CEP Reports: You Get What You Measure

More from the Center on Education Policy how states are using school improvement grants. Quick glance, the latest report doesn’t seem much more insightful than the Center’s February survey.

Yes, states like the extra money, but are worried about what will happen when it runs out. They have mixed reviews about their use of external partners. They believe “transformation” models have been effective. But how would they know? No indication of how districts are being held accountable for investing the money wisely this time, unlike in the previous decades.

As for the February survey, you get what you measure. It would have been great if the Center had used more robust indicators to look at turnarounds.

Are states gathering and disseminating information on best practices in low-performing schools? 33 are! Are they providing professional development directly to principals and staff in low-performing schools? 32 are! Not exactly stop-the-presses interventions. The results are predictable and discouraging — more of the same-old turnaround-light approaches that demonstrably don’t work, as we’ve documented before.

We (including CEP) need to be asking questions about the strategies that might actually work to turn around a school, such as: Have they modified policies to give schools enough flexibility over staffing, schedules, and budgets? Have they helped districts recruit or set up decentralized Lead Partner units in larger districts to help superintendents manage a high school feeder cluster? Thankfully leading states such as Delaware, Indiana, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Tennessee would have been able to say yes. Those are responses worth knowing about …. and emulating.