Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability
The Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability (FERA) is a nonprofit research think tank dedicated to improving education in the state of New York. FERA undertakes research on public policy issues affecting education, and communicates its findings to policymakers and other stakeholders. It focuses on three main research areas: accountability, innovation, and choice. Since its inception in 1992, FERA has worked to improve New York’s education system. It is based near the state capital of Albany, in Clifton Park.
FERA actively monitors compliance with federal No Child Left Behind laws, including the statewide testing and other quantitative measures that rank and identify failing public schools. The organization’s other accountability-related activities include advocating for expanded mayoral control over city school districts, and exploring the issue of merit pay for public school teachers. After it was reported in 2007 that New York had the highest per-student education costs in the United States (at $14,119 per pupil), FERA criticized the state’s education system for wasteful and ineffective spending. FERA also frequently criticizes the automatic awarding of tenure to public school teachers after several years on the job without an evaluation of their professional performance. The New York State Union of Teachers, it reports, has shaped the law such that “school districts are required to grant or deny tenure to teachers without even being able to consider how their students perform academically.”
Promoting Innovative Education
The Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability encourages school districts to embrace new and improved methods of education. Innovation is a cornerstone of its strategy. FERA’s list of research topics has included alternative methods of teacher certification, single-sex schools, year-round schooling, and subject-based teaching in elementary schools. In 2007, the Foundation praised new reform rules instituted by New York’s governor, including increased funding for charter schools, and tying state-based aid to individual districts’ achievements as an incentive in innovation.
Embracing School Choice
FERA enthusiastically endorses the notion that a high-quality education should be available to all New York families, regardless of their race, their economic situation, or where they choose to live. Accordingly, the Foundation has become a vocal cheerleader for expanding educational choices for New York’s children. The Foundation has identified charter schools, magnet schools, open enrollment, vouchers, and tax credits as policies that contribute to greater school choice. FERA’s research on school choice has also concluded that non-union charter schools outperform their union-dominated counterparts in New York state—in some districts by as much as 40 or 50 percent.