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ECS Governance NotesNovember - December 2003

Governance Notes Archives


Welcome to ECS Governance Notes, a bimonthly e-mail publication with links to key information on education governance.

In this issue's guest column, Dan French of the Center for Collaborative Education describes a network of 19 small, innovative public schools in Boston. The Boston PILOT SCHOOLS, as they are called, have greater autonomy over their resources -- budget, staffing, curriculum, assessment, governance, policies and scheduling -- in exchange for increased accountability.

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On October 12, CALIFORNIA Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1137, which specifies oversight duties of chartering authorities. It also requires charter schools to meet at least one of several academic performance criteria as a prerequisite to renewal of their charter, and requires them to provide quarterly financial reports to their sponsoring school districts.

On October 4, LOUISIANA voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the state board of elementary and secondary education to supervise, manage and operate -- or provide for the supervision, management and operation of -- public schools determined to be failing.

On April 28, IOWA Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law House Bill 549, which revises the state's open enrollment policy. It requires the state board of education to establish guidelines and a review process for districts that approve voluntary desegregation plans. These guidelines must include criteria and standards for districts to observe when creating a voluntary desegregation plan. It also requires the department to lend technical assistance to any district attempting to adopt a voluntary desegregation plan.

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The "2003 Accountability Report on Mayor-Sponsored CHARTER SCHOOLS" provides information about the first three charter schools that were approved by the mayor's office in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to the report, these three schools are serving a diverse group of children, many of whom are academically challenged. The report also provides performance data about each of the three schools based on multiple school visits, parent and staff surveys, test score analysis, school finance reviews and special education reviews.

As part of the Education Improvement Act of 1992, Tennessee designated local school boards as the sole authority in appointing SUPERINTENDENTS. Previously, superintendents were elected by the general public, appointed by a county commission or appointed by a school board. "Elected vs. Appointed Superintendents: Questions and Answers," by the Tennessee Office of Education Accountability, presents information on the effects of such changes on the superintendency in Tennessee.

According to the authors of "Baselines for Assessment of Choice Programs," the performance of CHOICE programs should be compared to the real -- as opposed to the idealized -- performance of the current public education system. The authors establish baselines for the performance of both the current system and choice programs on a variety of dimensions -- racially isolated schools, funding and human resource inequities, allocation of opportunity-limiting programs and misallocation of opportunity-expanding programs.

According to "Keeping the Promise: The Case for Reform in the Pittsburgh Public Schools" by the Mayor's Commission on Public Education, the Pittsburgh Public Schools will not have a high-performance school district without fundamental structural change in the way that public schools are governed. In particular, SCHOOL BOARD members should be appointed by the mayor from a pool of candidates provided by a nominating commission whose members reflect the racial, geographic, professional and economic diversity of the city, the report says.

Test scores in CHARTER SCHOOLS lag behind scores of regular public schools in the 10 states that were studied in the "2003 Brown Center Report on American Education," but charter schools in those states registered significant gains in test scores from 2000 to 2002. The report also examined conversion charter schools in California, and found, among other things, that they produced average test scores despite serving students with demographics that are usually correlated with low scores. Lastly, the report looked at charter schools operated by educational management organizations (EMOs). It found that compared to regular public schools and to charters serving students with similar socioeconomic characteristics, EMO-operated charters have much lower test scores. However, gains made from 2000 to 2002 in EMO-operated schools have been significantly higher than those of both non-EMO charters and regular public schools.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed the ECS State Policies for CHARTER SCHOOLS Database. From this database, you can generate profiles of the state policies for charter schools in individual states, create comparisons of specific types of charter school policies across several states and view predetermined reports on state policies for charter schools.

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With a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Program, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, in partnership with Public Impact, recently launched a project that will work with states that choose to use CHARTERING as one strategy to meet the ambitious goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. There are several components of this project, including state policy summaries, "options briefs," "results briefs," state policymaker meetings and intensive policy assistance to three states.

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To read more about Education Governance, visit the ECS Issue Site on Governance.


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