Watch live @ 9am: Charting a Path in U.S. Education Reform

The Program on America and the Global Economy (PAGE) Presents:

Charting a Path in U.S. Education Reform

View the live webcast here

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

9:00 – 11:00 a.m.


 Paul G. Vallas, Superintendent, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Former Superintendent, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Recovery School District (LA); and Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center

 Kenneth Wong, The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor in Education Policy, Brown University

 Moderator:  Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy, Woodrow Wilson Center


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal introduces education overhaul legislation:

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has an ambitious overhaul plan for primary and secondary education that will be introduced in the legislative session that begins on March 12th. Jindal’s agenda is targeted at four major pieces of legislation: teacher tenure, charter schools, vouchers, and early childhood education.

Jindal’s plan for teacher tenure includes extending high performance evaluations to five years before tenure. Teachers would be evaluated as highly effective, effective, or ineffective. Highly effective ratings for five years merit tenure, while teachers who already have tenure are required to meet “effective” status to keep it. Ineffective teachers would be subject to dismissal, regardless of previous ratings. Jindal also wants to shift some of the power from the school boards to the superintendents and principals especially in regards to employment decisions.

Jindal also plans to expand charter schools and wants to allow parents in an “F”-ranked public school to vote to convert the school into a charter school.  The governor also would like to see public universities and nonprofits the ability to approve new charter schools.

In regards to vouchers, Jindal wants to re-allocate the state’s per-pupil spending to low-income students in poorly performing schools to pay private school tuition. Jindal’s spokesman said “we believe the money – all of it – should follow the student.” And in early childhood education, Jindal would mandate that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) would have the responsibility to oversee all state and federally funded early childhood education programs and would develop a goal setting program to ready children for kindergarten.

Nationally, Jindal is doing well among conservatives and has been in running among pundits to be groomed for the next generation of GOP candidates. “If Republicans in Washington are not panicked and trying desperately to pull Bobby Jindal in the race tomorrow, or someone like him, the party leaders must have a death wish,” Erick Erickson, a blogger from wrote. The Wall Street Journal said if Jindal gets his way, he could make Louisiana “the first (state) to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.”

The State Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel and Rep. Steve Carter will be carrying the bills while competing bills have been introduced by Senator Ben Nevers, Rep. Pat Smith, and Rep. Roy Burrell.


Posted by: Devon Thorsell

Sources: Times-Picayune NOLA, American Press, The Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: Bobby Jindal, The Governor of Louisiana by flickr user Marc V. Genre


STEM Education in Charter Schools

As enrollment in charter schools grows and the value of education in subjects related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) increases, some school districts are developing STEM-focused charter schools in order to capitalize on these trends.  Charter schools such as the Energized for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (E-STEM) Academy, Inc. in Houston, Texas boast benefits that can help better engage students in the classroom.  These benefits include a small school atmosphere, an innovative learning environment, and committed and highly qualified teachers and administrators.  Furthermore, since it is tuition-free, E-STEM Academy, Inc. provides promising low-income students with access to a high quality education in the STEM subjects.

STEM-focused charter schools can further encourage innovation through STEM-centric extracurricular activities.  For example, STEM High and Middle School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado offers Expanded Learning Opportunities both before and after normal school hours through the STEM Academy.  These opportunities include a Rocketry Club and teams that will represent the school at The Department of Energy’s Office of Science National Science Bowl and the BEST (Boosting Engineering Science Technology) Robotics Competition Team.

The hope is that STEM-focused charter schools can help promising charter school students to become proficient in STEM subjects.  This can both serve them well as they prepare to enter a job market in which workers with such proficiency are in demand, and can benefit America as it continues to innovate and compete in the modern global economy.  As Scott Thomson, Co-Founder and Board Member of the North Idaho STEMCharter Academy, stated in the Coeur d’Alene Press, “We need to prepare our fish to swim in a bigger pond, so to speak, because we’re competing with China, India, Brazil and Russia.  Quite frankly, right now, the momentum is on their side and we need to do something to catch up.”

Posted by: Erica Pincus

Sources: E-STEM Academy, Inc., STEM High and Middle School, STEM Academy, The Coeur d’Alene Press

Photo Credit: Science Careers in Search of Women by flickr user Argonne National Laboratory

STEM School?

While much attention has been paid to science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) education as it relates to the future of the American economy in the coming years and how it can be improved, the Knox County (Tennessee) School Board is set to vote on an innovative solution: establishing a charter school focused on STEM education.  The proposal originated from the Iris Education Foundation, and includes provisions for sharing local control over the school.

Other STEM focused schools have begun to pop up around the country as well.  These schools are all designed to give America’s students the upper hand in growing fields that are sure to be of the utmost importance as we progress through the 21st century.  Given the current state of American STEM education, which Rep. Mike Honda (D-Ca) has called “woefully ill-equipped,” any new and innovative approaches should be welcome.

Posted by: Clark Taylor


Photo Credit: Science Class at UIS courtesy of flickr user jeremy.wilburn

Innovative Models of Charter Schools

As businesses are increasingly in search of new and creative solutions in our globalized economy, charter schools are increasingly being looked at as innovative models to be patterned after.  Brayden King, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, has argued that the innovative solutions used in these charter schools  can serve as a model for industries across the economy that “need to emphasize their distinctive qualities if they want to gain a competitive advantage.”  According to a report on California’s charter schools, they also can serve as “laboratories for systemic innovations, including new approaches to peer-based accountability.”

While charter schools may be serving as sources of inspiration for business, as entities that are not entirely publicly funded, they are also less insulated from  swings in the financial market.  According to the Washington Post, charter school expansion has been “hobbled by a smaller pool of potential investors and higher costs for access to capital.”

Posted by: Michael Darden and Wesley Milillo

Sources: Progressive Policy Institute, PR Newswire, Washington Post

Photo credit: Carlos Rosario Int’l Public Charter School courtesy of flickr user Mr. T in DC