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Publications & Media

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

  • 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.

  • 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

    The New York Times -- Yes, test quality must be better than it is today. And, yes, teachers and parents have a right to be alarmed when unnecessary tests designed only for school benchmarking or teacher evaluations cut into instructional time. But annual testing has tremendous value. It lets schools follow students’ progress closely, and it allows for measurement of how much students learn and grow over time, not just where they are in a single moment.

  • Media

    The Denver Post -- Public school teachers face plenty of uncertainty. It's a challenging profession that demands patience without guarantees of success. If that weren't enough, many Colorado teachers are flying without a net when it comes to their retirement.

  • Publication
    Leslie Kan
    Chad Aldeman

    Retirement savings are often described as a three-legged stool: Social Security, employer retirement plans, and personal savings. For many American workers, Social Security is the most consistent portion of the three-legged model, providing a solid plank of retirement savings.


    But nationwide, more than 1 million teachers — about 40 percent of all public K–12 teachers — are not covered by Social Security. In Uncovered: Social Security, Retirement Uncertainty, and 1 Million Teachers, Leslie Kan and Chad Aldeman analyze the consequences of this policy choice. Teachers without Social Security coverage face substantial uncertainty and must rely more heavily on their employer retirement plans (state pensions) and personal savings.


    Unfortunately, state pension plans leave too many teachers unprotected. According to an analysis of state pension plans’ own assumptions, half of today’s new teachers will not stay in a single pension system long enough to qualify for a pension when they retire. Even for teachers who do qualify, the existing structures offer minimal benefits even to those who stay for 10, 15, or even 20-plus years. The subsequent reality: many teachers not covered by Social Security are left with inadequate retirement savings from their time in the classroom.


    At a time when an increasing number of states struggle with teacher recruitment and policymakers are concerned about retirement security more generally, states should look for ways to provide all teachers with secure retirement benefits. Social Security is not sufficient as a stand-alone retirement program. The authors offer case studies from three hypothetical teachers of varying experience levels to show that all teachers, however, would benefit from Social Security coverage as one component of a comprehensive retirement plan.


    Download the full report here, or read a condensed PowerPoint version here.

  • Media

    Despite the development of new teacher evaluation systems in recent years, teacher evaluation ratings are still too often divorced from what happens to students and how much they learn. In an article for TNTP, Bellwether's Chad Aldeman discusses how districts rarely make consequential decisions about teachers based on their on-the-job performance.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Carolyn Chuong

    Over the last four years, states implemented remarkable changes to their teacher evaluation systems. Rather than rating all educators as either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” school districts use new multi-tiered evaluation systems to identify their best (and weakest) teachers. States now require districts to incorporate measurements of student academic growth and rubrics from higher-quality classroom observations into their ratings of teachers and principals. And teachers and principals are starting to receive financial incentives or face potential consequences based on these evaluation results.

    But after the initial rush of reforms, progress stalled. The rollout of new evaluation policies slowed down as districts faced implementation challenges and increasing public backlash against teacher evaluation reforms.

    In "Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change: From 'Unsatisfactory' to 'Needs Improvement,'" Chad Aldeman and Carolyn Chuong examine the ongoing effort to revamp teacher evaluations. After collecting and synthesizing data from 17 states and the District of Columbia, they provide five major lessons for policymakers.

    To read about the new evaluation systems and the preliminary lessons for policymakers, download the full report here.

  • Publication
    Andrew J. Rotherham
    Chad Aldeman

    The Washington Post - Many state teacher pension plans and retirement systems are unsustainable. Yet trying to fix the funding gap by throwing up obstacles and making the plans stingier ignores the main purpose of retirement plans in the first place: to offer all workers a path to an attractive and secure retirement.

  • Publication
    By Chad Aldeman and Andrew J. Rotherham

    Saving for retirement is a nationwide problem — a recent study found that 92 percent of households do not meet retirement savings targets for their age and income. Yet for most workers, public policies are not the root cause of their lack of savings. For public school teachers, however, poorly structured policies put in place over the past few decades by states and cities can exacerbate their retirement insecurity.

  • Publication
    By J.B. Schramm, Chad Aldeman, Andrew Rotherham, Rachael Brown and Jordan Cross

    As more students have attended and completed higher education, experts have repeatedly predicted this would create an over-abundance of college-educated workers. But the exact opposite has happened. Through economic upturns and downturns, including the recent recession, a college education remains the best insurance policy against shifting labor markets, unemployment, and under-employment.

  • Publication
    By Chad Aldeman and Andrew J. Rotherham

    Education Sector -- Policymakers are beginning to take note of the fiscal problems in teacher retirement systems. States have recently taken action by raising retirement ages, lowering benefit payments, and reducing cost-of-living adjustments. These are small steps toward shoring up the system to help ensure that it remains sustainable in the future.

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