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Is Your City Education Reform-Friendly? Is Your City Education Reform-Friendly?

Is Your City Education Reform-Friendly?

by Nikhil Swaminathan
August 27, 2010


What does it take for a city to be ready for school system reform? These days, it's hard not to answer that question by simply saying, "Well, is the teachers' union still active?"

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with an assist from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tried to assess which cities are the country were best perched to revamp their educational apparatuses. The researchers looked at whether a city had access to a talent pipeline, had readily available sources of public and private funding, showed a commitment to charter schools, could properly assess the success of entrepreneurial ventures, and were open to reform and innovative practices at both the district and city level.

Cities were graded from A to F, though no municipalities earned the top grade. (Does that mean no one's really ready for reform?) 

New Orleans, which is in the midst of a huge school choice experiment in the wake of rebuilding its education system after Katrina, snagged a B. (Recently, Reason posted a video praising the school choice efforts in New Orleans. It's embedded below.) Denver, which has instituted performance pay incentives for its teachers, did, too. New York; Washington, D.C.; and Houston also earned Bs—as did smaller cities like Jacksonville, Florida and Fort Worth, Texas.

Chicago, arguably the template for federal education efforts (since its former schools CEO, Arne Duncan, is now the secretary of education), only mustered a C, as did L.A. and Boston.

According to the new study, where are the places least prepared to reform their school systems? Detroit garnered an F, despite Michigan's prodigious efforts to revamp education laws in order to compete for Race to the Top funds.

In a press release announcing the study, Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Fordham Institute, said cities serious about reform need to create environments akin to Silicon Valley for innovation in technology.

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