Skip to main content

Publications

News and Press

You are here

Publications

Ideas matter. In addition to our work with clients, Bellwether Education Partners generates and gathers ideas and policy solutions, analyzes ongoing reform efforts, and writes about and discusses education and education reform. We believe that the work we do to improve education for all students benefits from thought leadership, analysis, and thoughtful discourse around emerging ideas, in order to help challenge leaders and leading organizations to think differently and improve, to coordinate efforts where possible, to inform policymakers and improve the political and policy context, and to share successful approaches with the public education field at large.

Publication

One out of every four dollars that Illinois taxpayers send to Springfield goes toward pensions. The teacher pension system alone makes up over half of the state's pension debt, with a total unfunded liability of $57.9 billion. Legislators have already passed cuts to teacher retirement plans and will need to continue funneling revenue to pay off the debt.

Publication

Schools increasingly rely on new teachers to staff their classrooms. A generation ago, the modal teacher had 15 years teaching experience, meaning that, if you asked teachers how many years they had taught the most likely answer would be 15. Today, the answer would be five years of experience. And the proportion of teachers who are new to the field will increase as the Baby Boom generation retires: Some estimates forecast half the nation’s teachers could retire in the next ten years.

This demand for new teachers creates some obvious challenges for the education field, but it also means that states have a unique opportunity to leverage their authority over teacher preparation and certification to raise the overall level of teacher quality and effectiveness.

To that end, Bellwether has produced two new reports:

* Peering Around the Corner, analyzes 11 states that have made substantial progress in linking teachers to the preparation programs that prepared them. For each state, we review the technical and practical decisions they made — like determining which outcomes to measure and how to define them, identifying the right sample size, and deciding if and how to use the data for accountability. We also take a more general look at the challenges states can expect to face, and the tradeoffs they’ll have to make, as they take on this work.

* Policymakers are still looking for the right way to identify effective teacher preparation and predict who will be an effective teacher. Nothing tried so far can guarantee effective teachers. In No Guarantees, we recommend an alternative approach that relies on the best available evidence to date: initial teaching effectiveness has promise for predicting future effectiveness.

Read more ...

Publication

Head Start is a valuable program that delivers early childhood education and comprehensive services to over one million children living in poverty, helping prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. But to maximize results for Head Start children and their families, practitioners and federal policymakers must use data in new ways to support ongoing improvement in Head Start programs.

Bellwether worked with three organizations—Results for America, the National Head Start Association, and the Volcker Alliance—to develop a vision for using data, evidence, and evaluation to improve Head Start outcomes. Read more here.

Publication

Recently, private school leaders have taken notice of some of the propelling forces behind charter school growth: charter management organizations (CMOs) and education management organizations (EMOs). To achieve sustainability and growth in the private school sector, some private schools have adopted a network model through private school management organizations (PSMOs), which are independent entities that operate or help operate three or more private schools.

In this study, Bellwether's Juliet Squire, Andy Smarick, and Kelly Robson examine the operations of existing PSMOs and define them by typologies. The authors also warn of potential pitfalls, surface questions for future research, and recommend ways to engage with these fledgling organizations.

Publication

Over the last generation, Catholic schools have been buffeted by a confluence of winds: changing demographics in the urban neighborhoods where many of their facilities are located, the disappearance of nuns and priests from classrooms, new competition from tuition-free charter schools, and other factors. Enrollments tumbled. 6,000 schools closed. Financial pressures thinned instructional resources.

Yet two million children remain in Catholic schools today. This includes a great many low-income and minority youngsters for whom Catholic schooling is a lifeline in an otherwise dysfunctional neighborhood. And Catholic schools get enormous bang for their educational buck—posting graduation rates, college success patterns, and levels of constructive student behavior that much exceed the performance at counterpart public institutions.

Publication

During the past decade, the number of students attending charter schools more than tripled to nearly 3 million, or 6 percent, of students nationally, and charters are playing an even more prominent role in educating students in some of nation’s largest urban communities.

Despite this growing role in U.S. public education, the debate about charter schools continues to be plagued by outdated information, misconceptions, and myths.

A new analysis from Bellwether Education Partners brings together the most recent data on charter schools from a variety of sources to provide a comprehensive picture of the current state of the charter school movement in the United States.

Read more...

Publication

In June 2015, the Federal Register published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Head Start Performance Standards, the federal regulations governing the operation of Head Start programs. This is the first major revision of the Performance Standards since 1998, and the first complete restructuring since their creation, some 40 years ago.

Publication

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 ...

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

 

Pages