THE BLOG

Rhee Report Card Backwards? Denver School Board Drama: Ed Tonight

01/10/2013 06:31 pm ET | Updated Mar 12, 2013

Is Michelle Rhee doing it wrong? Over at governing.com, Mark Funkhouser writes about "education and the inputs-outcomes trap." Taking a look at Rhee's StudentsFirst state policy report card, he argues that Rhee's approach here is backwards: "You don't start by deciding which policies are best; you start with outcomes and work your way back to see which policies are connected to good results." That is, Rhee is looking at rankings the wrong way since she's looking at policies instead of school performance.

I've been thinking about this paradox all week, ever since Randi Weingarten came out with a scathing response that pointed out the report was devoid of test scores. Weingarten is vehemently opposed to (an overdose of) standardized testing, and it's usually the other way around. This little ideological switcheroo probably doesn't matter in the long run, and it definitely doesn't affect kids in school. But it's just the latest example of how even the most strongly held ideologies in the ed-reform debate don't always apply to their beholders.

Whither Denver School Reform? EdNews Colorado is reporting that school board Secretary Nate Easley is stepping down due to a potential conflict of interest with his new day job. Why does it matter, you ask? Proponents of so-called education reform have held a 4-3 margin in control of the board following a slew of highly-contested and expensive elections. With Easley out, the board is now tied 3-3 -- and the maintenance or dismantling of programs such as performance pay hinge on his replacement, tbd.

Teacher Placement Fail? Speaking of Michelle Rhee! The New York arm of her group, StudentsFirstNY, is out with a report that shows that New York schools with the poorest students get straddled with the lowest-rated teachers. "At schools with relatively few poor students, 1.14 percent of teachers received low ratings last year, according to the report. But at schools where more than 85 percent of students are considered poor, 3.9 percent did," GothamSchool's Geoff Decker reports.

Classroom Aide Purge? According to a list of unemployment rates by occupation, classroom aides aren't faring well. But speech pathologists are at under 2 percent, among the lowest on the list. As Russo notes, "everyone else [in K-12 education] is way below the national average."

California Budget Innovation?California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is just the latest governor trying to revamp school funding. California, which educates one eighth of the nation's students, has major financial troubles -- before voters pushed a school tax hike successfully to passage, experts were talking about cutting things like time in school. Now, reports the Associated Press, Brown wants to give $2.7 billion more to the state's schools, returning the state "to nearly precession funding." But wait, there's more! He has bigger ideas for California's school notoriously inequitable school funding. Says the AP:

The proposal retains the current system's feature of awarding money based on attendance, but it would add up to 35 percent more based on the proportion of English learners, foster children and low-income students in each district. Districts with more than half of their student population classifying as low-income, as measured by free or reduced price lunch participants, would receive additional funds in a poverty "concentration" grant.
The shift is sure to cause an outcry among wealthier school districts, but Brown framed it as an obligation to provide more help to low income districts.

This sounds a lot like what the folks at the Center for American Progress have been asking for.