You are here

Articles: Reform

Before the sun rises most days, Dwight D. Jones is at the office. Since becoming superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada last December, 4:30 a.m. arrivals are common. “There’s just hardly enough time in the day,” Jones says.

No Excuses University

Two-thirds of the Amarillo Independent School District’s 33,000 students enrolled on 53 campuses qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Undaunted by the academic and societal challenges commonly associated with such a statistic, 10 of Amarillo’s lower-income schools have recently joined the No Excuses University (NEU) network. This fast-growing collective of 117 elementary and middle schools scattered across the United States is a brain trust of principals and teachers who promote college readiness from kindergarten up, especially for children living in poverty.

American underachievement and the best ways to reverse it has become an ongoing and urgent national conversation among educators and politicians, as well as a public embarrassment every three years when the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tables are released. The next PISA results are due later this year, and for many reasons, we can guess that the United States will not be at the top of the list.

From Intel to Ariz.Craig Barrett

Craig Barrett, former Intel chief executive officer, was appointed in December to the Arizona Ready Education Council by Gov. Jan Brewer. Barrett would like Arizona to adopt the Common Core State Standards and reform teacher training and pay.

There is some skepticism regarding the effectiveness of School Improvement Grants (SIGs) on the part of those districts that are not eligible to receive them, according to a new study released in November by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). SIGs are competitive grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to districts identified as persistently lowest achieving, a designation that applies to 15 percent of the nation’s districts. Based on the survey results, only 16 percent of ineligible districts felt the grants have been effective.

As we welcome in 2012, let’s do a quick recap of the new state of the world of education, shall we?

Time and money can be

The federal Department of Education has been a source of criticism on the GOP presidential campaign trail. In addition to overall shrinking of federal policies, many Republican candidates have expressed their desire to abolish the federal department and funnel more money—and control—back to the states and local schools. Sen. Michele Bachman, Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all listed the Department of Education as one federal agency they would like to take an ax to.

After more than a decade of writing about educational accountability, I have come to a conclusion that we can't wait for Washington, or for that matter, any state capital, to get accountability right. The most innovative models for educational accountability will happen in districts that are willing to say to the president and secretary of education, "We do not fear accountability. In fact, we will be more accountable than any federal or state program has ever required. We will report not only our test scores, but we will also report on the other 90 percent of the work we have been doing.

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools class warfare

Simon & Schuster, $28

For at-risk students who stand little chance of going to college, or even finishing high school, a growing number of districts have found a solution: Give them an early start in college while they still are in high school. An early college high school (ECHS) strategy, which combines high school and college-level instruction, reduces dropout rates and improves academic achievement levels while also boosting students' chances of graduating from school and finding jobs.

Enrolling in college was not part of the path for graduates of the San Antonio (Texas) Independent School District, where 93 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Shortly after Superintendent Robert Duron, known for raising achievement in the Socorro ISD in El Paso, arrived in 2006, he began to raise the bar in this 55,000-student, predominantly Hispanic, urban district.

Celina (Texas) Independent School District, roughly 100 miles north of Dallas, has 2,000 students across its four school campuses—and they're all Bobcats, says Lizzy Kloiber, secondary curriculum director, referring to the district's unifying mascot. The community is tight knit, she adds, with most teachers having grown up in the district, and families regularly mingle at church or at high school football games each weekend.

As states now begin their transition to the Common Core State Standards, seven organizations have united to provide advice on issues related to the implementations of the mathematics curriculum and assessments.

Before and during the tenure of Florida's former education commissioner, Eric J. Smith, the state made bold moves toward incorporating charter schools, began corporate "scholarship" programs that provide funding for students to attend private schools, implemented class-size caps that voters approved via referendum, and earned $700 million in federal money through round two of Race to the Top.