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Report Card onAmerican EducationRanking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and ReformDr. Matthew LadnerDan Lips
Report Card on American Education:Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform© 2012 American Legislative Exchange...
vvivii134699101213131417192021222427293032333435353638Table of ContentsAbout the Authors	Acknowledgements	Foreword: Mitch ...
Chapter 4: 2011 ALEC Report Card: Education Policy GradingPolicy CategoriesEducation Policy Grading Changes from Last Year...
www.alec.org vDR. MATTHEW LADNERDr. Matthew Ladner is Senior Advisor for Policy and Research at the Foundation for Excelle...
vi Report Card on American EducationWe wish to thank the following for making this Report Card on American Education possi...
www.alec.org viiUsually, contributing the foreword toALEC’s Report Card on American Educationprovides a welcome opportunit...
viii Report Card on American EducationFOREWORDand a commitment to improving our schools, bothpublic and private. In the in...
The End of the Beginningin the Battle for K–12 ReformCHAPTER1
2 Report Card on American EducationIn World War II, Great Britain suffered a se-ries of crushing defeats. From the conques...
www.alec.org 3The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformthat edition, we concluded Florida’s comprehen-sive ap...
4 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEIn essence, the most liberal administrationsince Woodrow Wilson explicitly e...
www.alec.org 5The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformparticipation starting—meaning that Indiana’svoucher p...
6 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEscale, but everyone instantly understands A, B, C,D, and F grades.Schools de...
www.alec.org 7The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformafter the publication would begin to prove. Short-ly a...
8 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEa wealth of evidence suggesting that studentsalso benefited in reading achie...
www.alec.org 9The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 ReformOklahoma lawmakers also created a newchoice program—th...
10 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEmade.”22While so-called red states are in the lead,even deep blue states li...
www.alec.org 11The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformon student learning gains.24The bill conditionstenure...
12 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEearn the rating of “highly effective” for three yearsin a row can now earn ...
www.alec.org 13The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 ReformIn Arizona, conversations over school qualitywould fr...
14 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEBill 65—the Statewide Online Education Pro-gram. The authors of this law dr...
www.alec.org 15The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reform14.	 For more information, see: the Parents for Choic...
16 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONE
A Thought Experiment onState Academic AchievementCHAPTER2
18 Report Card on American EducationImagine a scenario in which you learn thatupon your death, you will be reincarnatedas ...
www.alec.org 19A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTYou download a copy of the most recentlyavailable NAEP re...
20 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOMexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, andWest Virginia make you feel very n...
www.alec.org 21A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTof education which leaves parents deeply dissatis-fied fr...
22 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOwhile this is not a perfect comparison betweenstates (nothing can be), this...
www.alec.org 23A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTteeth” by: grading schools A,B,C,D, or F based onstudent ...
24 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOgas and oil boom.Now imagine a case even worse than Wyo-ming. Wyoming spent...
www.alec.org 25A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTENDNOTES1.	 Donald J. Hernadez, 2011. How Third-Grade Rea...
26 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWO
3CHAPTERThe Desperate Need forAcademic Gains in America
28 Report Card on American EducationThe Organisation for Economic Coop-eration and Development (OECD) be-gan measuring stu...
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition
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Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition

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The 17th edition of the Report Card on American Education contains a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels (performance and gains for low-income students) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (see full report for complete methodology). The Report Card details what education policies states currently have in place and provides a roadmap for legislators to follow to bring about educational excellence in their state.



Focusing on the reforms recently enacted in Indiana, and with a foreword by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, this Report Card on American Education examines the experiences other states can learn from the struggles and triumphs in Indiana.



For more information, please visit www.alec.org.

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Transcript of "Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform; 17th Edition"

  1. 1. Report Card onAmerican EducationRanking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and ReformDr. Matthew LadnerDan Lips
  2. 2. Report Card on American Education:Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform© 2012 American Legislative Exchange CouncilAll rights reserved. Except as permitted under the UnitedStates Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication maybe reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means,or stored in a database or retrieval system without the priorpermission of the publisher.Published byAmerican Legislative Exchange Council1101 Vermont Ave., NW, 11th FloorWashington, D.C. 20005Phone: (202) 466-3800Fax: (202) 466-3801www.alec.orgFor more information, contactthe ALEC Public Affairs office.Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan LipsDavid J. Myslinski, Director, Education Task ForceISBN: 978-0-9822315-9-3Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform has been published by the AmericanLegislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as part of its mission to discuss, develop, and disseminate public policies that expandfree markets, promote economic growth, limit the size of government, and preserve individual liberty. ALEC is the nation’slargest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators, with 2,000 members across the nation. ALECis governed by a Board of Directors of state legislators, which is advised by a Private Enterprise Board representing majorcorporate and foundation sponsors.ALEC is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public policy organization. Individuals, philanthropicfoundations, corporations, companies, or associations are eligible to support ALEC’s work through tax-deductible gifts.
  3. 3. vvivii134699101213131417192021222427293032333435353638Table of ContentsAbout the Authors Acknowledgements Foreword: Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana Chapter 1 : The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 ReformRace to the Top: A Sign of the TimesIndiana Seizes the Hammer, Enacts Comprehensive ReformThe Roaring Comeback of Parental ChoiceNew Approaches: Education Savings Accounts and District-Led VouchersSea Change in Teacher Tenure and Collective BargainingBlaine AmendmentsGrading School Performance A–FCharter School Movement Maintains MomentumThe Way of the Future: Digital LearningThe Next StepsChapter 2: A Thought Experiment on State Academic AchievementState Proficiency Achievement Based on IncomeStudents with DisabilitiesRanking States by the General-Education Low-Income StudentFrom Thought Experiment to State Policy“None of the Above” Is Not an OptionChapter 3: The Desperate Need for Academic Gains in AmericaAcademic Gains: National ResultsNAEP Inclusion Standards and Measuring State-Level Academic GainsState Rankings of Low-Income Student GainsBlack Student Academic GainsWhite Student Academic GainsHispanic Student Academic GainsDisabled Student Academic GainsMaximizing Comparability: Gains for General-Education Low-Income StudentsNot Because It is Easy, But Because It is Hard
  4. 4. Chapter 4: 2011 ALEC Report Card: Education Policy GradingPolicy CategoriesEducation Policy Grading Changes from Last YearIs the Investment in State Per-Student Public Education Spending Paying Off?Grading States on the Performance of General-Education Low-Income StudentsState SNAPSHOTSChapter 5: Raising Academic Quality for All Students byCustomizing Education with Digital LearningAmerican Education: Finally Going “Back to the Future”Schools of the Future: Changing Education for the Better TodayCommon Forms of Digital LearningDigital Learning: An Emerging Education Reform Success StoryDigital Learning and Narrowing Achievement GapsFAQ about Digital LearningDigital Learning and Eliminating Children’s Potential GapsHomework for Policymakers: Accelerating Digital Learning10 Elements of High-Quality Digital LearningExpanding Access to Digital Learning: Growing Supply, Creating DemandWhy Online Learning is a Political WinnerConclusion: Once More to the Breach, Dear FriendsAppendicesAppendix A: Methodology for Ranking the StatesAppendix B: Methodology for Grading the StatesAppendix C: Index of Figures and TablesAppendix D: Model Legislation for K–12 ReformAppendix E: Education Reform Organizations414243444549101102103104104106107108109109109111111114114118120121125
  5. 5. www.alec.org vDR. MATTHEW LADNERDr. Matthew Ladner is Senior Advisor for Policy and Research at the Foundation for Excellence in Educa-tion. Prior to this, Dr. Ladner was the Vice President of Research for the Goldwater Institute. He has alsoserved Director of State Projects at the Alliance for School Choice, where he provided support and re-sources for state-based school choice efforts. Dr. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice,charter schools and special education reform. Dr. Ladner has provided testimony to Congress, a numberof state legislatures and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Ladner is a graduate of the Uni-versity of Texas at Austin and received both a Masters and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Universi-ty of Houston. Ladner is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Educational Choice and the GoldwaterInstitute. Dr. Ladner lives in Phoenix with his wife Anne and three children Benjamin, Jacob, and Abigail.DAN LIPSDan Lips is a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute. He was formerly a senior policy analyst at theHeritage Foundation specializing in education policy. His views and research have appeared in prominentmedia outlets including The Washington Post and National Review Online as well as in academic jour-nals like the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy and Education Next. Mr. Lips has testified be-fore Congress and state legislative committees and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. He cur-rently serves as the Chairman of the D.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.Mr. Lips earned his bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University and master’s degree innational security affairs from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.About the Authors
  6. 6. vi Report Card on American EducationWe wish to thank the following for making this Report Card on American Education possible:First, we thank the Alleghany Foundation and the Gleason Family Foundation for their generoussupport for the creation and promotion of this book.The authors would like to specifically thank Education Task Force Director David Myslinski for his tire-less work and guidance directing this project.We also thank Amy Kjose, Caroline Forsythe, Chaz Cirame, Kaitlyn Buss, Michael Bowman, MonicaMastracco, Ron Scheberle, Stephanie Linn, Vicky Jennings, and the professional staff of ALEC for theirassistance in all aspects of this publication.Acknowledgements
  7. 7. www.alec.org viiUsually, contributing the foreword toALEC’s Report Card on American Educationprovides a welcome opportunity to remindreaders of our crucial responsibility to guaranteeAmerica’s youngest citizens access to a high qual-ity education of their choice.Instead, I am happy to report that this yearhere in Indiana, after years of only partial success,we are well on our way to fulfilling that promise.During the 2011 session, our legislature delivereda series of changes to K–12 education that we be-lieve will result in a profound difference in thelives of Hoosier children while greatly improvingthe prospects of our state.This breakthrough came in the form of fourpieces of landmark legislation emphasizing teach-er quality, administrative flexibility, school ac-countability, and parent and student choice.Prior to this session, 99 percent of Indiana’steachers were annually rated “Effective.” If thatrating were actually true, 99 percent—not justone-third—of our students would be passing na-tional tests. From this point on, because of thediligence and fortitude of our reform-minded leg-islators, teachers will be promoted and retainedbased on performance rather than seniority.Teacher evaluations, which will be locally for-mulated, will rely on student improvement. Suc-cessful educators will be rewarded, while thosewhose students lag behind will be asked to findwork elsewhere. Additionally, schools will nowbe graded on an A–F scale and they, too, will beheld accountable for student advancement; andthe state will not hesitate to intervene in thoseschools that fail repeatedly.While collective bargaining has its place,teacher contracts are too often filled with provi-sions that hinder learning. Some contracts, forexample, stipulate that instructors can spend onlya limited amount of hours with their students,while others mandate they can only be observedin the classroom with prior notice from princi-pals. Collective bargaining will now be limited towages and benefits and will no longer stand inthe way of effective school leadership or studentprogress.Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we willnow honor parents. We will trust them and re-spect them enough to decide when, where, andhow their children can receive the best education,and therefore the best chance in life. To accom-plish this, we are ending all restrictions on char-ter school creation, and increasing non-govern-mental school options through what is now thenation’s largest voucher program. Beginning thisyear, no Hoosier family will be denied the oppor-tunity to choose an appropriate school, includinghaving the ability to direct government dollars to-ward their school’s tuition.Taken together, these changes place Indianain the vanguard of education choice. But otherstates can and should follow suit. These are notpartisan reforms: Our ultimate goals are sharedby President Obama and find favor across a broadideological and political spectrum. This, howev-er, does not mean that they will be easy to accom-plish and implement. As always, advocates forchange in education should prepare to be misrep-resented, maligned, or worse. But Indiana’s his-toric breakthrough proves that change is with-in reach, if the debate is focused on the children.Each reform must be tested against the obvious—yet often overlooked—criteria of what is best forthe child and most likely to lead to his or herprogress, and ultimately, success.We all have a shared reverence for our teachersForewordby Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana
  8. 8. viii Report Card on American EducationFOREWORDand a commitment to improving our schools, bothpublic and private. In the interest of our childrenand their future, each and every one of our in-stitutions of learning should be great, providingall of our students the opportunity to succeed. Iam hopeful in the long-run, our accomplishmentsin Indiana will demonstrate these objectives canbe achieved, and in the near-term, they can pro-vide some measure of inspiration to reform-mind-ed legislators across the country.Best of Luck,Mitch Daniels
  9. 9. The End of the Beginningin the Battle for K–12 ReformCHAPTER1
  10. 10. 2 Report Card on American EducationIn World War II, Great Britain suffered a se-ries of crushing defeats. From the conquestof her continental allies and an ignomin-ious evacuation at Dunkirk to the loss of Singa-pore in the east, Great Britain was under attack.Germany stood as a colossus with its boot on thethroat of Europe. Under the assumption there wasno way to win, “realistic” members of the Brit-ish aristocracy advised reaching an accommoda-tion with Germany. Winston Churchill refused tosurrender while the Royal Air Force successfullyfought off the German Luftwaffe over the skies ofEngland, deterring a German invasion.Britain’s enemies overreached, invading theSoviet Union and attacking the American fleet atPearl Harbor. Finally, British forces defeated theGerman army in Egypt, securing their hold overthe strategically vital Suez Canal. Prime MinisterChurchill recognized the turning point:Now this is not the end. It is not even the be-ginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the endof the beginning. Henceforth Hitler’s Naziswill meet equally well armed and perhaps bet-ter armed troops. Hence forth they will haveto face in many theatres of war that superi-ority in the air which they have so often usedwithout mercy against others, of which theyboasted all round the world, and which theyintended to use as an instrument for convinc-ing all other peoples that all resistance to themwas hopeless.We mean to hold our own.1In 2011, America’s struggle for education re-form may have also reached a turning point—anend of the beginning.Terry Moe and John Chubb evocatively de-scribed the history of American education re-form since the publication of the “A Nation atRisk” report as a game of “whack a mole.” Moe andChubb’s analogy has been quite apt: The teachers’unions rank among the nation’s most powerfulspecial interest groups, if they do not in fact rep-resent the most powerful special interest group.The budgets of the two large teacher unionsrange into the hundreds of millions of millionsof dollars. The unions spend vast amounts onpolitics, both directly and indirectly. Organizedin every state legislative district in the country,they put both paid and volunteer “boots on theground” during election season. The unions hirelegions of lobbyists around the nation, enlist ac-ademics to defend their positions, and have veryclear goals.For decades, it has not proven overly difficultfor the education unions to defeat those with differ-ent policy preferences. Education reformers comefrom a variety of groups with varying interestsand differing theories of how to improve schools.Coalitions of such groups have been sporadicand have always been completely financially out-gunned by the unions, even under the best of cir-cumstances. The teacher unions’ hammer wielderhasn’t whacked every mole every time, but they didwhack most of the moles most of the time.2In 2011, however, for the first time, the unionssuffered major policy defeats in a large number ofstates across a wide array of policy issues.The previous edition of the Report Card onAmerican Education carefully ranked states’ aca-demic performance on the National Assessmentof Educational Progress (NAEP) by comparing theacademic proficiency and gains for low-incomestudents in the general education program. InThe End of the Beginningin the Battle for K–12 Reform
  11. 11. www.alec.org 3The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformthat edition, we concluded Florida’s comprehen-sive approach to education reform over the pastdecade had achieved the elusive goal long soughtby reforms: results at scale. This large Southernstate with a majority-minority student popula-tion spends below the national average per stu-dent while leading the nation in academic gains.We concluded Florida’s then-Governor JebBush had pulled the hammer away from the teach-ers unions by enacting a suite of reforms whichthe unions aggressively opposed, and which end-ed their dominance over K–12 education policy.At the time of this writing, the smoke is onlystarting to clear from the legislative sessions of2011, but his much is clear: Reformers scoredunprecedented victories in the area of tenure re-form, merit pay, public school transparency, char-ter schools, and school vouchers.In 2011, at least one state in our estimationmay have exceeded the Florida legislative sessionof 1999 in terms of scope, and many others madevery bold reforms as well. Indiana, like Florida,wrested the hammer from the hands of the guard-ians of the K–12 status-quo. Reform leaders inseveral other states seem poised to pull the ham-mer away as well.In the following pages, we detail the remark-able progress of education reformers through anexamination of a few legislative sessions in detail,and then by policy area across the nation. Remem-ber, however, that the unprecedented victories of2010–2011 represent “the end of the beginning.”Far more remains to be done than has been done.As we discuss in Chapter 2, the nation con-tinues to do a terrible job in educating disadvan-taged students to grade-level proficiency. In fact,as you will see, many advantaged students failto achieve above proficiency, as well. In Chap-ter 3, we review the NAEP—the Nation’s ReportCard—for all 50 states and the District of Colum-bia to document academic gains or losses by juris-diction. The bad news: Most states have achievedonly miniscule academic progress in recent years.Chapter 4 presents a state-by-state report card,and the book concludes in Chapter 5 with a dis-cussion on the vast potential of online and blend-ed learning models to update our still largely 19thCentury factory model of schooling.In a record number of states around the na-tion, K–12 reform bills became laws. Reformsadvanced both in red and blue states and some-times on a bipartisan basis. In many states, thedebate has shifted from whether education re-form was necessary to deciding just how far andhow fast reforms should proceed. While somestates engaged in reform at a breakneck pace, oth-er states shocked education observers by enactingreforms at all.Many battles and setbacks lie ahead. The op-ponents of reform have lost their supposed mor-al high ground and aura of invincibility, but noneof their raw political power, which remains enor-mous. Nevertheless, we believe future chroniclesof K–12 reform will identify 2011 as a turningpoint: the period when the reform-minded Da-vids began to defeat the status-quo Goliaths.Race to the Top: A Sign of the TimesWe could write at some length on whether theObama administration’s signature education ini-tiative, the “Race to the Top” grant competition forstates, represented good or bad policy. Some ques-tioned the scoring of state grant applications (nocontinental state west of the Mississippi receiveda grant, for instance). The scoring mechanism re-warding states additional points for heavy levelsof “buy in” from teachers’ unions received a greatdeal of scorn, as well. Many criticized the fact thatthe federal government leveraged the competitionto get states to agree to adopt the “Common Core”academic standards. Others noted that the ad-ministration passed a one hundred billion dollareducation bailout in the 2009 stimulus package,only four billion dollars of which went to promotereal reform.3The rest of the money bought noth-ing in the way of reform, and in fact likely pro-longed some states’ resistance to needed changes.We leave all of that to others, and we sympa-thize with most of it. But all of this misses whatwe regard as the truly historic character of theRace to the Top competition: the Obama admin-istration’s embrace of charter schools and teach-er evaluations, including the use of student test-score gains, marked a sweeping, symbolic victoryfor reforms across the country. Specifically, Raceto the Top created an incentive for states to elim-inate caps on the number of charter schools; tobuild data systems that measure student growth;and to develop strategies to recruit, develop, re-ward, and retain effective teachers and principals.
  12. 12. 4 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEIn essence, the most liberal administrationsince Woodrow Wilson explicitly endorsed great-er parental choice in education and merit pay forteachers and principals. The Obama administra-tion’s endorsement of charter schools and meritpay provided political and intellectual protectionfor reformers of both parties for years to come.Some of the reforms that followed came asa direct result of states seeking Race to the Topfunding. The competition served as a clear sig-nal of the emerging reform consensus, revealingthe extent of intellectual isolation of the guard-ians of the status quo. Race to the Top provedto be a driver of the teacher-tenure reforms inmany states.Indiana Seizes the Hammer,Enacts Comprehensive ReformWith speculation concerning a possible run forthe presidency swirling, Indiana Gov. Mitch Dan-iels gave a speech at the American Enterprise In-stitute on May 4, 2011. Daniels, having just com-pleted a hard-fought legislative session in Indiana,went to Washington to discuss something dearerto him than personal ambition; a few weeks later,Gov. Daniels announced that he would not seekthe presidency. However, on that day at AEI, withthe eyes of the political world focused on him,Gov. Daniels chose as his topic education reformin general, and the truly historic changes in Indi-ana K–12 policy in particular.In many states, the dam holding back funda-mental changes to education policy sprung leaksin 2011, as we will discuss below. Indiana’s dambroke in a flood of reform. Gov. Daniels, IndianaSuperintendent of Public Instruction Tony Ben-nett, and a group of reform minded Indiana legis-lators had been active in the years prior to 2011.Together, they passed legislation to radically im-prove school transparency by grading schools Athrough F based upon student test scores andgains. Indiana had also taken action to requirestudents to earn their advancement by demon-strating basic literacy skills. Daniels, Bennett, andthe state legislators took the first steps towards in-creasing parental choice with the creation of thestate’s first private-school tax credit.All of this served as a prelude to the 2011session.Gov. Daniels detailed the reforms to the Amer-ican Enterprise Institute audience, describinghow Indiana lawmakers limited collective bar-gaining to wages and benefits. Indiana law endedthe illogical practice of LIFO (Last In, First Out)in layoffs, mandating a determination of merit—based in part on student test-score gains—rath-er than simply seniority be used as the basis formaking layoffs. Indiana’s reformers establishedan early graduation scholarship program, allow-ing students who have sufficient credits to gradu-ate early and to carry over a portion of their K–12funding to help pay higher education expenses.Indiana law now allows the Indiana Depart-ment of Education to consider hiring private com-panies for schools with a five-year or longer re-cord of academic failure. Indiana legislators vastlyimproved the state’s charter-school law to in-clude private nonprofit universities as authorizersand created a “parent trigger” for parents to con-vert poorly performing district schools into char-ter schools. In addition, Indiana will soon havea commission to hold charter-school authorizersaccountable. Lawmakers also created a process bywhich charter schools can purchase unused dis-trict school buildings for $1. Given that the tax-payers paid for these buildings, a process to re-turn them into public use is appropriate.Indiana’s reformers, recognizing digital learn-ing as a key element for the future of education(see Chapter 5), eliminated the cap on the numberof students who can attend virtual schools andincreased funding for virtual education. Indianalawmakers created a $1,000 tax deduction for pri-vate-school expenses, and expanded the schol-arship tax-credit program that provides scholar-ships to low-income students.Indiana’s reformers also created the nation’smost expansive school-voucher program. Knownas the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, thisprogram will allow public school students whosefamily income falls at or below 150 percent ofthe level making a student eligible for a free orreduced-price lunch eligible to receive a vouch-er worth up to $4,500. The Indiana Choice Schol-arship Program includes a first year cap of 7,500students and a second year cap of 15,000 stu-dents, but starting in the third year of the pro-gram, there will be no limit to total student
  13. 13. www.alec.org 5The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformparticipation starting—meaning that Indiana’svoucher program will be the largest in the nation.Indiana’s school districts will also feel thepressure of competition much more quicklythan before. Previous statute had compensateddistricts with declining enrollments by funding“ghost students” for up to three years after theyhad transferred out of that district. Going for-ward, the state will fund schools based upon thecurrent student count.Additional reforms are causing districts tochange the way they do business as well. Onesuch example is the state accountability testingprocess. Previously, testing took place in the fall,but as Gov. Daniels noted, testing children in thefall—after the summer break and before theircurrent teacher has had a chance to make an im-pact—seemed quite baffling. That is, of course,unless the objective was to avoid ever reward-ing teachers or holding them accountable for stu-dent learning or the lack thereof—in which caseit makes perfect sense. Thanks to state legisla-tors, Indiana students will now take their state ac-countability exams in the spring instead.From a political stand-point, one of Indian’smost interesting education reforms was to moveschool district elections to the fall. Gov. Danielsexplained they took this action to increase voterturnout. In Indiana, spring elections are typical-ly primaries, making voter turnout low and allowschool-board elections to be easily dominated byspecial-interest groups. Voter turnout is typicallybetter in the fall for general elections.4In his speech at AEI, Gov. Daniels divided In-diana’s reforms into three silos: teacher quality,administrative freedom, and parental choice. Ad-dressing any one of those silos would have con-stituted radical reform, but the Indiana lawmak-ers addressed all three simultaneously in 2011.Gov. Daniels also noted the great importance ofproviding Indiana schools the flexibility to com-pete by eliminating collective bargaining outsideof wage and benefits:I’ve got several pages of examples of things—real world provisions—that are in Indianacontracts. They range from things as triv-ial as: what the humidity in the school shallbe or what color the teachers’ lounge shall bepainted—I am not making this up—to moretroublesome things like the principal can onlyhold staff meetings once a month or can onlyhold them on Mondays, to still more trouble-some things like no teacher will be required tospend more than X hours with students, on toperhaps the most, I think, concerning of all tothe bottom of this slide: In many of our schools,no teacher can be observed in the classroomby the principal without a pre-conference andtwo days’, three days’, five days’ notice. That’sall over.5Indiana’s reformers modernized the teach-ing profession, fixed the testing system, expand-ed parental choice greatly, attempted to increasedemocratic participation, embraced technolo-gy-based learning, and provided school districtswith the flexibility to compete through collec-tive-bargaining reform. Indiana reformers re-moved counterproductive quirks, such as fund-ing “ghost students” and testing students in thefall. In the previous legislative session, Indi-ana lawmakers embraced transparency by grad-ing schools A through F and took action to cur-tail social promotion—the process of advancingkids to higher grades based solely on age. Mostencouraging of all, Gov. Daniels described eachof these reforms potentially contributing to thesuccess of the other reforms in a symphonicfashion, saying, “So this package of four bills, webelieve, we see as a mutually reinforcing whole.If one or more had failed we’d have obviouslybeen happy about the ones that made it, but wethink it was extremely important that each ele-ment of this pass.”6As an example of this mutual reinforcement,Gov. Daniels noted that the collective-bargain-ing reform legislation protects the teacher-quali-ty provisions from attacks through a district con-tract. The collective-bargaining reform also freespublic school administrators and staff to better re-spond to competition likely to emerge as a resultof expanded charter options and school vouchers.Gov. Daniels’ description of the reforms as“mutually reinforcing” reveals a deep understand-ing of the reform process. If robust, transparencycombined with parental choice can create a sys-tem of accountability whereby parents can votewith their feet. Fuzzy labels describing schoolperformance leave parents without a sense of
  14. 14. 6 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEscale, but everyone instantly understands A, B, C,D, and F grades.Schools described as “meets expectations” or“performing” can and will more accurately be de-scribed as “D” and “F” schools under the school-grading system pioneered in Florida and adoptedin Indiana. The system carefully balances overallachievement with student-learning gains, makingit entirely possible to move up grades. The sys-tem weights the learning gains of the bottom-per-forming students from the previous year especial-ly heavily.Now add to this transparency Indiana’s robustparental choice policies: charter schools, schoolvouchers, and tuition tax credits. With A–F schoolgrading, the state will be providing truth in ad-vertising to parents. Simultaneously, the state willbe expanding school options. These policies willexpand slowly but steadily. The voucher program,for instance, contains a statewide cap of 7,500 stu-dents in the first year, 15,000 in the second year,and then will be driven only by parental demand.Indiana’s liberalized charter school laws willnot lead to a new school popping up on everycorner overnight, either. It takes time for quali-ty charter-school teams to organize, find facilityspace, and comply with state oversight require-ments. These things take time, but every schooldistrict administrator in Indiana knows that theyare on the way. The unmistakable message re-sounds: Shape up as quickly as possible; competi-tion is on the way.Gov. Daniels took pains to note that underthe private-choice plans, the school districts stillget the first shot at students. Only students trans-ferring from an Indiana public school can applyfor a school voucher. Unlike some of the claimsof reform opponents, the clear aim of the Indi-ana strategy is to improve the performance of allschools, not to destroy them.In essence, the state has made it much moredifficult to “warehouse” children in Indiana. Cru-cially, legislators have enlisted the aid of parentsin creating a bottom-up system of accountability(to parents) to reinforce the top-down system ofaccountability (of school officials to state officials).Indiana’s academic achievement, as measureby the NAEP, has flat-lined for almost two de-cades, but Indiana reformers have yelled “Clear!”and administered shock treatment to the patient.Of course, passing laws is only the beginning—myriad difficult battles lie ahead of implement-ing these new laws. Indiana reformers must antic-ipate both active and passive resistance.Despite the inevitability of rear-guard resis-tance and difficulties, we predict the academ-ic achievement of Indiana’s students will steadilyimprove, with traditionally disadvantaged stu-dents realizing the largest gains.The strategy is going to take time, but we be-lieve it is going to work. ALEC recently adopteda model omnibus bill based upon the Indiana re-forms in 2011. Reformers should study that mod-el bill carefully.The Roaring Comeback of Parental ChoiceWriting in the April 2008 edition of WashingtonMonthly, Greg Anrig, vice president of the liberalCentury Foundation, proclaimed the death of theschool-choice movement. Anrig strung togetherthe teachers’ unions’ reading of the research lit-erature on parental choice with quotes from frus-trated choice supporters and sunshine patriots todeclare school vouchers to be “an idea whose timehas gone.” Amidst his clever but overreaching at-tempt to nail shut the school-choice coffin, Anrigdid throw voucher supporters this compliment:The conservative infatuation with vouch-ers did contribute to one genuine accomplish-ment. The past thirty years have been a periodof enormous innovation in American educa-tion. In addition to charter schools, all kinds ofstrategies have taken root: public school choice,new approaches to standards and accountabil-ity, magnet schools, and open enrollment plansthat allow low-income city kids to attend sub-urban public schools and participate in vari-ous curriculum-based experiments. To the ex-tent that the threat of vouchers represented a“nuclear option” that educators would do any-thing to avoid, the voucher movement helpedto prompt broader but less drastic reforms thatoffer parents and students greater educationalchoices.7This paragraph shows one of the few parts ofthe article Anrig got right, as events mere weeks
  15. 15. www.alec.org 7The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformafter the publication would begin to prove. Short-ly after the publication of Anrig’s article, the Flor-ida legislature passed a far-reaching expansion ofthe Step Up for Students tax credit with large bi-partisan support, Georgia lawmakers created anew scholarship tax credit, and Louisiana law-makers created a new voucher program.In 2009 and 2010, new parental-choice pro-grams for special-needs children passed in Okla-homa and Louisiana. Further tax-credit expan-sions passed with bipartisan support in Florida,Iowa, and Pennsylvania.And then came 2011.Not only did Indiana enact what will likelybecome the largest private choice program, butmany other states also advanced parental choice.Parental-choice advocates achieved enormousvictories during the 2011 legislative season. Wecan write with complete confidence that 2011stands as the most successful year in the histo-ry of the parental choice movement, and whatev-er year would rank second ranks a distant second.In 2009, school-choice opponents in Congressseized the opportunity afforded to them by thehuge Democratic majority to eliminate the D.C.Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP).Rather than an outright repeal, Congressionaland administration opponents settled upon astrategy whereby they would continue the pro-gram, but only for currently participating stu-dents. This quieted the complaints of parentshad the program been completely killed outright,while accomplishing their goal of eliminating theprogram. Opponents took this action despite anU.S. Department of Education evaluation of theprogram that showed significant academic bene-fits to program participants.Dr. Patrick Wolf, the principal investigatorwho helped conduct the rigorous studies, testifiedto the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Secu-rity and Governmental Operations, which has ju-risdiction over the DCOSP.In my opinion, by demonstrating statisticallysignificant experimental impacts on boostinghigh school graduation rates and generatingFIGURE 1 | STATES EXPANDING OR CREATING NEW PRIVATE CHOICE PROGRAMS, 2011(BLUE = NEW STATES WITH PRIVATE CHOICE PROGRAMS)WAORCAIDNVAZUTWYCOWIMOARGAKSOKMNINOHPASCFLAKMT NDSDNENMTX LAIAILMINYKYTNMS ALVANCMEHIWVVTNHMARICTNJDEMDDC
  16. 16. 8 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEa wealth of evidence suggesting that studentsalso benefited in reading achievement, the DCOSP has accomplished what few educationalinterventions can claim: It markedly improvedimportant education outcomes for low-incomeinner-city students.8Newspapers including the Washington Post, theChicago Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal de-nounced the attempt to deprive low-income Dis-trict children the opportunity to attend a schoolof their choosing. In 2011, due to the leadershipof Speaker of the House John Boehner and the aidof several Democratic Senators, Congress and theAdministration reauthorized and expanded theD.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.9The Midwest led the way on parental choicein 2011, with major legislative victories in Indi-ana, Ohio, and Wisconsin and smaller victoriesin Iowa and Pennsylvania. Ohio lawmakers cre-ated a fourth school voucher program—this onefor children with special needs—to accompanythree pre-existing programs for children in Cleve-land, children in low ranking public schools state-wide, and children with autism.10Ohio lawmakersnamed the new special-needs program for formerstate Representative (and ALEC member) Jon Pe-terson, creating the Jon Peterson Special NeedsScholarship Program for children with an Individ-ualized Education Program (IEP). In addition tocreating this new program, Ohio lawmakers qua-drupled the number of Educational Choice Schol-arships available to children in poorly performingpublic schools. Ohio lawmakers also made sub-stantial improvements to the Cleveland Scholar-ship and Tutoring Program by increasing the max-imum voucher amount and including high schoolstudents in the program for the first time.Not to be outdone, Wisconsin lawmakers alsomade substantial changes to the Milwaukee Pa-rental Choice Program (MPCP) and created a newparental choice program for students in Racine,Wisconsin.11Improvements to the MPCP include:• Expansion of student eligibility by fam-ily income. Previously, only children fromfamilies qualifying for the federal free andreduced-price lunch program could partic-ipate in the MPCP. Now, children from allfamilies earning up to 300 percent of thefederal poverty guidelines, or $67,000 for afamily of four, will qualify to receive a pri-vate-school voucher.• Elimination of Participation Cap. Previouslaw included a hard limit capping the num-ber of MPCP vouchers to 22,500. The 2011expansion eliminates the cap entirely.• Creation of once in, always in. Previous-ly, a student who received a voucher couldlose eligibility for the program because hisor her parents happened to increase their in-come in a given year. Students whose par-ents received a raise or whose single parentsmarried could find themselves ineligible tocontinue in the program. The new law pro-vides participating children with continuingeligibility.• Increased private-school options. Previ-ously, children receiving a voucher could at-tend private schools only in the city of Mil-waukee. Now, they will be able to attendany participating private school in the state,making a number of suburban Milwaukeeprivate schools eligible to participate in theprogram.Wisconsin also created a choice program forstudents in the Racine Unified School District.This program will operate in a fashion similarto the MPCP after a cap on participation expiresafter the first two years. Iowa and Pennsylvaniaboth had incremental increases in their tax-cred-it programs.12Several other states also made improvementsto preexisting programs. Florida lawmakers ex-panded eligibility for the McKay Scholarship pro-grams to make more children with disabilitieseligible to participate in the program.13Utah leg-islators appropriated more money in order to low-er the waiting list for the Carson Smith programfor children with disabilities.14Oklahoma legisla-tors transferred the administration of their spe-cial-needs scholarship to the state after a smallnumber of school districts unlawfully refused toadminister the program.15
  17. 17. www.alec.org 9The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 ReformOklahoma lawmakers also created a newchoice program—the Education Scholarship Ed-ucation Act—causing the state to join the grow-ing number of states with scholarship tax-creditprograms.16Also in 2011, North Carolina, with aRepublican majority legislature and a Democrat-ic governor, created a new special needs program.North Carolina’s Tax Credits for Children withDisabilities program blazed a new trail in creatinga personal use tax credit for special needs familiesto defray private school costs.New Approaches: Education Savings Accountsand District-Led VouchersTwo Western states—Arizona and Colorado—also broke new ground in the battle for parentalchoice. Years ago, the Colorado Supreme Courtstruck down a voucher program based upon aprovision in the Colorado Constitution calling forthe local control of schools.17In 2011, the Doug-las County school board enacted a new voucherprogram on their own motion.18Under the pro-gram, students will be eligible to receive a vouch-er worth up to $4,575. The district will keepabout 25 percent of state aid to pay for the ad-ministration of the program and to cover fixedcosts. By expanding parental options while keep-ing money for students they no longer need to ed-ucate, Douglas County may prove to have enact-ed a financial and academic win-win for studentsand the district.Arizona lawmakers also rose to the challengeof a state Supreme Court setback when SenatorRick Murphy and Representative Debbie Leskosponsored a new type of parental choice programto enactment: public contributions to EducationSavings Accounts (ESAs).19Shortly after the en-actment of this program, ALEC adopted mod-el legislation on this new type of parental choiceprogram. ALEC’s Education Savings Account Act al-lows a portion of state funds to be deposited intoan ESA if a student withdraws from his or her as-signed school.In 2006, Arizona’s then-Governor Janet Na-politano became the first Democratic governor tosign a new private choice program into existence.A coalition of groups opposed to private schoolchoice, however, filed suit against the program.The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately ruled thata Blaine Amendment in the Arizona Constitutionprecluded the operation of a school voucher pro-gram (see text box). The ESA approach aims to al-low parents to customize the education of theirchildren, embracing customization over standard-ization while overcoming Blaine Amendments.State-funded ESA contributions represent asubstantial improvement over school vouchers asa parental choice mechanism. Rather than simplychoosing among schools, parents should be freeto choose from a growing array of education ser-vices from a variety of providers. Today, studentscan take classes online, seek private tutoring, orenroll in community colleges or universities forcoursework.Accounts for education and health care serveas important precedents upon which to build.Lawmakers must ensure strong systems of statefinancial oversight are in place and provide forthe auditing of accounts. Near bankrupt statescan save money by fashioning contractual agree-ments with parents to provide greater flexibilityin return for smaller overall per-student subsidies.With control over funding, parents could pur-chase full enrollment at public or private schools.Alternatively, parents might choose to have theirchildren attend classes at a variety of providers:public, private, and virtual. Allowing parents tosave funds for future college and university ex-penses provides a powerful incentive to consid-er cost-effectiveness from all types of providers,whether public or private.Opponents of parental choice will likely chal-lenge both of these programs in court. Neverthe-less, they have innovatively addressed long-stand-ing problems and represent new weapons in thebattle for parental options. ALEC adopted a mod-el ESA proposal in 2011; reformers should studythe proposal carefully.Sea Change in Teacher Tenure andCollective BargainingThe Denver-based nonprofit, nonpartisan Edu-cation Commission of the States has been close-ly tracking tenure and collective bargaining leg-islation.21Jennifer Dounay Zinth, a senior policyanalyst at the organization, told Education Weekthe 2011 legislative session changes amounted toa “sea change,” saying, “It’s hard to get your armsaround—not just the number of bills being en-acted but the breadth and depth of changes being
  18. 18. 10 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEmade.”22While so-called red states are in the lead,even deep blue states like Illinois have imple-mented teacher reform policies.Randi Weingarten, president of the AmericanFederation of Teachers, seems to have noticed, asthe New York Times reported in July that:Ms. Weingarten, who has long opposed thecuts—both budgetary and rhetorical—madeto teachers, told her audience that the cur-rent debate on education “has been hijackedby a group of self-styled reformers” from “onhigh” who want to blame educators’ benefitsand job security for states’ notorious budgetproblems.23Every person reading this book had a teacherwho did a fantastic job in sparking their interestin learning and made a difference in their life. Youcan picture that teacher in your head now. Everyperson reading this book has almost certainlyencountered teachers who fell far below this stan-dard. Now think of this person as well.As a nation, we have embraced a system forteachers of recognition and reward that treatsthese two drastically different types of educatorsexactly the same, regardless of their effectiveness.In 2011, many state lawmakers began the processof moving away from lockstep salary schedules,and toward treating teachers as professionals—for example, by requiring teachers earn tenurerather than giving it to everyone automatically.Ms. Weingarten may be comfortable withtreating teachers as interchangeable widgets, butin so doing, she finds herself increasingly isolated.Colorado lawmakers used the 2010 session topass far-reaching teacher-effectiveness legislationon a bipartisan basis. Democrat Mike Johnston,a former teacher and first-year state senator, suc-cessfully guided the legislation through the pro-cess. Colorado Senate Bill 191 provides for annualteacher evaluations, with at least 50 percent basedBlaine AmendmentsBlaine Amendments such as Arizona’s have an ugly history rooted in bigotry. The United States began asan experiment in freedom, but has at times struggled with intolerance. America’s culture wars surroundingthe assimilation of Catholic immigrants represented just such a struggle in the 19th and early 20th century.In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan successfully abolished private schools in Oregon. The KKK, you see, wantedto standardize Oregon Catholics into “real Americans.” If that thought frightens you, and it should, read on.The ESA approach aims to allow parents to customize the education of their children, embracing custom-ization over standardization.The KKK aimed to standardize Oregon Catholics through a public-school curriculum they approved and bybanning private school attendance entirely. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this measure in 1925, con-firming a right for parents to choose private schools. By that time, however, these misguided Blaine Amend-ments had already been incorporated in a number of state constitutions, thereby banning aid to privateschools.In addition to the ugly religious discriminatory intent of the attempt to effectively ban private schools, thiseffort reflected a broader problem: It demonstrated a belief in “one true way” to educate children. Unfortu-nately, the KKK is not the only organization that has sought to control schools for its own purposes.Milton Friedman proposed a solution to these problems in the 1950s: separating the school finance fromthe operation of schools. This would allow parents far greater freedom to choose the sort of education theywant, and reflects a liberal “to each his own” system.Over the years, advocates of greater parental choice have carried Friedman’s concept forward in the form ofschool vouchers and tuition tax credits. Vouchers are state-funded coupons parents can redeem at publicor private schools. Tax credits provide indirect aid for parents bearing the expense of a private education inaddition to paying public school taxes. The first modern voucher program began in Milwaukee in 1990, andtoday, at least 26 voucher and tax-credit programs exist.20
  19. 19. www.alec.org 11The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reformon student learning gains.24The bill conditionstenure on effectiveness and allows for the dis-missal of ineffective teachers. SB 191 is particular-ly strong on issues related to teacher placements,excessing teachers, and workforce reductions. Itprohibits districts from assigning a teacher to anew position without the consent of the principaland two teachers in the receiving school.The law requires districts to make workforcereductions based on effectiveness, rather than se-niority. While most similar state laws apply onlyto district-wide layoffs or workforce reductions,SB 191 applies this standard at the building lev-el, where most workforce reductions take place.Excessed teachers will no longer have the right to“bump” newer teachers at other schools. Instead,they are required to secure positions through mu-tual consent hiring as described above. Finally,SB 191 creates a process by which districts can re-move from the payroll excessed teachers who failto obtain new positions.25Florida legislators also led a charge on tenure re-form. In 2010, they passed Senate Bill 6, a far-reach-ing measure to reform tenure and to institute a sys-tem of merit pay. However, Florida’s then-GovernorCharlie Crist, who had publicly endorsed the mea-sure several times, consequently vetoed the mea-sure before leaving the Republican Party to pur-sue an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010.Florida lawmakers reworked the measure, but thechanges made proved nothing less than profound.The 2011 measure ties teachers’ pay raises to studentperformance and eliminates tenure protection fornew teachers. The law also empowers Florida dis-tricts to create higher salaries for teachers who relin-quish traditional tenure for a merit pay system. Thelaw also weakens the role of seniority in determin-ing layoffs, increasing the role student performanceplays in such decisions.26The rancor in Florida, however, pales in com-parison to Wisconsin’s bitter battle to curtail col-lective bargaining. The Wisconsin war over col-lective bargaining included Democratic legislatorsfleeing the state to break quorum, massive pro-tests at the state capitol, a contentious election forthe state Supreme Court, efforts to recall a slate ofRepublican and Democratic legislators, and, as ofwriting, an effort to recall Gov. Walker.In the end, Gov. Scott Walker’s curtailment ofcollective bargaining passed and the WisconsinSupreme Court upheld it. Although the measureaddressed a number of areas, including increasedpension contributions for public employees andother measures, limiting the scope of collectivebargaining stood at the core of the dispute.To explain to Americans the significance ofthe protests in Madison, the Washington Exam-iner provided a concrete example from the smallHartland-Lakeside district, about 30 miles out-side Milwaukee. Previously, the district’s collec-tive-bargaining agreement required the districtto purchase health insurance from a corporationcreated by the Wisconsin Education Association.Hartland-Lakeside Superintendent Glenn Schil-ling told the Examiner the new law enabled thedistrict to put the insurance contract out to bid:“It’s going to save us about $690,000 in 2011–2012,” says Schilling. Insurance costs that hadbeen about $2.5 million a year will now bearound $1.8 million. What union leaders saidwould be a catastrophe will in fact be a boon toteachers and students.27Creative savings like what was realized inHartland-Lakeside best reveals the benefits to re-form: Teachers and students both win.While the battle over collective bargainingreforms involved bitter partisanship in Wiscon-sin, Democrats in neighboring Illinois played akey role in reforming teachers’ working condi-tions in their state. Gov. Pat Quinn (D), signedSenate Bill 7 to make tenure contingent on stu-dent achievement and to make it harder for teach-ers to strike.28Chicago’s Public Schools, under thecontrol of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, gained the abil-ity to lengthen the city’s school day, which waspreviously prohibited by collective-bargainingagreements. The landmark bill makes it easier forschool administrators to dismiss teachers deemedineffective based on student achievement. The de-cision is now based more on student performancethan mere length of service.Illinois wasn’t the only deep blue Midwest-ern state to implement serious teacher qualityreforms. On July 19, 2011 Michigan Gov. RickSnyder signed a number of bills that also made far-reaching reforms to teacher tenure.29The Michi-gan reforms increased the default tenure qualifi-cation from four years to five years. Teachers who
  20. 20. 12 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEearn the rating of “highly effective” for three yearsin a row can now earn tenure early.Under the Michigan law, teachers must con-tinue to earn their tenured status; they must earnat least the rating of “effective” in order to keepit. The law also requires school districts to no-tify parents in writing if their child is taught bya teacher rated “ineffective.” The legislation re-moves layoffs and employee discipline from col-lective-bargaining agreements.Lawmakers in other states, including Indianaand Tennessee, enacted significant teacher quali-ty legislation in 2011 as well.Grading School Performance A–FFlorida pioneered the grading of school perfor-mance with A, B, C, D, and F labels in 1999. Care-fully balancing overall student proficiency withstudent learning gains, the A–F grading systemsubstantially improves public school transparen-cy while affording even the most miserably per-forming schools the opportunity to earn bettergrades by heavily weighting gains.Lawmakers around the country have takennotice of Florida’s substantial gains in academicachievement, and a growing number of states haveadopted the Florida system, as Figure 2 shows.The use of letter grades helps spur school im-provement for two broad reasons. First, manystates use fuzzy labels to describe school academ-ic performance. For instance, before Arizona law-makers adopted the A–F methodology, schools re-ceived labels like “Performing,” “Performing Plus,”and “Excelling” to describe academic achievementin schools. The National Assessment of Education-al Progress (NAEP) finds that 44 percent of Arizo-na 4th graders score “Below Basic” in reading, butfar fewer than 10 percent of schools get a ratingworse than “Performing,” which is the second-low-est label. Schools in Phoenix would proudly dis-play a banner announcing that they are a “Perform-ing” school when many schools with that ratingwould likely earn the far more accurate descrip-tion of “D” or “F” under the letter grading system.The second important aspect of the A–F sys-tem is that people instantly understand its scale.WAORCAIDNVAZUTWYCOWIMOARGAKSOKMNINOHPASCFLAKMT NDSDNENMTX LAIAILMINYKYTNMS ALVANCMEHIWVVTNHMARICTNJDEMDDCFIGURE 2 | STATES USING A–F LABELS TO GRADE SCHOOL PERFORMANCE, AUGUST 2011
  21. 21. www.alec.org 13The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 ReformIn Arizona, conversations over school qualitywould frequently generate questions about wheth-er it was better to be labeled “Performing Plus”or “Exceling.” Similarly, the Florida Departmentof Education graded schools 1–5 before adoptingletter grades, but confusion reigned over whichscore—a 1 or a 5—represented the highest rank.The ALEC Education Task Force adopted theomnibus A-Plus Literacy Act in 2010, which wasbased on the reforms in Florida. The act includesmodel language for grading schools A–F.Charter School Movement Maintains MomentumIn fall 2010, more than 5,400 charter schoolsaround the nation educated over 1.7 million chil-dren; 465 of these were new schools.30In 2011,a number of states, including Maine, whose law-makers passed charter legislation for the first time,passed important pieces of charter legislation.Florida lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1546,which created new charter-school authorizers andcreated a process for state recognition of high-per-forming charter schools and charter-school sys-tems.31Under the new law, universities will beable to create and operate their own K–12 char-ter schools, and charter schools that meet high ac-ademic and financial requirements can increaseenrollment, serve more grades, and qualify forextended contracting periods. Moreover, char-ter-management networks with sound financialpractices and high-performing schools are now em-powered to expand by opening new schools, un-less their district can prove they should be denied.Not to be outdone, Indiana’s reform-mindedlegislature created a new state commission to au-thorize charter schools and allowed private uni-versities to serve as authorizers as well. As men-tioned earlier, Indiana’s lawmakers now allowcharter schools to buy unused school buildingsfor $1. Finally, Indiana lawmakers created a “par-ent trigger” mechanism whereby parents couldconvert a district school into a charter school. In2010, ALEC adopted the Parent Trigger Act, whichallows a school to be converted after a majority ofparents sign a petition.Lawmakers lifted statewide caps on charterschools in several states, including Tennessee, NorthCarolina, and Oregon. However, simply lifting acap on the authorization of new charter schoolscan prove to be a hollow victory if a single centralchokepoint for authorization remains. Instead, law-makers should be sure to both lift caps and to pro-vide multiple authorizers. While significant legisla-tion passed in a number of states, the most recentranking of state charter-school laws by the Centerfor Education reform gave only 12 charter laws anA or B grade, with only the first three listed earningan A: Washington D.C., Minnesota, California, Ari-zona, Michigan, Colorado, New York, Indiana, Mis-souri, Florida, Utah, and Pennsylvania.32While exciting legislation passed in 2011,the most meaningful charter-school develop-ment may well prove to be the perfection of “hy-brid learning” school models mixing tradition-al classroom instruction with technology-basedlearning. We address this exciting developmentin Chapter 5; for now, we simply note that charterschools are leading the way in developing thesenew learning models.The Way of the Future: Digital LearningIn December 2010, the bipartisan team of formergovernors Jeb Bush of Florida (R) and Bob Wiseof West Virginia (D) announced the publicationof the Digital Learning Now report. The report rep-resents the culmination of the Digital LearningCouncil, and outlines 10 elements of high-quali-ty digital learning. The Digital Learning Council,on which ALEC staff was represented, consistedof stakeholders across the education industry, in-cluding legislators, online providers, technologycompanies, and content providers.Florida, already the nation’s leader in digitallearning, expanded its lead in 2011 with the pas-sage of House Bill 7197, the Digital Learning NowAct. Beginning with ninth grade students enter-ing in fall 2011, all Florida students will be re-quired to take an online course to graduate fromhigh school. The Digital Learning Now Act re-moved restrictions on the full-time participationof elementary students in online learning. In ad-dition, the law allows students to cross districtlines to take virtual courses for courses otherwiseunavailable and clears the way for blended learn-ing models. The law also created a pathway fordistricts to certify qualified online teachers, andrequires state accountability testing to occur en-tirely online by the 2014–15 school year.33Utah lawmakers also passed a major piece ofdigital-learning legislation in 2011 with Senate
  22. 22. 14 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONEBill 65—the Statewide Online Education Pro-gram. The authors of this law drew upon the Dig-ital Learning Now’s 10 Elements of High-QualityDigital Learning to develop a very broad online-learning policy. The law funds academic successrather than just seat time, has no participationcaps, and allows multiple public and private pro-viders. The program starts for public high schoolstudents in grades 9–12, then phases in home-school and private school students.34Policymakers in other states are actively dis-cussing broad digital-learning bills. Chapter 5 ad-dresses digital learning’s potential to transformeducation in depth.The Next StepsThe past two years however have been crucial,however, in demonstrating that reform is not onlynecessary but in fact achievable. In the past, gov-ernors gave lip service to education reform buttended to simply increase spending and kick thecan down the road. The 2010–2011 period wit-nessed something entirely different: lawmakerstaking on the reactionary education establish-ment directly, and defeating them repeatedly.States having passed reforms must move vig-orously to implementation, given the huge differ-ence between changing law and changing poli-cy and opportunities for subversion. Reformersin other states should carefully study the com-prehensive approaches of Florida and Indianalawmakers. Dramatic improvement results frombroad, rather than incremental, reform.Lawmakers should heed Gov. Daniels’ pointabout mutual reinforcement: the goal should be tostart a virtuous cycle where transparency, choiceand flexibility create sustained improvement.Florida has done it, Indiana has enacted the nec-essary legislation, several other states have enact-ed some but not all of the necessary tools. Stillother states continue to wallow in stagnation,trapped in the tyranny of the failed status-quo.ENDNOTES1. See The Churchill Society, “The End of the Beginning,” (speech, the Lord Mayor’s Luncheon, Mansion House, November10, 1942), available at http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/EndoBegn.html2. Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb. 2009. Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education(San Francisco: Jossey Bass), pages 29-56.3. Lindsey Burke, “Creating a Crisis: The Squandered $100 Billion Education Stimulus,” Heritage Foundation, June 15, 2010.4. Mitch Daniels, 2011. Creating First-Rate Education in Indiana. An Address by Governor Mitch Daniels to the Ameri-can Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. The video of the speech can be found at http://www.aei.org/video/101438.5. Ibid.6. Ibid.7. Greg Anrig, “An Idea Whose Time Has Gone,” Washington Monthly, April 2008, available at http://www.washington-monthly.com/features/2008/0804.anrig.html.8. Washington Post, “White House Ignores Evidence of How D.C. School Vouchers Work,” March 29, 2011, avail-able at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/white-house-ignores-evidence-of-how-dc-school-vouchers-work/2011/03/29/AFFsnHyB_story.html.9. Kerry Picket, “School Choice Returns to DC,” Washington Times, April 11, 2011.10. For more information, see the School Choice Ohio website, available at http://www.scohio.org.11. For more information, see: the School Choice Wisconsin website, available at http://www.schoolchoicewi.org.12. For more information, see: the Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education website, available at http://www.iowaadvo-cates.org; and the REACH Foundation website, available at http://www.paschoolchoice.org.13. Jaryn Emhof, “Florida Senate Passes Bill to Expand McKay Scholarships,” Foundation for Florida’s Future, May 2, 2011,available at http://www.foundationforfloridasfuture.org/PressReleases/2011/Florida_Senate_Passes_Bill_to_Expand_McKay_Scholarships_.aspx?page=Default.aspxpagenum=1year=2011.
  23. 23. www.alec.org 15The End of the Beginning in the Battle for K–12 Reform14. For more information, see: the Parents for Choice in Education website, available at www.choiceineducation.org.15. “From the Capitol: Governor Signs Special Needs Scholarship Legislation,” Broken Arrow Ledger, May 27, 2011,available at http://baledger.com/news/from-the-capitol-governor-signs-special-needs-scholarship-legislation/article_7ae0557a-8888-11e0-ae48-001cc4c002e0.html.16. Steve Olafson, “Oklahoma Passes Tax Credit for Private School Scholarships,” Reuters, April 26, 2011, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/27/us-oklahoma-private-schools-idUSTRE73Q03920110427.17. For more information on this case, see the Institute for Justice, “Colorado Congress of Parents, Teachers and Studentsv. Owens: Institute for Justice and Colorado Parents Defended School Choice in the Rocky Mountain State,” available athttp://www.ij.org/index.php?option=com_contenttask=viewid=1172Itemid=165.18. See The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program,” available at http://www.edchoice.org/School-Choice/Programs/Choice-Scholarship-Pilot-Program.aspx.19. “Arizona Adopts Education Savings Accounts to Aid Special Needs Students,” Goldwater Institute, April 12, 2011.20. For state-by-state details on programs, see The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, “School Choice Pro-grams,” available at http://www.edchoice.org/School-Choice/School-Choice-Programs.aspx.21. Education Commission of the States website, available at http://ecs.org/ecsmain.asp?page=/html/aboutECS/mission.asp (accessed August 20, 2011).22. Lisa Heitlin, “States Continue to Push to Toughen Teacher Policies,” Education Week, July 12, 2011.23. Alan Schwartz, “Union Chief Faults School Reform from ‘On High,’” New York Times, July 11, 2011.24. For more details about Colorado SB 191, see Bellwether Education Partners, Recent Teacher Effectiveness Legislation:How Do the States Stack Up?, August 2011, available at http://bellwethereducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/State-Teacher-Leg-Comparison.pdf.25. Ibid.26. For more information on Florida SB 736, see the Foundation for Florida’s Future, “Agenda 2011: Quality Teachers forAll Sunshine State Students,” available at http://www.foundationforfloridasfuture.org/Pages/Agenda_2011/Qual-ity_Teachers_for_All_Sunshine_State_Students.aspx.27. Byron York, “Wisconsin Schools Buck Union to Cut Health Costs,” Washington Examiner, July 7, 2011, available at http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/07/wisconsin-schools-buck-union-cut-health-costs#ixzz1TpHILmc2.28. For more information, see the Performance Counts website, available at http://www.performancecounts.org.29. Kyle Feldsher, “Gov. Rick Snyder Signs Major Changes to Teacher Tenure into Law,” AnnArbor.com, July 19, 2011, avail-able at http://www.annarbor.com/news/gov-rick-snyder-signs-major-changes-to-teacher-tenure-into-law.30. For a breakdown of charter schools by state, see Center for Education Reform, “National Charter School and EnrollmentStatistics 2010,” available at http://www.edreform.com/_upload/CER_charter_numbers.pdf.31. Rick Scott, “Governor Scott Signs Legislation to Strengthen, Expand Charter and Virtual Schools,” June 27, 2011.32. The Center for Education Reform, A Report to the Nation’s New Governors and State Lawmakers, 2011 Charter SchoolLaws Across the States: Ranking and Scorecard; A Blueprint to Make Schools Work Better for All Children, available athttp://www.edreform.com/_upload/ranking_chart.pdf.33. Florida HB 7197 is available in its entirety at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=46852.34. Utah SB 65 is available in its entirety at http://le.utah.gov/~2011/htmdoc/sbillhtm/SB0065S01.htm.
  24. 24. 16 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER ONE
  25. 25. A Thought Experiment onState Academic AchievementCHAPTER2
  26. 26. 18 Report Card on American EducationImagine a scenario in which you learn thatupon your death, you will be reincarnatedas a young American. In this thought ex-periment, the “Powers that Be” tell you that thetype of student you come back as will be entire-ly random, but they will allow you to choose theAmerican state in which you will grow up. Youinstantly grasp that the quality of elementary andsecondary education will prove crucial to youchances of success, and request time to researchstate-level academic results. The Powers gener-ously grant you a week to research the question.You quickly size up the profound differencesin the life outcomes between students who grad-uate and those who drop out of school. Look-ing deeper, you find a study by the Annie E.Casey Foundation that finds that literacy in thirdgrade—yes, third grade—strongly impacts thechances that a student will graduate from highschool. Based on a longitudinal analysis of read-ing scores and graduation rates of 3,975 studentsover ten years, students who could not read by theend of the third grade were four times more likelyto drop out of high school. In fact, 88 percent ofstudents who failed to earn a high school diplomawere struggling readers in third grade.1The Annie E. Casey analysis also found thatdifferences in reading achievement explain differ-ences in graduation rates between students of dif-ferent races and ethnicities. Proficient third gradereaders of all races—white, black, and Hispanic—graduate at similar rates. Eighty-nine percent of ec-onomically disadvantaged students in the study,who achieved proficient reading skills by the thirdgrade, graduated. Furthermore, your research in-forms you that 90 percent of welfare recipients arehigh school dropouts, 85 percent of kids in the ju-venile justice system are functionally illiterate, 75percent of food stamp recipients did not graduatefrom high school and 70 percent of prison inmatescannot read above a fourth-grade level.You decide, quite sensibly, that you would pre-fer to avoid all of that in the next life. Your fran-tic searches across the internet for a comparableset of third grade reading achievement data com-paring states results in nothing. You do, however,discover the National Assessment of EducationalProgress (NAEP) has a great deal of informationon fourth-grade reading going back a number ofyears. You decide that this will be as close as youare going to get to the data you want, and begina frantic analysis of NAEP fourth-grade readingdata, searching for the best states to educate youto a proficient level of reading.A Thought Experiment onState Academic AchievementFigure 3 | 19-Year-Old Dropouts by3rd-Grade Reading Scores(Source: Casey foundation Longitudinal Study)020406080100%88%11%Non-ProficientReaders in ThirdGradeProficientReaders in ThirdGrade
  27. 27. www.alec.org 19A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTYou download a copy of the most recentlyavailable NAEP reading results (2011) and readthe document from cover to cover. You notice thatthe NAEP included new inclusion standards forspecial education and English Language Learnerstudents, and that Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky,Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee,and Texas violated those standards for the 2011NAEP reading exam. Non-compliance with thesestandards creates doubt as to whether the resultsin those states are truly comparable to those inthe other states, so you decide to eliminate themfrom consideration. You do not want to get some-thing as important as your next life wrong basedon testing imperfections!2Later, however, youdiscover a method for comparing all 50 states andthe District of Columbia which avoids these prob-lems entirely.State Proficiency AchievementBased on IncomeYou begin your investigation by reasoning thatyou will either grow up in a low-income familyor not. The most recent Digest of Education Sta-tistics reveals that 44.6 percent of American stu-dents qualified for a free or reduced-priced lunchunder the federal nutrition program for low-in-come students. Your investigation in K–12 poli-cy informs you that wide variations in academ-ic outcomes exist between high and low incomestudents, and 44.6 percent sounds disturbinglyclose to a coin flip. Because you are slightly morelikely to grow up in a family that earns too muchto qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch thanthe other way around, you start your investigationlooking for states that do a good job in educat-ing middle- and high-income students (not eligi-ble for a free or reduced-price lunch) to a profi-cient level of reading.Your first run of the data fills you with unease:Growing up in a middle- to high-income familyfails to come close to guaranteeing that you willlearn to read in the early grades. Your squintingeyes refuse to tell you anything other than moststates rate around a coin flip regarding wheth-er their economically advantaged students learnto read at a proficient level. Many states rate sig-nificantly worse than a coin flip. Alaska, Arizo-na, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, NewFigure 4 | Middle- and High-Income StudentsScoring “Proficient or Better” on the 2011NAEP 4th-Grade Reading ExamNote: Not all states are represented due to failure to meet the95% inclusion rate0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80%New MexicoWest VirginiaAlaskaNevadaHawaiiOklahomaMississippiUtahSouth DakotaLouisianaArizonaWyomingMichiganMaineCaliforniaOregonIowaIdahoWisconsinSouth CarolinaMontanaDistrict of ColumbiaMinnesotaIndianaOhioRhode IslandNebraskaNational PublicArkansasWashingtonNew YorkMissouriIllinoisNorth CarolinaNew HampshireKansasAlabamaVirginiaVermontPennsylvaniaFloridaColoradoConnecticutMassachusetts 6357555353525150505050494949494848484847464645454545444444434343424141414140393838373737
  28. 28. 20 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOMexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, andWest Virginia make you feel very nervous indeedwith their Proficient percentages in the high 30sand low 40s.Even the states at the high end of the scale(Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts,Pennsylvania, and Vermont) leave much to be de-sired for those even slightly risk averse. Somehow,the fact that 43 percent of middle- to high-incomestudents in the very wealthy Connecticut failingto score at the Proficient level in reading seemsunsettling. What, you wonder to yourself, will thenumbers for low-income students look like? Afterall, it is almost as likely that you will be born asa child eligible for a free or reduced-price lunchas not.As you can see in Figure 5, your fears wereentirely justified. Even the best performing states(New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Flor-ida, and Pennsylvania) succeed in teaching abouta quarter of their free and reduced-price lunch-eligible students to become “Proficient or better”readers. A one-in-four chance of securing solidgrade-level reading achievement or better soundspretty awful, until you look at the bottom of thechart and see that your chances are only one in tenin our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia.Students with DisabilitiesYour research indicates that 13.2 percent of stu-dents grapple with one or more learning disabili-ties. These can be physical in nature (like blindness)or neurological. You decide to check the proficiencyprofiles of each state for children with disabilities.The results are frightening, to say the least.Massachusetts has 21 percent of their chil-dren with disabilities score proficient in reading.While very low, this rate is more than ten timesgreater than the lowest performer—the District ofColumbia, at a mere 2 percent. Your research in-formed you that while some children with disabil-ities suffer from profound disabilities that wouldeffectively prohibit learning to even a basic level,but that these cases make up only a small portionof the total student population with disabilities.Your research further indicates that we are stuckwith these results despite what many school districtofficials describe as a crushing level of spending perstudent with a disability. You read about a systemFigure 5 | Free and Reduced-Price Lunch-EligibleStudents Scoring “Proficient or Better” on the2011 NAEP 4th-Grade Reading ExamNote: Not all states are represented due to failure to meet the95% inclusion rate0 5 10 15 20 25%District of ColumbiaCaliforniaAlaskaNew MexicoLouisianaMississippiHawaiiArizonaSouth CarolinaNevadaIllinoisVirginiaMinnesotaMichiganIowaConnecticutWisconsinWest VirginiaWashingtonNational PublicAlabamaOklahomaSouth DakotaRhode IslandOregonOhioNorth CarolinaColoradoMissouriMaineIndianaArkansasUtahNebraskaIdahoWyomingNew YorkMontanaKansasPennsylvaniaFloridaMassachusettsVermontNew Hampshire 2525252424232323232121212020202019191919191919181818181817171717171616161515151414131210
  29. 29. www.alec.org 21A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTof education which leaves parents deeply dissatis-fied from a purposely designed adversarial systembetween districts and parents. You read about run-away costs and a system more focused on bureau-cratic outcomes than student achievement.3You shudder at the thought of coming back asa child with a disability. If you come back as alawmaker, you think to yourself, you would dosomething about this nightmare.Ranking States by the General-EducationLow-Income StudentAt this point, your research leads you to the16th edition of the American Legislative Ex-change Council’s Report Card on American Ed-ucation, where you note the effort to rank statesbased upon the performance of general educationstudents whose family incomes qualify them fora free or reduced-price lunch. The authors noteFigure 6 | Students with Disabilities Scoring“Proficient or Better” on the 2011 NAEP 4th-Grade Reading ExamNote: Not all states are represented due to failure to meet the95% inclusion rate0 5 10 15 20 25%HawaiiDistrict of ColumbiaRhode IslandMississippiArizonaAlaskaSouth CarolinaOklahomaNew MexicoLouisianaIowaIdahoWisconsinVermontOhioMaineArkansasAlabamaWyomingWashingtonOregonNorth CarolinaNew YorkNevadaMichiganUtahSouth DakotaNew HampshireNational PublicIndianaConnecticutColoradoCaliforniaMontanaKansasWest VirginiaNebraskaMissouriMinnesotaIllinoisPennsylvaniaVirginiaFloridaMassachusetts 2215151413131313131212111111111111111110101010101010988888777666555522Figure 7 | Free and Reduced-Price Lunch-EligibleGeneral Education Students Scoring “Proficient orBetter” on the 2011 NAEP 4th-Grade Reading ExamNote: Not all states are represented due to failure to meet the95% inclusion rate0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35%District of ColumbiaMississippiTennesseeSouth CarolinaNew MexicoLouisianaCaliforniaWest VirginiaMichiganIllinoisHawaiiArizonaAlaskaAlabamaTexasOhioConnecticutGeorgiaVirginiaOklahomaWisconsinSouth DakotaNevadaNational PublicMissouriIowaKentuckyNorth CarolinaArkansasDelawareWashingtonRhode IslandMinnesotaMaineIndianaIdahoNorth DakotaNew JerseyMarylandUtahOregonMontanaNebraskaWyomingPennsylvaniaKansasColoradoNew YorkFloridaVermontNew HampshireMassachusetts 32313130302828282827262626262626252525252525252424242323232323232222222121212020202020202019181818171612
  30. 30. 22 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOwhile this is not a perfect comparison betweenstates (nothing can be), this strategy maximizescomparability among states.You decide to emulate this strategy with re-gards to your early literacy strategy. Figure 7 pres-ents the percentage of general education (non-ELL and non-IEP) students scoring Proficient orbetter on the fourth-grade reading exam.None of these numbers strikes you as appeal-ing, with the best performing states delivering ap-proximately a 30 percent chance of making a low-income child “Proficient” in reading.Note the strong role that race and ethnicityplays in these rankings. Nine out of the top tenstates have majority white-student populations.Only Florida has a majority-minority studentpopulation. Seven of the bottom ten performingjurisdictions have majority-minority student pop-ulations, with only Tennessee, West Virginia, andMichigan serving as exceptions.From Thought Experiment to State PolicyWhat can policymakers draw from this thoughtexperiment?The two states consistently appearing in thetop 5 on these charts are Massachusetts and Flor-ida. Both states pursued reform strategies thatgenerated bitter opposition at the outset, but onesuspects that the experiences of both states con-tain lessons for reformers around the country, andindeed, even for each other.One sign of the success of Massachusetts is tocompare their results to their New England neigh-bors. Vermont and New Hampshire fare well in theabove comparisons, but they are extremely smallstates with overwhelmingly white (over 90 per-cent each) and middle- and high-income students.Both states have student populations smaller than anumber of single school districts around the nation,making it difficult to generalize from their experi-ence. We can, however, surmise that given the em-pirical evidence showing the existence of achieve-ment gaps on standardized tests across race andincome, being wealthy and overwhelmingly whiteand high-spending can come in handy in securing atop spot in comparisons such as these. Despite ourefforts here to examine student subgroups to max-imize comparability, it might be more applicable tocompare Vermont and Maine to the wealthy sub-urbs in other states than to other states as a whole.Notice, however, what happens to anotherhigh-spending New England state—Connecti-cut—when faced with the challenge of educatinga sizeable population of low-income black stu-dents. Unlike their New England brothers Ver-mont and New Hampshire, Connecticut has mi-nority population percentage that is larger thanthe low single digits—Hispanics make up almost18 percent of students, while blacks comprise al-most 14 percent of students in Connecticut. His-panic and black students score below the nation-al average when compared to their national peers,while white students in Connecticut score signifi-cantly higher than the national average. Connect-icut scores poorly on the comparison of low-in-come general education children presented aboveprecisely because it has thus far failed to meaning-fully address racial achievement gaps. If we put aHartford in Vermont or New Hampshire, then wewould have a real test of the education policies ofthese demographically advantaged states.Massachusetts, however, scores at the top ofour general education list despite student demo-graphic challenges almost identical to Connect-icut. The Massachusetts Education Reform Actof 1993 created a multifaceted education reformprogram emphasizing rigorous statewide stan-dards and a high-stakes test requirement for re-ceiving a diploma. Prior to 1993, Massachusettsonly required only history and physical educationinstruction, leaving the remainder to the discre-tion of districts. The Education Reform Act creat-ed statewide curriculum frameworks and learn-ing standards in core academic subjects. Nationalcomparisons of state standards have consistent-ly ranked the Massachusetts standards among thehighest in the nation, and the state accountabilityexam, as being close to NAEP in quality.The Education Reform Act of 1993 embraceda variety of reforms simultaneously—standards,high-stakes testing, charter schools, and in-creased spending. Policymakers in other statesmust sift through the evidence to discern whatmight apply to moving the academic needle intheir states.4As readers of the ALEC’s 2010 Report Card onAmerican Education know, Florida’s reform effortsalso featured standards and accountability butalso very broad parental choice efforts. Florida’sreform effort also created “accountability with
  31. 31. www.alec.org 23A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTteeth” by: grading schools A,B,C,D, or F based onstudent proficiency and learning gains; curtailingsocial promotion; and incentivizing student suc-cess. Florida has a strong charter school law, thenation’s largest scholarship tax-credit program(Step Up for Students), the nation’s largest schoolvoucher program (McKay Scholarships), and hasled the nation in online learning through theFlorida Virtual School and private online provid-ers. Florida’s success in producing academic gainsfor disadvantaged students inspired ALEC’s firstomnibus education reform bill, the A-Plus Liter-acy Act.Massachusetts has done less than Florida topromote parental choice. Perhaps you might bethinking that this whole parental choice businessis overdone, but as famous college football ana-lyst Lee Corso likes to say: “not so fast my friend.”Despite the fact that Massachusetts has not beenas aggressive in pursuing public parental choicepolicies, public schools in Massachusetts facean even higher level of competition from privateschools than public schools in Florida.Private schools hold a larger market shareof the total student population in Massachu-setts than in Florida despite Florida’s choice pro-grams. Florida’s public policy programs to pro-mote parental choice have, in essence, haveallowed the state to play catch-up in the paren-tal choice arena to higher-income states such asMassachusetts.Education reform discussions which cite Mas-sachusetts as a model often lustily mention theirhigh per-student spending ($14,478 in 2009–2010, well above the national average) and simplyconclude that policymakers in other states shouldfollow the example of Massachusetts in spendingmore on K–12. Such an analysis of course goesbeyond the level of being simplistic, as it fails toaccount for a variety of other policies which mayhold most of the explanatory power for the im-provement in Massachusetts. Moreover, it fails toaccount distinguish between high spending andsocietal wealth.Massachusetts is an atypical state, enjoyinga distinct advantage in the area of wealth whencompared to the national average. For instance,the median income for a family of four in thatstate is over $100,000, well above the nationalaverage. Only Connecticut, Maryland, and NewJersey join Massachusetts in the six-figure medi-an income club for families of four.Such a wealth advantage impacts a system ofschools in a variety of ways—some subtle (suchas the percentage of students attending privateschools) and some more obvious (such as the per-centage of students who qualify for a free or re-duced-price lunch). With this wealth advantage,Massachusetts can and does spend above the na-tional average for public school students. An av-erage American state would require a much high-er tax rate than Massachusetts if they wished tomatch the spending per pupil in these states.We commend Massachusetts for extreme-ly impressive academic gains. We lack any meth-od to determine the role that increased spendingplayed in the gains. Readers should note that itis not only possible to entirely squander wealthwhen it comes to public education; it has in factbeen done. After a large increase in per-studentfunding, Jim McBride, Wyoming’s Superinten-dent of Public Instruction, told the AssociatedPress in 2006:“We probably will have the nation’s No. 1graduation rate, maybe college attendancerate. We probably will have the highest NAEPscores, which is the only national assessmentthat you can compare state to state,” he said,referring to the National Assessment of Educa-tional Progress.5McBride is probably a wonderful man who iscertainly not alone in this world in having madea prediction that he might wish he could takeback. Not only does Wyoming not have the high-est NAEP scores in the country, the next chap-ter will show that Wyoming consistently demon-strate gains below the national average, and hasone of the poorest records in moving achievementfor low-income children (see Figure 17 in the nextchapter).Massachusetts, therefore, deserves credit formanaging their generously funded public schoolsskillfully to produce strong gains. Massachu-setts enjoys an advantage over Wyoming, how-ever, in that their state has wealth whereas Wyo-ming schools have enjoyed a windfall. The medianincome in Maryland and Massachusetts is stillabout a quarter higher than Wyoming, despite the
  32. 32. 24 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWOgas and oil boom.Now imagine a case even worse than Wyo-ming. Wyoming spent a great deal of money andreceived very little in the way of return on in-vestment. In the end, however, they were simplymisspending a windfall. Imagine if the naturalresources explosion had never happened in Wy-oming, and state lawmakers had attempted to taxthe economy to the point of spending $16,000 perstudent in the public school system.The academic results would not have beenany better, but the strain of Wyoming’s economywould have been enormous. Without the naturalresources boom, Wyoming’s per-capita incomewould be considerably lower, making the tax ratesnecessary to spend anything like $16,000 perchild prohibitively high. Wyoming’s private sec-tor employers would have little choice but to con-sider the advantages of setting up shop in neigh-boring Colorado or Montana.Policymakers have lessons to learn from boththe Massachusetts and Florida experiences: Thereis no single path to the top of the mountain. Bothstates emphasized standards and accountabili-ty, both states attached high stakes to their tests,both states created additional options for parents.Massachusetts reformers got a six-year head starton Florida’s reformers, put a relatively stronger em-phasis on academic standards and less of one onparental choice, and achieved remarkable results.Florida’s reformers got a later start, had a farlarger demographic challenge (far higher percent-ages of low-income and minority students) and,with less wealth, had less money to work withon a per-student basis. Despite these challenges,Florida produced remarkable gains. Our instinctis that Florida may have made even larger aca-demic gains if they had adopted the Massachu-setts academic standards, and Massachusetts mayhave made even larger gains if they had gradedschools and expanded parental choice.New York placing fourth on the final chartbears some mention. More than half of the state ofNew York’s free and reduced-price lunch-eligiblestudents attend New York City schools. Between2002 and 2009 (the last date for reliable districtlevel NAEP data at the time of this writing), NewYork City students nearly doubled the statewidereading gains among low-income students for thestate of New York. If we had the ability to sepa-rate the NYC gains from the overall state gains inthe NAEP data over this period (sadly unavail-able), the discrepancy between NYC and the stateof New York would appear even larger. Mayor Mi-chael Bloomberg’s reform effort, led by Chancel-lor Joel Klein, succeeded in improving the aca-demic performance of disadvantaged students,and thus merits study by reform minded policy-makers as well.In the end, policymakers have no magic wandto make their states wealthy. The available evi-dence does suggest however that academic stan-dards and parental choice can get schools mov-ing in the right direction by focusing efforts onacademic achievement. The goal of policymakersin every state, regardless if they fall on the low orhigh level of achievement, should be to maximizethe academic impact of every public dollar invest-ed in the public system. America needs our publicschool system to improve, with some parts of thenation simply needing it more than others.“None of the Above” Is Not an OptionStudents in even the best performing states facelong odds in reaching early reading proficien-cy. The worst performing jurisdictions cannot bejudged to be making a serious attempt at provid-ing a public school system which equalizes op-portunity. All states have tremendous room forimprovement.The next chapter focuses on the rate of aca-demic improvement in all 50 states and the Dis-trict of Columbia. Some states have achievedgains far faster than others, and some actual-ly have been backsliding among disadvantagedstudents. If more states emulated the success ofthe best performing states we would see far moreprogress in national achievement problems, suchas racial and economic achievement gaps.“None of the above” is not an option in ourthought experiment or for disadvantaged childrenin the real world. Policymakers in our top per-forming states should redouble their efforts, andthose in the rest of the nation need to get startedon reform. If the performance of the states at thebottom of the above charts is not good enough foryou in a theory, it certainly is not good enough foractual disadvantaged students in practice.
  33. 33. www.alec.org 25A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT ON STATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTENDNOTES1. Donald J. Hernadez, 2011. How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Publicationof the Annie E. Casey Foundation, available on the internet at http://www.aecf.org/~/media/Pubs/Topics/Education/Other/DoubleJeopardyHowThirdGradeReadingSkillsandPovery/DoubleJeopardyReport040511FINAL.pdf.2. The next chapter contains a more complete discussion of the NAEP inclusion standards.3. You can read about all of these things and (more) in a joint publication by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and theProgressive Policy Institute: Chester E. Finn Jr., Andrew J. Rotherham, and Charles R. Hokanson Jr. (eds.) 2001. Rethink-ing Special Education for a New Century. (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation).4. Paul E. Peterson and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadón, 2010. State Standards Rise in English, Fall in Math. Article appearingin the Fall 2010 edition of Education Next, available online at http://educationnext.org/state-standards-rising-in-read-ing-but-not-in-math/5. See Mead Gruver, 2006. Wyoming schools, flush with cash, go on spending binge. Article in the Caspar Star Tribune,available on the internet at http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_1e231c84-e532-5841-9447-744d2088287f.html#ixzz1eMipf5wC.
  34. 34. 26 Report Card on American EducationCHAPTER TWO
  35. 35. 3CHAPTERThe Desperate Need forAcademic Gains in America
  36. 36. 28 Report Card on American EducationThe Organisation for Economic Coop-eration and Development (OECD) be-gan measuring student K–12 achieve-ment in member nations during the late 1990sthrough the Programme for International Stu-dent Assessment (PISA). The 2009 PISA gave ran-dom student samples academic exams in 74 coun-tries. The PISA data below focuses on 15-year-oldstudents (tenth graders in America) as this is of-ten the minimum age of mandatory school atten-dance around the world. In short, this data is asclose to a comparable finished academic productas possible when making international achieve-ment comparisons.The U.S. Department of Education performedan additional analysis of the American data tobreak down the American results by both incomeand racial and ethnic subgroups.1Figure 8 pres-ents the data for American subgroups by incomecompared to PISA averages. The chart divides theAmerican sample into quartiles based upon thepercentage of students at the school level whoqualify for a free or reduced-price lunch under fed-eral guidelines. In 2009, a family of four could earna maximum of just over $40,000 to qualify for a re-duced price lunch, but approximately 80 percentof these students qualify for a free lunch, whichhas a maximum family income for a family of fourof just over $28,000.2Figure 8 compares Americanincome subgroups against the performance of thelowest and highest OECD performers.3The wealthiest American schools achieve quitewell—higher than the average of the highest per-forming nation. This however is far less impres-sive than it might seem, as it compares only thehighest scoring American students to the averagestudent in other nations. It would be more appro-priate to see how the wealthiest schools in Amer-ican schools compare to the wealthiest schools inother nations.The Desperate Need forAcademic Gains in AmericaFigure 8 | PISA Combined Literacy Scores for 15-year-olds American income subgroups (percentage ofschool eligible for FRL) vs. the highest and lowest OECD scores (OECD Average = 493)0 100 200 300 400 500 6000%-9.9%Korea (highest score)10%-24.9%25%-49.9%U.S. Average50%-74.9%75%-100%Mexico (lowest score)551539527502500471446425

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