ed policy

The World Turned Upside Down

After 11 years of litigation, Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued a seismic decision in the CCJEF school finance lawsuit. In the decision, Moukawsher not only eviscerated Connecticut’s school finance system, he also detailed flaws in the state’s approach to teacher evaluation, teacher compensation, the lack of clear definitions of success in elementary and secondary education, and gave the state 180 days to come up with a solution to all of it.

Long-Term Orientation and Educational Performance

If there’s one common thread between Robin Lake relating The Boys in the Boat to schools, Neerav Kingsland on a recent charter study, and Robert Pondiscio on Hillbilly Elegy, it’s that culture plays a huge role in education. A new NBER Working Paper provides powerful evidence that it may be even more critical than was previously understood. The authors examine the performance of first and second generation immigrant students in Florida to understand the relationship between the “long-term orientation” of the cultures they come from to their educational outcomes.

ESSA and the Administrative State

Chad Aldeman on the delegation of policy making in ESSA: Congress was able to reach broad bipartisan agreement on ESSA mainly because it punted on a number of key policy questions. Any reading of ESSA leaves one wondering what exactly Congress meant when it asked states to “meaningfully differentiate” among schools, when it required that states give “substantial weight” to each indicator, or when it stipulated that academic indicators count for “much greater weight” than non-academic ones.

Aggregation Theory and Education

Five years ago, Marc Andressen took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to describe how software was “eating the world”: “More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not.

Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

Using data to inform our conversations about public school performance is a good idea, but too often, the measures we use are reduced to imprecise terms like “proficiency,” which can carry several different meanings when describing a local, state, or national assessment1. As Susan Dynarski notes in The Upshot, this is also a common problem with the most-frequently used proxy for “poverty” in education, Free/Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) eligibility: “Nearly half of students nationwide are eligible for a subsidized meal in school.

Intellectuals are Freaks

Michael Lind on the weakness of intellectuals' approach to inequality: The views of intellectuals about social reform tend to be warped by professional and personal biases, as well. In the U.S. the default prescription for inequality and other social problems among professors, pundits, and policy wonks alike tends to be: More education! Successful intellectuals get where they are by being good at taking tests and by going to good schools.

The objective paradox

This entire article on creativity is worth a read, but one passage in particular caught my attention: In one experiment a bipedal robot programmed to walk farther and farther actually ended up walking less far than one that simply was programmed to do something novel again and again, Stanley writes. Falling on the ground and flailing your legs doesn’t look much like walking, but it’s a good way to learn to oscillate, and oscillation is the most effective motion for walking.

The Fatal Conceit & ESSA

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design” - F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit The ink on the recently released Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is barely dry, but progressive ed reformers are already panning the proposed successor to the defunct No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Conor Williams argues that not only should Obama veto the NCLB rewrite, progressives should fear it.

How would great teachers spend a time bonus?

This entire series of conversations with Fishman Prize winners is worth reading, but this passage stood out to me: “In so many ways, these hierarchies we have put teachers at the bottom. But that almost entitles everyone who is above us, so to speak, to put tasks on our plate.” It perfectly captures my feelings after reading The Allure of Order and Team of Teams: our highly bureaucratized school system is limiting the potential of our students and our educators.

Outdated funding systems are limiting options for families in Connecticut.

The Growth of School Choice in Connecticut, 1995-2015 For years, families in Connecticut demanded more public school options for their children. Over the last two decades, state funding for magnet and charter schools grew significantly. Even with this level of growth, thousands still end up unable to attend magnet schools or charter schools due to limited capacity. Wouldn’t it seem reasonable that lawmakers would work to expand the number of public school options available to families?

A Thought Experiment

What would happen if we actually followed the ECS formula? There are two significant flaws in Connecticut’s current school funding formula, known as ECS (Education Cost Sharing): It does not reflect the actual needs of towns and students. It does not treat the thousands of students accessing school choice equitably. I plan on addressing those concerns in subsequent posts, but for a moment, let’s take ECS at face value and assume that the underpinnings of the formula are correct.

What’s the problem with school finance in Connecticut?

School finance in Connecticut is broken. The state’s main vehicle of support to public schools, the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant, sends $2 billion to local districts each year with the goal of equalizing the ability of communities to fund public education. Unfortunately, years of legislative tinkering with the ECS formula left Connecticut with a Byzantine approach to funding schools that takes more than 16 pages to explain. On top of this labyrinthine system, non-traditional public schools (including magnet, charter, vocational/technical, and agriscience schools) are funded under entirely separate mechanisms.