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How We Know Collaboration Works
Greg Anrig January 30, 2015

TCF's Vice President for Policy and Programs Greg Anrig digs into the secret of student success, which he says is specific organizational practices. These organizational practices include 1) a coherent instructional guidance system; 2) ongoing support for teachers; 3) strong ties among school personnel, parents, and community service providers; 4) a student-centered learning climate; and 5) collective responsibility for school improvement.

Even in other countries, highly collaborative practices in schools are associated with unusually strong student outcomes. The report How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better analyzed school systems in 20 diverse countries that experienced sustained improvement (Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010). One common thread was a strong reliance on teamwork to identify and respond to problems.

Read Greg's full article here.

Smarter Charters
Richard D. Kahlenberg, Halley Potter January 30, 2015

TCF fellows Rick Kahlenberg and Halley Potter write for ASCD Educational Leadership("Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development") about how Shanker's original charter school vision is falling short in today's educational systems and performance is stalled when it comes to testing scores. Kahlenberg and Potter recommend ways to improve charter schools including greater empowerment for teachers and integration for students.

The best chance of using charter schools to improve other schools may lie in partnerships and pathways for collaboration. In Spring Branch, Texas, a partnership between the school district and two charter networks, KIPP and YES Prep, has resulted in a program in which administrators from a district school and a charter school located in the same building collaborate on planning and professional development.

Check out the full article here.

The President Was Right (Though Politically Clumsy) To Go After Those Luscious 529 College Accounts
Harold Pollack January 30, 2015

TCF fellow Harold Pollack goes through the recent reforms proposed by President Obama on the 529 college savings account. Pollack says that only about 3 percent of families own 529 accounts, and they are for the most part in the affluent income bracket. Pollack says that he hopes the reforms on 529 accounts will shift to include the demographic groups that need college tuition assistance the most.

...there is something unseemly about affluent taxpayers becoming so irate when someone threatens to take away our goodies. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a fascinating report describing who in America actually owns 529 accounts. Only about three percent of families do. According to the GAO, the median annual income of 529 account holders was about $142,000. Median financial holdings (which do not include housing wealth) were about $413,000. GAO indicates that this is about 25 times the typical financial wealth among families that don’t have 529 accounts.

Read Harold's piece for Washington Monthly.

Benjamin Netanyahu Goes Too Far
Michael Cohen January 29, 2015

TCF fellow Michael Cohen goes into detail regarding the mishaps that the U.S. has encountered in dealing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past such as endorsing GOP candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 and disparaging the U.S. - Iran nuclear agreement in 2013. Netanyahu continues to "throw Obama under the bus" if it means increasing his support from the Israeli public.

From all appearances, Israelis are increasingly concerned that the US-Israel bilateral relationship is in crisis — and they believe that Netanyahu is partly responsible. Undermining that relationship only weeks before a national election may have the perverse effect of reminding Israelis why another term for Netanyahu could be so dangerous for the country. Beyond that, Netanyahu has practically ensured that the next two years of Obama’s terms will be one of simmering hostility between the United States and Israel.

Cohen's Boston Globe piece can be read here.

Detroit on the Road to Transit Ruin Thanks To Michigan Gas Tax Initiative
Jacob Anbinder January 29, 2015

TCF policy associate Jake Anbinder goes over the dropping gas price repercussions in Detroit, saying that much of the city's transit service is motivated by divided political efforts. He says that funding for city-wide transportation systems is rare and the ability for local and state transit authorities to agree on policy is even rarer, leaving riders at a loss for effective, wide-spread transportation networks.

To some extent, though, it’s a problem that affects nearly every major American city. In the 41 urban areas in the U.S. with more than 1 million people, there are currently 247 distinct transit agencies, according to the American Public Transportation Association — an average of six per metro region. The rare areas with just one transit agency, Jacksonville and San Antonio among them, tend, unsurprisingly, to have fewer political divisions.

Read Anbinder's full article featured in US News & World Report.

Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story
Thanassis Cambanis January 28, 2015

Watch TCF fellow and Egyptian Revolution expert Thanassis Cambanis discuss the recent passing of Egyptian woman Shaima El-Sabbagh at the hands of Egyptian protest police. Cambanis comments in the interview that the death of El-Sabbagh confirms that Egypt remains in a delicate and rocky political state.

Obama Takes Baby Steps Toward More Family Friendly Policies
Clio Chang January 28, 2015

TCF policy associate and child poverty expert Clio Chang digs deep into the politics of tax reform, cash allowances and paid family leave. Her statistics show that the amount of paid leave offered to workers is oxymoronic in terms of how much it costs to raise a child in the United States. One solution she offers is simply giving cash to families with children in the form of a child cash allowance. We can learn some lessons from other countries that have found systems that work in reducing child poverty in society.

We need only to look at the United Kingdom to see what a universal child cash allowance could do for the United States. In 1999, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair initiated an ambitious campaign to cut child poverty and increased investments in children, including significantly raising the benefit amount of the country’s existing child cash allowance. Jane Waldfogel, professor at Columbia University, calculates that overall, the average family received $3,200, and low-income families received $7,200 per year.

Read Clio's full piece in US News & World Report.

The Surprising Savings From Mortgage Refinancing
Mark Thoma January 28, 2015

With the economy back in check and some modest growth happening, TCF fellow and economist Mark Thoma says "homeowners are missing out on billions of dollars in potential savings" and might consider refinancing their mortgages. Thoma gives a non-technical overview of what a refinancing might look like:

"... a household with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $200,000 at an interest rate of 6.5 percent that refinances when rates fall to 4.5 percent will save over $80,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan, even after accounting for typical refinancing costs. With long-term mortgage rates at roughly 3.35 percent, this same household would save roughly $130,000 over the life of the loan by refinancing."

Read the full article featured in CBS Moneywatch.

Lindsey Graham: Wrong on Everything
Michael Cohen January 28, 2015

TCF fellow Michael Cohen reminds us that there's potential for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to be a contender in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race. Although Senator Graham claims he is "more right than wrong," there's contention when it comes to his foreign policy predictions and decisions, many of which inspire fear in his constituents. Cohen points out the numerous faults of the Senator who regularly uses hyperbolic language and repeatedly dubs America “the good guys” in the global community.

Graham would likely defend his past statements by saying that Obama screwed up all the gains made in Iraq by withdrawing U.S. troops in 2011. It’s of course a regular GOP refrain. Yet for Graham, it’s an interesting position to take because under the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, Obama was mandated to end the U.S. troop presence if he could not get the Iraqis to agree to provide legal protections for U.S. soldiers. This is a subject that Graham likely knows something about, seeing as he is judge advocate general in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. Indeed, if there is anyone in the Senate who should understand the need for clear legal protections when deploying U.S. troops overseas it would be Graham.

Check out Michael Cohen's full article.

Europe Stinks, Japan Re-Stinking, China Slowing: Alpert
Daniel Alpert January 28, 2015

TCF fellow and Westwood Capital Founder Daniel Alpert speaks on Bloomberg Surveillance's show "This Matters Now" about the role of the U.S. in the global economy.

Watch what Alpert has to say in his Bloomberg interview.

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Child Poverty Solutions That Can Work
January 22, 2015 AT 9:00AMAmerica’s child poverty rate, currently at 22 percent—highest in the developed world—is one of our nation’s gravest problems. Fortunately, we know what tools work when it comes to combating child poverty. The question is, why aren’t we using them?
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