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Looking forward to 2011

champagneWasn’t 2010 supposed to be the Year of Education Reform? ‘Race to the Top’ was going to transform the education landscape, ‘No Child Left Behind’ was to get a facelift, school turnaround options were going to transform our lowest achieving public schools…

How’d all that work out for everyone?

- Maryland and Hawaii winning ‘Race to the Top’ money? For what, exactly? They’ll be battling their unions until 2015 just to move the dial slightly on any of their promises.

- ESEA reauthorization during an election year? Good luck.

- At least we learned a few things about turnarounds, namely that they aren’t going to work unless the culture of a failing school is turned on its head.

Before we get accused of ending a year on a sour note, though, allow us to throw ourselves into the group of hopefuls looking to 2011 as a year that gets things done for our kids and for our schools.

Why the positive change of heart, you ask?

November.

Beginning next Monday, a new Congress just might leave substantive education policy decisions in the hands of those who have been getting the job done all along – Governors and state legislators.

And so, we end 2010 as many began, hopeful that substantive changes will come to our schools in the form of greater choice for parents, real rewards for our best teachers and accountability for those who steer the ship.

To help this process along, we offer up these 10 Education Reform New Year’s Resolutions for state lawmakers:

1. Increase the ability of higher education, mayors and other independent entities to authorize charter schools so more children have access to quality public school options.

2. Eliminate arbitrary and unnecessary caps on the number of charter schools that can operate in a state and on the number of students who can attend charter schools.

3. Close the gap between the funding for traditional public schools and public charter schools.

4. Allow charter schools to operate with operational autonomy and teacher freedom-freeing these schools to innovate and develop new best practices that serve our children.

5. Develop a school voucher program or a scholarship tax credit program to provide private school choice for children with special needs.

6. Begin the process of creating data systems that allow teachers, principals, district officials and state officials to link student achievement to teacher performance.

7. Protect teacher’s paychecks by prohibiting automatic deductions of union expenses that aren’t related to collective bargaining.

8. Create a teacher merit pay pilot program that allows great teachers-ones who improve student achievement-to receive extra pay in recognition of their hard work.

9. Increase pay for teachers willing to teach high-needs subject areas and in high-needs schools.

10. Develop meaningful alternative routes to teacher certification for talented midcareer changers who want to become teachers.

Happy New Year!

(see you on the flip side)

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