Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

A group of scholars collaborated to write a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that studies how teachers affect student height. It is a wonderful and humorous takedown of the Raj Chetty et al thesis that the effects of a single teacher in the early grades may determine a student’s future lifetime earnings, her likelihood graduating from college, live in higher SES neighborhoods, as well as avoid teen pregnancy.

When the Chetty study was announced in 2011, a front-page article in the New York Times said:

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality.

Many school districts, including those in Washington and Houston, have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, pay and even firing….

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors…

The authors argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations, and to remove the lowest performers, despite the disruption and uncertainty involved.

“The message is to fire people sooner rather than later,” Professor Friedman said.

Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.

President Obama hailed the  Chetty study in his 2012 State of the Union address.

Value-added teacher evaluation, that is, basing the evaluation of teachers on the rise or fall of their students’ test scores, was a central feature of Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top when it was unveiled in 2010. States had to agree to adopt it if they wanted to be eligible for Race to the Top funding.

When the Los Angeles Times published a value-added ranking of thousands of teachers, teachers said the rankings were filled with error, but Duncan said those who complained were afraid to learn the truth. In Florida, teacher evaluations may be based on the rise or fall of the scores of students that the teachers had never taught, in subjects they had never taught. (About 70% of teachers do not teach subjects that are tested annually to provide fodder for these ratings.) When this nutty process was challenged inn court by Florida teachers, the judge ruled that the practice might be unfair but it was not unconstitutional.

The fundamental claim of VAM (value-added modeling or measurement) has been repeatedly challenged, most notably by economist Moshe Adler. When put into law, as it was in most states, it was found to be useless, because only tiny percentages of teachers were identified as ineffective, and even the validity of the ratings of that 1-3% was dubious. The use of VAM was frozen by a judge in New Mexico, then tossed out earlier this year by a new Democratic governor. It was banned by a judge in Houston.  A large experiment funded by the Gates Foundation intended to demonstrate the value of VAM produced negative results.

Now comes economic research to test the validity of linking teacher evaluation and student height.


Marianne Bitler, Sean  Corcoran, Thurston Domina, and Emily Penner wrote:

NBER Working Paper No. 26480
Issued in November 2019
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Economics of Education Program

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.


Last night there was a grand event at the Kennedy Center where veterans of the Bush and Obama education world joined together to wring their hands about the crisis at hand. The crisis is not the mess they made of American education for the past 20 years. The crisis is that the tests are not hard enough, the punishments are not tough enough, and the nation needs to buckle down and keep on testing and firing and demanding more from everyone. Except them. Of course.

Our reader Laura Chapman explains what was behind the big party:

“I wanted to look past the PR for this one event. The event is a launch for a new campaign capitalizing on “stagnating” NAEP scores and persistent gaps among students “who have been underserved.”

“The reformists are calling for “evidence based” methods of teaching using only “high quality, standards-aligned, content-rich curriculum.” Suddenly these reformists think “deficits in content-knowledge” matter. But these reformists are really fans of the Common Core and have a lonh history of ignoring much else worthy of study, content in the arts and humanities for example.

“In addition to being sponsored by the Collaborative for Student Success, this “new literacy campaign” is sponsored by Achieve, The Alliance for Excellent Education, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Learning Heroes, Literacy Now, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Council on Teacher Quality, National Urban Alliance, National Urban League, Military Child Coalition, and The Education Trust. These have been supporters of the Common Core, and many love high-stakes tests.

“The Collaborative for Student Success is a multi-faced project of the New Venture Fund. It is supported by: Bloomberg Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, ExxonMobil, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The website markets three of the Collaborative’s favorite math programs, but it also features “campaigns” of the Collaborative. Each campaign has a separate website. All campaigns are based on the premise that states are not living up to the requirements of ESSA. Truly, the sponsors of the Literacy Initiative are die-hard defenders of the Common Core and ESSA. Here are the camaigns in progress.

“A web-based “Assessment HQ” offers test scores and demographic breakouts for test scores “for more than half of states in grades 3-8.” This campaign is designed to claim that state assessments are not tough enough or fully reported to parents. The Collaborative scoops up state assessment results in math and ELA and puts these together in an interactive map. The Assessment HQ is actually sluggish and out of date. It is presenting data from the 2014-15 school year and it was designed to push PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests.

“The “Check State Plans” campaign offers ratings of the state plans for ESSA based on their strict conformity to ESSA. The Collaborative asked 45 reviewers to judge state plans, back in 2017, at about the same time that Bellwether Education Partners also put together a panel to review state ESSA plans. The Collaborative wanted to see “the following principles” honored in state plans. “Set the bar high for what students need to know and understand; Focus on closing the achievement gap in math and English; Ensure that parents and communities have access to meaningful data; Have a real plan for helping those schools that have been historically failing.”

“The “Educators for High Standards” campaign has offered about 12 fellowships to teachers willing to voice enthusiasm for ESSA, along with “partners” from the following groups, all known to push for high-stakes tests and the Common Core: The National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, PARCC, Teach Plus, Student Achievement Partners (Achieve the Core), National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Hope Street Group, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), Teach for America, Center for Teacher Quality, and Educators4Excellece.
The” Military Families for High Standards” campaign features the work of advocates for schools serving military families. Among the resources is an article from the Center for American Progress titled “How the Common Core Improves Education for Military-Connected Children.”

“The Honesty Gap” campaign asserts that states must take NAEP’s definition of “proficiency” as the standard for judging the “honesty” in state tests. State tests that claim students are “proficient “are dishonest unless the state standard is the same as for NAEP tests. The “honesty gaps” for each state are shown on an interactive map. The explicit message is that schools are often lying to parents about student achievement. The website should be called Arne Duncan’s BS.
The “Understanding ESSA” campaign provides news about USDE activities (up-to-date) and links to state actions that comply with ESSA.

The whole website is devoted to belligerent judgments of states, districts, and schools while bolstering advocacy groups who will insist on “strict fidelity” to ESSA in state plans.

These birds of a feather intent on repeating the misery of two decades of top down reform.



I am not sure that I agree with Steven Singer’s point here, that NAEP scores tell us nothing other than that students from affluent homes have higher test scores than students who live in poverty. 

His main point is undeniable. All standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income.

We could use income and poverty data to learn what the test scores tell us, without wasting billions on standardized tests and corrupting instruction.

But I think that NAEP does tell us something we need official confirmation for: the utter failure of Disruptive Corporate Reform.

The Disrupters have promised since No Child Left Behind was proposed in 2001 that they knew how to raise test scores and close achievement gaps: Test every child every year and hold schools accountable for rising or falling scores. That will do it, said George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige and Sandy Kress. They rode the wave of the “Texas miracle,” which turned out to be non-existent. Texas in 2019 is stuck right in the middle of the distribution of states.

Then came Jeb Bush, with his fantastical claims of a “Florida miracle,” which are now repeated by Betsy DeVos. Look at the NAEP scores: Florida is right in the middle of the states. No miracle there.

Arne Duncan has been promoting Tennessee, which as one of the first Race to the Top states, which is also ensconced in the middle of the distribution.

Look for yourself.

Two states that were firmly under the control of Reform heroes, Louisiana and New Mexico, are at the tail end of the distribution.

What do the NAEP scores tell us?

Don’t look for miracles.

Don’t believe propaganda spun by snake-oil salesman.

Look to states and districts that are economically developed and that fund their schools adequately and fairly.

The scores in states may go up or down a few points, but the bottom line is that the basics matter most. That is, a state willing and able to support education and families able to support their children.


Craig’s Chicago Business acknowledges that the children in Chicago public schools need what the Chicago Teachers Union won in their contract negotiations. But still, they wonder, are taxpayers willing to pay the price? 

Now that financial details of the pact are starting to trickle out, it’s clear that the mayor was telling the truth—that is, for the teachers. And that truth raises a very significant question of whether the unprecedented, potentially $1.5 billion mayoral bet will be worth the cost to already struggling Chicago taxpayers.

That $1.5 billion figure comes from the Chicago Public Schools’ budget office. It’s at the high range of what officials say the new CTU deal will cost over the next five years cumulatively…

“The union won the strike. They absolutely won,” says Paul Vallas, a former CPS CEO who was one of Lightfoot’s rivals in the February mayoral election. “It’s going to be impossible for them to come up with that much dough without major tax increases if (Gov. J.B.) Pritzker does not fully fund the state’s new school-aid formula.”

Pritzker is working on that. But as Vallas noted, doing so likely depends on voters next year enacting the governor’s proposed graduated income tax amendment, and that’s no sure thing.

Overall, there is little dissent that putting increased staff resources into particularly needy schools—as the contract requires—is the right thing to do. Eventually, that should result in higher graduation rates and kids better prepared to enter the job market.

It is always good to get Vallas’ views, since he privatized schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans as his budget solution and ran unsuccessfully for mayor, governor, and lieutenant governor.

Are the voters in Illinois willing to pay higher taxes to improve conditions of learning, to assure smaller class sizes, and to get better prepared youth?

The Chicago teachers’ strike represents a change in Chicago, for sure. The harsh policies of Daley, Duncan, and Emanuel are over. A new day has dawned, with national implications.

It’s a definitive shift in the entire landscape, not just in Chicago, but throughout the U.S., away from privatization, school closures, charter schools, and the kind of Koch Brother-funding of private schools instead of public schools, a threat we’ve been fending off for the last 30 years,” said Jackson Potter, a high school teacher and union bargaining member in Chicago.

Potter continued, “This contract really represents advances—and not just trying to preserve what we had or prevent the annihilation of the public system—but how to expand it, fortify it, and have a considerable [investment] in low income students of color and their communities that starts to look more [like] what we see in wealthy white suburbs.”

The contract dealt a blow to the charter industry, with “hard caps on charter school expansion and enrollment growth.” The rightwing Heartland Institute called the settlement “a death blow to charter schools in the Windy City.”

Alas, the sustained efforts of the Disrupters foiled by one powerful teachers’ strike, joined by Chicago’s progressive new mayor!  Their policies of austerity and privatization undone. Calling the world’s smallest violin.

Thanks to the invaluable organization “In the Public Interest” for assembling these sources in one place.

Gary Rubinstein, math teacher at Stuyvesant High School, is a skilled myth buster. He frequently unmasks “miracle” stories.

In this post, he demolishes the claim that Louisiana has improved faster in 8th grade math than other states.

This is the last gasp of the Disruption movement, which has controlled federal and state policy for 20 years but has little to show for it.

As Rubinstein shows, Arne Duncan and John White are leading the effort to find the “bright side” of the latest NAEP results, which were stagnant In 2019 and have been stagnant for a decade.

Duncan says the nation should look to Louisiana for inspiration. Louisiana ranked among the bottom  states on NAEP, 44th to 49th, depending on the grade and the subject. But how creative to point to one of the lowest performing states as a national model! Do what Louisiana did and your state too can rank among the bottom five states in the nation!

Gary points out that Louisiana has indeed improved, but its 2019 scores on 8th grade math were actually a point lower than its scores were in 2007! In other words, Louisiana hasn’t gained at all for the past dozen years!.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the leaders of the Disruption movement admitted that their 20-year-long policy of test-and-punish is both stale and failed?

Wouldn’t it be great if they said, “Whoa! We’re on the wrong track. We’ve inflicted nonstop testing on the nation’s children since 2002. We have spent billions on testing and test-prep. Scores went up for a few years but leveled off in 2007. Enough! Our answers are wrong. Time for fresh thinking.”




Mike Klonsky writes here about the advice of former Duncan aide Peter Cunningham to Chicago: When trying to revive devastated black communities, bring in “new people.”

Klonsky begins:

Just when you think we’ve heard the last from the disastrous duo of Arne Duncan and Peter Cunningham, they become media go-to guys on (of all things) gun violence and community development.

Remember, this was the pair that ran the Chicago Public Schools and the U.S. Dept. of Education for years, promoting austerity, mass school closings, privatization and uncapped expansion of privately-run charter schools in black communities. Their policies helped lead to the devastation of urban school districts and contributed to school re-segregation and the push-out of thousands of black and poor families from cities like Chicago.

Why media would turn to them for meaningful solutions to the problems they helped create is beyond me. But here we are.

Cunningham’s Sun-Times commentary yesterday (To revive declining South and West Side neighborhoods, import people) was the most egregious. The headline says it all. Now that 300,000 African-Americans have been pushed out of Chicago over the past few decades, Cunningham sees their replacement with thousands of “new, middle-class people” as the city’s salvation.

How unoriginal. I have referred to it as the whitenization of the cities. But it’s deeper than that.

Read on.


The Center for American Progress has been the think tank of centrist Democrats and a refuge for veterans of the Obama administration and the would-have-been Clinton Administration. The media calls it “progressive,” but on education its agenda was aligned with the mainstream of the Republican Party. It never supported vouchers but it was all-in for charter schools. Now that Betsy DeVos is the new face of the Reform and Choice moment, it’s bizarre to call charters a progressive idea.

CAP’s new site “Think Progress” is folding. It could not find a patron. The problem may have been not just money but message. With Sanders and Warren vying for the progressive vote, CAP has lost its claim to be”progressive.”

Given its unrelenting defense of the privatization of public schools by entrepreneurs and corporate chains, it is clear that CAP was not in touch with the meaning of progressivism. It defended all the noxious tenets of Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top. High-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, closing schools with low scores, and charter schools. In D.C, these were the common threads in the Bush-Obama era. In state after state, these principles are being repudiated. They failed. They were corporatist, not progressive.

Are you longing for a return of Race to the Top and its principles of high-stakes testing, competition, and charter schools? Then Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado is your man. He released his plan today in Iowa and it won praise from Arne Duncan. Try to forget that Race to the Top and George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind were virtually the same. Try to forget that both failed, having inflicted disruption on American schools for 20 long and fruitless years.

Warren has thus far been silent on K-12 Education. Sanders has released a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal called the Thurgood Marshall plan, which pledges tripling the funding for Title 1, dedication to desegregation, and a moratorium on new charter schools.

Bennett’s announcement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, September 6, 2019
Shannon Beckham, 602-402-8051,

ICYMI: Michael Bennet Joins Iowa Teachers, Parents, and Preschoolers to Unveil
Comprehensive Education

DES MOINES, IA — Michael Bennet on Thursday joined teachers, parents, and preschoolers
in Iowa to unveil the most comprehensive education agenda of any candidate, declaring “equal must be equal” if America’s children are to reach their full potential. The plan was welcomed by education experts, including former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said Bennet “understands this work in a way few can, because he has lived it.”

Read more about Bennet’s events in Iowa and the reaction from education experts below.

Read the full plan at

Bennet started the day by dropping off school supplies at the Jesse Franklin Taylor Early
Childhood Education Center in Des Moines before hosting a roundtable discussion with educators and touring preschool classrooms.

Later, Bennet met with a group of Iowa teachers and school board members to hear about the challenges they are facing in their classrooms.

He then joined 2017 Iowa Teacher of the Year Shelly Vroegh to host a town hall forum at Central Campus in Des Moines, where students are receiving the career and technical training that is a core element of Bennet’s education plan. He answered questions from parents, teachers, and advocates about how his experience has informed his agenda.


Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: “I was lucky enough to lead CPS when Michael Bennet was doing the same in Denver—I learned a lot from him. Maybe more importantly, I have seen his heart for the children and communities that need the most help. He understands this work in a way few can, because he has lived it.”

Executive Director of Next100 Emma Vadehra:
“Senator Bennet understands the connection between opportunity and education from
his time successfully running a major urban school district. He knows what works and what doesn’t, and I’m glad he continues to make educational equity a major focus of his campaign, from high-quality early learning to meaningful college and career opportunities, and everything in between.”

Former Senior Policy Advisor to the Under Secretary of Education Michael Dannenberg: “Whereas
Donald Trump strives and thrives on dividing America, Bennet is campaigning on a vision where folks come together at the local level, since Washington can’t seem to, on a goal everyone can support—ensuring that every child, every young person gets a real chance at living the American Dream. He’s putting forth an agenda that strives for unity, embraces decentralized pragmatic problem solving, and is directed at progressive goals with accountability attached—it’s quintessential Michael Bennet.”

Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Director Douglas Harris:
“It’s the best education plan I’ve seen so far.”


Education Week:
“Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet criticized his opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination Wednesday, saying they’ve focused too much on ambitious proposals to forgive student debt and not enough on yawning inequality in the nation’s K-12 education system. Bennet…imagines a ‘new American Dream’ built on regional and state-federal partnerships to ensure children meet milestones of well-being and opportunity. Among those milestones: Children should be able to read by 3rd grade, and they should be able to enter college without needing remediation.”

Des Moines Register: “When asked about the issues facing American education, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet tends to stray from the popular college tuition discussion and instead focuses on a constituency that won’t earn him an Iowa caucus vote. Preschoolers. … ‘The burden…is carried most by the kids.’”

Associated Press:
“Besides free, universal preschool and free community college, Bennet says he wants to eventually have debt-free public colleges. In K-12 schools, Bennet wants to increase federal spending to reduce local education disparities that lead to wealthy areas getting more school dollars than poorer ones.”

The Hill: “[Bennet] unveiled a sweeping education plan that would offer ‘every child’
an opportunity to ‘flourish’ by 2028 and promises free preschool and community college. Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, said he’s introducing the plan to rectify historic racial and wealth disparities in the public education system.”

“Bennet’s plan includes early childhood and K-12—which is notable given the silence on K-12 issues amongst most campaigns—but his higher education plan is in strong contrast to candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders…This plan could help Bennet stand out in the field with a detailed plan addressing education from early childhood all the way to higher education.”

Iowa Starting Line:
“Understanding the economic impact and problems with our education system highlight Bennet’s background, with time in the education and business sectors. It’s also what makes him not a single-issue candidate; he understands how this single, important issue interacts with other issues and circumstances.”

“‘My sense traveling around Iowa is that you are suffering from the same thing we
are in Colorado which is just a complete under investment in the public education system,’
Bennet said, ‘We
are not investing the way that our parents and grandparents invested in us. It’s not even close.’”

CBS 2: “Bennet highlighted the importance of early childhood
education during his roundtable with educators in Des Moines, but he spent little time talking about about his education policy—instead insisting that he get input from those experiencing it first-hand.”


A few years ago, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs pledged $100 million to launch 10 super new innovative schools, which she dubbed XQ schools. Each would get $10 million to show their stuff. She surrounded herself with veterans of the failed Race to the Top, like Arne Duncan and Russlyn Ali. What could possibly go wrong?

I reported last week that two of the 10 had failed.

The XQ school in Somerville, Massachusetts, was rejected when town officials realized that the cost of running a new school for 160 students would cause budget cuts to existing schools.

Leonie Haimson pointed out that a third had failed, in Oakland.

More on the Somerville story here (not behind any paywall): XQ Institute also awarded $10M to start a Summit Learning HS in Oakland that never opened. means 3/10 of the awardees of their Super School prize have already failed.

Stay tuned.

Laura Chapman has been doing research on the Center for American Progress, which the media views as the voice of the Democratic Party. This may be the most depressing thing you read today. It calls for a return to the principles of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Both failed. CAP wants to resuscitate the worst features of both. Maybe CAP can persuade Arne Duncan to return as Secretary of Education. Then the disaster would be complete.


And here we go with the new progressive agenda for schools.

Almost every week Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress (CAP) appears on television to opine about the presidential elections. Tanden is a former aide to Hillary Clinton. CAP is supposed to function as a think tank for Progressives, especially Democrats. On July 2, 2019, CAP published: A Quality Education for Every Child: A New Agenda for Education Policy.” The press release asserted: “The Next President’s Education Agenda Must Center Racial Disparities in Educational Opportunity.”

I have been studying this report. It is highly critical of K-12 education. It is also calculated to mislead casual readers. The authors claim the report is “a bold and comprehensive approach to K-12 education.” I think not. Many of CAP’s favored policies endorse two decades of federal demands for accountability. Think Arne Duncan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF).

CAP is on record as favoring teacher unions and higher pay for teachers, especially for those who work in low-income communities. However, CAP is also all-in for charter schools, known to be antiunion. This contradiction is one among others this report. The writers also bury important details in the endnotes. For example, CAP wants students to meet “challenging standards.” The endnote cites the Common Core. In addition, CAP’s website has over 50 articles pushing the Common Core, the latest in 2019. This affection can be explained by the $14 million CAP has received from the B&MGF, main financier of the Common Core, and specific grants: In 2013, $550,000 “for implementation of the Common Core,” and in 2016, a cool $2 million for “enactment of the College and Career/Common Core agenda, and to reduce opposition to it and associated high quality tests.”

CAP’s policy recommendations for the next President are bad news for public schools. The Introduction claims that a bipartisan consensus exists on key elements of education reform—standards-based accountability; teacher evaluations that include test scores of students; and school choice. The authors then say that these three reforms are not the problem. The real problem is that improvements have not been made “at the pace needed to give every student a fair shot at success in college and career.” CAP elaborates on all of these claims in five policy priorities for a new administration.

Applying An Explicit Race Equity Lens To Policy Development. “This means specifically looking at potential impacts on communities that do not identify as white or that have large concentrations of families with low incomes, without conflating the two.” This section is an argument on behalf of increasing opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities, schools, and students. CAP’s discussion of race ends in naming groups who are underserved: Students who are non-white, Black, Latinx, Native American, and some Asian American and Pacific Islander children, students from families with low incomes, students with disabilities, students who identify as LGBTQ, and students who are English language learners.

“A new administration must begin with a comprehensive strategy for addressing disparities in educational opportunity” (ideally) ”coupled with a comprehensive economic development strategy beyond the educational system.” CAP calls for $200 billion to modernize school buildings; a grant program to promote “culturally responsive pedagogy”; state audits of schools and districts for “disparate educational opportunity,” and USDE guidance to state legislatures on equitable funding.

Equitable funding seems to mean “filling the annual $23 billion gap in funding between predominantly white and predominantly nonwhite school districts.” I found the source of this estimate. It is EdBuild. EdBuild promotes “a weighted student funding formula” so that money goes to the school a student attends, aiding school choice, including vouchers. ALEC, the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange has also pushed this system of funding since 2010.

It turns out that CAP as a financial supporter of EdBuild. CAP and EdBuild also receive money from the same foundations: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Helmsley Charitable Trust; Walton Family Foundation; Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and W. K. Kellogg Foundation among others. CAP traffics in ideas and money devoted to undermining public education.

Preparing All Students For College And The Future Workforce. CAP dwells on the economic return on investment from college and high-value work credentials. The report calls for states with “college-and career-ready academic content standards” (aka the Common Core) to make sure a K-12 ladder prepares students for careers “in the new economy.” Districts should make sure that families with children in kindergarten know requirements “for the future of work.”

CAP also wants “a new federal-state-industry partnership” empowered to identify middle and high school models for accelerated college credit and a meaningful workforce credential. This partnership is also supposed to ensure that career and technical education (CTE) programs “reflect upcoming, well-paid, in-demand jobs” in regions where the programs are offered.

CAP’s thinking about CTE is not bold. It is not progressive. It assumes that labor markets are predictable and that schools should be responsible for job training desired by potential employers. CAP’s policy ideas are vintage 1990s workforce training proposals from the National Center for Education and the Economy. They ignore the civic mission of schools and what life may offer and require of students beyond getting a job.
3. Modernizing And Elevating The Teaching Profession. Here is the major claim: “If states and school districts raised teacher pay to match that of other professions, provided training to help teachers meet the needs of the changing student population, and increased the selectivity of the teaching profession, the national narrative about and respect for the teaching profession would shift. A comprehensive policy agenda to achieve this goal should be multifaceted and must ensure that teachers are given the necessary training and resources to meet a higher bar.”

CAP’s discussion of teacher strikes, low pay, and other discontents has little bearing on a “comprehensive agenda to raise the prestige of teaching and improve teachers’ working conditions.” For teacher education programs CAP says: Be more selective in accepting candidates for teaching and explicitly seek diversity among candidates, provide high-quality clinical training and more rigorous coursework of use in modern classrooms.
For states and districts, CAP says: Align requirements for licensure with candidates’ observable readiness to teach; invest in supports for new teachers, such as high-quality induction and mentorship programs; provide dedicated time and support for professional development that improves student outcomes; and identify career pathways so excellent teachers can expand their effectiveness.

There is nothing daring or innovative about these recommendations. The puffed-up “elevating” language comes from a Obama/Duncan 2012 RESPECT program conjured by McKinsey & Company of the same points appear in CAP’s 2015 report “Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession.” Here is a scathing review of this warmed over Obama scheme from the National Education Policy Center.

4, Dramatically Increasing Investments And Improving The Equity Of Existing Investments In Public Schools. CAP writers note that about eight percent of public schools funds come from federal sources. Title I funding is dedicated to schools were many students are from families with low incomes. CAP wants Title I funding increased and full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

CAP’s big new policy idea is this: “The federal government should appoint a commission to determine a specific set of critical education resources that are typically present in privileged communities but missing from historically disadvantaged schools and districts. These resources could include guidance counselors, school nurses, mental health professionals, art and music classes, or extracurricular enrichment opportunities.” (I found no endnotes or details about who would appoint the commission, with what authority, or how their deliberations might be acted upon.)

CAP proposes federal “public education opportunity grants” as a way to address inequities. This is not a new idea. Such grants are available under Title I, Part A Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies. The grants are for schools with a high proportion of students from low-income families. In 2018, these grants were funded at $15,759,802,000. (CAP does not seem to have ideas on state and local funding other than money follows the student.)

Bringing A Balanced Approach To Charter School Policy. To its credit, CAP does not support for-profit on-line charter schools. It also urges the next administration to “include strong authorizing and accountability policies for charter schools as well as efforts to proactively address the shortfalls of the sector. These efforts should include solutions for pain points, such as issues related to backfilling enrollment during the school year, providing service to students with disabilities, and maintaining transparency in financial operations—to name a few.” (Pain points? Shortfalls? Not a single endnote refers to well-documented and rampant corruption in charter schools. Not one).

CAP is on record as favoring charter schools. CAP’s 2017 “The Progressive Case for Charter Schools,” offers praise for Teach for America and Relay Graduate School of Education. CAP’s 2018 “Charters and the Common Good: Spillover Effects of Charter Schools in New York City” includes this astonishing claim: ”There is suggestive evidence that spillover effects (from co-location) are larger if the charter school appears to be of high quality, (defined) as either having high average scores on annual 4th-grade math and reading exams or being operated by an established, respected charter management organization such as KIPP, Success Academy, or Uncommon Schools.” (Respected? Franchise cookie-cutter schools are great?)

According to CAP, charter schools represent a solution to racial and economic inequities in education. “In too many places across the country, there are not enough good seats in schools, especially for Black, Latinx, and Native American students, as well as students from families with low incomes. A strong charter sector is a critical component to expanding the number of good public school seats, and high-quality charter schools are a valuable strategy to address that problem.” (CAP refuses to acknowledge that charter schools are not legally equivalent to public schools. They are now and historically have been a means to further segregation. “Seats” is shorthand for a calculation used to market charter schools in any community where schools are ranked A-F or in league tables. The enrollments in all schools not rated A or B, or an equivalent system are counted as all of the “seats” that could be replaced by the imagined “high quality seats” in charter schools).

CAP wants the next administration to “apply a race equity lens to public school choice policies generally and charter schools specifically, with a focus on equitably expanding access to opportunities for underserved students. This means that decisions on where to locate schools and programs and how to make enrollment decisions—for example, boundaries, admissions requirements, and lottery rules—should be analyzed with a race equity lens.“ (CAP assumes that school choice is an uncontested and established policy. Notice the absence of any reference to elected school boards. Decisions are “just made” as if from some invisible decider).

“This approach should include a balanced assessment of potential charter growth and the impact on traditional districts. This assessment should always focus on how to increase the number of good seats for students but may imply different specific recommendations in different places and circumstances.”

CAP’s eagerness to endorse school choice and charter school growth is not just in accord with Trump/Betsy DeVos’ policies. It also responds to the wishes of key funders of CAP. For example, the Walton Family Foundation has sent CAP $1,228,705 in three grants for K-12 education, with a 2017 ”special projects” grant of $453,705 for work on “Supporting High-Quality Charter Schools” and “Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

CAP’s report is designed to promote charter school growth and double down on every misguided policy of the last two decades. I have left a ton of references and rants on the cutting floor. By the way, all five of the authors of this Report had staff positions on the Hill and four worked in Obama’s Department of Education.