About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Thompson: The CEP's Wisdom

Saveourschool The Center for Education Policy's series of outstanding reports confirm that "we still know painfully little about some key questions in education reform" such as "what makes an effective teacher," and it concludes "the current drive to improve elementary and secondary education cannot be fulfilled solely within the present structure of public schools."  "With greater consequences attached to test results, the testing aspect of standards-based reform has become the main driver of accountability, overshadowing the standards themselves." ... "It would be foolish to abandon it (standards) now.  Research has not revealed any better framework ..."  So, the CEP recommends that we eliminate federal sanctions for not meeting NCLB targets.  (emphasis mine)

The CEP, which has been scrupulous in documenting the weaknessness of the Obama administration's four preferred plans for school turnarounds, politely notes that they "are not supported by research," and "it is unwise to prescribe them."  The CEP recommends that the federal government safeguards against states being too lenient in identifying and intervening in failing schools by requiring the Education Department to approve state plans, documenting whether they are ambitious but achievable, whether they are based on student performance growth and disagregation of data for subgroups, and transparent.

The CEP recommends the extension of Stimulus funding beyond 2011 for states that adopt stronger requirements for funding adequacy and equity.  It appears more critical of the logic of the Race to the Top, however, noting the inconclusive evidence of a correlation between test score growth and teacher effectiveness. This leads to the recommendation for "complementary learning," or "a coherent partnership among k-12 education, early childhood education, and out-of-school learning." 

Given the excellence of the CEP's eighteen studies of school restucturing under NCLB in six states, their advice on turnarounds is particularly important.  Although noting that their study was biased towards schools that took restructuring seriously, the CEP discovered "uneven and sometimes unmanageable numbers of schools in restructuring."  The preferred turnaround strategies "have not shown promise."  Successful reforms have had to be tailored to local conditions and to evolve.  For instance, mass replacement of staff often had unintended consequences, and was suitable only under certain circumstances such as in systems with a stable or declining student population, a substantial pool of teaching applicants, effective hiring systems already in place, and union collaboration.  Also, the CEP's discussion regarding how long is too long to wait for improvements differs from the logic of Mass Insight, another source of turnaround expertise which I will be discussing.  


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Thompson: The CEP's Wisdom:


Permalink URL for this entry:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I agree with much of what's in the CEP report. I think much of what's driving the prescriptiveness in current federal policy is distrust of states and districts. There have been many "turnarounds" that were nothing of the sort: Changes were superficial and student achievement remained essentially the same.If you replace all or most of the staff, the thinking seems to go, then at least something is happening.

Of course, the evidence for staff replacement is anything but strong. As you've noted elsewhere, Strategic Learning Initiatives in Chicago has demonstrated that schools can be turned around without firing administrators or staff. But they require strong commitment to change--a comprehensive approach, new practices, new structures, and strategies for continuous learning. The challenge is to ensure that turnaround strategies involve that level of commitment and transformation.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.