Reform Decision Making

The Win-Win Solution: Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Council of Chief State School Officers and State Higher Education Executive Officers' 2010 Joint Summer Meeting
JULY 16, 2010

The Quiet Revolution: Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the National Press Club
JULY 27, 2010

I urge union leaders, administrators and schools boards all across America to follow the example of their reform-minded colleagues and have a more open mind toward common-sense reforms. They have nothing to fear from charters or incentive pay or a better system of teacher evaluation.

Equity and Education Reform: Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
JULY 14, 2010

This is really common sense and most superintendents understand this. But we also know this is very hard work and it's a challenge to build consensus around these very tough interventions.

Arne Duncan: No evidence for RTTT strategies
Jim Crawford December 15, 2009 ELL Advocates

"I think there’s a lot of scientific evidence that the status quo doesn’t work."

“Proposed ‘Race to Top’ Rules Seen as Prescriptive”
McNeil, M. September 3, 2009. Education Week.

But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan isn’t likely to budge from his strong stance that this $4 billion in coveted discretionary aid is his lever to push states toward what he calls common-sense reforms.

Where's the Research in 'Race to the Top'?
Debra Viadero September 3, 2009 Education Week.

There goes that swinging pendulum: Much was made of the fact that the phrase "scientifically based research" appeared more than 100 times in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But in the rules proposed last week for the U.S. Department of Education's $4 billion Race to the Top competition, the terms don't appear at all.

New York Wins Nearly $700 Million for Education
JENNIFER MEDINA August 24, 2010 The New York Times Company

Race to the Top rewards states that embrace changes that federal officials believe will improve schools.

Arne Duncan Has Become a National Embarrassment
Leonie Haimson Executive Director, Class Size Matters August 10, 2009 The Huffington Post

Arne Duncan Has Become a National Embarrassment, Part II
Leonie Haimson Executive Director, Class Size Matters August 16, 2009 The Huffington Post

Teacher performance pay based on test cores is another of Duncan's favored "reforms" that has no support in the research. In North Carolina, which instituted merit pay early on, performance incentives led to even worse teacher attrition in the state's high-needs schools.

When asked by Senator Patty Murray at a recent hearing where the evidence was for teacher performance pay, Duncan stumbled and referred to an experimental incentive program instituted in Chicago.

Not only has this program never been evaluated, but a recent report sponsored by his former supporters in the business community found no significant improvements in achievement in Chicago's public schools under the Duncan regime. PURE, a parent organization in Chicago, has revealed the truth about Duncan's misstatements as regards his "turn around" schools: to the extent that these schools succeeded, it was because they got rid of their low-performing students.

Among the strategies left out of the mix for Duncan's "Race to the Top" funding is class size reduction -- even though smaller classes are one few education reforms that have been shown to narrow the achievement gap -- an ostensible goal of this program. Smaller classes are also one of only four education reforms that have been proven to increase learning overall, based on rigorous scientific evidence, according to the Institute of Education Sciences, the research branch of the US Department of Education headed by Duncan.

Never before has a Secretary of Education so aggressively attempted to bribe states to adopt policies with little or no research to back them up, and that will lead to widening inequities.

Nineteen Points and One Very Bad Idea
Robert Pondiscio July 24th, 2009 The Core Knowledge Blog

Fast-forward. It is 2016. After a years of holding teachers accountable for short-term gains, and creating incentives that actively work against the buildup of knowledge, with disappointing results, we wake up and realize we are going about this the wrong way. A few look back and say we should have listened to our Cassandras. But other energetic, well-meaning reformers see it another way. Instead of realizing we have fatally neglected a robust curriculum, that we are reaping what we have sown, they will conclude that as a nation we simply have no good 8th grade reading teachers. Aggressive, immediate action is needed.

The Race to the Top: The carrot that feels like a stick
MIKE PETRILLI JULY 23, 2009 Flypaper

But the Obama Administration had a choice. It could have asked states for their best ideas for achieving big objectives, like improving teacher quality or turning around low-performing schools. Instead, it has published a list of 19 of its best ideas, few of which are truly "evidence-based," regardless of what President Obama says , and told states to adopt as many of them as possible if they want to get the money.

President Obama Discusses New 'Race to the Top' Program
Michael D. Shear Nick Anderson Washington Post Staff Writers July 23, 2009

President Obama: "I think if you take a look at the requirements for obtaining these grants, it is based on the very best evidence about what works. Arne Duncan has gone through and talked to every educational expert out there, and they have arrived at a consensus that if you're improving teacher quality, you're combining that with high standards, you've got strong data to back it up, you're focusing on low-performing schools and not just the upper tier -- that all those things in combination produce results."

And so this is a classic example, I think, of evidence-based policymaking.

Questioning the “Chicago Miracle”
Did Arne Duncan's policies result in student improvement superior to that of other cities?
By Andrew J. Coulson Wednesday July 15, 2009

CATO Research Note

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary April 27, 2009

The President is committed to restoring integrity to science policy, and making decisions on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology.

Furthermore, the President will make it a national imperative to dramatically improve student achievement in math and science, and move US students from the middle of the pack to the top on international benchmarks over the next decade by challenging all Americans to dramatically increase support for math and science education.

Misc. Related Information about Support for Reform Measures

Mayoral Control of Schools: The New Tyranny
Gerald Bracey July 21, 2009 The Huffington Post

Our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been on a "listening tour" where he's done most of the talking. He advocates, repeatedly, that mayors should take control of urban schools. Obviously he cannot take an honest look at his own accomplishments under this governance system or -- he'd have to shut up.

BRENDAN SCOTT in Albany , DAVID SEIFMAN & CARL CAMPANILE in NY March 31, 2009 New York Post

Read more:

Duncan -- who was superintendent of the Chicago school system under the direct control of Mayor Richard Daley -- told The Post he's "absolutely a proponent" of having public education run out of City Hall.

He said mayoral control provides more accountability, stability and flexibility to implement reform.

Education chief favors longer school year
Rachel Streitfeld February 27, 2009 CNN

More time in school is one of several ideas under consideration as Duncan settles into his new role.

Education secretary calls for 12-hour school days, longer school year
Paul Conner 07/28/2010 The Daily Caller

In all seriousness, I think schools should be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, seven days a week, 11-12 months of the year,” Duncan said.

Schools in countries that are beating us are going to school 25-30 days more than us.

Restructuring: School Closure

Improving Low-Performing Schools: Lessons from Five Years of Studying School Restructuring under No Child Left Behind

Federal restructuring strategies have not shown promise, and all six states in our studies have moved away from these options.

Tough decisions: Closing persistently low-performing schools.
Steiner, L. (2009)

This paper offers a preliminary exploration of school closure as an approach to address consistently low-performing schools. The author profiles four districts that have chosen to close schools: Chicago, Denver, Hartford, and Pittsburgh. While the paper does not explore the impact of school closure on student outcomes, it does examine several implementation lessons drawn from the districts’ experiences and offers recommendations for district and state officials to consider.

NCLB’s Ultimate Restructuring Alternatives: Do they Improve the Quality of Education?
William J. Mathis Associate Professor (adj) University of Vermont
April 2009

Overall, there is little or no evidence to suggest that any of these options delivers
the promised improvements in academic achievement.

None of the four major ultimate restructuring options—takeovers, private
management, charters, and reconstitutions—has been shown to hold particular
promise as an effective school reform strategy.

Drastic School Turnaround Strategies Are Risky
Jane L. David October 2010 ASCD

Even a U.S. Department of Education guide shares this conclusion: "The school turnaround case studies and the business turnaround research do not support the wholesale replacement of staff" (Herman et al., 2008, p. 28).

If replacing the staff is not effective, what about closing low-performing schools entirely? Do students transferred from closed schools perform better in their new schools? Chicago researchers tracked students from closed schools and found that most ended up in academically weak schools and, except for the few students attending high-scoring schools, were no better off academically one year later (de la Torre & Gwynne, 2009).

Reading List: Research on School Turnaround

News Articles

Study Finds Bad Schools Rarely Get Better—or Shut Down
By Sarah D. Sparks December 14, 2010 Education Week

Are Bad Schools Immortal?
The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors
December 14, 2010 David A. Stuit The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Report: Many officials willing to replace half of staff to turn around schools
Nick Anderson December 9, 2010; Washington Post Staff Writer

More pages