A difficult year

The Shanker Institute has a very comprehensive look at the year in corporate education reform research. It covers 3 basic areas

  • Charter schools
  • Performance pay
  • Value-added in evaluations

All topics we have covered in some length at JTF. You can view a lot of the research we have brought forward at our document center at SCRIBD.

If 2010 was the year of the bombshell in research in the three “major areas” of market-based education reform – charter schools, performance pay, and value-added in evaluations – then 2011 was the year of the slow, sustained march.

Last year, the landmark Race to the Top program was accompanied by a set of extremely consequential research reports, ranging from the policy-related importance of the first experimental study of teacher-level performance pay (the POINT program in Nashville) and the preliminary report of the $45 million Measures of Effective Teaching project, to the political controversy of the Los Angeles Times’ release of teachers’ scores from their commissioned analysis of Los Angeles testing data.

In 2011, on the other hand, as new schools opened and states and districts went about the hard work of designing and implementing new evaluations compensation systems, the research almost seemed to adapt to the situation. There were few (if any) “milestones,” but rather a steady flow of papers and reports focused on the finer-grained details of actual policy.*

Nevertheless, a review of this year’s research shows that one thing remained constant: Despite all the lofty rhetoric, what we don’t know about these interventions outweighs what we do know by an order of magnitude.

Alas, the piece concludes with much the same problem we have been documenting all year long, the headlong, unreasoned, non collaborative rush to implement corporate education reform policies whose impacts at best are unknown and at worst are highly damaging to student achievement and the public education system

Overall, then, it was a productive research year in the three areas discussed above, and it might have been even more productive but for the fact that, in too many cases, the policy decisions this work could have guided had already been made.

It has been a difficult year for those seeking to defend public education from the plethora of corporate reform policies, and next year is bound to see the continuation of this struggle. But once where there were few voices opposing these damaging policies of privatization, there are now many more.

The corporate education reformers are going to have to work a lot harder and be more accountable than they have ever have.