Reform Issues

Harvard’s Paul E. Peterson advocates for education reform through competition. “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.” 

An educational model in which the student is the customer? Written by Thomas Bogle, a public school teacher from Arizona, the piece examines public education from a libertarian perspective. 

 “Do Value-Added Estimates Identify Causal Effects of Teachers and Schools?” written by Thomas Kane, a researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, makes his case that there is now substantial evidence that value-added estimates capture important information. He does issue two caveats though. 

New policy in Kansas: “State Board of Ed approves regulations for hiring teachers with subject expertise but no education degree.” While teachers in California can circumvent the traditional education school route to the classroom, Kansas is taking it to another level. 

Learning by rote memory has gotten a bad rap of late, but is there a place for it? New York teacher and writer David Bonagura definitely thinks there is. In “What's 12 x 11? Um, Let Me Google That,” he certainly makes a strong case. 

In The Atlantic, Christina Hoff Sommers writes “The Bizarre, Misguided Campaign to Get Rid of Single-Sex Classrooms.” She takes the ACLU and like-minded groups to task for comparing single sex classrooms to racially segregated classes. 

Erik Hanushek et al have written Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School. In an interview, Hanushek delivers 5 important points: 

  1. We are not competitive internationally in terms of our schools and the skills of our population.
  2. Other countries have shown that it is possible to improve. Indeed some of our states have shown the same thing: Maryland, Delaware, Florida, and Massachusetts. 
  3. If we can improve, the potential economic gains are huge. If we do not improve, we will be seriously hurt in the future – and the era of the “American Century” could come to an end.
  4. A number of people – particularly those currently working in the schools – resist the fundamental changes that are needed, but we must find a way to improve our schools.
  5. Improving our schools is not a partisan issue but one that faces all of our citizens.

Early childhood education continues to be a hot topic, with various pundits and politicians claiming that money spent on pre-school will reap benefits far exceeding the costs of such an endeavor. However, there is another side to this story, as Reason Foundation’s Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia write in the Wall Street Journal. 

Nobody Deserves Tenure is a provocative article by Chester Finn. The article's title certainly articulates his point of view.

For the Los Angeles Times’ take on California's new sex education framework. 

Informed Parents of California, a popular and fast-growing group that is fighting the framework, has a very popular website and Facebook page.

Teacher Choice, by Alveda King

Last hired, first fired? A balanced view from Heather Wolpert-Gawron

America has too much standardized testing” has been repeated so many times that it’s believed to be a fact. But is it? Click link to get another perspective.

The teacher shortage. How bad is it? Does it even exist? AEI’s Nat Malkus looks at the data. 

What about Common Core? Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey debate Common Core. Both men differ greatly on the subject; however, they do agree on certain facts as laid out in this informative piece. 

In The Atlantic, Christina Hoff Sommers writes “The Bizarre, Misguided Campaign to Get Rid of Single-Sex Classrooms.” She takes the ACLU and like-minded groups to task for comparing single sex classrooms to racially segregated classes. 

Union Issues

Courtesy of Mike Antonucci, we can see just how the National Education Association plans to help local union activists defeat efforts by school districts to privatize support services. To see NEA’s anti-privatization combat manual, go here.


Books On Education Reform

The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending the Diploma Disparity Can Change the Face of America by Richard Whitmire

How Charter Schools Promote Diverse Learning Models and Meet the Diverse Needs of Parents and Children by Lance Izumi

The Politics of Institutional Reform: Katrina, Education, and the Second Face of Power by Terry Moe

Teaching Math in the 21st Century by Barry Garelick

Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn: A Look at Math Education from the Inside Paperback by Barry Garelick

Push Has Come to Shove by Steve Perry

Obama’s Education Takeover by Lance T. Izumi

Why America Needs School Choice by Jay P. Greene

Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell

No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning by Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom

Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice by Lance T. Izumi, Vicki E. Murray and Rachel Chaney with Ruben Patterson and Rosemarie Fusano

Crazy Like a Fox by Dr. Ben Chavis with Carey Blakely

What's Gone Wrong In America's Classrooms - edited by Williamson Evers

A Choice for Our Children by Alan Bonsteel and Carlos A. Bonilla

Learning As We Go; Why School Choice is Worth the Wait by Paul T. Hill

Books On Teacher's Unions
Standing Up to Goliath: Battling State and National Teachers' Unions for the Heart and Soul of Our Kids and Country by Rebecca Friedrichs

Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America's Public Schools by Terry M. Moe

Understanding Teacher Contracts by Andrew Rotherham

Free Choice For Workers -- A History of the Right To Work Movement by George C. Leef

Power Grab - How the National Education Association is Betraying Our Children by G. Gregory Moo

The Teacher's Unions -- How They Sabotage Educational Reform and Why by Myron Lieberman

The Worm in the Apple -- How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education by Peter Brimelow

The War Against Hope - How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education by former U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Rod Paige

Understanding The Teacher Union Contract: A Citizen's Handbook by Myron Lieberman

Books On Technology In Education
Short Circuited: The Challenges Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California by Lance T. Izumi, Vicki E. Murray, Evelyn B. Stacey, Rachel S. Chaney, and Ian D. Randolph

Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education by Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb

The Trouble With Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra


Studies, surveys, organizations, etc.

Below are several pertinent studies of which every teacher should be aware sorted by date for your convenience.

--2021 National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

--2021 EdChoice Research Library

--October 2019 - Andrew Biggs, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a D.C.-based public-policy analyst, have written “The Truth about Teacher Pay,” an essay for National Affairs, that unmercifully destroys mountains of emotion-based clichés that are education establishment mainstays.

The authors dispel myths like the “teacher pay gap,” which allegedly leads many educators to take second jobs, as well as other tall tales of woe, including the “teacher shortage,” that “teachers are leaving the field in droves,” that “teachers work more than other professionals,” et al.

To read this eye-opening report, go here.

-- March 2019 - A study by Eric Hanushek et al for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows that all the top-down fixes – No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc. – have been absolutely useless in shrinking the achievement gap between students from higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The disparity remains as large as it was in 1966, when James Coleman wrote his landmark report and “the nation launched a ‘war on poverty’ that made compensatory education its centerpiece.”

According to the study, school funding quadrupled in real dollars between 1960 and 2015, with a large portion of the money used to reduce pupil-teacher ratios – a school board and teacher union staple. But the researchers conclude that the increased spending has done nothing to lower the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

To learn more about the study, go here.

-- December 2018 - How important are smaller classes for students? Not very, according to a new report issued by the Danish Centre of Applied Social Science. Researchers examined 127 studies, eliminating many that did not meet strict research requirements, and found that there may be tiny benefits to small classes for some students when it comes to reading. But in math, it found no benefits at all and the researchers “cannot rule out the possibility that small classes may be counterproductive for some students.”

To see the study, go here.

-- October 2018 - Martin Lueken, EdChoice’s director of fiscal policy and analysis, makes the case that not only do vouchers save the taxpayer money, they have no effect on per-pupil spending.

"When students leave public schools, they usually generate fiscal savings because the voucher amount in all programs is significantly less than the overall cost of educating students in district schools, and typically less than the short-run variable costs.

These savings, however, do not necessarily materialize as reductions in K–12 expenditures because public officials must make decisions to reduce expenditures. When they don’t reduce those expenditures as public schools lose students, public schools will end up with more resources on a per-pupil basis. A common by-product of introducing school choice programs is that spending per student in district schools increases. Although it may be the case that total revenue for a district may drop, it is usually not the case that revenue per student declines. "

To read Lueken’s study, go here.

-- June 2018 -United Teachers of Los Angeles President Caputo-Pearl constantly demonizes charters, which he claims suck blood from traditional public schools. But as Reason Foundation scholar Lisa Snell writes, charters account for only 13 percent of the district’s enrollment drop in 2017-2018. She places much of the district’s fiscal woes on its spending on pensions, health care, and special education programs.

"The district’s most recent budget of $7.5 billion, approved in June 2017, projected that LAUSD will face a $422-million shortfall by the 2019–2020 school year. In addition, in four years the combination of pension costs, health and welfare costs, and special education costs are projected to take up 57.5% of unrestricted general fund revenue (LAUSD’s main operational funding), before the district spends a single dollar to run a regular school program."

To read more on Snell’s in-depth analysis, go here.

-- February 2018 - A study released by the University of Arkansas shows that money allotted to charters is money very well spent. “A Good Investment: The Updated Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities,” examines the cost-effectiveness and return-on-investment for charter schools. The report finds that in each city, charters yield more learning per education dollar – on average 53 percent greater than for traditional public schools. The report also finds that for each dollar invested in a student enrolled in a traditional public school, that student secures $4.41 in lifetime earnings. However, the same dollar invested in a student enrolled in a charter school yields $6.37 in lifetime earnings for that student – 45 percent more.

To learn more about the study, go here.

-- February 2018 - A new study out compares the cost-effectiveness of charters and traditional public schools. The findings include:

"Education dollars go farther in charter schools than they do traditional public schools.

For every $1,000 in per-pupil funding, students in charter schools earn 17.76 points on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) compared to 13.42 points for students in traditional public schools. In math, students in the charter sector earn 19.21 NAEP points compared to 14.48 in traditional district schools.

Every dollar spent on students in traditional public schools results in $4.67 in lifetime earnings for those in traditional schools, $6.44 for those in charters, and $5.40 for those who split their K-12 years between both."

To read more about this study, conducted by Patrick J. Wolf of the University of Arkansas, Corey DeAngelis of the Cato Institute, et al, go to

-- November 2017 - A Public Policy of California report finds that just 30 percent of all California 9th graders are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree. Also, only 45 percent of the graduating class of 2016 completed college preparatory courses, which are required to be considered for admission to any state school. The report analyzes when students leave the path to college, which students leave, and the major impediments to success.

To learn more, go to

-- November 2017 - The yearly EdChoice “Schooling in America” report has been released and, as usual, the pro-choice outfit has done a thorough job of digging into various education crevices. From the executive summary:

"The national nomenclature surrounding education has shifted dramatically in the past year. Terms like “vouchers,” “charter schools,” and “tax-credit scholarships”—all educational options—have entered the mainstream dialogue as a result of a political embrace by the executive administration. This emergence has fueled the ongoing debate on what is and should be considered public education in the United States. Often in this political climate, the loudest voices garner the most attention. That has certainly been true in education, where distinct stakeholders of parents, teachers, administrators, boards, and governments often struggle to align their goals. Yet the voices of everyday citizens as a whole also should be examined for this most important public good."

To access the report, go to

-- October 2017 - The Independent Institute’s Vicki Alger has released a report on the value of educational savings accounts. She writes that “California is among the bottom five states in the nation in reading and math. Currently, nearly one out of five high school students does not graduate, and just 43 percent of those who do graduate meet California’s four-year college course requirements.”

To read Alger’s in-depth report, go to

-- September 2017 - Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a study released by the Fordham Institute delves into the depths of the teacher absentee problem. On average, teachers miss about eight school days a year due to sick and personal leave, while the average U.S. worker takes only about three-and-a-half sick days per annum. The study shows that 28.3 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent, which is defined as missing 11 or more days of school per year due to illness or personal reasons. Interestingly, in charter schools – most of which are not unionized – the corresponding number is just 10.3 percent.

Even within charter schools, the study reveals a glaring disparity. Teachers in unionized charters are almost twice as likely to be chronically absent as their colleagues in non-unionized charters – 17.9 percent to 9.1 percent.

To read this eye-opening report, go here -

-- September 2017 - When teacher salary schedules first came to be about 100 years ago, they were designed to eliminate discrimination due to race, ethnicity and gender. With such discrimination illegal today, is there really any need for them?

Not according to the Brookings Institution, which has come out with a report that shows the detrimental effects of the step-and-column pay regimen. To read more of this provocative report, go to

-- July 2017 - As Alex Zimmerman writes in Chalkbeat, a recent study finds that” being closer to a charter school led to small increases in math and reading scores, boosts in reported student engagement and school safety, and fewer students being held back a grade.The test score gains increased slightly more in traditional public schools that are co-located with a charter.”

To learn more, go to

-- May 2017 - Merit pay or “pay for performance” is back in the news, courtesy of a study from Vanderbilt University. The research shows that teacher participation in a merit-pay program led to the equivalent of four extra weeks of student learning, according to an analysis of 44 studies of incentive-pay initiatives in the United States and abroad. In the U.S., the study showed increased student learning equivalent to three additional weeks of schooling.

To learn more about the study, go here -

-- May 2017 - University of Arkansas professor and researcher Patrick Wolf has just completed a study in which he found that, “Students in public charter schools receive $5,721 or 29% less in average per-pupil revenue than students in traditional public schools (TPS) in 14 major metropolitan areas across the U. S in Fiscal Year 2014.  That is the main conclusion of a study that my research team released today. Of the cities we examined, some have large and well-established charter sectors, like Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, while others have more emerging charter school sectors like Little Rock, San Antonio, and Tulsa.”

To read more about Wolf’s eye-opening study, go to

-- March 2017 -On a “State Report Card” issued by Education Week, California scored below the national average. Massachusetts ranked at the top, followed by New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland and Connecticut, all earning a B. As a whole, the nation received a C, but the Golden State came in with a solid C-minus, 10th from the bottom among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The state ranked 41st in conditions that help children succeed, 39th in school finance, and 30th in achievement. The report card gave the state a D+ in K-12 achievement and school finance, and a C in chance for success.

To see the whole report, go here.

-- December 2016 -The Fordham Institute released a report on the difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from public school classrooms. The results of the study showed that in some school districts it is virtually impossible to get rid of an under-performer. The Fordham analysts used a ten point metric based on three simple questions:

  1. Does tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
  2. How long does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
  3. How vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher's dismissal to challenge?

They then used this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran teachers in 25 diverse school districts across the country and found three major obstacles. In 17 of the 25 districts, state law allows teachers to achieve tenure and never relinquish it, even if poor performance reviews follow. Also, it takes forever to cut through the red tape involved in a teacher dismissal. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, it can take five or more years to complete the process. And finally, teachers have multiple appeals to their dismissal in many districts.

To read more about the Fordham Institute report, go to

-- December 2016 -The National Council on Teacher Quality released new ratings for 875 undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs. One of NCTQ's findings is that these programs still have far to go, particularly in preparing elementary teachers in mathematics. The new findings do little to quell the notion that teaching is an easy major, open to anyone who applies in many institutions. Only one quarter of the programs (26 percent) are sufficiently selective, generally admitting only the top half of college goers.” To access the NCTQ report, go to

-- May 2016 - University of Arkansas professor Patrick Wolf and his team released a meta-analysis of 19 “gold standard” experimental evaluations of the test-score effects of private school choice programs around the world. “The sum of the reliable evidence indicates that, on average, private school choice increases the reading scores of choice users by about 0.27 standard deviations and their math scores by 0.15 standard deviations.  These are highly statistically significant, educationally meaningful achievement gains of several months of additional learning from school choice.” To examine the study, go here.

-- January 2016 - The Association of American Educators’ 2016 survey has been released, and, as always, it’s interesting to see where independent-minded teachers come down on education issues. Just a small sampling:

  • 69% of teachers would support a blended learning environment in which students spend part of their day with a teacher and part of their day on a computer.
  • 67% of those surveyed are interested in negotiating their own contract so that they can negotiate a salary and benefits package that best suits their lifestyle.
  • 95% of teachers expressed support for course choice, allowing students to craft custom educational plans utilizing a variety of provider

To access the full survey, go here.

-- January 2016 - “The ABCs of School Choice” from the Friedman Foundation is a comprehensive guide to every private school choice program in America. The latest edition defines each of the four types of school choice: education savings accounts, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits and deductions. It also features a spread for each school choice program including the most recent participation, funding, and eligibility data as well as information on the program’s rules, regulations and legal history. To access the report, go here.

-- January 2014 - Teach Plus, whose mission is to “to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers,” has come out with a survey which finds that teachers are amenable to change the way California does tenure, seniority and dismissals. For more information and access to the survey, go here.

-- January 2014 - According to a 17-year study in New York City, Education Next reports “Minority students who received a school voucher to attend private elementary schools in 1997 were, as of 2013, 10 percent more likely to enroll in college and 35 percent more likely than their peers in public school to obtain a bachelor’s degree.”  To read more about the study, go here.

-- December 2014 -While we all know that the effects of good teachers on children are supremely important, we are also aware that their home lives greatly affect their learning potential. In its Winter 2015 edition, Education Next has an in-depth study on the effects of single-parenthood. To read what the researchers learned, go here.

-- September 2014 - Courtesy of the Fordham Institute, we again learn that there has been a large uptick in the number of non-teaching staff employed in our public schools.To access “The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach,” go here.

-- May 2014 - University of Arkansas researcher Patrick Wolf has come out with an in-depth study, the results of which show that charters are funded at much lower levels than traditional public schools across the country. To download the report, go here. To see the data for California, go here.

-- March 2014 - Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson has done a telling analysis of education spending in California and its relationship to SAT scores and has found that more money spent does not translate to better results.

-- February 2014 - The Association of American Educators has come out with its 2014 national membership survey. The alternative teachers’ organization posted some very interesting results. For example, the teachers polled came down in favor of various types of parental options:

  • 82% of members support public school open enrollment.
  • 59% of teachers agree with Wisconsin's Parental Choice Program, allowing low-income students public funds to attend a school of their choice.
  • 72% of AAE members support Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), which enable students to leave their assigned public schools, taking 90% of the state dollars with them. That money, deposited into ESAs, can then be used to access a multitude of education options that better meet their children's needs.

For more on the AAE poll, go to

-- January 2014 - The National Council on Teacher Quality has a new study which examines “the extent to which America's traditional teacher preparation programs offer future teachers research-based strategies to help them better manage their classroom from the start of their teaching career.

-- May 2013 - We have compiled some data that is not typically available at one's fingertips. If you find anything that you think is erroneous, please let us know.

-- March 2013 - CTEN conducted an internal poll on a variety of issues. To see the results, go here.

-- January 2013 - Every year, NCTQ puts out a yearbook, a 52-volume, 9,000-page compendium examining the state of the states on their policies to promote teacher quality.

-- October 2012 - From the Fordham Institute, in conjunction with Education Reform Now (an arm of DFER), we now have a state-by-state comparison of teacher union power. There are several surprises here. For example, the Alabama (right-to-work state) teachers union is considered more powerful than the union in non-right-to-work Massachusetts. To watch a brief video about the study and to read the study itself, go here.

-- October 2012 - On the subject of spending, the Friedman Foundation has come out with a staggering study which claims that, “America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students. To read more and download the study, go here.

-- September 2012 - The always interesting Education Next yearly survey is out. One of the things that makes their polling different from others is that they will ask a question like, “Do you think that teachers are paid enough?” Then they will tell those being polled what teachers make and then repeat the question. Needless to say, the second response is frequently different than the first one. To access the survey’s results, go here.

-- August 2012 - The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk looked at several states to see how many current teachers voted in their union. To see his findings, go here.

-- July 2012 - According to a report released by the Education Action Group, the teachers’ contract in Los Angeles is costing the city, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, unnecessary millions that it can ill afford to spend at this time. “Sucking the Life Out of America’s Public Schools” gives us the gory details. To read the report, go here.

-- May 2012 - Professor Jay Greene claims that “Charter Benefits Are Proven by the Best Evidence” and that “opponents of charter schools have no equally rigorous evidence on their side.

-- March 2012 - A report by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office tackles the teacher layoff process in California. March Reduction In Force notices, seniority, bureaucratic bloat, etc. are all dealt with in a fair and unbiased way. To read the report, go here.

-- November 2011 - In North Carolina, the results of a study were released which show that giving public school students a choice as to which public school they can go to dramatically lowers the crime rate. Interestingly, the choices in this study are limited to traditional public schools – no charters schools or vouchers are involved. To read more, go here.

-- November 2011 - A couple of researchers at the Heritage Foundation suggest that teachers are paid too much.  To read the report, go here. The authors of the study summarized their findings in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

-- October 2011 - Jay Greene and Josh McGee have developed a database which enables anyone to learn how their school district shapes up next to not only others in their state and country, but to other countries also. To learn more and explore The Global Report Card, go here (

-- August 2011 - A new study from the National Center for Education Information deals with reform, union issues, etc.

-- May 2011 – CTEN conducted an internal poll on a variety of issues. To see the results, go here.

-- May 2011 - Four day work week for schools? May be worth a try. For more, go here.

-- April 2011 - A Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement.

-- December 2010 - Seniority is examined in a study by the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. Dan Goldhaber, lead author of the study and the center's director "projected that student achievement after seniority-based layoffs would drop by an estimated 2.5 to 3.5 months of learning per student, when compared to laying off the least effective teachers." Goldhaber then added, "If your bottom line is student achievement, then this is not the best system," To read more, go here.  To access the study, go here.

-- January 2010 - Andrew Coulson has written an exceptional article in which he contends that the unions effects on collective bargaining are trivial. He claims that their key success has been their effective lobbying to maintain the educational status quo. To read this provocative article, go here.

-- October 2009 - The Destruction of a Profession is a must read for anyone who has an interest in public education. This blog post references a new study, Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today , which claims that 40% of public school teachers are "disheartened." To read the full report, please go here.

-- September 2009 - Caroline Hoxby's important study "How New York City's Charter Schools Affect Achievement" can be accessed here. At the same time, she released a paper on the CREDO study. "A recent study of charter schools' effect on student achievement has been published by CREDO (2009). It contains a statistical mistake that causes a biased estimate of how charter schools affect achievement. This paper explains that mistake." To read the memo, go here.

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