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ECS Governance NotesApril - May 2001

Governance Notes Archives


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

“Shining a Spotlight on the Governance of Public Education," a column by Milt Goldberg and Todd Ziebarth, examines some of the MAJOR TRENDS IN K-12 GOVERNANCE over the past two decades and identifies the need for state policymakers to rethink who makes what decisions about public education. It also delineates the purpose of the National Center on Governing America's Schools, and outlines the Center's scope of work.

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In SOUTH CAROLINA, the state's Education Oversight Committee (EOC) is working to implement a set of 14 recommendations aimed at clarifying the roles of local school boards and superintendents; strengthening school board members' qualifications, training and effectiveness; and altering governance structures at the state and county levels. The recommendations, some of which will require legislative action, were made in October 2000 by a study team appointed by the EOC to identify ways to improve education leadership and governance in the state. A copy of the study team's report, “Recommendation's to the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee," is available online.

One of 11 PENNSYLVANIA school districts targeted for improvement by state legislators last year is moving toward a system of independently operated schools. The Chester-Upland School District has hired three education-service providers to operate 11 of the district's 14 schools. The providers – Edison Schools Inc., LearnNow Inc. and Mosaica Education Inc. -- will be required to meet the board's specifications in various areas, including standards, assessments, accountability, professional development, intra-district choice and school safety. The Chester-Upland district is being run by a three-member board appointed by the state as part of the Education Empowerment Act passed by the legislature in 2000. The following two links will connect you with information about the Chester-Upland Reforms and the Education Empowerment Act, respectively.

Governance of FLORIDA's K-12 and higher education systems is undergoing a comprehensive restructuring. A constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 provides for the governor, as of January 2003, to appoint the state board of education, and for the state board, in turn, to appoint the state commissioner of education. Last year, legislators expanded the scope of this reform by giving the state board -- and the commissioner it hires -- authority over not just K-12 schools, but the entire education system, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary. The legislation also abolishes the Florida Board of Regents, and creates 11-member, governor-appointed boards of trustees at each of the state's 10 universities. Further information is available on the Education Governance Reorganization Transition Task Force's Web site.

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“School Boards and Student Achievement," a 2000 study of six school districts in Georgia by the Iowa Association of School Boards, examines the role that SCHOOL BOARDS play in raising student achievement. According to the study's results, school boards in high-achieving school districts are significantly different in their knowledge and beliefs than school boards in low-achieving school districts. This difference appears to extend through the ranks of administrators and teachers throughout the school districts.

According to a 2001 study by The Goldwater Institute, “Does Charter School Attendance Improve Test Scores?," Arizona students enrolled in CHARTER SCHOOLS for two or three consecutive years showed stronger gains on reading tests than their counterparts in traditional public schools. The study also found that students in charter schools for two years showed a slight test score advantage in mathematics over similar students in traditional public schools, but that students in charter schools for three years had slightly lower gains in math than their counterparts in regular public schools. This publication is not available online, but may be ordered by calling 602-744-9618 or e-mailing

“An Evaluation of Student Achievement in Edison Schools Opened in 1995 and 1996," a 2000 study by The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University, focused on 10 of Edison Schools Inc.'s oldest schools, and compared student test data from the EDISON SCHOOLS with data on schools in the surrounding school districts, as well as with state and national norms on standardized tests. The study found that students in the 10 Edison schools showed improvement from year to year on norm-referenced tests. On criterion-referenced tests, however, the gains and losses of students in the 10 Edison schools mirrored those of students in the comparison groups. Click on the following links to see The Evaluation Center's Report, Edison's Response (Go To Press Releases, February 22, 2001) and The Evaluation Center's Rebuttal.

In “How Washington Can Help Reinvent the School District," a Commentary piece in the March 7, 2001, issue of Education Week, Bryan Hassel explores an intriguing idea included in President Bush's education package – CHARTER DISTRICTS, which would grant school districts freedom from federal strings in exchange for strict accountability for results. According to Hassel, a charter district program, if structured thoughtfully, could spark one of the most urgently needed changes in public education: the reinvention of the school district.

“Designing State Higher Education Systems For a New Century," a 1999 book by Richard Richardson, Katy Reeves Bracco, Patrick Callan and Joni Finney, explains how various state governance structures influence the way priorities for higher education are established. The book chronicles case studies from seven large and diverse higher education systems, and discusses the current HIGHER EDUCATION GOVERNANCE debate, which centers on priorities, strategies for implementation, effective use of student time, redistribution of state resources and careful study of new facilities in the light of emerging technologies. Recommendations are offered to help state policy leaders craft higher education systems that meet the educational needs of their residents. For information about ordering the book, click on the following link.

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As policymakers have enacted and amended CHARTER SCHOOL laws and regulations, the importance of a state's policy environment to the success or failure of charter schools has become more and more apparent. In an attempt to provide policymakers with a clear picture of what charter school policies are in place in each of the states, the National Center for Governing America's Schools recently completed the “Collection of Charter School ECS StateNotes," which provides summaries of charter school policies in the following areas: charter school basics, charter school finance, charter school autonomy, charter school teachers and charter school accountability.

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The “Web-Based State-By-State K-12 Public Education GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES DATABASE" will contain information about each state's governance structure, including information about structural elements at the state, regional/county, school district and school levels. This database will be available on the ECS Web Site in July 2001.

A future ECS StateNote on open enrollment will include a review of the requirements about school district and school participation, who is responsible for covering a participating student's transportation costs and, as available, the level of school district, school and student participation.

On May 3 and 4, a national meeting on VOUCHER BALLOT INITIATIVES co-hosted by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the National Center on Governing America's Schools will be held at the University of California at Los Angeles. The conference, "Education Vouchers: An Analysis of the 2000 California and Michigan Ballot Initiatives," will address the issues related to California's Proposition 38 and Michigan's Proposition 00-01, including an analysis of the specifics of both voucher initiatives, an examination of the factors that resulted in the initiatives being placed on the ballots and their subsequent defeat and a discussion of the future for school voucher ballot initiatives. Click on the following link for more details about the conference, including registration information.

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


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