Education Week - March 4, 2015 - (Page 22)

COMMENTARY By Paul T. Hill & Ashley Jochim C harter schools were created to provide a space for school leaders to innovate and adapt to the needs and strengths of the children they serve. It is clear now, more than two decades after the first charter school opened its doors, that chartering is a great first step, but not enough. Charter laws, which differ from state to state, leave undefined gray areas about school freedoms and the role of authorizers. Some laws offer school leaders few freedoms. For instance, Maryland's law forces charters to abide by the provisions of the local collective bargaining agreement for teachers. But none makes it entirely clear what charters and their authorizers may, must, or can't do. The ambiguities have their downsides. Charter leaders complain that authorizers, especially school districts, change the rules and impose new requirements in response to a problem in only one school, or whenever it suits them. And negligent authorizers indulge schools that should, under any serious performance-accountability scheme, be closed. School districts inevitably face a conflict of interest, tempted to favor the schools they run directly (and the teachers they employ) over schools run by independent parties. Yet giving chartering power to other agencies means that no one agency is responsible for all of a city's students. These factors and others crowd out people with good ideas and promising approaches to educating children, and make it hard for parents and students to navigate their choices. The only way to eliminate these problems is to clarify the government's role in public education and limit its powers. We argue that a more bounded set of responsibilities would enable local school boards to focus their attention on what matters most: ensuring that all children benefit from public education. A more permanent approach is needed to ensure that schools have the freedom Beyond Chartering " A more bounded set of responsibilities would enable local school boards to focus their attention on what matters most: ensuring that all children benefit from public education." of action to adapt to the needs of diverse learners and to focus public oversight on performance, not compliance. Our new book, A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, shows how this can be done. We propose that a local school board should have only two powers: to approve an annual slate of schools to operate in its locality, and to employ a CEO who will track school performance, identify children and neighborhoods whose needs are not being met by the current schools, and find school providers to meet unmet needs and replace nonperforming schools. Schools, not government, would employ teachers. All schools would also rent or buy facilities and technology and decide how to deliver instruction. Families would choose schools based on their children's particular learning needs, and money would follow those children to the schools they attend. There would be no big district bureaucracy to consume resources that would be better utilized at the school level. States could maintain independent charter authorizers, but these would be similarly limited in what they could require of schools. School boards or authorizers that shirked their duties (for instance, did nothing for neglected groups or let low-performing schools persist indefinitely) would be decertified and replaced. We call this new system constitutional because of its emphasis on limited powers for government and checks and balances. It eliminates the idea that school freedom is a privilege to be revoked whenever public officials deem it convenient. Government must be clear about what it will provide schools. For example, government needs to address exactly how pupil-weighted funding schemes will work, what facilities will be provided and at what cost, and how public transportation resources will be used. It should also be clear from the beginning what schools must do, such as providing evidence of performance, admitting students fairly, and serving students with special needs. All of this would be established in a "schools' bill of rights." Guarantees of school freedom or use of public resources would not just be verbal. A school would have a right to compensation if, for example, its school board or authorizer failed to Making 'Innovation' Live Up to Its Hype By Matthew Muench I iStockphoto " It's a shame how many beautiful products or intriguing new education models are doomed to ineffectiveness for ignoring what is known about how people learn." 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 4, 2015 | s innovation losing its luster? Critiques of the ubiquitous "disruptive innovation" theory-in the pages of The New Yorker (June 23, 2014) and elsewhere-have led some to wonder. Growing use of quotation marks around the word innovation, and the eye-rolling its use can sometimes provoke, reflect not only its overuse, but also a dawning reality: What we call "innovation" often lacks substance and sometimes works to our detriment, not our betterment. There are good reasons for educators to heed these criticisms. We've seen too much innovation-for-innovation's-sake. Countless would-be innovators offer products and services that look shiny and cool-and lay claim to "disruptive" potential-but fail to solve any real problems for educators or learners. Moreover, these offerings often reek of arrogance about the challenge of engendering meaningful learning, and are overwhelming in the numbers with which they bombard educators. Let me offer a path to redemption: Employ the science of learning, and focus on building the personal skills that will shape school, work, and life outcomes. Start with what the science says about how people acquire, retain, and use knowledge and skills, and build new technologies or models grounded in that science. Most do not do this. Investors pumping hundreds of millions into educational technology every quarter seldom ask about the extent to which learning science was used in design. As developers sprint to build the latest and greatest, they rarely pause to ask what the research suggests about whether another animation and explosion sound is likely to aid or to hinder learning. It's a shame how many beautiful products or intriguing new education models are doomed to ineffectiveness for ignoring what is known about how people learn. In fairness, the market hasn't demanded this: Procurement processes in schools generally lack the sophistication to consider the match between design and science, or to require validated demonstration of effectiveness. Right now, a large sales force, an existing contract, and an installed base of products tend to win the day. There is growing recognition, however, that philanthropic and other efforts to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 4, 2015

Study: Twitter Fanned Debate On Standards
Police Body Cameras Surfacing in Schools
Tracing Hillary Clinton’s K-12 Record
Boys-Only Programs Raise Legal Concerns
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Simulation Game on Slave Experience Provokes Questions
Education Week - March 4, 2015
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Rewrite of Framework for AP U.S. History Raises More Hackles
Blogs of the Week
Chicago’s Emanuel Forced Into Runoff
N.Y. Study Finds More Top Students Hired as Teachers
Deeper Look at Suspension Data Pinpoints Big Disparities
House Wrestles With Bill to Rewrite No Child Left Behind Act
Partisan Winds Loom For Some GOP Governors
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
PAUL T. HILL & ASHLEY JOCHIM: Beyond Chartering
MATTHEW MUENCH: Making ‘Innovation’ Live Up to Its Hype
JOHN MANNES: The Fault in Our School Boards
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DAVID FINLEY: Teacher Tenure: An Innocent Victim of Vergara v. California

Education Week - March 4, 2015