Category Archives: Education

Waiting to Be Won Over -Teachers Speak on the Profession, Unions and Reform

Source: Ann Duffett, Steve Farkas, Andrew J. Rotherham, Elena Silva, Education Sector, May 2008

From the summary:
American public education is in the midst of intense change, and teachers, in particular, are facing pressure to produce better outcomes for students. As policymakers, teachers unions, and other stakeholders react to changing demands on the nation’s public education system, there remains considerable debate about what teachers think and what they want. Too often assumptions define the conversation rather than actual evidence of teachers’ views. In an effort to facilitate and inform this conversation, Education Sector and the FDR Group surveyed 1,010 K-12 public school teachers about their views on the teaching profession, teachers unions, and a host of reforms aimed at improving teacher quality.

Good Buildings, Better Schools: An Economic Stimulus Opportunity With Long-Term Benefits

Source: Mary Filardo, EPI Briefing Paper, April 29, 2008

From the summary:
The nation’s 97,000 public school buildings comprise an estimated 6.6 billion square feet of space on over 1 million acres of land. And while states and local communities invested over $500 billion in K-12 school building improvements from 1995 to 2004, considerable additional investments are needed to ensure that the nation’s public schools are healthy, safe, environmentally sound, and built and maintained to support a high-quality education.

Today, many of the nation’s schools face the combined challenges of deteriorating conditions, out-of date design, and changing utilization pressures (including intense overcrowding in some communities and rapidly declining enrollments in others). These combined deficiencies impair the quality of teaching and learning and contribute to health and safety problems for staff and students. Building design and facility conditions have also been associated with teacher motivation and student achievement.
See also:
Press release

An Idea Whose Time Has Gone: Conservatives Abandon Their Support for School Vouchers

Source: Gerg Anrig, The Washington Monthly, April 2008

…But in recent months, almost unnoticed by the mainstream media, the school voucher movement has abruptly stalled. Some stalwart advocates of vouchers have either repudiated the idea entirely or considerably tempered their enthusiasm for it. Exhibit A is “School Choice Isn’t Enough,” an article in the winter 2008 City Journal (the quarterly published by the conservative Manhattan Institute) written by the former voucher proponent Sol Stern. Acknowledging that voucher programs for poor children had “hit a wall,” Stern concluded: “Education reformers ought to resist unreflective support for elegant-sounding theories, derived from the study of economic activity, that don’t produce verifiable results in the classroom.” His conversion has triggered an intense debate in conservative circles. The center-right education scholar Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a longtime critic of public school bureaucracies and teachers unions, told the New York Sun that he was sympathetic to Stern’s argument. In his newly published memoirs, Finn also writes of his increasing skepticism that “the market’s invisible hand” produces improved performance on its own. Howard Fuller, an African American who was the superintendent of schools in Milwaukee when the voucher program was launched there, and who received substantial support from the Bradley Foundation and other conservative institutions over the years, has conceded, “It hasn’t worked like we thought it would in theory.” From all appearances, then, the voucher movement may not long outlive its founder, Friedman, or its most vigorous advocate and funder, Michael Joyce, who both died in 2006. How did one of the conservative policy world’s most cherished causes crumble so quickly?

Full text

Tight State Budgets Reveal Governors’ True Pre-K Colors

Source: Pre-K Now

From press release:
In spite of significant fiscal and political challenges, 16 governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., proposed a total of $261 million in increases for pre-kindergarten programs, according to Pre-K Now, a Washington, D.C.-based education advocacy group, in its annual state-by-state analysis of leadership on early childhood education released today.

The report, “Leadership Matters: Governors’ Pre-K Proposals Fiscal Year 2009,” reveals that, collectively, these budget proposals would bring total state funding for pre-k to $5.2 billion–a 5.5% increase from last year–and would make pre-k available to nearly 60,000 more three and four year olds across the country. Among the governors recognized in the report for fighting to expand quality pre-k programs in the face of major hurdles are Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) of Tennessee and Bob Riley (R) of Alabama, both of whom joined Pre-K Now for today’s release.

Full Report (PDF; 544 KB)

A Nation Accountable: Twenty-five Years After A Nation at Risk

Source: U.S. Department of Education

From news release:
In 1983, the national report, A Nation At Risk, delivered a wake up call for our education system. It described stark realities like a significant number of functionally illiterate high schoolers, plummeting student performance, and international competitors breathing down our necks. It was a warning, a reproach, and a call to arms.

Fast forward twenty-five years to 2008. What has changed?

In some ways, we haven’t fully learned the lessons of A Nation at Risk, and continue to deal with the consequences. Today, half of all minority students fail to graduate from high school on time. But there’s an upside. A Nation At Risk inspired some state-level pioneers to think about standards and accountability in education, and put them into practice. This, in turn, led to the landmark No Child Left Behind Act. Now, across the nation, we’re finally measuring the progress of students of every race and income level, finally holding ourselves accountable for their performance, and finally producing and sharing data to determine what works.

Accurate, honest information is helping to show us the way forward, but it’s also revealing disturbing realities–like grave inequities between students of different races and income levels. As a result, the accountability movement to raise student achievement has reached a tipping point: will we hide from tough problems or redouble our efforts to help every student achieve their potential?

Full Report (PDF; 941 KB)

The 1983 report (PDF)

Where Are the Priorities? 2007-08 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession

Source: American Association of University Professors, March-April 2008

For many years now, colleges and universities have attempted to balance competing demands from students, legislators, and society at large. Students are enrolling in record numbers, legislators and employers are demanding greater skill levels from graduates, and higher education is increasingly being called on to do the work of economic development; at the same time, the share of institutional funding provided by state and federal governments continues to decline. Given these competing pressures on institutions, financial decision making has become a matter of determining priorities. In this year’s report, we call into question the apparent priorities demonstrated by trends in relative spending on salaries for faculty, football coaches, and senior administrators and by the shifts in staffing that have reshaped colleges and universities so dramatically over recent decades.

Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation

Source: America’s Promise Alliance

Graduation rates have become a prominent feature in the landscape of high school reform and within the larger world of educational policy. Studies conducted over the past several years have repeatedly demonstrated that far fewer American students are completing high school with diplomas than had previously been realized. Whereas the conventional wisdom had long placed the graduation rate around 85 percent, a growing consensus has emerged that only about seven in 10 students are actually successfully finishing high school. Graduation rates are even lower among certain student populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and males.

That same conventional wisdom also suggests that the type of community in which a student lives and attends school will exert a strong and pervasive influence on a variety of educational outcomes. This connection between place and performance applies to both the experiences of individual students and the collective performance of schools and school systems. Striking differences between schools situated in urban and suburban environments, for instance, have frequently been documented in the area of tested achievement. An analysis by the EPE Research Center also shows that high school graduation rates are 15 percentage points lower in the nation’s urban schools when compared with those located in the suburbs. Despite the acknowledged importance of such contextual factors, apart from attention to broad national-level patterns, there has been limited detailed investigation into the connection between where a young person lives and his or her chances of graduating from high school.

This report takes a geographically-informed approach to the issue of high school completion. Specifically, we examine graduation rates in the school districts serving the nation’s 50 most-populous cities as well as the larger metropolitan areas in which they are situated. Results show that graduation rates are considerably lower in the nation’s largest cities than they are in the average urban locale. Further, extreme disparities emerge in a number of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, where students served by suburban systems may be twice as likely as their urban peers to graduate from high school.

Full report (PDF; 1.8 MB)

USDA Releases School Meals Cost Study

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

From press release:
The study compares the cost of producing school meals in the 2005-2006 school year to the total revenue to schools from Federal reimbursements, state and local contributions, and payments by participating households. That year, the average cost to produce a lunch was $2.28 and the Federal subsidy for a free lunch, including cash and commodity food, was about $2.50. Other key findings include:
• On average, revenue generated from reimbursable lunches exceeded the reported cost of production.
• On average, revenue generated from reimbursable breakfasts and a la carte foods did not cover the reported costs for production. As a result, revenue from reimbursable lunches subsidizes a portion of the cost to produce and serve both breakfasts and a la carte foods.
• On average, school food services operated at a break-even level in 2005-06, with revenues equal to costs.
• While most lunches cost less to produce than the USDA subsidy for a free lunch, not all did. For almost four out of five school districts, the average cost of producing a lunch was less than the free subsidy; in the rest, the average cost exceeded the subsidy.
Reported costs reflect all costs that a school food service must cover with the funds they receive. The study also examined the combination of reported costs and other costs, described as “full costs”. School districts do not always charge some expenses – such as time spent by school staff to support the application process and some overhead costs – to this account. There are many factors that may lead districts not to allocate some costs to that account. Since the last study in 1992-93 school districts are charging a higher proportion of these costs to the food service accounts.

Summary (PDF; 31 KB)
Executive Summary (PDF; 270 KB)
Full Report (PDF; 1.32 MB)

Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education School Year 2005-06 (Fiscal Year 2006)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The Common Core of Data (CCD) is an annual collection of public elementary and secondary education data administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and its collection agent, the U.S. Census Bureau. Data for CCD surveys are provided by state education agencies (SEAs). This report presents findings on public education revenues and expenditures using fiscal year 2006 (FY 06) data from the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) of the CCD survey system. Programs covered in the NPEFS include regular, special, and vocational education; charter schools (if they reported data to the SEA); and state-run education programs (such as special education centers or education programs for incarcerated youth).

Full Report (PDF; 216 KB)

Public Schools in U.S. Spent $9,138 Per Student in 2006

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

From the news release:
School districts in the United States spent an average of $9,138 per student in fiscal year 2006, an increase of $437 from 2005, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today.

Public Education Finances: 2006 offers a comprehensive look at the revenues and expenditures of public school districts at the national and state levels The report includes detailed tables that allow for the calculation of per pupil expenditures. Highlights from these tables include spending on instruction, support services, construction, salaries and benefits of the more than 15,000 school districts. Public school districts include elementary and secondary school systems.