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A school system is all of the schooling options, public and private.

SSRJ = School System Reform Journal

The peer- reviewed articles in the SSRJ will focus on the exploration of this question: What factors cause some school systems to produce better aggregate schooling outcomes than others?

"I believe that Mike Lieberman’s The Educational Morass: Overcoming the Stalemate in American Education is the most important and insightful book on US education policy in print, and none other approaches it. Anyone interested in education reform or understanding how and why our education policy processes do not function rationally or productively, should start by reading his volume.” (Richard Phelps; Journal of School Choice V 8, #2; 2014).

Another Money Doesn’t Matter Story

Another Money Doesn’t Matter Story: Sadly, this one Includes Charter Schools || John Merrifield || January 27, 2015

This is just a quick take on a significant study; mostly to bring it to your attention. The report compared the rate of return on Traditional Public School (TPS) and Chartered Public School (CPS) spending. The study compared the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores of TPS and CPS per dollar spent on each, controlling for socioeconomic characteristics. The bottom line is that the CPS rate of return is higher. But it seems to reveal, or confirm, a sad truth. In about half of the states in the sample Continue reading »

Posted in Spending on Schooling | Leave a comment

Washington State Big Spenders

Washington State’s Big Spenders are Slow Learners || John Merrifield || November 30, 2014

After having little to show for a nearly 30% increase in public school spending by her administration, previous Governor Christine Gregoire (D – WA) said,

“I came in here determined to make the system work better. I put a lot more money into K–12. But then you sit there and say, “Why have I not been able to get the result I set out to achieve?”

Continue reading »

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School District Superintendent Churn

School District Superintendent Churn || John Merrifield || October 23, 2013

Earlier this month, I argued that school district superintendents have a very difficult, but unnecessary job. Today, because I am little behind – okay a lot behind – on my Education Week current events due diligence, I happened to grab the May 15, 2013 edition. There, on the front page, I found this headline: “Wanted: Schools Chiefs for Big Name Districts.” Of course the article disagrees with my assertion that the job is unnecessary, which I base on the need for governance and funding policy reform that would allow schools to independently address student diversity with specialized instructional approaches. The article takes the current system’s cartelization of public schools for granted (districts amount to school cartels). It argues that the high turnover rate for big city district superintendents severely undermines the ubiquitous futile efforts to make school cartels achieve some noteworthy improvement away from the ‘Nation at Risk’ results that are at least the norm, and perhaps persistently universal, with some periodic temporary outliers such as El Paso in the 1990s. Continue reading »

Posted in Roots of the Low-Performance Problem | Leave a comment

Persistent Failure to Address the Roots of the Problem

Persistent Failure to Address the Roots of the Low Performance Problem || John Merrifield || February 16, 2015

A recent journey through my archives produced a 2009 Ronald Wolk (founder of Education Week) article marking the 25th Anniversary of the first ‘Nation at Risk’ report. Wolk discussed the five assumptions he thought caused us to fail to address the Roots of the Low Performance Problem. I will summarize the five assumptions, comment, and add one to the list. Continue reading »

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Test Score Spin

Test Score Spin Defying Reality || John Merrifield || Nov 9, 2013

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

— Thomas Jefferson

The Obama Administration recently celebrated that the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores are up slightly in the last decade. But as Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson pointed out, the 4th and 8th grade gains are tiny, and occurred mostly prior to the Obama Administration taking office. They made no mention of the more important trend for the school system’s nearly final product, 17-year-olds. The NAEP scores for high school seniors have barely budged over any time span one could pick. The 2012 average score was 287 (out of 500; 57.4% – see Jefferson quote, above); only one point above the 2008 score. Continue reading »

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Classroom-Level Roots of the Problem

It all comes down to what happens in the classroom. Virtually everyone agrees that we have a low performing school system; that not enough student engagement in important content occurs in our current school system’s public school classrooms. Note that the appropriate perspective for school system reform is that a region’s school system is the full menu of schooling options, public and private, that serves 100% of the region’s schoolchildren. Since public school classrooms enroll nearly 90% of schoolchildren, and since public school system governance and funding policies impact nearly all schoolchildren, problematic public school classroom conditions that have survived decades of reform efforts will explain why we desperately need new, systemic reform strategies. Continue reading »

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School District Superintendent

School District Superintendent: The World’s Most Difficult Unnecessary Job || John Merrifield || Sept 26, 2013

“The truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

— Winston Churchill

The evidence is there on both counts (very difficult, unnecessary), as is the basis to believe it. It is very difficult to serve any diverse clientele with a uniform product.  But that’s what school district superintendents must aim for. Decades of widespread, alarmingly low performance suggest that it is mission impossible. But their task persists, and why not. The appearance of fairness that demands the uniformity is a virtual political imperative, and the high stress job of an urban superintendent is well-compensated. The high turnover rates of highly paid urban superintendents attests to the desperate search for someone capable of doing the impossible, or deviating from the mission impossible script while staying sufficiently politically correct to stay employed.  It is also an unnecessary job, even within a system not much different than the one we have. With accountability to their clients, principals can run their schools. Continue reading »

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Equity Math for a Transformed System

Equity Math for a Transformed System || John Merrifield || June 2, 2016

Suppose we provide a high minimum level of per-pupil public funding to anyone wanting to exit their assigned public school, and independent schools – charter or private – can charge whatever the market would bear. Markets would then set tuition rates; often at the per-pupil public funding (‘free’) amount, but sometimes above. Market entry would drive tuition rates down to just the level needed to finance and sustain efficient operations, including a normal rate of return on investment. Purveyors of poorly conceived instructional approaches would not be able to recruit enough schoolchildren to cover their expenses. But purveyors of some well-conceived instructional approaches would be able to charge more than the per pupil public funding; a 3rd party co-payment. Continue reading »

Posted in Equity in Access to Schooling | Leave a comment

Maranto Admin Accountability for 2018 SSRJ

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Does Administrative Accountability Capture Student Learning?  An Arkansas Test

Robert Maranto (rmaranto@uark.edu), University of Arkansas

Kaitlin Anderson (ande2018@msu.edu), Michigan State University

Alexandra Boyd (boydalexandra@gmail.com), University of Arkansas 

Every restraint and requirement originated in somebody’s demand for it.

Herb Kaufman (1977, 29)

Abstract

Market critics propose that administrative accountability is superior to school choice in promoting school quality. We use Arkansas school level value added measures of student learning to test whether schools which are less effective academically are more likely to face administrative sanctions. We find very modest, but statistically significant relationships between school academic performance and state sanctions: fully accredited (non-sanctioned) schools are slightly more effective academically. We hypothesize that charter schools are more likely to face sanctions since they have fewer administrative resources; this is not supported by the data.

We discuss the relevant policy implications.

Continue reading »

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Big Spending Increases – No Results

Big Spending Increases – No Improvement || John Merrifield || July 9, 2013

Washington State Governor Gregoire’s Education Legacy provides an in-your-face, re-affirming example of the typical failure to address root causes; that without a laser focus on those causes, additional funding won’t yield noteworthy improvements. I called it an ‘in-your-face’ example because we apparently need frequent, new concrete reminders that the disappointing performance of the current K-12 system is not caused by inadequate funding. Commonplace evidence such as Washington state’s failure to reap improved academic outcomes from a nearly 30% increase in per pupil funding has not deterred repeated claims that increased funding is the key policy reform. Those claims fail to note how much we already spend, or that the tripling of inflation-adjusted, per-pupil funding in the last forty years has not yielded any noteworthy gains in the most trusted performance measures. Continue reading »

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