All Writing | Bellwether Education Partners Skip to main content

You are here

All Writing

Learn more about Bellwether’s work by reading our publications, news articles, press releases, and case studies.

  • Publication
    Sara Mead, Chad Aldeman, Carolyn Chuong, and Julie Obbard

    After years of cuts to the teaching workforce, California districts are beginning to hire again. This positive change is offset, however, by the fact that teacher preparation programs are producing fewer graduates than the state’s schools and districts want to hire. As a growing number of districts face teacher shortages, or the prospect of them, California needs new strategies to improve both the supply and the quality of new teachers prepared in the state.


    California lacks a coherent strategy to grow the supply of high-quality teachers. A variety of organizations have identified weaknesses in the state’s teacher preparation programs and policies, but many of their recommendations would impose new requirements that lack research support and could further reduce the number and diversity of teacher candidates. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which oversees teacher preparation, is initiating reforms designed to reduce the focus on inputs in teacher preparation and increase attention to outcomes—but they may not go far enough. And none of these proposals would address the state’s most fundamental teacher preparation problems: a highly fragmented approach to preparation and an excessive focus on credential type, rather than on actual classroom effectiveness, as the sole measure of teacher quality.


    Improving the quality of teacher preparation in California will require a profound shift in the way that key players in the system—districts and charter schools, preparation programs, state regulators, and candidates themselves—think about their roles in teacher hiring and recruitment. Districts and charter schools need to take on a greater role in cultivating their own teacher supply. Preparation programs need to reframe the focus of their work around meeting the needs of K-12 schools and candidates—the consumers of teacher preparation. This will require both a wider variety of preparation programs and real, robust local partnerships between districts or charter schools and the programs that prepare their teachers. State policies can encourage and support these partnerships, while also providing greater flexibility for them to customize preparation to candidate and local needs.

    Read more ...

  • Media
    Sara Mead

    Both charter schools and publicly funded pre-K can improve learning for children in poverty. Together, they have the potential to do even more to close the achievement gap for at-risk students. Yet policies in many states prevent charter schools from serving pre-K students. This is a huge missed opportunity – one that's only going to get worse as charters and pre-K continue to grow.

  • Publication
    Foreword by Michael J. Petrilli and Amber M. Northern
    Report by Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel

    In Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration, authors Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel examine thirty-six jurisdictions that have both charter schools and state-funded pre-K programs to determine where charters can provide state-funded pre-K.

  • Media
    Andrew J. Rotherham

    An American spacecraft flew by Pluto on Tuesday morning to have a look around. That sentence was the stuff of science fiction when most of us were born. And that's not all. Last November, a European spacecraft landed on a comet. On a comet speeding through space! We've also been poking around Mars, and at the end of April a pathbreaking NASA mission to Mercury ended after four years of orbiting that planet. Meanwhile, here on Earth, there is a lot of head scratching about how to get more American kids interested in science, technology, math and engineering – the vaunted STEM subjects.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    The American education system is in the midst of a strange paradox. Reading and math achievement levels are increasing for 4th- and 8th-graders, but they’ve barely budged for high school students. High school graduation rates are at all-time highs, and more students are going to and persisting in college, but college dropouts are now a bigger problem than high school dropouts. Meanwhile, overall educational attainment levels in the U.S. have slowed considerably, and we’re now 14th on a measure in which we used to lead the world.

    In Mind the Gap: The Case for Re-Imagining the Way States Judge High School Quality, Chad Aldeman argues that new, more multidimensional ways of judging high school quality are essential to break out of this paradox. Current state and federal policies on high schools tend to reward schools that perform well on measures like test scores and graduation rates while forcing changes on those that don’t. Instead of focusing on higher-order skills, challenging coursework, and annual progress toward college and career readiness, schools are encouraged to focus on lower-level skills and to push all students through to a diploma, regardless of what they learn. But while the focus on low-level academic skills and high school graduation rates has proved useful in some ways, it won’t be sufficient to drive dramatic improvements going forward.

    Fortunately, the conditions are now in place for a much richer definition of what it means to be a successful high school. With the expansion of educational data sources, a critical mass of new information about school quality now exists and is waiting to be put to good use. There is now enough information to create low-cost but sophisticated portraits of high school quality that include measures of student engagement, challenging coursework, and success in transitioning to college or a career.

    Read the full report for Aldeman’s recommendations on how to get there.

     

  • Media
    Sara Mead

    Head Start, the nation's biggest early childhood education program, could be in for some major changes. In June, the Federal Register published a "notice of proposed rulemaking" on the Head Start Performance Standards. Sounds like bureaucratic gobbledygook, right? But it's actually a big deal.

  • Publication
    Leslie Kan
    Chad Aldeman

    In terms of retirement benefits, now is the worst time in at least three decades to become a teacher. After years of expansion, a number of states enacted legislation cutting benefits for workers in response to financial pressures.

  • Media
    Andrew J. Rotherham

    An American spacecraft flew by Pluto on Tuesday morning to have a look around. That sentence was the stuff of science fiction when most of us were born. And that's not all. Last November, a European spacecraft landed on a comet. On a comet speeding through space! We've also been poking around Mars, and at the end of April a pathbreaking NASA mission to Mercury ended after four years of orbiting that planet. Meanwhile, here on Earth, there is a lot of head scratching about how to get more American kids interested in science, technology, math and engineering – the vaunted STEM subjects.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman, Kelly Robson & Andy Smarick

    It’s unlikely that the nation as a whole will ever revert back to the No Child Left Behind Act's highly detailed, inflexible rules. We’re three years into the “Waiver Era” and 83 percent of U.S. students—more than 41 million children—now attend schools in states freed from NCLB. The trend is clear: From NCLB’s strict federal rules to the slightly less-standardized waiver rules to the current congressional proposals for reauthorizing the law, the next federal accountability law will most likely return a substantial amount of discretion to states.

    In Pacts Americana: Balancing National Interests, State Autonomy, and Education Accountability, Chad Aldeman, Kelly Robson, and Andy Smarick put forth a proposal for a new federal-state relationship called “performance compacts” that would bridge the gap between NCLB’s heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all accountability and the current inclination to overcorrect.

    Under such a system, the federal government would work with each state to establish ambitious student performance goals; each state would develop a comprehensive, contextualized plan for reaching those goals; each state with an approved plan would be freed from federal rules on school and district ratings and interventions; and the federal government would monitor state results, extending the length of compacts with those states making progress and revisiting compacts with states where performance lost ground. Ultimately, the federal government would hold states accountable for student outcomes while leaving the details (content standards, assessments, curricula, interventions, and more) to the discretion of each state.

    A system of performance compacts could offer a new, bipartisan path forward on federal K-12 policy, striking a balance among the urgency to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students, the practicality of preserving state autonomy, and the need to hold states accountable for results.

  • Media
    Sara Mead

    A growing number of kids are being served in state and locally funded pre-K programs. That's a good thing. But ensuring that all children enter school ready to succeed will require both expanded access in many communities and improvements in pre-K quality in most. Clearing up common misconceptions about state pre-K can help policymakers better address these challenges.

  • Media
    Andrew J. Rotherham

    Are charter schools – independently operated public schools – at an inflection point? While education advocates fought about Common Core and teacher evaluations charter schools continued to grow and now serve 6 percent of all American public school students. This growth, which is even more pronounced in some cities and states, is highlighting both the promise and challenges of charter schooling.

  • Media
    Sara Mead

    Ultimately, students and communities are likely best served by a variety of options, including traditional neighborhood schools, charter schools that choose to backfill mid-year and in all grade levels, and some charter schools that do not. Variety, rather than uniformity, may be the best way to balance student interests and needs.

Pages