Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, is stepping aside to “work more closely with educational entrepreneurs in board and advisory roles.”

OCI thanks Mr. Horn for his work on behalf of kids as a leader at Clayton Christensen. We have been guided and inspired by his efforts.

OCI is excited to see where Julia Freeland Fisher will lead the Institute as she takes over as director of the education program.

We also look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Horn through his capacity as an OCI Advisory Board member.

Read Michael Horn’s farewell in Forbes.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to research by data scientist David Mosenkis, Philadelphia schools with high minority student populations receive less money than predominately white schools, even within income brackets.

In other words, the average white student in Philadelphia gets more money than the average black student, even if both students go to equally poor schools.

Equalized Funding is a key tenant of OCI’s ACTION platform. Students deserve the same support whether they attend charter, traditional, or private schools.

Certain groups, like students with unique ability or students from low income families, receive more funding on a district by district basis.

However, nothing should keep two kids with the same need from getting the same amount of money if their race is the only differentiating factor.

This fundamental principal of justice and equity includes school type, and certainly extends to skin color.

Read The Atlantic article here.

-Trey Cobb, OCI Community Navigator

A new University of Chicago report finds that high CPS suspension rates are driven by a small group of schools serving low income students of color with a history of abuse.

“A subset of Chicago schools—about a quarter of high schools and 10 percent of schools with middle grades—have very high suspension rates, and almost all of these schools predominantly serve African American students. These schools’ students come from the poorest neighborhoods with the lowest incoming achievement; many have been victims of abuse or neglect.”

Read the report here.

Dr. David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern, released a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper detailing the impact of teacher bias on students.

Dr. Figlio finds that teachers expect less of students whose names are strongly associated with Blackness or poverty. This expectation gap causes at least 15 percent of the Black-White test score gap. The fewer Black teachers a school employees, the larger this gap becomes.

Can professional development or teacher pipeline programs begin to mend this bias?

“Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. This is why we are here.”

-Jon J Muth,

Mathematica has published research on the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which is basically a federal merit pay program.

It looks like TIF hasn’t failed, but it hasn’t really succeeded either.

Students affected by the program made unsubstantial gains in reading, and statistically insignificant gains in math.

Perhaps the reason lies in implementation. Teachers weren’t fully aware of the program or how it worked. Moreover, the bonuses may have been too easy to obtain, but at the same time too small.

Merit pay programs are important for student success and teacher support. Students deserve great teachers and great teachers deserve reward. So when these programs are attempted, they ought to be done right.

Districts need ownership over performance pay programs, so they can communicate transparently with teachers. Absent strong, cooperative information channels, TIF-style programs won’t hurt kids. But it doesn’t look like they’ll live up to their full potential either.

It’s true – teachers are the most important single factor in a student’s education.

Study after study shows that having a high-quality teacher can increase academic performance, college enrollment and college persistence rates, and even lifetime income. A low-quality teacher can have the opposite effect, dragging down students’ scores and self-confidence, making them less likely to reach their potential.

The crucial role teachers play in preparing their students for the future is why the results of two studies released this week are so troubling.

The first, “Who Believes in Me? The Effect of Student-Teacher Demographic Match on Teacher Expectations,” examined teachers expectations of their students future success. Interviewing 16,000 black and non-black teachers about their 10th-graders future educational attainment, the researchers found white teachers were 30 percent less likely than black teachers to predict that their minority students would earn a college degree. The results were even worse when the teachers were asked about black male students.

Let’s be clear – these findings aren’t the result of outright racism by teachers. They are, however, borne out of the implicit biases many teachers have regarding student achievement.

Unfortunately, these biases don’t just affect how teachers view their students academic success in the future – they affect students access to educational opportunities right now.

A second study, authored by economists David Card from the University of California – Berkeley and Laura Giuliano from from the University of Miami, examined the impact the decision by Florida’s Broward County school board to test all second grade students to see if they qualified for the district’s gifted and talented program had on low-income minority enrollment in those programs.

What they found is promising and deeply worrisome, at the same time. The intervention worked – 80 percent more black students and 130 percent more Hispanic students qualified for the gifted and talented program. But, the previous system, which relied on teacher recommendations and parent initiative, was rife with implicit bias and asymmetric information.

Data on gifted and talented enrollment before the universal test proves this point. Even though Broward County’s schools served mostly minority students, the composition of its gifted and talented program was overwhelmingly white. In fact, there were districts in the county where not one single minority student was identified as gifted – a statistical impossibility.

Combined with the fact that minority parents were less likely to know about the program and push it for their children, it’s no surprise that minority students were less likely to be enrolled.

Thankfully, legislators – like Senator Andy Manar – have already taken steps to incentivize districts to properly identify and enroll intellectually curious minority students in gifted and talented programs. In fact, the last version of the education funding reform bill – Senate Bill 1 – included a weight that would give districts more money the more gifted and talented students they have.

Many question whether legislation to address this inequity should be tied to such a controversial initiative like Senate Bill 1, but what we do know is there is growing unity that it does need to be addressed. One Chance Illinois believes that teachers are the most important factor in student success, and these two studies about their perception of minority students’ abilities to qualify for gifted and talented or academically succeed in the future, should give any person concerned with education equity pause.

Certain steps can be taken to help teachers recognize and deal with the implicit biases they may have – high-quality professional development programs have been created to deal with precisely those issues.

But, perhaps it’s also time for defenders of the education status quo to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they too are part of the problem.

Their common refrain that low-income, minority students don’t achieve because they are poor may itself be generating a vicious cycle, where teachers implicit biases prevent those same exact students from having educational opportunities that make future success possible.

Joshua Dwyer
Policy Director


OCI would like to congratulate Lasalle Language Academy for winning a National Blue Ribbon for Exemplary High Performing Schools.

Lasalle is a diverse magnet school, serving 30 percent Black students, 32 percent White students, and 20 percent Latino students. 82 percent of their students test at grade level.

More students should be able to choose schools like Lasalle across the traditional, charter, and private sectors.