The (new) American Education Agenda

There is an emerging consensus on an education reform agenda that incorporates measurement and accountability, teacher quality, equitable funding, public school choice, and investment in improvement. The short version looks something like this:

The (new) American Education Agenda

Good Schools: Every student deserves access to a good public school

· Schools and systems of schools should be held accountable for student outcomes using measures of achievement and growth of subgroups

· Differentiated consequences up to closure/replacement to should consider number of subgroup and subjects

· Full public school choice including charter schools (with full access to public facilities & facilities funding)

Equitable Funding: Every student/school deserves equitable need-based funding

· Portability: funding should follow students to schools that meet their needs

· Need-based: funding should reflect student needs not community wealth

· Transparency: school budgets should reflect actual costs

Good Teachers: Every student deserves a good teacher

· Measures of teacher effectiveness (especially valued added) are key to ensuring equitable talent distribution

· Incentives should be provided for non-traditional routes to teaching

· Expanding proven providers that recruit top graduates, provide a solid preparation program, and support their teachers

· Innovative district/network based approaches to preparation willing to participate in evaluations of effectiveness

Improvement: The federal government should invest in educational improvement

· Incentive funds should be targeted to a few states committed to an aggressive and comprehensive reform agenda. This program should be renewed if there’s enough political courage to target and execute.

· Innovation funding should be forward leaning, matched with philanthropic and private investment (i.e., an edu DARPA)

Thanks to Achieve, DFER, Gates, Broad, TFA, EdTrust and the growing success of charter management organizations (CMOs) and charter support groups, the President and Secretary support this emerging reform agenda. With stimulus funding and and an (eventual) ESEA reauthorization, there is opportunity during the next four years to make important advances.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Sherman Dorn

This is a wish list more than an agenda. While I agree with a bunch of stuff here, I know better than to believe that it will happen just because it's a good idea, or that it's a good idea because you or I think it is, or that it's an inevitable idea because the president agrees with you or me. On one item in particular, the education research community is far more skeptical about value-added measures than a number of policymakers, and for good reason. Harvey Goldstein warned us many years ago that value-added methods are no holy grail, and he was right.


Tom Vander Ark

The 'agenda' is clearly aspirational, but with $5B in Race to the Top funds, USED has the opportunity to invest in a few states that plan to make real progress on this agenda. Most states are a long way from a portable, need-based, transparent funding system and will find the transition difficult politically (i.e., taking money from rich suburbs) and technically--especially during a deep recession.
You're right, we have more to learn about measuring and applying 'value added.' Our first priority should be helping teachers use data and observational feedback to improve practice.


What is "an emerging consensus"?
* Does it mean that it is not a concensus, at least not yet?
* Among whom can one fairly say this concensus can be found?
I don't doubt that there are a bunch of people -- especially people from the business world -- who agree with this agenda. I don't doubt that the people whom Vander Ark regularly speaks with are coming around to this consensus. But is that really the group whose consensus should be driving ed reform?
There is also an existing consensus that that first group's consensus demonstrates a lack of understanding the nature of a meaningful education, the factors that influence educational outcomes and the findings of educational research.
Vander Ark would have been much better off to introduce his outline by writing, "Achieve, DFER, Gates, Broad, TFA, and the current administration in Washington support an education reform agenda that..." That would have been more accurate.


Tom Vander Ark

It's Obama and Duncan's agenda and supported by most leading ed reform groups--the new consensus I was referring to. For the first time there's real collaboration between standards, charter, and human capital folks--all supported by the big new money foundations.

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