A better, bigger, broader charter school sector—that’s what the U.S. needs to meet students’ needs in a competitive and interconnected world, this report says. Twenty-five years after the first charter law was enacted in Minnesota, the public charter school sector has helped spark significant public education improvements, particularly for urban students and students of color. But the U.S. lags behind other developed countries in student achievement, about 1 million students are on charter school waiting lists nationwide, and many student groups are still underserved by all public schools, traditional and charter. This report, co-authored by The Mind Trust and Public Impact, calls on all involved in charter schools to make the sector better, broader, and bigger in order to expand its reach and meet the students’ needs—which will require innovation that breaks the mold of most schools today. The report recommends various steps charter school operators, policymakers, city-based education organizations, and philanthropic funders may take to spur more innovation in the sector.
Big Ideas for Education
Technology holds great potential for rural schools, such as extending the reach of excellent teachers and expanding course offerings. But digital devices in a pre-digital school structure will not transform K-12. This paper, written for the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, offers policymakers and philanthropic leaders a set of recommendations to capitalize on the potential of technology to serve students: expand broadband access to schools lacking it, create an elite corps of proven teachers who would be made available to students across the state, and provide districts and schools with the flexibility to develop new models of staffing and technology and to achieve the most strategic combination of personnel, facilities, and technology.
In the U.S., STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—face urgent needs for great STEM teachers and well-educated students. An Opportunity Culture can help by extending the reach of excellent STEM teachers already in our schools and creating a teaching profession that attracts and retains these teachers through higher pay, within regular budgets, and multiple advancement opportunities. The Education Leaders’ Brief summarizes the grim facts about STEM employment and learning in the U.S. today, emerging efforts to stem the shortage of skilled teachers, and how an Opportunity Culture can help. The companion slide deck provides more statistics and graphics to explain the huge need for more and better STEM teachers; how to attract and retain great STEM teachers; and how to extend the reach of the excellent STEM teachers we already have, paying them much more within regular budgets, and giving them opportunities to lead and develop peers on the job.
In this collection of essays, Education Sector asked commentators to address a set of dilemmas facing the nation in the current reform moment. Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel tackled one: will the Common Core and new teacher evaluation systems strangle innovation? These reforms, they argue, would have been perfectly timed for 1962, with fifty years ahead of seat-time based grade levels and a one-teacher-one-classroom staffing model. But what about now, when the combination of new staffing models and digital learning has huge potential to transform everything? Will the Common Core and individual teacher evaluation hold us back exactly when we could be surging ahead? Not necessarily, the Hassels argue. But to sidestep that trap, states need to think of the new systems as iterations, not final destinations; leave space for innovation in new schools; and create much more powerful incentives for excellence. See essay # IV in the collection, here.
Opportunity at the Top: How America’s Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great
Even if current reform efforts to recruit more great teachers and dismiss low performers were wildly successful, nearly two-thirds of children still would not have great teachers. But if we add high-performer retention and reach extension, 87 percent of classes could be taught by gap-closing, bar-raising teachers—in a mere half decade. This outcome is within our reach—but only if we vastly expand the opportunities for top teachers. Read more…
Instead of just trying to recruit more great teachers, what if we could reach dramatically more children with the great teachers we already have? This report explores ways we could redesign teachers’ roles and use technology to give millions more students access to the best teachers. Read more…
The supply of seats in the nation’s best charter schools is not growing rapidly enough to serve the millions of low-income children who need better schools. Based on lessons from the fastest growing organizations in other sectors, this report for the Progressive Policy Institute provides breakthrough solutions for growing the best charter schools and charter management organizations. With specific advice for charter sector leaders, policymakers and philanthropists, Going Exponential offers strategies that could enable every child living in poverty to have access to schools as good as today’s top ten percent charter schools by 2025. Recommendations address the major barriers limiting growth of the sector’s best, such as scarcity of excellent school leaders, funding for growth, and motivation of charter leaders to grow while maintaining excellence.
Tripling The Number of Fixed Failing Schools Without Getting Any Better at Fixing Schools. How? By shortening the time that passes before recognizing failure and retrying major change. Most initial efforts to fix failing schools will fail (just like 70% or more major change efforts and start-ups across sectors fall short). But if policymakers commit to faster “retry rates” – one or two years – the cumulative success rate in failing schools can be much higher. Rapid retry won’t be easy: we’ll need strong “leading indicators” that show which efforts are on-track, and a ready supply of leaders and school operators to step in when initial efforts fail. But the payoff would be dramatically higher rates of success in fixing failing schools. Read more in our Try, Try Again slide deck.
Performance pay, hard-to-staff incentives, and other special payments combined make up only 1% of the teacher pay “pie” nationally. With school budgets tight, the prospects of new, long-term infusions of funds for alternative forms of teacher compensation are bleak. For districts and states eager to reform teacher pay, then, the only viable, sustainable strategy is to “re-slice the teacher compensation pie”—reducing the amount of funding that goes to reward master’s degrees, experience beyond the first five or so years, and other qualifications that research suggests are unrelated to student learning. This presentation shows how re-slicing—whether modest or bold—could dramatically increase the resources available to pay teachers for their contributions to student learning.
In this report, authors Bryan Hassel and Daniela Doyle note that to improve upon the successes of entrepreneurial providers and raise student achievement, more districts and states must be willing to give new education services a chance. Districts, however, are hesitant to hand over schools and school functions to outsiders. The authors suggest that performance guarantees, similar to car warranties or a home builder’s bonded contracts, could provide an incentive for districts to experiment with new services by shifting risk from the district to the provider. The report explores a range of design issues that districts, providers, and investors could work through as they set up viable performance guarantees.
[pdf] A small number of highly-successful entrepreneurial ventures in education have begun to transform schools with innovative solutions that have extraordinary potential to serve students more efficiently and effectively. Yet federal, state and local policies often hinder these types of innovations. This report, written by Julie Kowal and Bryan C. Hassel and jointly released by Public Impact, the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for American Progress, and New Profit Inc., offers politically viable solutions to address these barriers. Read more…
A broad, bipartisan coalition now urges a new method of funding our public schools–one that finally ensures the students who need the most receive it, that empowers school leaders to make key decisions, and that opens the door to public school choice. It’s a 100 percent solution to the most pressing problems in public school funding–and it’s called Weighted Student Funding. Under WSF, money would follow children to the schools they attend, with more disadvantaged children generating more funding. Schools would then have increased discretion to spend funds in ways that maximize student learning. Public Impact led the research and writing behind this manifesto, released in June 2006 with dozens of signatories from across the political spectrum.