Sounds like it's all marketing. There's no research base for Rhee's ranking list and when you compare the ranks to outcomes its all over the board. Probably this research blogger's biggest concerns have to do with how Rhee's claims for increased accountability and transparency are completely untrue and that in fact the opposite is the case: increased unaccountability and opaqueness.
On Monday, the organization Students First came out with their state policy rankings, just in time to promote their policy agenda in state legislatures across the country. Lets be clear, Students Firsts state policy rankings are based on a list of what Students First thinks states should do. Its entirely about their political preferences largely reformy policies template stuff that has been sweeping the reformiest states over the past few years. Ill have more to say about these preferred policies at the end of this post.
But I digress Now back to the Students First ratings. Students First created 3 broad categories of preferred policies for their ratings policies that it believes:
Spend wisely and govern well
By elevate teaching, Students First means the usual basket of reformy options including elimination of traditional salary schedules, teacher evaluations based heavily on student test scores, reduction of retirement benefits and reduction or elimination of due process rights, and pay based primarily on test-score driven evaluation systems. They also prefer to expand alternative routes into the teaching profession. Of course, theres not a whole lot of transparency into how these various elements are factored into the final grades. But there is a rubric! ...
Every item on their list is somehow mysteriously scored on a 0? you suck) to 4? wow you are REFORMERIFIC!) scale without using any actual data (apparently) to inform that ordinal rating. Then in a wonderful leap of number abuse, these ordinal scale data are averaged to create a grade point average for each broad category on a 0-4 GPA like scale, where most values of course lie in the imaginary spaces between the original ordinal ratings (like kinda-semi-almost-reformerific = 3.49).
Finally, I close with a topic that should be another blog post altogether, and likely will be at some point. Ive been struck by the logic that the preferred policies in the Students First report are intended by their framing to increase accountability, empowerment and transparency. Yet, in all likelihood, most of these proposals accomplish precisely the opposite substantially eroding public accountability and oversight and compromising statutory and constitutional rights of children, employees and local taxpayers. . . .
The Students First state policy rating system like many other reformy manifestos implies that the road to ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY is necessarily (perhaps exclusively) paved through shifting larger numbers of students and teachers and larger shares of public funding over to the management of non-government entities and non-public officials, as well as creating entirely new layers of public decision making by referendum/petition (Parent Trigger). Whatever gripes we may have regarding the efficiency or responsiveness of government operated services, we must think this one through carefully.
Unless detailed accountability requirements are explicitly spelled out in a whole new layer of state and federal laws, the preferred policies laid out in the Students First and by other reformy institutions are more likely to lead to less public accountability and transparency rather than more. ...
So yes Students First has their policy preferences and theyre certainly entitled to that. Theyve built their entire rating system on their idea of whats good policy. Theyve not tried to justify their policy preferences in any research basis on effectiveness or efficiency of these policy preferences, nor could they. There simply is no research basis to support the vast majority of their preferences. Even where Charter school policy is concerned, findings of successful charters seem to occur most often where authorizers are few and tightly regulated, and where charter market share is low (as in NYC or Boston). This is in direct contrast with the SF preference for further deregulating and expanding the sector (as in states with relatively poor charter performance). So, in short, theres simply no research based reason to follow the policy agenda of Students First. But the reasons they provide accountability, transparency, blah blah blah are also not consistent with their policy agenda.