Proven Policies to Fix Failing Schools

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Seniority-Neutral Policies. Seniority-based layoffs do not consider teacher effectiveness, meaning that teachers who make vital contributions to school success can nevertheless be among the first to receive pink slips. Urban districts should move to a seniority-neutral layoff policy and work to develop a fair performance-based evaluation system that would give principals and superintendents concrete performance criteria to make decisions about which teachers are let go.

Budget and Funding Transparency. Urban school districts should be required to provide accounting data at the school level and to use actual cost data, not district averages (which often mask huge variations in expenditures). This accounting method will promote the equitable distribution of general education funding and help ensure that the recommended additional funding for low-income students and English learners actually is used for those students.

Lisa Snell is director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Abdul||

    How to save the city:

    Step 1, destroy city. . .

    We may have trouble selling this one.

  • PickledGherkin||

    Will i have to leave the city i love?

  • With Obamacare||

    We won't have to worry about poor black children:

    Stupak notes that his negotiations with House Democratic leaders in recent days have been revealing. "I really believe that the Democratic leadership is simply unwilling to change its stance," he says. "Their position says that women, especially those without means available, should have their abortions covered." The arguments they have made to him in recent deliberations, he adds, "are a pretty sad commentary on the state of the Democratic party."What are Democratic leaders saying? "If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That's one of the arguments I've been hearing," Stupak says. "Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue--come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we're talking about."

  • SIV||

    Death mills for pre-citizens!

  • dave b.||

    As a native New Orleanian, I never thought I'd see the day where N.O. schools would held up as a model of anything.

  • ||

    Hopefully, other cities can get their act together without a natural disaster to shake things up.


  • zoltan||

    Not their public schools, at least.

  • ||

    What are Democratic leaders saying? "If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more.

    Ho. Lee. Crap.

    And these are the same people banging their shoes on the podium saying there won't be death panels, no way, no how.

  • TickleStick||

    No shit. Pure evil.

  • SIV||

    Damn! I should have read further.

  • zoltan||

    Is that a direct quote?

  • VikingMoose||

    Shaker Heights has/had a decent school system. as do/did West G. and Chagrin. Solon had a huge white trash back when, but its schools seemed decent enough, too...
    haven't lived in the area since late 80s/early 90s: if anything has changed, SORRY - didn't mean to misrepresent

  • Rob Levine||

    You're going to have trouble selling this one: Even Diane Ravitch doesn't believe in school choice anymore.

  • Warty||

    Who? Try harder.

  • Rob Levine||

  • Soonerliberty||

    Of course, if she were an oil company, we'd have to question her motives. Could it be that the ones who promote state solutions increase their influence and power while those who do the opposite remain relatively unknown? Why, self-interest exists when people promote state solutions! You don't say!

    Privatization and choice works everywhere else in life, so why not now? Of course, it's very difficult to test this theory in an environment already perverted and destroyed by regulation.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Of course the elephant in the room is the preponderance of African Americans in our big city schools that are failing.

    We need to discuss this, along with questioning the black/African American societies' influnence on the education of their youth, rather than always quickly blaming it on poverty and/or percieved racism.

  • Warty||

    A good start. Now you just need to start a crazy blog and start telling people to ask questions and post the responses on youtube. We'll make a good replacement of you yet.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Sorry Warty. I dont understand your last sentence.

  • The Gobbler||

    Are you the Lonecracko?

  • zoltan||

    Heh, good one.

    Guess there are no failing schools in Appalachia, eh?

  • CE||

    I can top all of those suggestions: end all government funding, operation, and mandating of education, and turn it over to the free market and charity. When parents are spending their own money, they will pay more attention to the quality of the schools, and make sure their kids aren't wasting it.

    For-profit schools with free competition will get rid of sub-standard teachers and unneeded administrators that detract from product quality and profitability.

  • generic Brand||

    For the student-based budgeting idea, how does that work? Do the students (or their parents) have to decide in advance of the next fiscal year's budget where they are going for school? What happens for families who move into a district mid-school year? I doubt that they would have to pony up the $____ in school mandated tax money upon moving into their new house and starting school within the week.

    I understand the concept, just not the implementation. How is the money allocated; i.e. how is the enrollment size determined--or for that matter how do the districts know how many students they need to set aside funds for?

  • generic Brand||

    Also, I meant to ask about those who choose to homeschool. Are they allowed to dip into this charter-school funding system, kinda as a school voucheresque system?

  • ||

    As a future homeschooler, I'd like to just keep my own money and use it at my discretion to support my children's education.

    I don't want anybody else's money for it, and I don't want to be forced to fund somebody else's kids (unless I choose to).

  • Mike||

    One problem with closing failing schools - what are you basing the closure on?

    If it's in comparison to the state standard, or state average, the specific school usually has jack all to do with those results. When 90% of your kids are on a free lunch, they're being raised by their grandparents because they're dad ran off and their mom's a crack addict, and those grandparents are most likely illiterate... you're not going to have a lot of success as a teacher. There's only so much any school system can do, unless we just take the kids away and board them at the school.

    My mom works in an inner small-city elementary, and that's exactly what her student's family lives are like, black and white trash.

    So should her job be dependent on working miracles?

    That said, I am hugely in favor of school choice, of removing seniority, and of actually holding teachers accountable for how their kids improve as they progress through school. We just need to realize that you're starting with a different baseline in different districts, for cultural reasons.

  • ||

    Get government out of the schools, period. What's that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting a different result?

    And when teachers are indoctrinated and overtly required to subordinate their own judgement to pre-conceived nonsense like "white privilege causes black failure", what exactly do you think is going to improve using the products of those 'education' departments? The education they're peddling isn't anything but a very thinly disguised dose of communist, "down with America" crap. Give control of schooling to the parents; let them home school, organize to make schools for their kids, all of the ways to do education. When you let the government into education, you've predetermined failure. Oh, by the way, Detroit's graduation rate is 25% according to the State Department of Education; not 58%. Take a look at Detroit using satellite photos and guess why.

  • Harpoon||

    I've got one. Let's make the students responsible for paying back all the money spent on them if they don't graduate. Graduate; free education. Don't graduate and you're on the hook for big money.

  • ||

    Why should government be in the business of education? The "public goods" argument won't fly; the primary benefits of a decent education are to the student, not to "society." With a decent education, you can get a decent job; without, you'll be at lower levels of the economic ladder, or not working at all. Mass education was developed on the free market first, before the government co-opted the field. Today's home schoolers show just how bad the schools are. I challenge anyone to locate a government school which teaches first- and second-graders negative numbers, exponents, fractions, decimals, cryptography, and binary arithmetic - all of which are known to my 7 year old home-schooled grandson.

  • ||

    While I commend you for recognizing the importance of education, the problem with the whole "school choice" approach is that there isn't any evidence that it is working on a large scale.

    Arizona leads the nation in 'choice', and they have diverted a lot of federal and state dollars to opening charter schools around the state. Funding follows the child in this state. What they've found is that charters are underperforming the traditional district schools...often by a large margin. To make it worse, the high performing charters are often just 'skimming' the top performing kids from area schools and are leaving the remainder behind and the local district schools with fewer dollars to work with.

    There have been a number of problems with financial irregularity (see the lastest NY Times article on Imagine Schools) and when failed experimental charters finally collapse, the district schools have to re-absorb these kids and deal with the even larger learning gap that was created.

    I'm not an educator - just a parent. I appreciate innovative programs, but after researching charter schools in their entirety I have come to the conclusion that it is much more effective - both academically and financially - to innovate from within.

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