Education Reformers Have a Big Blind Spot

Bellwether(1)Andy Rotherham of Bellwether Education has a new article out in the US News & World Report that calls out a little-considered issue in education: the people who are making the decisions about education reform are by and large those people who did well in and enjoyed school. This means that there is a tendency toward a conservative one-size-fits-all solution, rather than an actual emphasis on finding solutions to achievement gaps and a lack of equity.

Following is an excerpt from his article:

Most fundamentally, this mindset means almost everyone in education is focused on how to make an institution that is not enjoyable for many kids work marginally better. That’s basically what the top-performing public schools, be they charter or traditional schools, do now. These schools execute everything better than most, and in the process create schools that work much better than average. But they still fail to engage many students. (Among the abundant ironies is that reform critics deride today’s student testing policies as “one size fits all” while fighting against reforming a system that is itself one size fits all). Rarely does anyone just point out that for a lot of people school is simply unpleasant – or worse.

The solution here should not be anything goes. The lack of rigor underlying a lot of faddish educational ideas is stunning. And the traditional academic experience certainly is good for some students and shouldn’t be tossed aside. But we should be more willing to innovate with genuinely different approaches to education, so long as those approaches are wed to a strong commitment to equity and expand rather than constrict opportunity for young people. Innovation is, of course, challenging in a system where the poor bear the brunt of the failure and affluent communities have little incentive to disrupt a status quo that works quite well for them. It’s not impossible though.

Click below for the full article:


Blog Post #1,000

1000This is Core Education’s one thousandth blog post. Through the experience of writing and responding to comments from 1,000 posts, we have learned some important things. Following are our top three:

1. Knowledge sharing is powerful. Our intent is to keep our readers informed about the most important research studies, reports, current events, and novel ideas that we encounter related to educator effectiveness. Because we’re always on the lookout for great content to pass on to you, we have developed the productive habit of reviewing research on a daily basis. This has been a win-win-win: for us professionally, for the clients we serve, and for our readers.

2. Tags and Categories are important. We have found that Core Education’s blog is a great repository of information and ideas that we have found to be compelling over the years. We have found that the search function on the blog is a useful first step but that clicking on a tag or category is much more effective in bringing up all posts related to a topic. We invite you to click on a favorite tag (listed at the bottom of each post) to explore the topics that interest you.

3. Our readers offer many varied perspectives. The comments that we receive on different posts help us to see issues and ideas from many different angles. Though we can’t respond to everyone, we really appreciate your insights and the additional information you provide.

Thank you sincerely for following, liking, and reading our blog. We have learned so much working for and with you, and we appreciate your continued feedback and expertise. We hope you are looking forward to the next 1,000 blogs as much as we are!



Educational Equity: Challenges for Educator Effectiveness

Mcrel-LogoJane Best and Emily Winslow at McREL Education have released a new brief focusing on current challenges of working toward equity in education. Particularly in a post Vergara vs. California education climate, educator equity and how to effectively distribute teachers to all students it is an issue on education professionals’ minds.

With increasingly diverse student populations, educational equity is a bigger challenge than ever for public schools across the United States.

This brief provides an overview for policymakers on addressing equity gaps for vulnerable student populations through educator effectiveness. Specifically, the authors examine three components:

  • recruiting and distributing effective educators;
  • supporting and retaining teachers through targeted professional development;
  • and improving educator evaluation practices to address equity gaps for vulnerable student populations.

The brief concludes with the following policy recommendations:

Recruit and Distribute Effective Educators

Offer incentives to recruit high-performing individuals, provide fair compensation, and prepare educators to face unique challenges.

Identify educator shortages and gaps in high-need schools and subject areas and place effective educators accordingly.

Tackle inadequate educator preparation and the unequal distribution of effective teachers simultaneously to help improve school outcomes and measure improvement.

Support and Retain Effective Educators

Provide culturally appropriate resources for professional development, including the opportunity to engage with expert practitioners to promote collaboration, use of innovative online and video tools, and shared curricula.

Maintain high standards for teachers while providing ongoing targeted professional development opportunities.

Foster a positive culture for educators by providing clear guidelines on working conditions and school environments to promote academic success in hard-to-staff schools.

Improve Preparation and Evaluation Systems

Use district data to determine effective practices and implementation of equity strategies that demonstrate educator ability to teach a diverse range of students.

Develop appropriate data accountability systems for educators that are integrated at the school, district, state, and federal levels for continuous improvement using accurate, current data.

Link data from accountability systems to provide educators with targeted professional development opportunities and identify areas of professional need to support ineffective educators.

To access the brief, please visit:



Do More, Add More, Earn More

center for american progressThe Center for American Progress  recently released a new Education Resource Strategy report, which offers teacher salary redesign lessons from 10 first-mover districts.

Effective teachers are the biggest in-school factor related to student success. Across the country, a diverse set of districts are pioneering innovative approaches to teacher compensation that reward their best teachers and raise compensation overall.

This report reveals the key policy decisions undertaken by 10 districts that have made it possible to revamp their compensation systems and, at the same time, keep their systems solvent and achieve district goals. While the specific goals of each district vary, all 10 districts used compensation to attract, retain, and leverage high-performing teachers.

These districts include:

  • Baltimore City, Maryland
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Douglas County, Colorado
  • Harrison School District 2, Colorado
  • Hillsborough County, Florida
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Putnam County, Tennessee
  • Washington, D.C.

The report ends with the following eight recommendations:

  1. Differentiate compensation based on roles and responsibilities.
  2. Set starting salaries to meet market demand.
  3. Align teacher compensation redesign with fair, proven teacher evaluation systems.
  4. Shift pay structures away from years of experience and advanced degrees.
  5. Use compensation incentives to attract highly effective teachers to hard-to-staff schools, districts, and subjects.
  6. Emphasize extra pay for effectiveness and career pathways instead of small bonuses.
  7. Accelerate the timeline to maximum salary where possible.
  8. Allow teachers to opt-in to new compensation systems within a set time-frame.

For more information, please visit:


Update on OII’s FY 2015 Grant Competitions

Office of Innovation and ImprovementFor the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2015, the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) will conduct 11 grant competitions in six program areas:

  1. Arts in Education,
  2. Charter Schools,
  3. Investing in Innovation,
  4. Opportunity Scholarship,
  5. Ready to Learn Television,
  6. and Supporting Effective Educator Development.

Announcements of these competitions began last month and will continue through this spring and summer.

For more information about competitions in each of the grant areas, please visit:

Also, a forecast of ED funding opportunities can be found here.


Inequality and Education

Education Week American Education News Site of RecordMarc Tucker has some focused suggestions for those who truly want to use education to bridge income gaps and increase social mobility.

This week on Top Performers: public schools were once the engines of social and economic mobility in the U.S., but that is no longer the case. In fact, the very design of our education system is in many ways contributing to the nation’s growing income inequality.

An excerpt from the blog post:

We Americans have long thought of our public education system as the great equalizer, the route out of poverty for new immigrants, the poor and the ambitious.  That was true for a long time, but it isn’t true anymore.   Now, poverty is a better predictor of school achievement in the United States than in all but seven of the 34 countries surveyed by the OECD in 2012.  Among those countries are Greece, Chile and the Slovak Republic.

It is also true that, whereas the distribution of income in the United States in the 1970s was among the most equal in the industrialized world, it is now the least equal.  The juxtaposition of these facts raises an interesting question:  If it was once true that education was the great equalizer, could it be true that the design of our education system is now contributing to income inequality?  Let me count the ways.  

Tucker summarizes complex interactions such as the supply and demand of skilled workers, school funding, privilege, the economy, social mobility, and income inequality.

You can read the full blog at:


Does the focus on Content Standards detract from rigor?

AIRStates should focus more on setting high performance standards than on debating the content of their academic standards. This is according to a new report out from the American Institutes for Research.


Content standards, not performance standards, have been almost the sole focus of state policies and recent conversations about academic standards. Although the movement to adopt rigorous education content standards is evidence that states are motivated to raise academic expectations, current performance standards do not give accurate measures of student achievement. Without rigorous content and performance standards, we cannot adequately prepare students for the global marketplace.


A recent American Institutes for Research (AIR) study shows that state performance standards are consistently low and extremely variable across states. Low state standards allow many students to be described as “proficient,” when students are not adequately prepared for success beyond high school. In addition, the variability across states results in students in states with the lowest standards performing three to four grades levels below those in states with higher standards.


States should use evidence-based methods of standard setting, such as the benchmark method, to create and adopt rigorous performance standards that prepare students to compete in the global marketplace.

For more information, please visit the following link:


Ed Week Special Report on Transforming Teachers’ Roles

Education Week American Education News Site of RecordA new Education Week special report explores the growing interest among many educators and school leaders in altering the conventional understandings around what teachers do. In particular, it looks at the ways districts, schools, and teachers themselves are transforming teachers’ positions—and the types of supports available to them—in order to drive organizational change, build capacity, improve policymaking, and deepen instructional expertise.

The report includes the following features:

Teacher Leadership Makes Inroads, But Strives for Permanency

Those championing the movement see it as a necessary structural change to school systems, and one that is capable of being more than a fleeting trend.

Elite PD Program Seeks to Build Top Teachers’ Expertise

The National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education is built on the idea that the best teachers need opportunities to wrestle with cognitively challenging professional work to improve their craft and spread their expertise.

In Calif. District, Blended-Learning Approach Turns Teachers Into Facilitators

Some teachers say that blended-learning environments, designed to leverage technology and individualize student instruction, can create new roles for teachers as well.

Seeking Greater Influence, Teachers Gain Policy Foothold in Education Department

The Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department Education have sought to bring teacher leadership to federal policy.

Baltimore Program Aims to Give Teachers New Paths, Higher Pay

A new system in Baltimore rewards teachers based on their accomplishments rather than their seniority or credentials, presenting teachers with new options.

Why Schools Need More ‘Hybrid’ Teaching Roles

Too many good teachers are forced to leave the classroom just because they want new challenges and a sense of advancement, English teacher Paul Barnwell says.

What It’s Like to Teach in a Teacher-Led School

Carrie Bakken, a program coordinator and teacher at the Avalon School in St. Paul, Minn., says that working at a teacher-led school gives her a greater sense of autonomy and opportunity.

For more, see  


Our Global Failure in the New American Economy

edu_logo_homeLes Francis & Bo Cutter of Real Clear Education have written a new piece about how we need to rethink education based on the way that jobs and the economy are likely to work in coming decades.

Here is an excerpt from it:

The organization of work that was the centerpiece of our industrial economy for 100 years is disappearing. Like it or not, “jobs” in the traditional, 40-hour, 5-day-week sense will no longer be the way we define a “healthy economy.”    

Looking ahead, three phenomena are likely to become more central to our lives: part-time assignments, portfolio careers, and pervasive entrepreneurialism.

- In the “gig economy”– more “work” will consist of short term assignments and careers composed of a bundle of such assignments over a lifetime.

- Many people will carry out more than one of these short-term assignments at any given time, and while not everyone will want to manage a “portfolio” of assignments, many will see it as the way to make the most of their talents.

- Increased entrepreneurialism and personal responsibility will become more important as work becomes less rote, more unpredictable, and fast changing.

Given the growing challenge, just how well is our nation meeting it? The answer is: not very well. There are some bright spots, to be sure: high school graduation rates are up, reaching a record high of 81 percent. In 2013, just under two-thirds of students who graduated from high school went on to enroll in college. But there is more to the story, and it is not nearly as good.

About one-third of the 1.8 million high school students who took the ACT exam in 2013 were not ready for first-year college courses in core English, reading, math or science courses, according to U.S. News and World Report. Just 26 percent reached the college readiness benchmarks across all four subjects. Further, America’s young adults are coming up short on the skills needed to compete in the global, technology-rich economy, a report this week from Educational Testing Service reveals.

How can it be true that we are graduating more young people from high school and college, and yet they don’t come out possessing adequate skills?

Here’s what the ETS research tells us:

- Even America’s best performing and most educated millennials — those who are native born and with the greatest economic advantage in relative terms — do not perform better their international peers

- Young Americans possessing a four-year bachelor’s degree scored higher in numeracy than their counterparts in only two countries: Poland and Spain. And those whose highest level of education was high school or less scored lower than their counterparts in almost every other country. Shockingly, our best-educated millennials — those with a master’s or research degree — only scored higher than their peers in three countries.

It is clear that we are failing to prepare our citizens for the demands of the New American Economy. As a consequence, redefining true educational attainment — the acquisition of knowledge and skills and the nurturing of key dispositions (rather than merely conveying paper credentials) — must be at the top of our national priorities.

For more information, please visit:


EdPolicy Leaders Online

education excellence logoThe Foundation for Excellence in Education is launching a new initiative called EdPolicy Leaders Online, a series of free, self-paced online education reform massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed specifically for policymakers and education reform partners.

The courses feature nearly 40 experts and leaders across the education landscape from superintendents to senators, parents to policymakers, teachers to technology gurus and community leaders to CEOs.

The first three courses are robust, timely and varied, offering the opportunity to learn about the relevant education reform issues in the news today.

Data Privacy? Get Schooled: This course, developed in coordination with the Data Quality Campaign, will discuss the value data brings to improve education, offer recommendations for addressing privacy concerns while promoting effective data use, and explore lessons learned from existing and emerging policies in education and other sectors.

— Securing Our Nation’s Future: A failing American educational system threatens U.S. national security. In this course, participants will hear from national leaders and experts about these threats, the urgent need for education reform and how America can ensure its own security and global leadership for future generations.

Communications Boot Camp -Winning the Ed Reform Conversation: How we deliver our messages makes a big difference when it comes to winning the education reform conversation. In this course, participants will build their communications skills related to media relations, targeted messaging, and the use of social media.

EdPolicy Leaders Online enrollment is open now with courses beginning March 23.

Each course has five to six individual modules that require no more than an hour of time each, allowing participants -like you- to easily fit them into a busy schedule. There are no restrictions on who can register or how many participants can join a course.

To register and learn more: