The Lens
Bringing vision and clarity to education policy
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One of the most important challenges for governing city schools in an era of choice is protecting the interests of students with special needs. These kids are often desperate for better options, but also vulnerable to being pushed out of schools that don’t want them. The fact that charter schools tend to enroll a smaller percentage of students with special needs is concerning to those who rightly believe that public schools should be open to all students—the gap sends a message that students with special needs need not apply.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Michael Bloomberg’s final term as New York City mayor will soon end. Will the nationally influential education governance changes he introduced end too?

From the tone of the now-concluded Democratic primary, one might expect so. The winner, Bill de Blasio, condemned recent actions by Bloomberg’s Department of Education as “a cynical effort to lock communities into permanent changes while ignoring community voices.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CRPE is a policy shop. We study governance systems and propose policy solutions at the systems level, but I start every presentation about CRPE’s work with this list of the attributes not of effective systems, but of effective schools.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Elected school boards are a cherished community tradition in public education and they provide voice to many big and small community interests. But sometimes these political functions undermine their ability to improve opportunities for students.

Both operating and overseeing schools can lead boards to protect the schools they run even when they are not working for children. The need to satisfy diverse adult constituencies can lead boards to placate organized groups by imposing harmful constraints on schools.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In the last few years, those at the helm of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) have become increasingly hostile to the city’s fast-growing charter school sector. Last year, the school board refused (despite a directive from the state to approve) a charter application from Great Hearts Academy, a respected Arizona charter management organization. This is despite the fact that only about 40% of the district’s students in grades 3-8 are meeting proficiency standards.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Governance reforms – those that open public education to innovation, new providers, competition, and family choice – often start with suspension of normal local politics, via mayoral or state takeovers that bypass the elected local school board.

This trend would make Thomas Jefferson happy. Noting that any governance arrangement is subject to what political scientists call capture – domination by particular interests – Jefferson recommended a revolution every 20 years. Getting rid of an elected board is certainly revolutionary.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A few weeks ago, after I gave a presentation on the opportunities and challenges of the portfolio model, a charter school proponent asked me, “Robin, do you really believe districts can innovate?”

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