The organization created by former DC public schools chair Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst, has recently released results from their State Policy Report Card. The results, to put it mildly, are poor and are an effort by StudentsFirst to motivate reforms at the state level that StudentsFirst argues that states have been unwilling to make.
According the Executive Summary of the report, “State policies must empower parents to make the best choices for their children, and they must enable schools to recognize, reward, and retain the best educators. States must provide school and district leaders with opportunities to truly lead, innovate, and reform schools so they work well for all the kids they serve.”
StudentsFirst broke down their evaluation of state education policy into three categories, with specific headings under each:
- Elevate the Teaching Profession
- Meaningful Evaluations for Teachers and Principals
- Use of Evaluations for Personnel Decisions
- Professional Pay
- Alternative Pathways to Certification
- Empower Parents with Data and Choice
- Giving Parents Meaningful Information
- Increasing Quality Choices
- Providing Comparable Resources
- Spend Wisely and Govern Well
- Governance Flexibility
- Spending Resources Wisely
- Teacher Pensions
The fact that so many states received poor grades has caused much frustration from states and other school policy experts. One example is Maryland, ranked by Education Week as the best state school system five years running and whose students scored in the top five in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2011. On the StudentsFirst report card, Maryland came in 17th place and received a D+ score. For many state school officials, this suggests a problem with the whole idea of the Report Card.
The StudentsFirst report card measures different items than student achievement tests, as evidenced by the case of DCPS. DCPS, a district that has undertaken sweeping human capital reforms and has seen growth in its charter school sector, received a C+, putting them in fourth place out of fifty states. This ranking for DCPS comes despite the fact that on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, DCPS 4th and 8th grade students ranked last.
Research is needed to draw correlations between the measures on the StudentsFirst report card and long-term student success. StudentsFirst, however, “believes — based on experience, research, and evidence — that education reform at the state level can have the most powerful impact on schools and students.”
To view the report card, please see http://reportcard.studentsfirst.org/
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