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    • Among our major findings:

    • Rigid education bureaucracies impede quality schooling. Ninety percent of teachers say that routine duties and paperwork interfere with their teaching, according to our analysis of the 2007-2008 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals administered every four years by the National Center for Education Statistics. Only about one-third of teachers approve of how their schools are run. Throughout our educational system, a traditionalist school culture limits autonomy and innovation.

    • State finance systems are opaque, inefficient, and undermine innovation. The jumbled patchwork of spending programs in each state provides schools almost no room to spend resources in more effective ways.

    • The teacher pipeline fails to provide a diverse pool of high-quality educators. In some states, such as Iowa and Nebraska, almost no teachers enter the profession through alternative certification programs, which make it easier for talented liberal arts graduates and midcareer professionals to enter the classroom without conventional teaching preparation. At the same time, school leaders lack the authority to recruit the best candidates: Fewer than half of the principals in states, such as Oklahoma and North Dakota, report having a major degree of influence over teacher hiring.

    • Teacher evaluations are not based on performance. State systems for evaluating the effectiveness of teachers are focused almost entirely on inputs such as training and years of experience, even though these factors have been shown to have little impact on student achievement.

    • Major barriers exist to the removal of poor-performing teachers. Seventy-two percent of principals say that tenure policies are a barrier to firing ineffective teachers, according to our analysis of federal SASS data. Another 61% say that teacher unions are an obstacle. Without the ability to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom, school leaders cannot build a cohesive school culture, create an environment of accountability, and ensure that all students will learn.

    • The outcome of state technology spending is unknown. Despite a systematic effort to examine the Web-based materials available from every state department of education, we found no evidence that any state had conducted a large-scale technology return-on-investment study. Instead, states collect data largely on student access to computers and the Internet. While technology has the potential to reinvent education delivery, without information on outcomes states will not know whether their investment in technology is well spent.

    • State data systems provide limited information on school operations and outcomes. States have made substantial improvements to their education data systems, but they still barely skim the surface of school operations, failing to answer basic capacity questions such as the degree to which professional development improves student outcomes.

    • Schools provide too little access to college-level coursework. In most cases, dual-enrollment programs (in which students attend high school while enrolling in select collegiate courses) are a win-win educational strategy. They allow high school students to take advanced coursework and gain college credit while boosting college readiness and breaking down the often meaningless boundaries between high school and college. But our research shows that fewer than two-thirds of schools report having such programs.

    • In almost every state, education dollars do not follow students to the schools they attend according to their needs. Instead, funds are distributed based on factors that have little to do with students, such as the number of teachers in a school or the kind of educational programs that a school provides. Such financial practices make it nearly impossible for principals to allocate resources in new and innovative ways.

    • States lack a culture of education advocacy. Innovation-focused reform will require deep reserves of political capital because entrenched interests will fight meaningful changes. But few leaders have stepped forward to create the political conditions for reform.

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