Lecture Series Focuses on Wide Range of Education Reform Topics
File Photo by Russell Cothren, University Relations
In February 2007, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., spoke about early childhood education when she lectured on the University of Arkansas campus as part of the department of education's lecture series. The department began the lecture series in 2006 and has brought dozens of leading academic researchers and scholars to discuss education reform.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Education reform lectures during the spring semester at the University of Arkansas will cover a variety of topics, including an analysis of Arkansas' Lake View school funding Supreme Court decision as well as how welfare payments could be used to improve school attendance.
Jay P. Greene, department chair, noted: "This spring the department of education reform will have some of the nation's leading education researchers from Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, Swarthmore and elsewhere discussing practical issues of importance to improving education right here in Arkansas. We'll learn about how to improve student attendance, how to design merit pay systems, when it is best to hold school elections, the appropriate role for courts in determining school spending levels, and whether national standards could help Arkansas, among other topics."
All of the Friday lectures, which are free and open to the public, are scheduled to be held at noon in Room 343 of the Graduate Education Building on the University of Arkansas campus. Although free, attendees should RSVP for the lectures, which include a light lunch.
The dates, presenters and topic information:
- Jan. 22, Thomas Dee, associate professor of economics and director of the public policy program at Swarthmore College. Dee's lecture, "Conditional Cash Penalties in Education: Evidence from the Learnfare Experiment," is taken from the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper series. The paper published last July refers to an initiative in Wisconsin that uses welfare payments to affect student attendance. Dee's evaluation of data from the Learnfare program indicates that it was highly effective in improving both school enrollment and attendance, particularly among some of the most at-risk students.
- April 16 reschedule date, Lori L. Taylor, associate professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Taylor's lecture, "Lessons Learned: Teacher-Designed Incentive Pay in Texas," comes from a working paper published last November with support from the National Center on Performance Incentives. Matthew G. Springer of Vanderbilt University co-authored the paper. Taylor and Springer studied results of a state grant program in Texas that required participating schools to develop an incentive pay plan. They found that teachers designed relatively weak, group-oriented incentive pay plans that do not appear to have induced any significant changes in teacher productivity, although they had a significant impact on teacher turnover. Teachers who received no award were more likely to leave the school while teachers who received relatively large awards were less likely to leave their jobs, Taylor and Springer found.
- Feb. 5, Paul E. Peterson, the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University and director of Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance. Peterson, who is also editor-in-chief of Education Next published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is returning to the campus after first speaking during the 2007-08 lecture series. The title of his lecture, "Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning," is also the title of a forthcoming book by Peterson that makes the poorly understood history of public education in America become personal and vivid through the lives, ideas and ordeals of seven personalities who have shaped and are shaping the nation's schools, according to the Harvard Web site.
- Feb. 12, Christopher R. Berry, assistant professor at the Harris School of public policy at the University of Chicago. Berry's lecture, "Election Timing and Interest Group Influence in School Board Politics," relies on a change in California's election code during the 1980s to examine whether special interest groups enjoy relatively more power when school elections are held at different times than other elections. Berry's analysis finds that holding school elections on days when there are no other elections dramatically lowers voter turnout rates and also results in significantly higher teacher salaries, suggesting that off-cycle elections have significant political consequence.
- Feb. 19, Alfred A. Lindseth of Atlanta, a partner in the law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. His lecture, "Revisiting Lake View: How Courts Ignore and Misuse Evidence," draws on his experience representing and advising state and local school authorities in the resolution of complex disputes involving their obligations under state and federal constitutions, according to the law firm's Web site. In the lawsuit brought by the Lake View school district in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court found in 2002 that the state's existing school system violated the state constitution.
- Feb. 26, Babette Gutmann, vice president of Westat Corp. Gutmann's lecture, "Design and Results from an Intervention Study of Preschool and Parenting Curricula Using an RCT (randomized control trial)" provides a description of the second-year impacts of the Even Start Classroom Literacy Intervention and Outcomes study that attempts to provide supplemental literacy services to low-income families who participate in the Even Start program.
- April 9, Terry Moe, the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Moe's lecture, "Special Interest: The Teachers Unions and America's Public Schools," draws from an article he published in the American Journal of Political Science in January 2009 examining whether collective bargaining by teachers affects schools' capacity to educate children.