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Reform Initiatives

1. Rewarding good teachers—who could be against it? Jason Glass is proposing to import ideas from the Eagle County plan he was associated with in Colorado (see http://www.cgp.upenn.edu/ope/24_eaglecounty.html ). The plan is not without critics as it seems to share many of the same problems of “value-added” (VAM) models for assessing teacher performance. For an explanation see http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/take-your-sgp-and-vamit... . While the concept seems intuitively attractive, looking behind the curtain suggests not wizardry but statistical voodoo that has significant risks of attributing teaching success or failure in error. Experts in assessment continue to suggest that these schemes are not ready for the real world—but they are popular among politicians who want a quick fix for identifying teachers who are not effective. Shooting first and asking questions later seems rational to the gunslinger, but good teachers could be unfairly tainted or targeted by this plan.
2. Expand the presence of charter schools would be a good idea if there was evidence that charter schools are doing a better job that public schools. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that charter schools are not doing any better job than public schools and in many cases doing worse. Both parties seem to be supporting the concept for reasons that are not based on research or reason. Furthermore, there have been significant examples of public monies being given to charter management companies with unfortunate and sometimes corrupt outcomes. The state of Iowa took the lid off charters last year in our Race to the Top application. We should be extremely careful in providing incentives for charters given the lack of evidence or reason for doing so. (recent commentary on the issue at http://shankerblog.org/?p=2404 with links to the original CREDO study).
3. There is an extensive literature on exit exams that should not be ignored. Once again, the idea seems logical but such logic and reality seem to be in conflict. For example, the National Research Council issued a report this year on the topic that concluded that exit exams contribute to a higher drop-out rate without an increase in achievement (see http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12521 ) . Quite consistent with research over the past 50 years. Some ideas never die… and we keep putting them in play with similar results. When are we going to reform our reform of education?
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