Federalism and Education
LRDC 50th Anniversary
Marshall S. Smith
• US education – a federalist system.
• Is the US system effective? Quality? Equality?
• 4 current approaches to education reform:
Governance and management
Choice and competition
Human Capital reform
Testing and aggressive accountability
• A different approach: evidence, improvement,
• Going to Scale
• 1600s – mid 1700s: First schools, tutors,
• 1789: 10th Amendment (states) and
enumerated powers authority (federal)
• 1830s -1900 Common school movement
(states and local)
• 1870 14th Amendment: Equality, (federal)
• 1870-1915 Growth state authority
• 1919 Vocational Education Act (federal)
• 1900 - 1940 Progressive education
movement: One best system (local and state)
• 1954 Brown v Board (federal/equality)
• 1958 Sputnik – NDEA (federal)
1960-1974 Equality: Federal Era
1963 March on Washington
1964 Civil Rights Act, Head Start
1965 Voting Rights Act
1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(ESEA) Title I: Education for Disadvantaged
1967 Bilingual Education Act
1969-1970 Desegregation of the South
1966-1972 Experimenting Society
1973 Education for All Handicapped Act
1976-2000 State/federal reform
• 1978 Carter improves ESEA in late 70s
• 1983: Nation at Risk Report
• 1982: Reagan reduced federal role but in
1988 - Title I state assessments and
accountability for Title I students.
• 1988-1992 Rise of standards -- systemic
reform: Governors, civil rights groups, unions,
business leaders, education groups.
1994 - 2001: Clinton: ESEA: State
Standards Based Reforms +Charters
• To bring coherence, focus and equality to pubic
system. Provide public choice via charters.
• Student Standards: leveraged Title I for standards
& systemic reform for all students in a state.
• Align resources to Standards
– Professional development
– Assessments and Accountability (performance
– Human and social capital
• 2002 - 2013 NCLB: Retained standards based
reform – more testing (3 to 8 grades) with new
federal accountability sanctions.
• 2009-2013: NCLB + Other federal initiatives:
– Race to the Top: Teacher Evaluation; failing schools:
– Waivers from NCLB accountability
– Preschool initiative
• 2007 -2013: Development and implementation
of Common Core standards. (States and locals)
Federal System looks coherent and
US Federalism – Three tiered system –
complicated in practice
• Lots of feedback loops -- not just top down..
• Politics in difficult democracy at all levels: school
boards local and state, other elected officials; public
• Interconnections – lots of people and institutions
have a stake.
• Layers of regulation: aging programs in a new
• Unlike other countries
Taking Stock: Evidence about how the
system has worked
• Multiple purposes– academics, daycare,
socialization. Need institutions for K-8.
• Complexity make system resilient.
• Ponderous – political – slow to change.
• Lacks links to other systems (health, preschool..)
• System appears same across states, districts, schools
but complexity creates variability in resources,
• Is something working? -- economy, democracy
relatively quite strong for 100 years.
• Lets look at education achievement and attainment.
How are we doing? Were we ever first
• Data from earliest international assessment
measures. Never first in test scores. US 11th
of 12 nations in 1967 math and science
international assessments. Now improving.
• High school graduation rates and college
going. First in both in mid 1900s. Not
improving very quickly and relative to other
developed nations we are falling behind.
• University system still strongest in world.
Progress in achievement over past
• US scores from the National Assessment of
Education Progress – total scores and gaps by
subgroups including race, poverty and
language and at achievement gaps.
• Then results comparing US to other nations on
the two main international assessments,
TIMSS and PISA.
US Gain scores last 20 years:
NAEP Math 8th grade 10pt = grade level
16 pt (1.6 gl)
17 pt (1.7 gl)
25 pt. (2.5 gl)
22pt. (2.2 gl)
12 pt. (1.2 gl)
US gain scores last 20 years:
NAEP Reading 4th grade 11pt = grade
5 pt (0.5 gl)
7 pt (0.7 gl)
14 pt. (1.4 gl)
11 pt. (1.1 gl)
19 pt. (1.9 gl)
Poverty and English Language
learners: NAEP 8th Math.
2011 - 1998
Yes Free Reduc Lunch
14 pt (1.4
19 pt (1.9
18 pt (1.8
18 pt. (1.8
15 pt. (1.5
Poverty and English Language
learners: NAEP 4th reading.
2011 - 1998
Yes Free Reduc Lunch
7 pt (0.7gl))
12 pt (1.2
8 pt (0.8
14 pt. (1.4
9 pt. (0.9
International comparisons: TIMSS and
PISA assessments differ in their aims
• Trends in International Math and Science studies
(TIMSS) serves a traditional purpose of testing
student knowledge of the content that they have
opportunity to learn by grades 4 and 8.
• Program for International Student Assessment
(PISA) says their assessment is forward-looking,
focusing on young people’s ability to use
knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges,
rather than merely on the extent to which they
have mastered a specific school curriculum. “
International: 8th grade TIMSS Science
•TIMSS measures learning from the curriculum.
•US gains slowly – compare to England, way behind Singapore
•MA second in world ahead of roughly 55 other jurisdictions and nations
TIMSS 8 grade 2011
~ 6 million
~ 6 million
• PISA Academic Performers
Hong Kong 549
Hong Kong 555
Hong Kong, 533
US Asian 536
Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
• US student achievement has gained some over past 20 years.
• Lags a few developed world nations in content knowledge
and basic skills (TIMSS) and lags more on advanced skills such
as applying knowledge to new and challenging problems
(PISA). Parts of system (MA) do very well on TIMSS.
• Gaps between subgroups of US students are persistent and
large. Huge problem!
• Lag behind many OECD nations in secondary and college
student attainment. US gaps persistent.
• Girls out attaining boys -- similar in other OECD countries.
• Quality: Improve basic and especially
advanced knowledge and skills: Behind many
OECD countries in problem solving, analysis,
collaboration, transfer. Address issues of
lagging secondary school and college
• Equality: Reduce Huge Gaps: Poverty, English
Language, Race, Gender (Achievement,
Four current “remedies” to improve system,
Simplify and rationalize governance
More choice and competition
Aggressive Accountability for schools.
Narrow focus on human capital. (Teacher
Remedy One: Governance
• Strategy One: Piece meal.
–Mayors replace superintendents, eliminate school
–boards. Governors exert more influence.
–Happening in a few places: little positive evidence .
• Strategy two: Systemic.
–Eliminate political elements. Eliminate federal role.
Professional educators manage and determine direction.
–Would take decades, constitutional change? 14000 elected
boards would create political firestorm. Seems unlikely!
Remedy 2 Choice
•Vouchers for private schools – Data not promising.
•Charters: Roughly 5000 (5+ percent) Public choice.
Little apparent effect in transferring good practice.
Average achievement scores less or same: Exceptions:
Few charter management organizations (CMOs) –
Aspire, Hi Tech High, KIPP, etc.
•Portfolio districts -- NYC, Washington DC, New
Orleans: Not much positive evidence.
•Many large districts already have a lot of choice.
•A place in reform for charters, especially good CMOs.
Cannot expect overall strong system change.
Remedy 3 Aggressive Accountability
• Some favor ramping up NCLB accountability
formula for schools, districts and teachers.
• Clinton ESEA accountability tested in 3 grades,
modest state determined accountability;
• NCLB 7 grades assessments, breakout by
subgroup – created federal requirements -- much
more rigid and punitive accountability.
• NCLB requirements retained in Obama years –
Congress – administration could not pass ESEA.
Remedy 3: Does Aggressive
Accountability work? (school based)
• No high achieving nation has such a system.
• Almost all nations focus on high stakes testing for
students – twice or so during their school years -- they
determine options for students.
• Data comparing Clinton years with Bush and Obama
years show no added value favoring increased
accountability. (see charts) Few gains and little gap
• Significant unintended consequences:
– narrows curriculum. With multiple choice tests reduces
writing, problem solving, cooperation.
– Low teacher retention—Reduces public support.
Comparison: Effects of Moderate (1996 to 2003) v Aggressive
Accountability (2003 to 2011) 8th grade NAEP Math:
Pt gain &
Comparison: Moderate (1996 to 2003) v Aggressive Accountability
(2004 to 2011)
4th grade NAEP Reading:
NCLB (5 yrs)
• NAEP 8th grade Math:
• Total nation and Hispanic gains per year similar before and after
NCLB. Whites and Blacks gained faster before NCLB than after.
• Blacks reduced gaps with whites both before and after NCLB but
more before NCLB. The Hispanic/white gap did not change
before and decreased some after NCLB passed.
• NAEP 4th grade reading:
– Total nation and black gains per year are similar before and
after NCLB. Whites, Hispanics and Asians gained faster before
than after NCLB.
– The black/white gap was slightly reduced prior to NCLB and was
somewhat more reduced after NCLB. The Hispanic/white gap
was reduced prior to NCLB and slightly less reduced after.
Remedy 4 Increase Human Capital
• Improve quality of teachers, principals, and
superintendents. Two basic approaches. Use
Accountability to incentivize and
• Accountability “reform” is NCLB and Obama
human capital strategy: Use test scores as
primary measure of teacher quality. Little
careful attention paid to improvement.
Does teacher accountability using test
scores improve teacher performance?
• Seen that aggressive school performance accountability is
not related to added value of schools.
• Long history of studies indicate that aggressive
performance incentives or punishments do not provide
good results in complex environments like schools and
classrooms. Rand study, NRC study.
• Teacher evaluation by test scores complicated by
psychometric problems -- effectiveness varies by year, by
grade level taught by content area, by year of teaching.
• So far lots of complexity -- little evidence of effectiveness.
• Accountability through transparency and on-time
improvement and support is an alternative.
Human Capital Improvement: Use
evidence based methods.
• Other successful nations focus mostly on
improvement. Finland, Canada, Singapore.
• Use improvement methodology. Rapid feedback
• Teacher and principal performance reviews critical.
Multipart teacher assessment. Professional
monitoring – spot problems by November.
• Sustained, high intensity, professional development –
focused on improving practice.
• Professional networks for support.
• Teacher mentoring inducation for first two years.
• Coaches – strong evidence of effectiveness.
• Greatly strengthen pre-service teacher training.
• None of the high intensity “reforms” (dramatic
change in governance, greatly increased choice,
and increased intensity of school and teacher
accountability) show clear evidence or promise of
regularly increasing quality or closing gaps within
a 10-15 year period.
• However, smart, moderated and sustained
change in three of these areas (choice,
accountability, human capital) show evidence
that they are useful in a reform strategy.
A fifth approach: Improvement and
Equalizing Opportunity: Two Parts.
• An overall strategy for total system
improvement of achievement and
• A specific strategy to provide
opportunity to learn for all low income
and English Language Learners. This
strategy would be embedded in total
system improvement effort.
• Retain state standards based reform
– Adopt or adapt very high quality college and career ready standards
such as Common Core.
– Aligned Curriculum
– Aligned Human capital strategies
– Aligned assessments and Improvement accountability.
• Use deliberate continuous improvement strategies.
• Emphasize social capital -- team effort.
• Create institutions that are socially, emotionally and
physically safe for students and adults.
• Eliminate “magic bullets” and projects not directly related to
reforms. Reduce categorical and regulatory structures
• States, districts commit to following strategy for 8 to 12 years.
Equality Strategy supportive and vigorous strategy
for closing the achievement and attainment gaps.
• National effort to prepare low income and ELL students for
Academic focus: develop rich oral language production/vocabulary.
Non-academic focus: develop self-regulatory skills
• Strategic powerful reforms during school years
In context of overall strategy:
Equalize resources in states and districts.
Supportive new evidence for four
parts of the proposal
Use of common core
Evidence: Common Core standards:
Improving Quality and Depth
• Common Core: Math, English Language Arts, Science.
• Implementation: Major reform in today schools. Wide
• Not a curriculum!!! A powerful and engaging template for
state standards based reform.
• College and career ready. Competitive with other parts of
• Coherence: Building blocks. Learning progressions.
• Enable and promote teacher professional networks.
• 45 states -- even if only 35 states they are now sharing
content and strategies for effective teaching and learning.
• Many think this is the most important reform of education
since the 60s.
Common Core Standards as reform
driver for ELA
• The standards call for ”critical types of content for all students,
including classic myths and stories from around the world,
foundational U.S. documents, seminal works of American literature,
and the writings of Shakespeare," but states, districts, and schools
make content decisions.
• Standards for writing include: All students achieve the ability to
"write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound
reasoning, and relevant evidence." The standards also focus on
students' mastery of research, opinion writing, analytical, and
• The speaking and listening standards require students to "gain,
evaluate, and present increasingly complex information, ideas, and
evidence." Use and understanding of media and technology are
Common Core and math
• At the K–5 level, provide students with a "solid foundation in whole
numbers, arithmetic, fractions and decimals—build the foundation
to successfully learn more demanding math concepts and
procedures, and move into applications,"
• The standards "stress not only procedural skill but also conceptual
understanding," to develop students' skills more deeply. Middle
school standards prepare students for rigorous math courses at the
high school level.
• At the high school level, students practice applying mathematical
ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges." The standards
"set a rigorous definition of college and career readiness; students
should develop a depth of understanding and ability to apply
mathematics to novel situations, as college students and
employees regularly do"
Evidence: Improving Quality and Depth:
• Sustained effort toward continuous improvement
culture -- at all levels: schools, states, districts.
Examples Long Beach, MA, Union City, Montgomery
County, Austin, Ontario, Garden Grove, Finland,
Singapore, China working on it. (Back office and front
• In classrooms effective use of formative assessment,
professional support networks, rapid feedback loops.
• Social Capital as well as human capital -- Networks,
support systems, trust. Bryk , others data.
Evidence: New Preschool Findings of
• Belief over past 40 years -- typical Head Start like
preschool had short term achievement gains lost by 2nd
• At the same time some high cost “Cadillac” preschool
programs seemed to have the same loss of effects – but
follow--up studies showed long term gains appearing in
late adolescence -- fewer drop out, more going to college,
fewer becoming pregnant, fewer being incarcerated. Large
cost benefit gains to society -- incalculable gains to
• Head Start not a Cadillac program -- because programs
differed most of us thought there would be no long-term
effects. No specific Head Start follow-up studies.
New Preschool Evidence
• But recent data suggest otherwise - three studies with follow-up
data from Head Start indicate that long-term effects were clear and
just short of those of Cadillac preschools.
• One long term national survey study – not designed to assess Head
Start found enough examples of HS students with non-HS siblings to
create long-term trend lines. Achievement gains for HS kids
disappeared in 2nd and 3rd grades -- but study also found long-term
gains in lower dropout rates, increased college going, fewer
incarcerations, less pregnancy.
• Other studies found similar results.
• Not sure what the causal mechanisms are is -- postulate non
cognitive effects like self – regulation or mindset.
• But policy implications seem clear!! Very important findings.
• “Meaningful Differences “describes a major study of the size
of working language young children and their mothers.
• Children from different backgrounds typically develop
language skills around the same age, but the subsequent rate
of vocabulary growth is strongly influenced by how much
parents talk to and encourage talking with their children.
• Children from professional families (who were found to talk
to their children more) gain vocabulary at a quicker rate than
their peers in working class and welfare recipient families.
• By age three, the observed cumulative vocabulary for children
in the professional families was about 1,100 words. For
children from working class families, the observed cumulative
vocabulary was about 750 words and for children from
welfare-recipient families it was just above 500 words.
• New studies in early K-6 classrooms about power of
accountable talk – other names for similar
• Productive, accountable talk by students -- being
asked to explain a concept or the solution to a
problem – being treated as a real person when they
ask a question -- talking with – not talking to.
• All of this expands vocabulary and increases
understanding. Other oral language and vocabulary
interventions also work.
Still more language: English
• Many students in CA and throughout the nation have a native
language not English -- English not spoken at home.
• CA law is that a child in this situation may spend only one year in
school learning English before she is tested in English for content
• Studies clear that original language ought to be learned well -- lots
of oral interaction – then first reading taught in the that language.
• Then second language introduced in 2nd grade orally with lots of give
and take and then reading later -- they learn to read well in English
after learning to read well in native language – they are then
bilingual – a gift!! They are special.
• A more enlightened policy world might challenge all kids to have
two languages – a pathway to deeper understanding of language
Challenge: How could such a
solution go to scale
• Could we take these two strategies to scale in the US
complex federalist system? Or at least to most of the
• There is evidence, examples, need, and with the
exception perhaps of the bilingual approach not
• Powerful challenge to conventional ways of
governing -- expecting results in a few years, “magic
bullets”, changing superintendents bi-yearly.
• Separate the two strategies.
Making Strategy 1 happen
• There are similarities between the early 1990s State standards
based reforms and the current effort to implement the common
• In both the states (Governors, Superintendents, state boards)
exercised leadership and garnered widespread support from the
business, civil rights, labor and considerable bipartisan support.
• Though the two cases have some basic similarities the situation in
Washington is very different now than in early 1990s. The best we
can hope for from current Washington is support an environment
that does not get in the way of a local and state effective
implementation of the common core reforms
• This suggests that we need another, more bottom up, approach.
Other differences between 1990
and now that might help
• High quality common core standards
• Understanding importance of Continuous
Improvement and of perseverance and
• Technology -- as part of the instructional
systems and as part of the improvement
How to make this happen? A
• Need a mechanism to spur State and District bottom-up
• We find great enthusiasm for common core reforms among
teachers and other educators.
• States and local districts hard at work implementing the new
standards and related parts of the system.
• The process of implementation will be lengthy, requiring
change based on data and smart feedback loops -- it will take
a long time.
Thus a possible approach to
• Implement Common Core – use feedback to improve work in
classroom, prof development, training of principals others.
This is a practical example of continuous improvement.
• This process of continuous improvement could be
deliberately spread to other activities in schools and districts.
• Technology could support: use for professional networks, for
analysis of data from assessments, for record-keeping etc.
• Commit to ten years. Implement with these processes the
other parts of Strategy I.
A California story
• Until 2010 state limping along blindly working on
federal reforms -- little capacity at state level -some development of policy infrastructure.
• A half a dozen big districts doing smart things on
their own (Long Beach, Garden Grove etc. )
• Gov Brown passes bill that eliminates 2/3rds of
CA categorical programs and puts in place an 8
year implementation of a weighted pupil formula
for the state -- this is a start on creating an
environment where districts and schools can
make sense of effective policy.
More on CA
• The common core implementation now
involves various organizations of districts,
county offices, local foundations, creating
networks of districts to implement common
core -- creating teacher professional networks
to help support teaching of Common core.
• Independent groups working with CDE to
create greater capacity. Areas of technology
and professional improvement.
Implementing Strategy 2: Creating
• This is the hard one - it probably requires the
Congress to act rationally.
• Getting everyone ready for school requires preschool
(2 years), health, and nutrition. Some Districts and
states could do this. New Jersey does it.
• In theory could be done easily by Washington: retain
Health Care, keep food stamps in place, increase
Head Start by 50% and change the curriculum. Very,
very little additional cost and huge savings in the
short and long runs.
More implementing strategy 2
• At the local state levels implement the additional measures
for Phase 2 into the schools: expanding language, evidence
based ELL provisions in place, mentors (supportive adults) for
middle and secondary schools, extra support for kids falling
behind, monitor Mindset (students and teachers), use
curriculum and instruction that engages the students.
• Create multiple pathways in secondary schools as do the
Finns and others.
• Provide resources in fair way.
Creating a priority of improving educational quality and
equal opportunity is not only an education issue
• It is the symbol of a society that values
everyone. Leave the world a better place.
• Even in midst of what appears to be a
dysfunctional Congress and a fractured nation
there is a sense of possibility among many
• Compare to feeling in the 60s.
• These seem to be very boring solutions -- practical steps,
using evidence, hard work, sustained effort.
• These solutions need to be done - or we will slip even more –
to accomplish the push for equality we must create serious
smart learning environments (strategy 1).
• On horizon are major changes through technology: MOOCs
for secondary school, cognitive tutors, flipped classrooms,
technology for language learning, science experiments, credit
for performance, lots more individualized and independent
• I believe they too will work best in an environment that
supports quality and equality.