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Cross-posted at Education Week.
This is the third and last in a series of blogs about the orthodoxies of Republican and Democratic education policy over the last 40 years and the need for a new paradigm for national education politics. In the first blog in the series, I traced the step-by-step commitment of the Republicans to market models of education reform and the reduction of the role of government in American life and showed how these two dynamics are leading some Republicans to give up on public schools altogether. In the second, I showed how, during the same period, Democrats committed themselves to a form of identity politics that ended up doling out money in categorical programs, accomplished little in recent years and, in the process, left out poor whites, thus helping to create today’s politics. In this blog, I focus on the role that teachers unions have played in the politics of education reform and use the conflict over teachers and their unions to make the case for a new politics of school reform, based on the need to professionalize teaching.
As many Republicans see it, teachers’ unions are among the greatest obstacles to the improvement of student performance. They see the unions as protecting bad—even the worst—teachers from being fired and as doubling down on contract provisions that call for getting rid of young, enthusiastic and effective teachers first and protecting older, time-serving teachers to the last. As they see it, the claim that teachers are the voice of students, especially of disadvantaged students, is a cruel joke. They see teachers’ unions as interested only in protecting teachers’ economic interests, not the interests of students and parents. And, finally, they see teachers and their unions reflexively supporting Democrats no matter what the Republicans do.
For Republicans, it is obvious that the public ought to be paying market rates for teachers of different subjects—math and science teachers more than teachers of English and social studies—because people with a good command of math and science are in such short supply and the need for them in many parts of the country is nothing short of desperate, but they see teachers and their unions insisting that all teachers must be paid equally. Most importantly, Republicans are deeply frustrated at their inability to create systems in which teacher compensation is related in some way to teachers’ demonstrated competence. Where else, they want to know, are all professionals compensated without regard to expertise and accomplishment? What is the point of working really hard to improve your skills, if it makes no difference in your career prospects or compensation?
Most teachers and their Democratic supporters have, of course, a very different view. Prior to the 1970s, teachers’ unions were almost non-existent. The NEA stopped being an umbrella association for many education professionals in that period and the AFT grew in power because teachers’ salaries were going down as the salaries of high status professionals were going up. Organizing was the only route available to them to fight back against an eroding standard of living. Under American labor law, unlike European labor law, management and labor were supposed to behave like natural enemies. School boards hired labor attorneys to represent them whose experience was in private enterprise. The boards quickly agreed to contracts specifying last-in, first-out rules when budgets forced layoffs. When money was tight, the boards’ attorneys suggested that the boards offer concessions on “working conditions” in lieu of pay raises. In a public school environment, these concessions amounted to giving teachers and their unions key roles in determining who got which jobs in the systems, steadily eroding the authority of central office staff and principals. School boards were generally most afraid of public reactions to strikes, so they were more than ready to give away the store on these management issues, especially when money was tight.
Then times changed. The public got increasingly concerned about student performance and discovered that the school boards and management could not set up compensation schemes that would enable them to provide higher pay to teachers in short supply, to compensate especially able teachers. When the Great Recession hit, they discovered that the last-in, first-out provisions in teachers contracts prevented them from doing what they thought was in the best interests of students. And so on.
Politicians and the public blamed the teachers, forgetting that it was the school boards that had offered these provisions in lieu of pay raises. The teachers, under assault from every quarter, were not about to give up what was left of what they won earlier. They were opposed to “merit pay” because, in their experience, when principals were allowed to pay some teachers more than others, most principals’ decisions were based not on teachers’ competence, but on the loyalty of individuals to the principal. They were not about to embrace the idea that teachers in short supply should be paid more than others because they thought that all teachers were underpaid. They were not about to change the last-in, first-out rule because their experience was that school districts would seize any opportunity they could to hire two cheap teachers in the place of one experienced, more expensive teacher.
Most important, teachers and their unions felt as though they were in a bunker, blamed by everyone for faltering student performance, when the proportion of students in poverty in their schools had reached unprecedented proportions. They were being held to account for society’s failure to meet its most basic responsibilities. And, finally, the regime of tough, test-based accountability, introduced by the younger Bush and embraced by the Obama administration, had been experienced by teachers and their unions as a mean-spirited policy that was, at its core, anti-teacher and thoroughly demeaning.
The result was teacher exodus, plummeting enrollments in schools of education and rapidly expanding teacher shortages that are now leading to the widespread waiver of even the already low standards for becoming a school teacher in a growing number of states. Astoundingly, these developments, instead of producing increased compensation for teachers in a country in which teachers’ salaries are already low by global standards, has instead led to steadily declining teachers’ compensation and an increasing gap between teachers’ compensation and compensation in the high status professions.
The one place where Democrats and Republicans have agreed on teacher policy has been on tough, test-based teacher accountability, and that has been an unmitigated disaster, as I just said. There is a way out of this mess. It is not through an all-out assault on teachers and their unions. Nor is it through an uncritical embrace of the blue-collar model of teacher unionism that has held sway since the 1970s. The answer is to adopt a professional model of teaching of the kind found in the countries with the best-performing education systems, many of which have very strong teachers’ unions. That implies that, in the United States, government will have to abandon its attack on the unions and the unions will have to get out of their bunker and embrace a very different model of unionism.
All of the top-performing education systems have been built around the imperatives of teacher quality: attracting high-performing high school graduates to teaching with competitive compensation and professional conditions of work. They recruit their teachers from the top half, not the bottom half, of their college-going high school grads. They send them to research universities to be educated and shut down their diploma mills. They create real career ladders for teachers, with starting compensation competitive with compensation for top civil servants and culminating in pay for master teachers at the same level as school principals. Compensation is tied to advancement up the ladder, not to longevity and the taking of “graduate” courses unrelated to teaching duties. Teachers advance up the ladder based on demonstrated teaching expertise, leadership ability and the ability to coach and mentor new and junior teachers. Teachers in systems like this stay in teaching three to four times as long as the typical American teachers and therefore develop much more expertise. Teachers near the top of the ladder are expected to take a strong role in leading teams of teachers who play the decisive role in improving the curriculum, student lessons, instructional methods and student assessment. What I am describing is a truly professional environment for teaching. And it works.
Teachers in such systems have the pay, authority, responsibility and status that most American teachers only dream about. But, if they are going to get that, their unions will have to largely abandon the blue-collar model of unionism they were forced into in the 1970s and have lived with ever since. At the heart of this new professional model is the kind of career ladder I just described. When I asked Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the head of the NEA, in public whether she could support such a model, I got an emphatic “Yes!” When I asked Randi Weingarten in another public forum recently whether she could embrace the larger group of reforms of which this kind of career ladder is a part, she gave me the same response. This does not mean that all the state affiliates of NEA or all the AFT locals would instantly climb on board if offered such a deal. There are scars all over the place on both sides that need healing. But the makings of a deal to turn teaching into the one of the most desired professions in the United States are there if only the Democrats and Republicans who are part of the current impasse are willing to build on them.
Cross-posted at Education Week.
In my last blog, I took the Republican Party to task for following a policy trajectory over the last three decades or so on education reforms based on the introduction of market forces in the public schools arena, a trajectory that seems to be culminating in proposals from some Republicans to abandon the public schools altogether. Some of my Republican friends then took me to task for abandoning what they have seen as my bipartisan stance in favor of a very partisan outburst.
But that is not the case at all. I am the same person I was, aiming to use good data and sound analysis to hold the mirror up to both parties and their well-worn positions on education. I would urge those who count themselves among my regular readers to recall that my eye is firmly fixed on the fact that, over the last 40 years, high school NAEP scores on mathematics and reading have not budged at all, while the costs of elementary and secondary education have soared and the performance of a growing number of other countries has surpassed our students’ performance by ever-wider margins. That is a period in which both Democrats and Republicans have been at the helm. If one is searching for parties to blame, there is plenty to go around.
With respect to the Democrats, my story begins when John F. Kennedy was running for president in the primaries. Young, rich, Catholic, Harvard-educated, possessed of a haughty New England accent and a lot of upper crust friends, his task was to convince his party’s voters that he could connect with Protestant, working-class, low-income families. He chose to make his stand in West Virginia coal country. It worked, and, as he got to know the West Virginians, Kennedy came face to face with a kind and depth of poverty he hardly knew existed. He decided that, if he became president, he would do something about it. When he did become president, the American South started to get politically unglued as the civil rights movement got underway and Martin Luther King’s voice began to hold the conscience of the country to the fire. But, on that score, Kennedy was reluctant to undo the knot of Southern white racism, rust belt working class whites and coastal progressivism that held his party together.
Real progress was made on poverty under Kennedy, but the heavy lifting fell to Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, unlike Kennedy, had grown up in grinding poverty. He went to a little known teachers college, not Harvard, and, in his first job out of college, worked with almost demonic energy to transform the prospects of his Mexican-American students in an impoverished community on the Rio Grande. When he became president, he astonished many by turning his back on the Southern white oligarchs of the Congress, passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and launching his Great Society program, which he intended as a worthy successor to FDR’s historic social programs.
For Johnson, unlike Kennedy, issues of both race and poverty were paramount. Arguably the centerpiece of Johnson’s Great Society program, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was designed to address both. The governing construct in the scholarly community gave us the language of “compensatory” education. The idea, at bottom, was simplicity itself. Poor and minority children came to school with deficits. If professional educators had extra money to deal with those deficits, they would be overcome and the children of poor and minority parents would have the chance that they needed to escape poverty and discrimination and join the middle class. The efficacy of this idea, of course, depended on professional educators knowing what to do and then doing it. The legislation contained large sums to conduct the necessary research and development.
By the time I got to Washington, in the Nixon years, to help plan and launch the new National Institute of Education, a settled view of ESEA had developed. Title I was for African-Americans. The title dealing with English language learners, Title III, was for the Latino community. Special education had its own pot of money. And there were many others. ESEA had become a holding company for categorical programs, which were quickly expanding, each one a pot for some specific constituency. The politics of ESEA became a politics of competition among these constituencies, punctuated by periodic efforts by Republicans to bundle them up in block grants and efforts by advocates for the poor to concentrate the money in the schools serving the lowest-income students.
No one seemed to notice that, among all the special categories into which all this money was divided and subdivided, there was no category for the people whose plight first caught JFK’s attention in 1960: poor rural whites. As recent events have made clear, the 1970s saw the beginning of a global economic dynamic that progressively destroyed the economies of the Rust Belt, the South, the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of the United States, all of which fell especially hard on communities in which education levels were very low, irrespective of racial or ethnic status.
Now, when we look back on the whole era I have described, the arc it describes is sobering, or ought to be. Average student performance at the high school level, as measured by NAEP, has not changed. The cost per student has skyrocketed. The gap between racial and ethnic minorities and majority students, which had been closing at the middle and high school years, stopped closing more than 10 years ago. There is more racial segregation now than there was in the 1960s, shortly after the Supreme Court desegregated the schools in Brown v. Board of Education. Our schools are more segregated by socio-economic status than they have ever been since such things were first measured. Students in a growing number of other countries are outperforming our students by ever-wider margins and, remarkably, those countries are doing much better on measures of equity than the United States. Further, socio-economic status predicts student performance more reliably in the U.S. than in most developed nations. So much for the U.S. as the great equalizer.
What does this suggest to you? For me, it says that the use of identity politics as the underlying framework for policies designed to lift up the academic performance of poor and minority children has failed, and the nation needs another framework. I suspect that there is no appetite for creating a new categorical education program for poor white people from rural and Rust Belt communities. The great profusion of categorical programs, each siphoning money off to ever narrower segments of our population, at both the federal and state levels, has served to Balkanize school and district administration and management, diffuse accountability, increase administrative and overhead costs, bureaucratize the system and set groups against one another that should be working together.
But that is not the worst of it. The worst of it is that this approach to improving the prospects of our neediest students not only has not worked; it could not work. That is because of the unstated premise on which it was first built, the idea that all these kids needed was a little more—maybe a lot more—money, the idea that the system was basically working fine, but these kids had been left out and needed to get help that would compensate for the adverse factors outside of school that had previously prevented them from learning. In this view of the world, our education system was one of the best in the world and so the issue was access.
But that has turned out not to be true. We know now, thanks to the TIMSS and the OECD PISA surveys, that our system is performing very poorly, not just for the poorest students and those from identified minorities, but for the great majority of American students. Our challenge is not to provide access to a system that is working brilliantly; it is to change the system itself so that it works far better for everyone. And, to do that, it must be changed, in fact transformed, along the same lines that the top-performing nations have transformed their systems. What they have shown, indisputably, is that the systems they have built not only produce higher average student achievement, but much smaller gaps between their poor and minority students and those in the majority who are members of wealthier families. And guess what? Those countries did not do it with categorical programs.
Some might say we need to abolish these categorical programs and package them up in block grants and let the states decide how to use the money. But that is not what I am saying. If the money is not used to change the system, if it is spent the way money is now spent, but there is simply less of it, then the people for whom the money was intended will be worse off, not better off.
To see a policy framework that might make more sense, take a look at No Time to Lose, the recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. That report, of course, lays out a program for state policy, not federal policy, but that is a pretty good place to begin the development of federal policy, framed as policies that will help the states do what these state legislators think needs to be done.
I can hear some of my Republican friends now saying something like, “Well that is all well and good, but you know the real problem is the unions and the way they protect lousy teachers while pretending to be for the kids. How can you claim to be evenhanded when you do not even mention this issue, which, for us, is the central issue?” That is the issue I will deal with next week.
Cross-posted at Education Week.
I ask this question, of course, partly tongue in cheek. I have good friends—including current and former federal and state officials—who are Republicans who continue to be strong supporters of public education. But I ask it to make a serious point.
The arc of bipartisan support for public schooling began its rise in 1837 when Horace Mann became chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Through the rest of the 19th century, Americans came to take enormous pride in their common schools and to see them as the primary means by which ordinary Americans of modest means who were willing to work hard could vault themselves into the upper reaches of the world’s most egalitarian country. It was a vision shared equally by Republicans and Democrats.
This commitment to schools funded by government, run by government, and staffed by government employees strengthened decade by decade even though most Americans assumed well into the 20th century that government had a limited role at best in relieving social distress. But that assumption changed with the Great Depression and the flood of social safety net legislation that emerged from that existential crisis. Mainstream Republicans and Democrats both supported the new consensus from which that legislation had emerged. The trajectory of support for our public schools as a fixed star in the institutional firmament of our country was, if anything, reaffirmed with the passage of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which together framed a far more assertive role for the federal government in support of the public schools without abridging the state role in education, in an extended bipartisan consensus. That section of the arc included actions by the Supreme Court under the Eisenhower Administration, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation and the commitments made by Richard Nixon when Pat Moynihan was his White House advisor on social policy.
That was before the drift away from supporting our public schools. It started, I suppose, with Ronald Reagan, who famously jested that the person to be afraid of was the one who announced that he or she was from the federal government and was there to help you. Reagan helped to create an environment in which it was ever-more-widely assumed that the government always has two left feet, and, left to its own devices, will always make things worse. Then Grover Norquist managed to get himself—remarkably—into a position in which he could force almost everyone who wanted to run for office as a Republican to take the pledge not to raise taxes, come hell or high water. “My goal,” he famously said, “is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
That proved to be an opening you could drive a truck through. The famous Reagan-era federal report on education, A Nation at Risk, had made it abundantly clear that the education establishment had presided over a catastrophic decline in student performance (which, incidentally, was not true). The charge was that the professional educators had stolen control of the schools from the public to benefit themselves. They were acting as monopolists, driving up the price while providing a product of increasingly shoddy quality. The appropriate response to monopoly providers is competition. The market will do what it does best, raise quality and responsiveness, while lowering cost. Enter, stage right, vouchers and charters.
The text for this hymn was provided by Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist who dressed up this idea in economic theory. If the problem was a government monopoly of public education, then the answer was market forces, the power of competition in the education marketplace to do what government, obviously, could not do: right the ship, make our schools better in every way.
These were new ideas in the field of education. Prior to that, when I was growing up, Republicans and Democrats alike assumed that public education would be provided in schools organized by government and staffed with public employees, subject to extensive public regulation by the state. In the post-war years, when returning soldiers and their young wives were making babies at an unprecedented rate, politicians of both parties were falling all over themselves to build and fund public schools to house the great expansion in the size of the student body. It was widely assumed that the professional educators would know what to do with the money and facilities.
But the Vietnam War marked the end of widespread faith that the government could be trusted to do the right thing, the civil rights era made it clear that large numbers of Americans were not being served by the schools and A Nation At Risk delivered the coup de grace by charging professional educators—unfairly—with failing the country.
As time went on, the party cleavage grew. Democratic orthodoxy backed the teachers. Republican orthodoxy backed choice, vouchers and charters. As time went by, many Democrats embraced public charters to stave off private charters and vouchers. Republicans, stymied in their demand to remove the caps on the numbers of charters, responded by pushing draconian accountability systems for the regular public schools, while resisting accountability for the charters.
Now, we see in Kansas and other states the rise of a new phrase to describe what I have always thought of as regular public schools: “government schools.” It is clear in the context that this is meant to be a term of exquisite opprobrium. “Government schools,” it seems, are schools that no right-minded person would want to put their own children in. It is a term which, coming out of the mouths of the people who coined it, is intended to polarize the education debate, to complete the great arc of denigration of the public schools—all public schools—that began with the truck that Milton Friedman built. It is the coining and political circulation of this term that inspired this blog and its title. We have now gotten to the point that, in the eyes of some spokespeople for one of our two great political parties, regular public schools are to be scorned as a group, as are the professional educators who staff them.
The Republican political leaders I admired when I was growing up would be beside themselves to see things come to such a pass. They were political descendants of Teddy Roosevelt, who saw themselves as deep believers in capitalism and, at the same time, deep believers in the need for government to do what capitalism could not do, to do what government does best. They believed that strong, competent government was needed to create the public services that a capitalist society needed to survive and prosper. They would never have recognized a Republican party that wanted to turn the production of a classic public good like education over to private enterprise. They would, at the very least, have demanded evidence that such a strategy actually worked somewhere before trying to do it everywhere. They would have been astounded at the conviction that government could never do anything right except make war.
But the modern Republican Party has become the defender of commercial providers of postsecondary education whose whole business plan is to fleece the taxpayer, put their customers in lifetime debt and provide as little in return as possible. It has become the ardent advocate of school vouchers and very lightly regulated charters, although there is no evidence that vouchers or lightly regulated charters can significantly raise student performance at the scale of a state. It is assuming almost everywhere the position that the strong form of local control is superior to all other forms of educational governance, when there is no evidence whatsoever that this form of governance leads to superior state performance in public education.
My point is very simple. For almost 200 years, there was a political consensus on the need for public schools financed by government, run by government and staffed by government employees. The public schools supported by that bipartisan consensus were arguably the single most important factor in creating the conditions that led to this country becoming the world’s greatest economic power and then the world’s sole superpower. Following the end of the Second World War, the bipartisan consensus on the whole social safety net that ended up greatly strengthening our public schools proved the underpinning of the most remarkable period of growing broadly shared prosperity in the nation’s history.
During the Clinton administration, one could be forgiven for thinking that that consensus had shifted toward choice, charters and privatization. But the recent statements from the NAACP and Black Lives Matter, to say nothing of the nearly universal anger at unscrupulous private providers of post-secondary and vocational education seeking to part poor people from their savings as well as their future earnings, make it clear that whatever the consensus might have been, it is now falling apart.
I hereby submit that the Republican embrace of market solutions in education and their progressive abandonment of their centuries-old commitment to the public schools was an error, an aberration and a mistake. It is time to reverse course, and for the Democrats and Republicans to find common ground as both work together at the state and federal level to figure out how to catch up with the growing list of countries all over the world that are eating our lunch in the field of elementary and secondary education…before it is too late to catch up.
Cross-posted at Education Week.
Buried in last week’s blog—an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan—I remarked on the unscalability of certain education initiatives praised by Checker Finn as “charter-like.” One of them was New Leaders. After it was published, I received the following statement from Jackie Gran, Chief Policy & Evaluation Officer of New Leaders:
“We are disappointed that Mr. Tucker describes efforts to get a well-prepared, highly skilled principal in every school as “unsustainable and unscalable” full stop.
Mr. Tucker cites New Leaders’ per-principal cost — $85K—as evidence. He doesn’t consider the cost savings achieved by hiring principals with the skills to manage the demands of leading a school without quickly burning out.
Only 50 percent of principals nationally remain in their roles for more than three years (and retention rates in urban districts are considerably lower). By contrast, 74 percent of New Leaders trained are retained beyond that point. The average cost to districts of preparing and hiring each new principal is $75,000. For districts juggling scarce resources, investing in high-quality training that prepares principals to achieve a lasting difference makes sound financial sense.
And critically, we cannot carry out the strategies Mr. Tucker lists as requirements for school improvement at-scale—strategies that New Leaders strongly supports—without school leaders capable of instituting a high quality curriculum, bolstering instruction, recruiting and retaining talented teachers, and fostering a culture of achievement and shared accountability for student success.
Strong school leadership matters—decades of research support this fact—so quality leadership training is essential. A recent report by the RAND Corporation found that New Leaders has the strongest evidence of effectiveness of any principal preparation program in the country, including both traditional and alternative models. A key to that success is our yearlong residency model—similar to a medical residency—which provides aspiring principals with real-world learning that equips them to be successful from day one. That’s why we promote proven practices such as job-embedded learning across all principal preparation programs. For example, with the University Council for Educational Administration, we recently released a toolkit (http://www.sepkit.org/) for states on how to use program evaluation to improve the quality of principal preparation.
New Leaders does recognize that school systems have limited resources and we continue to identify cost-savings so we can deliver principal preparation at lower costs without sacrificing quality. For example, we expanded the scope of our programming to develop teacher leaders because providing future principals with leadership development opportunities earlier in their careers results in greater success as they grow while immediately infusing schools and systems with teams of skilled leaders capable of enacting ambitious improvement plans.
Strong demand for our programs—we work in over 20 districts and 100 charter schools—provides evidence that schools nationwide crave effective, research-based approaches to developing teacher, school, and system leaders. Only through such investments can we effectively carry out the strategies Mr. Tucker so rightly promotes.”
NCEE, the organization I head, is deeply committed to the development of capable school leaders for all the reasons given by New Leaders in their statement. But our earlier work in the delivery of technical assistance and training to schools had a big influence on the strategies we chose. That work—on comprehensive school reform—began in 1989. It was entirely paid for by private foundations. The program grew rapidly. But the foundations that had supported its very successful launch did not want to tie up their money indefinitely, much less put ever more of their resources into it as it expanded. Other foundations were not interested in picking up where the initial supporters had ended, in part because they would get no credit for the success of programs others had begun. So we decided, with some trepidation, to ask each school and district to pay the full cost of the training. We aimed to offer a first-class program based on the best research available, a program that produced outstanding results and one that districts and states could afford. If they could afford it and would buy it, then there would be no limit to the scale it could achieve. The design is a train-the-trainer design, so that the district or state develops the capacity to deliver its own face-to-face training and support to the principals.
Many states and districts were willing to pay for it, enough to keep doubling the size of the program annually for years on end. We found that the states and districts took the program much more seriously when they had to pay for it. They were more prepared to change core policies and institutional structures to support the program than they had been before and to allocate more executive time to assure its success. They said when the program was supported by private foundations, they viewed it as soft money that could disappear overnight, so it made no sense to change their policies and practices to accommodate it. The school boards wouldn’t refuse a free program, but were committed to it only as long as the money kept coming in. But when the superintendent had to sell it to the Board and the Board had to fund this initiative instead of a something else they could use the money for, they owned it in a way they did not own it when it was free, and, furthermore, they held their superintendents responsible for its success in a way that they did not when it was free.
We created the National Institute for School Leadership more than 15 years ago at the request of a group of foundations led by Carnegie Corporation of New York. We decided initially to concentrate on creating an executive development program for serving school principals, because the majority of school staff who sign up for principal training in the nation’s graduate schools of education have no intention of becoming school principals. The program we ended up with combines the best research on leadership from the world’s top military and business schools with the best research on education in a system that involves both web-based delivery and face-to-face instruction over a period of what was once 18 months and is now down to 12 months.
Research performed by the RAND Corporation has found that the only program meeting the U.S. Government’s Tier II standards with evidence of improved student performance for the initial training of principals is New Leaders and the only program meeting the Tier II standards with evidence of improved student performance for the continuing training of principals is NISL’s Executive Development Program. So the two programs meet the same demanding performance standards.
But there is a big difference between the two. The NISL Executive Development Program costs an average of $8,925 per principal trained, which appears to be on the order of one-tenth of the cost of New Leaders standard model. At first, this made no difference to the districts and charter management companies that used it, because the U.S. Congress subsidized the program with a massive earmark. When the Congress stopped granting such earmarks, private foundations stepped in. But the cost was so high that the support from the private foundations was not enough and so New Leaders had to ask the districts and charter managers to bear some of the cost. But, even with the subsidy, the cost remained so high that only a small number of districts and charter companies could be served with this model.
We have a high regard for the quality of the New Leaders program and for its staff. They believe that their Aspiring Principals program is a worthwhile investment for the results districts get from implementing it. But they know that its expense imposes real limits on the rate at which they can grow it. They have been working with their supporters to lower the cost and to encourage local funders and districts to put “more skin in the game.” And they have also been working in an imaginative way to find ways to take advantage of their experience to create a range of other products and services that are less expensive and more likely to fit in with districts’ established ways of working. We think they are on the right track.
The point I was making in my previous blog was addressed not to New Leaders but to Checker Finn’s use of the original New Leaders model as an example of what foundations ought to be supporting. And it was simple: New Leaders’ program for Aspiring Principals, like the Teach for America model, which Finn also cited, was not designed to scale. Foundations that want to use their own money to leverage large changes in American education can’t think about scale after they have invested in the interventions of their choice. They have to think about scale as they are choosing interventions, and, if they do that, they will not select the kinds of interventions that are likely to affect American education only at the margins because their cost is prohibitive for most districts and states. They need to find interventions that will result in products and services that districts and states will be ready and willing to pay for themselves once the interventions have been shown to work. That is where the money is for large-scale implementation. Indeed, that is the only place you will find it.
Date: September 16, 2016
Date: September 9, 2016
Date: September 2, 2016
Date: August 26, 2016
Date: August 19, 2016