Education and Society Program

Program Publications

Strengthening the Education Workforce

Forging a New Partnership: The Story of Teacher Union and School District Collaboration in Pittsburgh (June 2011) Forging a New Partnership: The Story of Teacher Union and School District Collaboration in Pittsburgh documents Pittsburgh's transformation from a typical, adversarial district-union dynamic to one of deep, substantive collaboration over the course of several years. This work has catapulted Pittsburgh to the vanguard of efforts to improve teacher effectiveness, and helped secure more than $80 million in philanthropic and federal grants. Through the voices of the principal participants, Forging a New Partnership tells the story of Pittsburgh's breakthrough collaboration and highlights important principles that can be applied in other contexts.

Designing and Implementing Teacher Performance Management Systems: Pitfalls and Possibilities (April 2011) As new performance-management-related policies go from idea to implementation, policy makers and education leaders need to flesh-out what are still broad principles in many areas. This represents a significant inflection point for the teaching profession and the management of public school systems. Early decisions will determine whether the new evaluations form the basis of a new, more productive way of working in public education, or yet another policy pronouncement with little impact on outcomes.

In 2010, the Aspen Institute convened a diverse group of stakeholders -- senior leaders from districts, states, and the federal government; union leaders from both the AFT and NEA; technical assistance providers, social entrepreneurs, and scholars -- to discuss these issues. The workshop focused on designing and implementing teacher performance management systems.

This new Education & Society Program paper is a discussion of key themes and takeaways from the workshop. A set of 6 core principles emerged for guiding the development and implementation of new teacher evaluations and performance management policies. Using examples from the field, the paper expands on the principles and challenges policymakers to focus on comprehensive systems rather than "fixes" for discrete problems.

Building Teacher Evaluation Systems: Learning From Leading Efforts (March 2011) Ambitious reforms across the country are reshaping teacher evaluation and performance management. Designing new systems for measuring teacher effectiveness and using that information to increase student achievement are at the heart of these efforts and at the center of important policy debates. Yet little information exists about how these systems work in practice and how to use evaluations in concert with other levers to improve teaching and learning.

As policymakers and education leaders seek to accelerate reform in this area, it is essential to learn from efforts already underway. The Education & Society Program published three new reports: profiles of the performance management work in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the Achievement First (AF) charter school network; and a synthesis of issues that emerge from the two profiles. Both DCPS and AF are at the forefront of efforts to re-design teacher evaluation, performance management, and compensation policies. The commonalities, distinctions, and early lessons learned in these initiatives represent an important learning laboratory for the field.

Download District of Columbia Public Schools: Defining Instructional Expectations and Aligning Accountability and Support.

Download Achievement First: Developing a Teacher Performance Management System that Recognizes Excellence.

Download Building Teacher Evaluation Systems: Learning from Leading Efforts.

Assessment 2.0: "Next-Generation" Comprehensive Assesment Systems (December 2010) An analysis of Proposals by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $350 million in Race to the Top funding to the Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers and the SMARTER Balances Assessment Consortium to develop what Secretary of Educaiont Arne Duncan calls "next-generation" assessment systems. The proposed assessment systems will have significant implications for how states and districts organize and support the challenging work  of principals and teachers to improve student outcomes. This comparative brief describes the major elements of each assessment system and is designed to assist system leaders in gearing-up for inplementation.

Core Principles for New Accountability in Education (April 2010) This publication is the product of a workshop on accountability policy held in Aspen, Colorado in July 2009. This paper recommends a set of six core accountability principles to help frame future conversations about the next generation of accountability policies in education.

Strategic Staffing for Successful Schools: Breaking the Cycle of Failure in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (April 2010) As the federal Race to the Top initiative and current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization discussions focus on the importance of turning around low-performing schools, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District provides an instructive example for how effective turnaround can be accomplished on the district level. CMS is combining the use of effectiveness data and strategic staffing to create a coherent, systemic approach to school turnarounds – and getting gains in student achievement as a result. Strategic Staffing for Successful Schools: Breaking the Cycle of Failure in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is a case study released by the Aspen Institute and Education Resource Strategies, Inc. (ERS). The study focuses on how CMS uses principal and teacher effectiveness data in its school turnaround efforts.

Teaching Talent: A Visionary Framework for Human Capital in Education (February 2010) presents a framework for human capital development that draws on a two-year initiative by the Aspen Institute Education and Society Program to research sectors that have effective, well-developed human capital systems and point the way toward human capital innovations in public education. The book first identifies the elements of a robust human capital strategy in education—teacher recruitment and career development; the principal’s role in ensuring teacher quality; and the district’s role in creating the conditions necessary to support effective human capital management. It then offers a comprehensive, visionary framework that weaves these elements together. Edited by Rachel Curtis and Judy Wurtzel.

Human Capital Management in K-12 Education: Organizing for Success provides a framework for thinking systematically about strengthening the teacher workforce. The framework and accompanying self-assessment can help practitioners and policymakers organize their thinking about the full scope of the issue, assess the work they are doing, and develop strategies for improvement.

Rethinking Human Capital in Education: Singapore As A Model for Teacher Development (December 2008) describes four key elements of Singapore’s teacher development system: high standards and deep support; serious career management; strong sense of professionalism; and strategic use of financial rewards. The authors then suggest how Singapore’s practices might help the U.S. By Susan Sclafani with Edmund Lim.

Creating and Sustaining Urban Teacher Residencies: A New Way to Recruit, Prepare, and Retain Effective Teachers in High-Needs Districts (August 2008). This report, a collaboration between the Aspen Institute Education and Society Program and the Center for Teaching Quality shows how the emerging innovation of Urban Teacher Residencies can improve teaching quality in urban schools. By Barnett Berry, Diana Montgomery, Rachel Curtis, Mindy Hernandez, Judy Wurtzel and Jon Snyder.

  • Urban Teacher Residencies published by Voices in Urban Education (summer 2008). This article is a summary of Aspen's paper on Urban Teacher Residencies.

Aspen Institute Datasheet: The Teaching Workforce (2007). Summary of available research on teacher workforce.

What Do Teachers Need, What Do Teachers Get, What is the Gap? (2007). Summary of data on what teachers say they need for success.

The Professional Personified  (Fall 2007, Journal of the National Staff Development Council). Districts find results by combining a vision of professionalism with the use of common tasks and goals. Teachers use prescribed standards and practices to improve student learning. By Judy Wurtzel.

Attracting and Retaining Teachers (May 2007 edition of the OECD-Observer). Concerns about the supply and quality of teachers are generating new policies in many OECD countries. This article summarizes findings of an Aspen-OECD seminar held in October 2006. By Robert Schwartz, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Judy Wurtzel, The Aspen Institute; and Lynn Olson, Education Week.

Lessons from Abroad (February 2006, Education Week). Some other nations do a better job than the U.S. in attracting, supporting and retaining effective teachers. Lessons from Abroad: Teaching Policy to Improve Student Learning, a special report commissioned by the Aspen Institute, describes eight nations' approaches and their implications for the U.S. By Lynn Olson.

Supporting Urban School Districts 

Urban Districts and National Foundations: Making the Marriage Work. Commentary based on white paper. Paul Goren (The Spencer Foundation) and Judy Wurtzel (The Aspen Institute), Education Week, October 1, 2008

Urban School Districts and National Foundations: Making the Marriage Work. This white paper offers suggestions for improving district-foundation partnerships.
Paul Goren (The Spencer Foundation) and Judy Wurtzel (The Aspen Institute)
September 2008

The Role of Interim Assessments in a Comprehensive Assessment System: A Policy Brief. As school districts increasingly use interim assessments as a key strategy, this policy brief provides guidance to states and districts on effective use of these assessments. This report is co-published with Achieve, Inc., and the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment.
Marianne Perie, Scott Marion, Brian Gong (National Center for the Improvement of Education Assessment) and Judy Wurtzel (The Aspen Institute)
November 2007

Strong Foundation, Evolving Challenges: A Case Study to Support Leadership Transition in the Boston Public Schools. While most urban school districts face rapid turnover in leadership and limited results, Boston has won national attention for its stability and success. This report examines Boston’s accomplishments and challenges and provides lessons for other large urban school districts.
Aspen Institute and Annenberg Institute for School Reform
March 2006

Look Back, Look Ahead. To ensure a smooth transition in leadership, boards should take time to study where the district has been—and where it hopes to go.
Ellen Foley, Robert Rothman, Judy Wurtzel, and Deanna Burney
Journal of the American School Board Association, March 2007 edition

The Cleveland Literacy System: A Comprehensive Approach To Changing Instructional Practice. This report was commissioned for the Urban Superintendents Network. It illustrates how one urban district has positioned formative assessment, linked to a clearly specified curriculum, as a key lever in efforts to improve classroom practice and student learning. The report is co-published with the Stupski Foundation.
Helen Williams

Coaching: A Strategy for Developing Instructional Capacity-Promises and Practicalities. This paper was commissioned for the Urban Superintendents Network. It focuses on coaching as an effective professional development practice to improve teaching and learning, describing what coaching is, what coaches do, the kinds of supports coaches need, and the potential benefits to both educators and students. Jointly published by the Aspen Institute and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
Barbara Neufeld and Dana Roper

Reforming High Schools

Transforming High School Teaching and Learning: A District-wide Design. Provides new insights on how to substantially improve high school teaching and learning across an urban school district. Drawing on the expertise of teachers, principals, superintendents, policy makers and researchers, the new Aspen Institute Program on Education and Society report offers both an analytic framework and concrete suggestions for a new approach to high school improvement.
Judy Wurtzel

Remaking Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century: What Role for High School Programs? This report from JFF and the Aspen Institute's Education and Society Program summarizes what we know (and don’t know) about the value of high school career-focused education--and it proposes a reform agenda for high school career and technical education.
Richard Kazis
April 2005

Review of Selected High School Reform Strategies. This paper is a comprehensive overview of the field of high school reform. An update to this paper is in progress.
Jennifer Husbands and Stacey Beese
Updated 2004

Rethinking High School: The Next Frontier For State Policymakers. Originally commissioned for the Aspen 2002 High School Transformation workshop, this report provides a useful comparison of four state high school reform efforts.
Patricia W. McNeil
Updated 2003

Transforming the American High School: New Directions for State and Local Policy. Based on several aspen Workshops, this report is an analysis of policy action required to transform American high schools.
Michael Cohen

Transforming American High Schools: Early Lessons and New Challenges. This paper presents an overview of the conclusions and recommendations of the three related Aspen workshops on transforming high school.
Rob Reich