Tag Archives: Scott Pearson

Building a School Performance Framework for System Management and Accountability? Lessons From Washington, D.C.

At its core, a school performance framework (SPF) is a data-based tool to support local decision making. An SPF designed for system management and accountability provides data and information about system-wide goals to district- or city-level leaders overseeing multiple schools, helps leaders hold schools accountable for student outcomes, allows leaders to understand which schools are performing well and which are not, and informs system-wide improvement strategies and the equitable allocation of resources. 

Our recent publication “School Performance Frameworks: Lessons, Cases, and Purposeful Design,” a website and report available at SchoolPerformanceFrameworks.org, identifies system management and accountability as one of three primary “use cases” that can shape SPF design decisions. A “use case” (a concept borrowed from the field of technology and design) helps designers think through their end users’ needs. Our work imagines local leaders as designers and considers how the choices they make can meet the needs of different end users, including parents, school principals, and district leaders. Among the five long-standing SPFs we looked at in detail for our project, four prioritized the use case of system management and accountability in their SFP design. 

We also found that too many SPFs try to fulfill multiple uses at once, without clearly thinking through priorities and potential tradeoffs. This post is the third in a series that looks at SPFs through the lens of each use case to highlight design considerations and relevant examples.

SPFs built for system management and accountability can inform consequential decisions made at the district level about which schools should be rewarded, replicated, or expanded, and which ones require improvement, intervention, and possibly closure. These SPFs get the most attention when the data they produce result in school closures or other highly visible consequences. While closures may grab headlines and garner resentment for SPFs, a well-designed SPF can actually inject transparency, equity, and fairness into even the most challenging decisions and increase opportunities for students and families by highlighting success and supporting the expansion of quality school options. 

An SPF created for system management and accountability should include:

Continue reading

D.C. Charter Debate: Roundup of Recent Conversations

Via WhiteHouse.Gov: Latin American Montessori Bilingual Charter School in Washington, D.C.

Via WhiteHouse.Gov: Latin American Montessori Bilingual Charter School in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve ever read the About page of this blog, you know that we value spirited debate among our team members.

Last week was a great illustration, with a healthy back-and-forth about what percentage of schools in D.C. should be charter schools. Here’s the context and summary in case you missed it:

argue that a healthy balance of charter schools and traditional district schools is best for D.C.

2.) At the Flypaper blog, Bellwether Partner Andy Smarick opposes what he calls the “pausing of D.C. chartering” and writes that Pearson and McKoy’s position “reflects an unwarranted deference to the status quo.”

3.) Here at Ahead of the Heard, Bellwether Principal (and D.C. member) Sara Mead defends the op-ed: “The implication of Scott’s and Skip’s argument is not that D.C. should slow the pace of charter growth, nor that the city should aim for a specific percentage ‘balance’ between DCPS and charters.”

4.) Smarick writes back: “I don’t know how anyone could not interpret this as a call to slow or halt charter growth.”

5.) Over at the Flypaper blog, Pearson and McKoy write that their op-ed “does not signal a slowdown in PCSB’s authorizing” or in “efforts to support growth by high-performing charters already in D.C.”

6.) The Washington Post recaps the “hot-button issue” that has resurfaced since the original op-ed.

We look forward to more robust debates from the variety of voices on our team.

Debating D.C. Charter Market Share: Quality Schools for All Kids Should Be Primary Goal

I’m deeply perplexed with my colleague Andy Smarick’s recent Education Gadfly post responding to my PCSB colleagues Scott Pearson and Skip McKoy’s op-ed on the roles of charter schools and DPCS in the D.C. education landscape. Andy appears to read things into Scott’s and Skip’s piece that are not what they actually wrote, nor what I know them to believe. As a result, he draws some strange conclusions.

The irony here is that what Scott and Skip are calling for is basically what Andy previously called for in The Urban School System of the Future: A new approach to organizing public education in which traditional districts continue to operate, but as one of a variety of providers, competing with charters to serve students and held accountable for their quality. To a large extent, that’s already happening in D.C.: DCPS still serves the majority of the District’s children, but it’s no longer assumed to be the default provider of public education. Nor are charters viewed as a marginal alternative. Rather, policymakers and stakeholders in the District recognize that we have a diverse delivery system—in which parents choose among a variety of charter and DCPS options, and DCPS is the largest, but no longer the dominant, education provider.

Andy’s call for a new authorizer is particularly confusing. Authorizers have a very constrained role: To review applications for charter schools, to approve those with high-quality educational and business plans and capacity to implement them, to monitor the performance of schools once approved, and to hold those schools accountable for performance—including closing low-performing schools when necessary. Ultimately, these decisions should be based on the quality of individual applicants and schools—not an overarching “vision” for the share of a city’s schools that should be run by charters. Continue reading