Category Archives: Schools K-12

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?

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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)

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)

Projections of Education Statistics to 2016

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This edition of Projections of Education Statistics provides projections for key education statistics, including enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools. Included are national data on enrollment and graduates for the past 15 years and projections to the year 2016, as well as state-level data on enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools and public high school graduates to the year 2016.

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From Districts to Schools: The Distribution of Resources Across Schools in Big City School Districts

Source: Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, Ross Rubenstein, Symposium on Education Finance and Organization Structure in NYS Schools, Albany, NY, March 2004
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper explores the determinants of resource allocation across schools in large districts and examines options for improving resource distribution patterns. Previous research on intra-district allocations consistently reveals resource disparities across schools within districts, particularly in the distribution of teachers. While overall expenditures are sometimes related to the characteristics of students in schools, the ratio of teachers per pupil is consistently larger in high poverty, high-minority and low-performing schools. These teachers, though, generally have lower experience and education levels — and consequently, lower salaries — as compared to teachers in more advantaged schools. We explore these patterns in New York City, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio by estimating de facto expenditure equations relating resource measures to school and student characteristics. Consistent with previous research, we find schools that have higher percentages of poor pupils receive more money and have more teachers per pupil, but the teachers tend to be less educated and less well paid, with a particularly consistent pattern in New York City schools. The paper concludes with policy options for changing intra-district resource distributions in order to promote more efficient, more equitable or more effective use of resources. These options include allocating dollars rather than teacher positions to schools, providing teacher pay differentials in hard-to-staff schools and subjects, and adapting current district-based funding formulas to the school (and student) level.