very large-about 1.0 standard deviations between those who work in the very best and bottom deciles from the socioeconomic distribution (the \”90 -10 gap\”) and around 0.8 standard deviations between those who work in the very best and bottom quartiles (the \”75 -25 gap\”). They are very extensive disparities, as 1 standard deviation is around the difference within the average performance of scholars in 4th and 8th grades, or four years' worth of learning. But though these inequalities are large, they've neither increased nor decreased significantly in the last Half a century.

It might be, however, that the picture isn't as dismal as suggested. If overall alterations in society, along with policy initiatives, have proportionately lifted all boats in the same rate, everybody may be better-off, even if gaps haven't significantly changed. Utilizing the same data when it comes to gap analysis, we find gains in average student performance of about 0.5 standard deviations for students at 14, or roughly 0.1 standard deviations per decade. But, surprisingly, over the last quarter century, those gains disappear for students by age 17. Quite simply, there is no rising tide for college students because they leave school for school and careers.

The effects of family background on student achievement are well-documented, but few studies track alterations in the relationship between demographic characteristics and student performance with time. This scarcity of longitudinal analysis partly reflects measurement challenges.

A variety of mechanisms link socioeconomic status to achievement. For example, children becoming an adult in poorer households and communities are at and the higher chances of traumatic stress along with other medical conditions that can affect brain development. College-educated mothers speak more frequently for their infants, use a larger vocabulary using their toddlers, and therefore are more likely to use parenting practices that respect the autonomy of the growing child. Higher-income families get access to more-enriching schooling environments, plus they generally do not face the high rates of violent crime felt by those in extremely impoverished communities. Each one of these along with other childhood or adolescent experiences contribute to profound socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement.

In a second investigation, published this year, Sean Reardon draws on data from 12 surveys which contain info on both student achievement and reports of parental income to estimate gaps in math and reading performance of scholars at the 90th and the 10th percentiles from the household income distribution. As opposed to Hedges and Nowell, he finds that the \”income achievement gaps among children born in 2001 are roughly 75 % larger than the estimated gaps among children born in early 1940s.\” For all those born after 1974, children in families at the median income were falling farther behind those in the 90th percentile, leading Reardon to conclude that \”The 90/50 gap appears to have grown faster compared to 50/10 gap throughout the 1970s and 1980s.\”

Reardon's study and its conclusions happen to be widely cited by both academics as well as in the overall media, and the idea that income-related achievement gaps have dramatically increased is becoming contemporary conventional wisdom. Inside a 2012 article, the New York Times asserts that \”while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially throughout the same period.\” Another Times piece quotes Reardon as saying, \”The kids of the rich increasingly fare better in class, in accordance with the children from the poor. . . . This has always been true, but is much more true now than 4 decades ago.\”

Differences between your findings reported within the two studies may be because of the focus of Hedges and Nowell on overall correlations between socioeconomic status and achievement, while Reardon discusses disparities between the extremes of the income distribution. They might also reflect the truth that Reardon's analysis utilizes two times as many surveys because the earlier study, including data on newer cohorts.

We, however, explore another possibility-methodological limitations common to both studies. Both estimate trends from data collected by different surveys which are administered to students of varying ages and employ disparate methods of estimating achievement levels and socioeconomic characteristics. As Federal Reserve economist Eric Nielsen points out, when \”data sources have income and achievement measures that do not map easily across surveys, they add an additional layer of complexity and uncertainty to the analysis.\” It is this uncertainty that we seek to mitigate by counting on surveys that provide consistent, intertemporally linked measures of both student achievement and socioeconomic status.

We draw data from four testing programs: two which are part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-the Long-Term Trend and Main NAEP; the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS); and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). (See sidebar for details.) We include all tests administered to students age 14 or thereabouts and also at age 17. (For convenience, we identify all those tested at ages 13 to 15 as \”14 years of age.\”) All told, we compile observations of feat levels and gaps from 46 tests in math, 40 in reading, and 12 in science, or perhaps a total of 98 intertemporally linked tests over a 47-year period. Across this time span, achievement data are available for 2,737,583 students.

To measure these students' socioeconomic status, we use indicators of parental education and residential possessions as reported by students to create a catalog similar to one designed by PISA. The choice of indicators is determined by the fact that all assessments collect info on family background from students themselves. Young people are thought to be aware of their parents' degree of educational attainment but to possess only an imperfect understanding of their parents' earned income. As a classic study investigating this puts it, income is \”a matter of speculation for many students and therefore inaccurately reported.\” For this reason, the surveys collect economic information by asking students about household items, like the quantity of durable goods and educational items contained in the home. Students are most likely not to have seen their family's tax return. The students, though, are very well conscious of whether they sleep in their own bedroom or share one. Additionally they know whether their home features a dishwasher or a computer. Our analysis thus differs from Reardon's study, which excludes assessments that do not ask students or their parents an immediate question about household income.

We use our constructed index to estimate two disparities for each test: 1) the main difference in achievement between the highest and lowest deciles from the socioeconomic distribution (the 90 -10 gap) and a pair of) the main difference between the highest and lowest quartiles (the 75 -25 gap). We then fit simple quadratic trend lines with these points in order to document how, if at all, the magnitude of these disparities is different with time.

As are visible in Figure 1, the disparities in achievement between students in the highest and lowest socioeconomic status groups are strikingly persistent through the period of time. The socioeconomic achievement divide hardly wavers over this 50 years. In the 1954 birth cohort, the achievement gap between your average of those within the bottom and top deciles from the socioeconomic distribution stood at slightly under 1.2 standard deviations. For those born in 2001, the gap is just slightly less-about 1.05 standard deviations. That's, the most-disadvantaged students have made the same gains in achievement within the decades as those realized by the most-advantaged students.

The disparity between students in the bottom and top quartiles from the socioeconomic distribution was about 0.9 standard deviations for the 1954 birth cohort. This 75 -25 gap falls slightly during the next 2 decades, settling at barely below 0.8 for that cohort born in 2001.

Trends offer a similar experience for math and reading separately. The gap in math achievement, designed for the 90 -10 comparison, shows just a little movement over the period-narrowing in early years but returning to a situation underneath the initial level in recent decades. The 75 -25 math gap narrows slightly with time. In reading, the pattern appears essentially flat for the whole period.

To decide if an alternative way of measuring socioeconomic status yields similar results, we estimate the gap between students who are entitled to the government school-lunch program and people who aren't, as reported around the Main NAEP, the main one assessment that contains these details. The government program provides free lunch to extremely poor students from households below the poverty line, while a reduced-price lunch is available to moderately poor students with a better view incomes (1.85 times the poverty line). The space between the extremely poor students along with other students in the 1982 birth cohort is really a sizable 0.73 standard deviations (Figure 2). When the extremely poor are combined with moderately poor, the gap for this cohort is nearly as large. Over the next Two decades, the space between the extremely poor and students from families above the eligibility line narrows by just 0.02 standard deviations, as the gap between ineligible students and all sorts of those eligible for participation in the program widens by 0.01. In sum, this alternative way of measuring the achievement gap between students from higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds also shows only minuscule change during the period of yesteryear 2 decades.

Figure 2 also shows the white-black achievement gap. Although this is not accurately thought of as a socioeconomic gap due to the improvements in black incomes, it represents another potential dimension of continuing societal disparities. As Figure 2 shows, there is a sizable shrinking of the racial gap in early period but little change over the latter decades.

Some have hypothesized that the lack of success in diminishing the size of the socioeconomic gap is due to changes in the racial and ethnic composition of the school population. It is true that the ethnic makeup from the school-age population is different dramatically over the past half century, using the share that is white declining from about 75 % to 55 percent. However, these changes do not appear to have materially affected trends in performance gaps. The 90 -10 socioeconomic achievement gap among white students born in 1954 was one standard deviation. Through the center of the period, the divide had declined by about 0.2 standard deviations, but it then rose again by a commensurate amount. Trends for that 75 -25 socioeconomic achievement gap among whites are much exactly the same, confirming that alterations in the ethnic composition of student cohorts do not take into account the unwavering divide between your haves and have-nots.

In sum, our results confirm Reardon's finding of huge gaps in academic performance between students at the extremes of the socioeconomic distribution. The average 90 -10 income achievement gap across the surveys suggested by the Reardon analysis is very similar to the 90 -10 socioeconomic achievement gap we identify. We are, however, unable to replicate Reardon's finding that achievement differentials have risen up to 75 percent over the past 50 years. His results may be a purpose of a addiction to cross-sectional studies that use disparate means of collecting both income and achievement information. Whatever the reason, the trends estimated in his analysis differ markedly from the gaps we observe by using a uniform way of measuring socioeconomic status and data from intertemporally linked surveys administered to students of the same age.

We might feel differently about these persistent achievement gaps when we discovered that all achievement was rising and thus suggesting improved economic futures for those. To put the achievement gaps in context, we describe alterations in the average degree of achievement among students at 14 and age 17 for college students born between 1954 and 2001. Figure 3 shows a substantial upward trend within the average achievement level for all adolescent students of approximately 0.3 standard deviations during the period of yesteryear 50 years, or approximately 0.06 per decade. This trend differs by the chronilogical age of the student, however. Students at age 14 show a general increase of approximately 0.43 standard deviations, or approximately 0.08 per decade, but gains among students at age 17 amount to no more than 0.10 standard deviations, or 0.02 per decade. Further, we have seen no improvement within the performance of older students after the 1970 birth cohort.

Trends in average amounts of achievement do differ in magnitude by subject, however the overall patterns are quite similar. In math, the younger adolescents register average gains of 0.9 standard deviations, while the older ones show a shift upward of just 0.25. At both ages, the reading gains are less. The popularity among younger adolescents amounts to just 0.20 standard deviations over the 50 years and, among older ones, the trend is flat, showing no upward trend whatsoever.

The variations in trend lines for college students at different ages presents a puzzle that we've very difficult answer. Even setting aside the oldest students in our data, we have seen that the average improvement in test performance among 13- and 14-year-olds who take the NAEP tests and also the TIMSS is greater registered by 15-year-olds around the PISA tests. This might reflect variations in test design, or it might suggest that the fade-out in gains begins in early years of senior high school. The lack of an optimistic trend among 17-year-olds for the past quarter century also shows that high schools don't build upon gains achieved earlier, a signal, perhaps, the senior high school has turned into a troubled institution. In any event, there isn't any manifestation of a rising tide that lifts all boats at age 17 when these students 're going into further schooling or in to the labor force.

Importantly, age anomaly that people see within the trends in achievement levels is not based in the performance gaps. Constant social gaps are found across all age ranges.

The achievement gap between haves and have-nots within the U.S. remains as large as it was in 1966, when James Coleman wrote his landmark report and also the nation launched a \”war on poverty\” that made compensatory education its centerpiece. That gap hasn't widened, as some have suggested. But neither has it closed.

The question remains: why has the gap remained consistent? The tempting answer is that nothing significant enough has happened to alter its size. But this would ignore a multitude of factors which have shifted through the years. It is more likely that some changes within families and within schools been employed by to shut the socioeconomic achievement gap while other changes have widened it, with one of these factors largely offsetting one another.

But these negative factors might be offset by other, countervailing demographic changes. Most importantly, differences among children in their parents' degree of educational attainment have narrowed as overall education levels have climbed. So have differences in the amount of siblings in the household. Both factors are essential determinants of student achievement. The total amount of all these 4 elements may well have left the family contribution to the achievement gap at much the same level today because it was for cohorts born in the 1950s.

On the other hand, the caliber of the teaching force-a centrally important factor affecting student achievement-may well have declined over the course of yesteryear several decades. Ladies have greater access to opportunities away from field of teaching. Teachers' performance on standardized tests has slipped, as well as other indicators of selectivity. Teacher salaries have declined relative to those earned by other four-year college-degree holders and therefore are currently low in accordance with comparable workers in other occupations (see \”Do Smarter Teachers Make Smarter Students?\” features, Spring 2021).

These changes affecting the caliber of the teaching force will probably have experienced a disproportionately adverse impact on disadvantaged students. Collective-bargaining agreements and state laws have granted more-experienced teachers seniority rights, leaving disadvantaged students to be taught by less-effective novices.

In short, a growing disparity in teacher quality across the social divide might have counterbalance the impacts of policies made to work in the opposite direction.

Two surprises emerge from this analysis of long-term trends in student-achievement levels and gaps over the socioeconomic distribution. First, gaps in achievement between the haves and have-nots are mainly unchanged in the last half century. Second, steady gains in student achievement in the 8th-grade level haven't translated into gains after senior high school.

Because cognitive skills as measured by standardized achievement exams are a strong predictor of future income and economic well-being, the unwavering achievement gap over the socioeconomic spectrum sends a discouraging signal about the possibilities of improved intergenerational social mobility. Perhaps more disturbing, programs to improve the education of disadvantaged students, while perhaps offsetting a decline in the quality of teachers serving such students, did little to shut achievement gaps. These steadfast disparities suggest the need to reconsider the present direction of national education policy.

Two areas for further exploration seem especially critical. First, scientific study has uniformly discovered that teacher effectiveness is a predominant factor affecting school quality. While there's been ample commentary on teacher recruitment and compensation policies, few programs and policies at scale have directly centered on enhancing teacher quality, designed for disadvantaged students. Second, the achievement gains realized by students at 14 fade by age 17, yet policymakers have left high schools-like the achievement gap itself-in many ways untouched.

We use surveys from four testing programs to research achievement gaps and levels with time. These surveys use consistent style=\”display: block; visibility: hidden;\”>

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