New Initiative By Brookings Is Under Way

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A new economic-policy initiative launched by the Brookings Institution last week includes specific suggestions for improving K-12 education, such as changing teacher hiring and retention practices, and setting up scholarships for low-income students to attend summer school.

The Brookings Institution, a research and policy organization based in Washington, started the initiative, called the Hamilton Project, to promote and discuss ideas from economic- and public-policy experts that are intended to help bolster the U.S. economy.

At last week’s unveiling of the initiative, economists presented papers on three topics: teacher hiring and retention practices, summer school scholarships for low-income students, and retirement savings for low- and middle-income adults.

The first education paper highlighted as part of the initiative, “Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job,” was written by Robert Gordon, a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, along with Thomas J. Kane, a professor of education and economics at Harvard University, and Douglas O. Staiger, a professor of economics at Dartmouth University.

It argues that changing standard practices in teacher hiring and retention would have a positive effect on student achievement while also encouraging talented people to become educators. More specifically, the paper proposes downplaying certification as a measurement of teacher quality and using student-achievement data—as well as evaluations by principals, parents, and other teachers—to determine teacher effectiveness.

Summer Learning

The second education paper presented, “Summer Opportunity Scholarships (SOS): A Proposal to Narrow the Skills Gap,” was written by Molly E. Fifer, a graduate researcher at Princeton University, and Alan B. Krueger, a professor of economics and public policy at Princeton. It suggests that the skills gap between students from low- and high-income families is aggravated during the three-month summer vacation.

Ms. Fifer and Mr. Krueger propose establishing “summer opportunity scholarships,” a $4 billion-a-year program that would allow low-income students in grades K-5 to participate in a six-week summer school program focused on reading and math skills.

“I think the proposal recognizes the role that summer learning loss plays in the achievement gap,” Ronald A. Fairchild, the executive director of the Center for Summer Learning, based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in an interview.

Vol. 25, Issue 31, Page 12

Published in Print: April 12, 2006, as New Initiative By Brookings Is Under Way
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