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Friday, October 28, 2011

Obama Announces Student Debt Relief Plan

President Obama's announcement in Denver on Wednesday of a plan to offer relief to Americans struggling with student loan debt generated significant coverage today, much of which was positive in nature, highlighting the impact of heavy student debt on both the economy and on borrowers, but other reports took a more balanced approach by focusing on the plan's limitations or on its political motivations. ABC World News (10/26, story 3, 3:30, Sawyer) led into its broadcast by citing recent reports indicating that tuition has risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, even as "the amount of undergraduate borrowing has increased by 57%" over the past decade. ABC adds that President Obama is "fast-tracking a move by Congress to allow borrowers to adjust their monthly payments based on what they earn. Paying no more than 10% of their discretionary income." ABC describes how the move could reduce monthly payments for given individuals, notes that the plan would not impact private loans, and explores how the stagnant economy exacerbates student debtors' problems. NBC Nightly News (10/26, lead story, 2:40, Williams) broadcast its lead story on the threat to the economy posed by "staggering debt from student loans," noting that student loan debt in the US "has now hit $1 trillion." This piece focuses on the angst felt by recent graduates caught between high unemployment and heavy student debt, noting that this discontent has spilled over into the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Meanwhile, "Analysts say the heavy burden of student debt is a drag on the broader economy. Recent graduates struggling to pay off loans are less likely to take steps like getting married and buying a house."


 

The AP (10/27, Nakamura, Wilson) reports that in his comments announcing the plan at the University of Colorado's Denver campus, Obama told the "enthusiastic audience of students that the technological changes sweeping the global economy offer opportunity even in a difficult job market," highlighting "his political message that only through shared sacrifice, including tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, will the country be able to balance its budget and improve the economy." The AP explains that the plan, dubbed "Know Before You Owe," "would allow college graduates to cap federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income starting in January, two years before the cap was set to take effect under federal law."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Study: Focus On Math, Reading Sidelines Science In California Elementary Schools

The San Jose Mercury News (10/26, Jones) reports that a study from the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning says that "California's elementary school teachers find little time to teach science, and when they do, they feel ill-prepared and ill-equipped." Moreover, "despite educators' strong belief in the importance of science, the focus on English language arts and mathematics - especially in schools struggling to bring up test scores, schools in what's known as Program Improvement - has too often meant pushing science aside."


 

The Orange County (CA) Register (10/26, Martindale) adds that the study indicates that "forty percent of elementary educators in California's public schools say they spend an hour or less teaching science each week, while more than half of elementary principals acknowledge their kids won't get a high-quality science education by the time they go to middle school." This piece also notes that the study cited the "disproportionate focus on improving kids' math and English standardized test scores in the primary grades." Meanwhile, "About 85 percent of elementary teachers reported not receiving any professional development in science over the prior three years, according to the study, while more than 60 percent of school districts reported having no district support specialist who focuses on elementary-level science."


 

The Los Angeles Times (10/26, Watanabe) also covers the study, noting that California is "home to Silicon Valley and world-class research institutions." Despite its overall findings, "the report also identified top-quality science programs in various schools, which used science to teach math and reading skills. Many successful schools also tapped outside partners, including the Audubon Society and a local marine research institute, to provide training and materials for hands-on lessons using such scientific practices as posing questions, making observations and predictions, crafting experiments and analyzing data." KPBS-TV San Diego, CA (10/26, Calvert) also covers this story on its website.

Obama, Duncan Set To Announce New Student Loan Repayment Assistance

President Obama's trip to California and Colorado, as well as the news that the Administration intends to announce new student loan assistance today, received coverage from all three networks last night, though only the CBS Evening News led with a segment mentioning the President -- and that mention was in the context of a report on the Occupy Wall St. protests. The Administration's student loan help is receiving generally positive coverage, with most news outlets emphasizing the enormous increase in total student loan debt in the last decade. Last night and this morning, the student loan initiative, along with the mortgage refinance assistance announced Monday, is described as having been made necessary by Congressional Republicans' unwillingness to back the President's agenda.


 

NBC Nightly News reported, "For the second consecutive day President Obama is using his executive power to, as he says, help those that are struggling with this economy. Yesterday it was underwater mortgages. Today it's student loans." The AP says the President's job creation proposals have been "blocked by congressional Republicans...determined to show action as he seeks re-election," and Chris Matthews, on MSNBC's Hardball, said the President "wants to show a positive face of what he can do without a nasty do-nothing Congress, and, at the same time, let everybody know that they are a do-nothing Congress."


 

NBC Nightly News (10/25, story 4, 1:40, Welker, 8.37M) reported, "For the second consecutive day President Obama is using his executive power to, as he says, help those that are struggling with this economy. Yesterday it was underwater mortgages. Today it's student loans. According to White House officials, new graduate loan payments could be capped at 10% of the graduate's salary, and they say graduates could consolidate their loan payments at lower interest rates."


 

The New York Times (10/26, Lewin, Subscription Publication, 950K) reports that "Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said the president would use his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a 'Pay as You Earn' option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years, and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven. ... Most of the 450,000 low-income student-loan borrowers currently enrolled in income-based payment must pay 15 percent of their discretionary income for 25 years before having their debt forgiven, although terms are easier for those in public service." The Times adds that speaking at the press conference, Education Secretary Arne Duncan "estimated that the debt-consolidation program could help six million borrowers who carry both direct federal loans and loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan program, which ended last year. ... Between January and June, Mr. Duncan said, borrowers making payments on both kinds of loans can consolidate them and get a half-percent interest-rate cut."


 

Reuters (10/26, Bull) quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying, "College graduates are entering one of the toughest job markets in recent memory, and we have a way to help them save money by consolidating their debt and capping their loan payments."

Striking Vermont Teachers To Resume Talks Tuesday Afternoon

The Bennington (VT) Banner (10/25, Goswami) reports that negotiations over a new contract for striking teachers in Bennington, Vermont, are scheduled to resume Tuesday afternoon, noting that "an attorney representing local school boards and a field representative from the Vermont chapter of the National Education association met Monday morning after both sides mutually agreed to take a break over the weekend. They reportedly discussed areas of agreement, and set the meeting for this afternoon at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union central office."

Administrators Turning To Online Professional Development To Save Time, Money

Education Week (10/25, Ash) reports that busy and cash-strapped administrators are increasingly using "online professional development to save money on travel costs and gain immediate access to helpful resources. 'We're all facing funding cuts and tighter budgets, yet the need for professional development is still there, so we're seeking new and innovative ways to do that,' said William H. Mayes, the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, which serves superintendents and building-level administrators in 584 school districts in the state." The piece describes such online resources as virtual classes and podcasts, noting that Mayes' group "sends out a daily email with the latest school administration news from around the state as a way to keep administrators informed, he said."

Study: Efforts To Recruit Black Teachers Bears Fruit

The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/25) reports on a study by a pair of University of Pennsylvania researchers which found that "efforts to recruit more minority teachers had been successful," noting that "Government agencies and nonprofits have pumped a lot of money into programs that prepare and recruit minority teachers. School folks often talk about hiring more teachers of color as a strategy to narrow the achievement gap between white and minority students, a gap that schools across the country still struggle with." The researchers found that over half of US states have programs to recruit minority teachers, and that ED and census data show that "the teaching force is much more diverse than it was 20 years ago. In many ways, the minority teacher recruitment push has been successful."

Virtual Schools Looking To Branch Into PD For Virtual Teachers

Education Week (10/25, Quillen) reports that given a lack of focus on teaching virtual instructors at US schools of education, "it's perhaps not surprising that, as more instructors from brick-and-mortar schools are seeking professional development online, virtual schools are exploring how to become providers to teachers as well as students. 'I think, really, we're going to see us reaching out into more markets,' said Mary Mitchell, the director of professional learning at the 123,000-student Florida Virtual School, or FLVS, which is based in Orlando. ... So far, the bulk of the Florida Virtual School's experience offering professional development to instructors who also teach face to face has come through the school's franchise program."


 

In a separate article, Education Week (10/25, Quillen) explores the lack of such online PD programs at "even the most progressive schools of education."

Movement To Increase Classroom Time Grows

Education Week (10/25, Fleming) profiles a pilot program at Roger Williams Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island, in which the school has added a seventh hour-long class period "focused on building student competency and a deeper understanding of the STEM subjects," noting that the pilot "is a partnership between the school district and the Providence After School Alliance, a nonprofit that manages after-school programs for low-income students in that city. Their efforts come alongside growing national interest in expanded learning time, or adding time to the school calendar as a way to help low-performing students catch up." The piece notes, however, that some observers worry that the movement to add instruction time "may be gaining steam too rapidly as a fix for schools that lack the know-how, resources, or research to implement it effectively."

Teachers Getting More PD Through Social Media Programs

Education Week (10/25, Davis) reports, "Online social networking is spawning a new type of professional development that brings educators together to share face-to-face lessons, but in a more freewheeling-and, some argue, more targeted-way than traditional conferences intended to boost teaching skills. Such events, dubbed Edcamps, are springing up across the country." The piece notes that the real-world gatherings are organized by professionals who have met through social networking sites, and "have no preset agenda or speakers, but proponents say they provide educators with information on the latest trends and build on discussions that have taken place in online forums."


 

In a separate article, Education Week (10/25, Davis) reports on the use of online collaboration in which educators in Michigan's Walled Lake district "read the same book to get them thinking about the best ways to promote student engagement. Even though some were on vacation and others were stationed at different schools, an online-discussion forum generated more than 300 posts full of ideas for putting the book's advice into practice." The piece characterizes such collaborations as "hybrid professional development," in which "Schools and districts are now starting to harness the power of online professional development and often combine it with live interaction to enhance both aspects of the experience."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Study Questions California Kindergarten ELL Classifications

The San Jose Mercury News (10/24, Jones) reports, "In 2010, more than 1,200 kindergartners in Pajaro Valley schools were tested for their skills in English. Nearly all were classified English learners. A new study by UC Berkeley researchers calls the results into question." The piece notes that researchers say the state language test "is so challenging, researchers say, that too many California children are being labeled as English learners more because of a lack of maturity than language skills."

Guam Paper Calls For Longer School Day

An editorial in the Pacific (Guam) Daily News (10/24) laments low SAT scores in Guam as compared to the rest of the US, and states that "the local government needs to take steps to address these glaring shortfalls. And there's one relatively simple method that would help -- extend the school day. Guam students are in school for six hours a day, 180 days a year. That's a half hour less than most students in the US mainland, according to Education Sector, a national think tank." The paper notes that Guam Education Board is looking to increase the workday in the next teachers' contract, and argues that this should coincide with more student classroom time.

Idaho Districts Gearing Up For Mandatory Online Courses

The Idaho Press Tribune (10/24) reports on the controversy surrounding Idaho's new requirement that all high school students must take at least two online courses, noting that "Proponents believe that online classes will prepare students for digital environments in their college and work careers, while also allowing students to choose from a broader range of classes and potentially helping the state save money. But others argue that online classes should only be offered as electives. They worry online classes don't provide the same academic rigor and interaction as traditional classes, and say funding online classes could result in cuts to district salaries and programs." The piece notes that a number of districts in the state-especially rural ones-are already experienced in offering online courses.

School In Silicon Valley Eschews Technology

The New York Times (10/22, Richtel, Subscription Publication) reported, "Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy," Silicon Valley, "where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don't mix." The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, in Los Altos, California, is "one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans."

Michigan School "Flips" Homework, Sees Positive Results

The Detroit Free Press (10/24, Higgins) reports on the success that Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, is seeing in increasing academic performance and decreasing discipline problems using "a novel program that literally 'flips' around instruction: Students watch short online videos of lessons at home and do homework in class with their teacher's help. 'Flipping' is a radical change gaining steam across the nation, with the Clinton Township high school the first in the country to try it school-wide," according to Principal Greg Green. "The early success has sparked interest, with Green lately lecturing to often packed rooms at education conferences."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Van Roekel Rebuts WPost Editorial

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post (10/21, 572K), NEA President Dennis Van Roekel takes issue with an October 19 editorial in which the paper's "editorial board compared educating students to remodeling a kitchen." He argues that "teachers don't install knowledge like carpenters install cabinets, and every student learns in his or her own way," necessitating varied methods to reach children with different learning styles. "That's why it takes more than a multiple-choice test to measure a student's progress, and it's also why we shouldn't judge teachers on the basis of standardized tests alone. Contrary to what the editorial stated, the National Education Association recognizes that student achievement is an important indicator of teacher effectiveness." He concludes by lauding Senate HELP Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking GOP member Mike Enzi for exlucing such a mandate from their NCLB overhaul bill, noting that "the federal government should not dictate from Washington how teachers in local school systems are evaluated."

Bush Talks Education In Denver

The AP (10/21, Moreno) reports on an appearance in Denver, Colorado, by former President George W. Bush, in which he said "he's still passionate about education, even though he considers himself to be only an observer of politics since he left office." Bush met with "local education leaders and Mayor Michael Hancock to talk about an initiative to train and recruit principals. 'We believe that an excellent school must first of all have an excellent leader,' he said, describing the Bush Institute's Alliance to Reform Education Leadership" which "seeks to change how principals are recruited, trained and evaluated."

DC Plans To Let Teachers Moving To Poor Schools Skip Impact Evaluations

The Washington (DC) Examiner (10/21, Gartner, 93K) reports on a plan under consideration in the DC Public Schools designed "to lure top teachers into the city's poorest schools by waiving their Impact evaluations for two to three years." The plan "would be the second significant change to the controversial evaluation tool in the past three months. Currently teachers rated 'highly effective' -- those who impress during classroom observations, and some who improve student test scores -- are clustered in affluent areas." The piece notes that teachers who volunteer to work in poor areas can receive bonuses, but that they risk poor evaluations which can lead to layoffs.

Writer: Existence Of Poor Quality Teachers Must Be Acknowledged

In a piece for Time (10/21, 3.31M), Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder and partner at the nonprofit Bellwether Education, writes that education policymakers "seem congenitally unable" to discuss the issue of poor teacher quality in any depth and complexity. "Instead we have a shallow debate dancing around the thing that matters most in schools: instructional quality." Rotherham stresses that US schools are "blessed with many incredibly hardworking, talented, and dedicated teachers. They're worth much more than they're paid and it's been dispiriting to watch them get blamed for issues beyond their control, for instance, bad policy choices that have led to soaring pension costs in some states. But let's also be clear: there are more than a few teachers who shouldn't be teaching."

Illinois Officials: Almost All High Schools Fail AYP

The Chicago Sun-Times (10/21, Rossi, 241K) reports that according to data released by the Illinois State Board of Education, only eight public high schools in the state made their Adequate Yearly Progress goals under NCLB, meaning that the other nearly 99% are labeled "failing" under the "increasingly demanding" law. The piece quotes board Chairman Gery Chico lamenting that many high-quality schools were designated as failing. "Schools that miss AYP for six consecutive years face the most severe sanctions, which can include closure. Nearly 400 Illinois schools now fall into that category." Chico added that the state's quest for a waiver to NCLB is part of an attempt to seek "a more 'realistic' accountability system with 'rigorous' but 'attainable' goals."


 

The Chicago Tribune (10/21, Malone, Little, Rado, 475K) reports that when elementary and middle schools are factored in, "two-thirds of Illinois public schools this year failed to meet federal test targets that signal students can read and do math well, marking a record rate of failure for the state's school system." The Tribune adds that state educators and legislators say "the results raise questions not only about the schools themselves, but about" NCLB. Moreover, "A stunning 98.5 percent of Illinois' 666 public high schools fell short." The Tribune notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan "predicted that as many as 82 percent of the nation's public schools may miss the law's annual targets for academic improvement this year."

House Bill Would Cut Abstinence Education Funding

The Washington Times (10/21, Wetzstein, 77K) reports, "The tug-of-war over sex education is back, thanks to a House bill that would fund the Department of Health and Human Services for fiscal 2012 but also would slash an Obama administration-inspired program and divert half the money to abstinence education." Noting that a Senate version preserves the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funding, "which was created by the Obama administration and a Democrat-led Congress to replace Bush-era abstinence-education grant programs. TPP, now funded at $105 million, gives grants to organizations to replicate certain 'comprehensive' sex-education programs that have been proven to impact teen pregnancy."

Senate HELP Committee Passes NCLB Overhaul

The AP (10/21, Hefling) reports that the No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill introduced by Senate HELP Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking GOP member Mike Enzi, which "would give states more control over accountability in schools and alter some of the law's proficiency requirements," has passed out of committee and will be considered by the full Senate. Harkin, the AP notes, said that the bill "would essentially do away with the unpopular law." Noting that the measure comes just a month after President Obama directed Education Secretary Arne Duncan to offer states waivers to the law, the AP stresses both the bipartisan nature of the legislation and the friction which has surrounded its progress.

The Washington Times (10/21, Wolfgang, 77K) also highlights the "bipartisan support" that the bill enjoys, even though its progress "was nearly derailed Wednesday" by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R). The Times notes that Paul withdrew his procedural block on the committee's work after Harkin agreed to hold a November 8 hearing on the bill, in advance of full Senate floor action. Despite Paul's objections, some Republicans on the panel "joined with Democrats and approved the proposal, which replaces many parts of NCLB such as the 'adequate yearly progress' federal assessment system and limits federal intervention to the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in a state and the 5 percent with the highest achievement gaps between ethnic groups."


 

Noting that Harkin and Enzi "garnered support from all of the committee's Democrats and three Republicans," Education Week (10/21, Klein, 39K) reports that the bill "is certain to encounter further debate on the Senate floor." Harkin "hopes to move the bill to the floor of the Senate before Thanksgiving, and he believes it's 'possible' that Congress could approve a rewritten version of the nation's main education law before Christmas-in time to negate the need for the Obama administration's waiver plan." Education Week includes a comprehensive list of the amendments that the committee approved before passing the measure.


 

"Quiet Changes" Increase Role Of Research In Federal Policy.Education Week (10/21, Sparks, 39K) reports, "A slew of quiet changes" in the bill "would substantially increase the role of research in federal education programs," noting that in contrast with the controversial measures regarding the Federal role in education and the lessening of accountability systems in the bill, its "research-related provisions seemed to be flying under the radar." Under the measure, more funds would be "devoted to evaluation and technical assistance," and ED's Institute of Education Sciences would be "the lead agency to evaluate federal education programs and require IES to help federal programs establish criteria for program effectiveness."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bennington Teachers Strike

The Rutland (VT) Herald (10/20, McArdle) reports, "After a negotiating session lasting more than 14 hours failed to reach an agreement between the school boards and the teachers union, about 270 teachers at schools in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal and Shaftsbury went on strike today." The piece details plans for future negotiations, adding, "Stephannie Peters, president of the Southwest Vermont Education Association said in a statement that teachers are 'beyond disappointed' in the school boards." The piece adds that "police said they had heard from teachers who said they planned to cross the picket line" and are providing security for all parties. "A press release from the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association claims it was the school boards that 'walked away from contract talks without a settlement.'"

Maryland Comptroller Blasts Lack Of Air Conditioning In Baltimore County Schools

The Baltimore Sun (10/20, Bowie) reports that in testimony before the Maryland Board of Public Works, State Comptroller Peter Franchot "criticized Baltimore County leaders Wednesday for failing to use $7 million in school construction funds to air-condition schools" and "asked the board to force the county to spend at least half of the money, which has come from the state alcohol tax, on air-conditioning. But Gov. Martin O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the other board members, said that while they were sympathetic to the pleas from children and parents, they would not interfere with local decisions on school construction spending."

New York Teachers Union Launches Anti-Bullying Hotline

WABC-TVNew York, NY (10/20) reports that officials with the New York City Schools, local union leaders, and other dignitaries were on hand as the district "kicked off its new anti- bullying campaign. Students who feel they are the target of bullies now have a hotline they can use for moral support and find a way to stop the problem."


 

NY1-TV New York, NY (10/20, Christ) reports that the program is "funded by the teachers union," noting that students "can confidentially call mental health specialists who have been trained on issues associated with bullying."

State BOEs Call For More Classroom Time During Teacher Training

Education Week (10/20, Cavanagh) reports that in a report released this week by the National Association of State Boards of Education, the body argues that "teacher colleges need to give aspiring educators much more thorough, intense exposure to K-12 classrooms during their training-and set higher standards for admission." The group "says that experience in actual classroom settings, as well as continued mentoring once teachers are on the job, are critical to keeping top-notch educators in the job. But the report also says that the admissions standards for many teachers' colleges are unacceptably low-they may not, for instance, require minimum test scores or grade-point averages-and many of them draw candidates from the bottom two-thirds of their college classes." The piece notes parenthetically that the group echoes concerns voiced by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others.

Writer: Classroom Technology Can't Replace Discipline, Hard Work

In an op-ed in the Washington (DC) Examiner (10/20) Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute derides the notion that simply pouring "interactive whiteboards, iPads, and eye-popping video graphics into the classroom" can "overcome the knowledge gap between US students and our leading economic competitors. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings set out the possibilities in the Wall Street Journal this September." She notes that this notion has caused the education technology sector to flourish, but adds, "to call the results to date disappointing would be generous." She argues that schools must get "back to teaching the basics; restore order and discipline in every classroom; return to a teacher-centered, rather than student-centered, pedagogy; and demand hard work from children and commitment from parents."

LATimes Criticizes Gay Social Studies Curriculum Mandate

In an editorial about the struggle that California districts are facing in implementing a new law mandating that the contribution of gay Americans be added to social studies curricula, the Los Angeles Times (10/19) states that this type of problem "is what happens when school laws are passed for political reasons rather than educational ones." The piece notes that districts "have little idea how to comply with the law. What's more, the state lacks the time or resources to develop lesson plans or a curriculum to help guide them." The Times suggests that legislators have gone too far in their "appropriate" efforts to curtail discrimination and harassment in schools.

Writers: Proposed New York Sex Ed Curriculum Violates Parents' Rights

In a New York Times (10/19, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Robert P. George, a professor of politics at Princeton University, and Princeton doctoral candidate Melissa Moschella sharply criticize a proposed sex education curriculum recommended by New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. The writers describe a number of "graphic" aspects to the curriculum, and warn that it also encourages students to disregard their parents' instructions regarding sexual health, instructing them "to rely instead on teachers and health clinic staff members." They argue that the curriculum contributes to "the sexualization of children" at inappropriately young ages, and that the government has no compelling interest in "violating parents rights" by requiring such instruction regardless of families "moral and religious values."

Numerous Amendments Complicate Markup Of NCLB Overhaul Bill

The Huffington Post (10/19, Resmovits) reports that as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee prepares to begin work on a bill to overhaul No Child Left Behind, "letters and amendments are flying...providing a glimpse into the sausage factory that produces federal policy for America's schools and teachers." The Post notes that despite House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline's intention to overhaul NCLB "in a piecemeal fashion," Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) "said Monday he doesn't see any reason why 'Congress can't fix No Child Left Behind and send it to the president before Christmas.'" However, the Post notes that Kansas Sen. Rand Paul (R) "plans to hold up the process with '70-something' amendments. ... 'Our number one amendment will be repeal of the entire No Child Left Behind,' Paul said Tuesday." In an update, the Post notes that NEA advocacy director Kim Anderson and Federal advocacy manager Mary Kusler have written to the committee detailing the union's views on the bill.


 

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (10/19) "Politics K-12" blog that a total of 144 amendments were filed in advance of Wednesday's markup, and "apparently more than half of those amendments-74-are from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is not a huge fan of the US Department of Education. Paul put out a statement today essentially saying the whole markup process is moving too fast and 800-plus pages is too long for the bill." Klein lists a number of other "amendment to watch," including one from Alexander that "would put the kibosh on" ED's NCLB waiver plan.


 

WPost Blasts Lack Of Teacher Evaluation Language In Senate NCLB Overhaul. An editorial in the Washington Post (10/19) expresses dismay that the latest revision of the No Child Left Behind reauthorization measure put forth by Senate HELP Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking GOP member Mike Enzi dropped "an important provision on teacher evaluations," suggesting that the change amounts to acquiescing to teacher union pressure and "renders the bill a non-starter." The Post concedes that in its current form, the measure has some "commendable aspects," but says these "can't compensate for the proposal's retreat from accountability provisions, a retreat that rightly came under fire from civil rights and education-reform advocates." The Post adds that the NEA "doesn't like using student achievement to measure teacher effectiveness, which is a bit like measuring race car drivers by everything except how fast they go. So the NEA and GOP forged their alliance, and the provision was dropped."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Idioms and Expressions: Game

Games from Kenneth Beare

Monday, October 17, 2011

March To MLK Memorial Aims To Push AJA

The AP (10/17) reports on the "rally and march" over the weekend "to the newly opened Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The March on Washington for Jobs and Justice on Saturday is intended to drum up support for President Barack Obama's jobs plan." The piece notes that the "speakers expected at Saturday's rally include Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers."


 

The Newnan (GA) Times-Herald (10/17) reported that members of King's family, Vice President Biden, Duncan, HHS

jobs and economic Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and others were scheduled to attend, and that President Obama was to give the dedication address.


 

NEA's Pringle: King Would Be "Outraged" By Child Poverty.

NPR's "Weekend Edition" (10/16) reported on the rally, where demonstrators "marched for justice on the eve of the new memorial's dedication." The piece notes that such speakers as the National Education Association's Rebecca Pringle "invoked King and speculated on what he would think of the state of the nation where he fought for equal opportunities for everyone. 'I believe he would be outraged,' Pringle said. 'He would be outraged that 1 out of 5 children [are] living in poverty in this great nation.'"

WPost Explores Rhee's Legacy In DC School System

The Washington Post (10/17, Turque) reports on the legacy of former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee a year after her resignation, noting that "an examination of her legacy, with a year's perspective, reveals a mixed picture of hits, misses, long-term effects and continuing question marks for the 45,000-student system." Noting that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty gave Rhee "total authority...to turn the low-achieving system on its head," the Post discusses changes in teacher pay, basic financing and operations, and labor relations. "Rhee's hard-nosed change agency in these areas has allowed her successor and former top deputy, Kaya Henderson, to focus on such matters as curriculum and professional development for teachers."

South Dakota Pushing Superintendants To Gain Certification

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader (10/16, Verges) reports that its analysis of state data shows that six district superintendents in South Dakota "don't have the level of education the state requires of the position," noting that state "Department of Education waivers allow the officials to work in that capacity for three years while they attend class, but it's a tall task." Under state rules, "a superintendent must earn at least a master's degree and 15 additional credits to earn a superintendent endorsement for his certificate. After 10 years on the job, he must have earned either an education specialist or doctoral degree."

The AP (10/17), meanwhile, reports that state "education officials are stepping up efforts to get South Dakota's school superintendents qualified," noting that in addition to the six unqualified superintendants, "another 88 are fully qualified, while 57 are partially qualified."

Los Angeles Principals To Have Access To Teachers' Effectiveness Ratings

The Los Angeles Times (10/17, Song) reports, "For the first time, Los Angeles school principals will see previously confidential ratings that estimate teachers' effectiveness in raising students' standardized test scores," noting that the "scores are based on an analysis the district calls Academic Growth over Time," which the piece states is akin to "value-added ratings in other school systems across the country." The piece notes that Los Angeles Unified "is in negotiations with its teachers union to use the ratings as one piece in a new evaluation system," though United Teachers Los Angeles is strongly opposed to student-based teacher evaluations. The Times notes that speaking last week in Los Angeles, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said "that he believes states should definitely use data to drive instruction and in evaluations."

Funding Expert Stresses Benefits Of Arts Education

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (10/17, Dunkle) reports on an appearance last week at an education symposium in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but "arts funding expert" Jonathan Katz, who told attendees that "arts education in schools has a beneficial impact on such crucial issues as student behavior, standardized test scores and career success. The proof for those claims is overwhelming and long-standing," he said. "For example, he said, comprehensive studies show that children who have music education do better in math, and economically disadvantaged students who have arts classes are far less likely to drop out."

Advocate Calls For Universal Chess Instruction

In a "Chicago News Cooperative" column in the New York Times (10/15, Subscription Publication), James Warren profiles Hungarian former chess child prodigy Susan Polgar, who calls for chess to be a mandatory part of K-2 education. Polgar "runs the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University. The foundation supports chess for boys and girls, but especially girls, and sponsors events nationwide. ... Polgar's mantra is that chess teaches discipline, analytical thinking, time management, focus and patience - skills that can be useful throughout life."

Study Points Out Link Between Student Achievement, Teacher Training

The AP (10/17, Blankinship) reports that according to a new study from the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research, students' academic achievement "can be traced, in part, to where their teachers went to college. ... But the center's director, Dan Goldhaber, cautioned that the study is just a first step toward determining what kind of training - not where the training occurred - best prepares teachers for excellence in the classroom. Even so, it's the kind of information US Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like every school to have access to and that's why he recently announced a new program to use federal dollars to pay for similar research."

Advocate Calls For Universal Chess Instruction

In a "Chicago News Cooperative" column in the New York Times (10/15, Subscription Publication), James Warren profiles Hungarian former chess child prodigy Susan Polgar, who calls for chess to be a mandatory part of K-2 education. Polgar "runs the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University. The foundation supports chess for boys and girls, but especially girls, and sponsors events nationwide. ... Polgar's mantra is that chess teaches discipline, analytical thinking, time management, focus and patience - skills that can be useful throughout life."

Study Points Out Link Between Student Achievement, Teacher Training

The AP (10/17, Blankinship) reports that according to a new study from the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research, students' academic achievement "can be traced, in part, to where their teachers went to college. ... But the center's director, Dan Goldhaber, cautioned that the study is just a first step toward determining what kind of training - not where the training occurred - best prepares teachers for excellence in the classroom. Even so, it's the kind of information US Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like every school to have access to and that's why he recently announced a new program to use federal dollars to pay for similar research."

California Districts Struggle To Interpret Gay History Law

The Los Angeles Times (10/17, Watanabe) reports that as California schools move to implement a new law "requiring public schools to teach all students...about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history classes," "administrators are flummoxed" about including such curriculum. "Educators across the state don't have much time to figure it out. In January, they're expected to begin teaching about LGBT Americans under California's landmark law, the first of its kind in the nation." The article focuses on confusion over what material is appropriate for what grade, adding that "districts will have little help in navigating this sensitive and controversial change, which has already prompted some parents to pull their children out of public schools."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ED Study Finds Teachers In Schools With Large Black, Hispanic Populations Paid Less

The Sacramento Observer (10/11, Cooper) reports that new research from ED "shows that African American and Hispanic students are being shortchanged, literally, when it comes to school budgets, in most districts with diverse enrollments," and "found that teachers in schools with more Latino and African American enrollment get paid an average of $2,500 less than teachers in the whole district." The piece quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan from a statement accompanying the report, "America has been battling inequity in education for decades but these data show that we cannot let up. Children who need the most too often get the least. It's a civil rights issue, an economic security issue and a moral issue."

ED Set To Release Details Of Los Angeles Civil Rights Probe

The AP (10/11) reports that ED has announced that Education Secretary Arne Duncan will "announce the results of a civil rights investigation that looked into the quality of education Los Angeles Unified School District provides to English learners and black students" and "will outline the terms of a resolution with the nation's second-largest school district on Tuesday." The AP explains that ED's Office for Civil Rights began a compliance review in March of 2012, "to evaluate whether the district's 220,000 English learners were being denied equal education as compared to native English speakers," which was then "expanded to also assess whether black students, particularly those in schools with large black populations, had access to resources comparable to those available to white students."

Texas Phasing In New End-Of-Term Exams For Freshmen

The Houston Chronicle (10/11, Brown) reports that next spring, high school freshmen in Texas will begin taking the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam at the end of the term, but notes that "teachers won't know how the exams will be scored until February, about a month before students take" them. "The uncertainties surrounding the new tests, which are replacing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exams, have school districts scrambling to prepare teachers and students," the Chronicle reports, adding that administrators "their strategy is to work to make sure teachers are covering all the material in the state curriculum."

Brown's Assessment Bill Veto Statement Shines Light On Testing Views

An analysis in the San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune (10/11, Gardner) takes note of the veto statement that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) released as he struck down a bill that would have "added different gauges to the traditional yardstick known as the Academic Performance Index, or API, that now tracks school success based on test scores exclusively. 'Adding more speedometers to a broken car won't turn it into a high-performance machine,' Brown wrote in his veto message." The piece explores the issues that led to the legislation, and further examines Brown's statement, which "reflected a long labor, perhaps driven by lessons learned after launching a pair of charter schools as mayor of Oakland. In it, Brown was at once sympathetic to the testing reform cause and unsparingly critical of those behind the campaign."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Have and Be - Two Key Verbs

From Kenneth Beare:

The verbs 'to have' and 'to be' are two of the most important verbs in English. They are used as principal verbs, auxiliary verbs for a variety of tenses, modal... Read more

English Learning Using Different Types of Intelligence

From Kenneth Beare:

It is sometimes difficult to know how to focus on a specific learning objective using a variety of approaches. This overview provides an exercise for each type of intelligence to teach expressions of quantity and countable and uncountable nouns... Read more

Monday, October 10, 2011

Budget Cuts Lead To Larger Class Sizes In Michigan District

AnnArbor.com (10/10, Miller) reports on the emergence of data indicating rising class sizes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "Exactly how large won't be clear until the district has a chance to review the numbers from last Wednesday's official student count day. But there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that classes are bursting at the seams across the district, said Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, representing teachers." The piece describes discussions in the local education community about the rising class sizes, and describes how actual figures are likely to compare with projections.

Republican Candidates Take Aim At Federal Role In Education.

The New York Times (10/8, Gabriel, Subscription Publication) reported that a number of candidates in the GOP presidential primary race are voicing sharp criticism of ED and the Federal government's role in education policy, painting this rhetoric as a departure from decades of "loose bipartisan agreement that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation's 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards." The Times contrasts this with President George W. Bush's aspiration "to be the 'education president,'" and notes that even President Obama's Race to the Top initiative "used federal money to leverage change that many Republicans had long endorsed - charter schools and teacher evaluations that tied effectiveness in the classroom to tenure." Meanwhile, though he is "feeling the hot breath of Tea Party anti-federalism," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has praised Education Secretary Arne Duncan "for promoting 'school choice' and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores."

California Husband And Wife Win Plaudits As Turnaround Principals

The Sacramento Bee (10/10, Gutierrez) profiles Greg and Nancy Purcell, principals respectively of Sam Brannan Middle School and Fern Bacon Middle School in Sacramento, California. "With impressive school turnarounds in their past and a chorus of supporters singing their praises, the Purcells have each built a following in Sacramento." The piece describes their schools as both having seen significant improvements, summarizes their careers, and describes their collaboration.

"Parent Unions" Organizing To Push Education Reform

The AP (10/10, Hoag) reports that a number of parents' groups are leaving behind "bake-sale fundraisers" and branching into pushing education reform, and profiles a group in Los Angeles which is "one of the newly formed 'parents unions' that are springing up from San Diego to Buffalo, N.Y., with the same goal - to push schools to improve academic achievement. Behind the parent empowerment movement is a feisty Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Parent Revolution, which in 2010 pushed through a landmark law giving parents authority to force turnarounds at failing schools through a petition," the so-called parent trigger law which "was the first of its kind in the nation," and "inspired Texas and Mississippi to adopt similar laws."

ED Review Critical Of Carnegie Math Software

The New York Times (10/9, Gabriel, Richtel, Subscription Publication) reports that according to an ED review of software from "Carnegie Learning, a company started by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University," the software falls short of its promise to deliver "Revolutionary Results" as promised. ED's review said that the firm's "flagship software, Cognitive Tutor...had 'no discernible effects' on the standardized test scores of high school students. A separate 2009 federal look at 10 major software products for teaching algebra as well as elementary and middle school math and reading found that nine of them, including Cognitive Tutor, 'did not have statistically significant effects on test scores.'"

DOJ Asks Appeals Court To Block Alabama Immigration Law

NBC Nightly News (10/7, story 3, 2:10, Williams) reported, "In this country, the Justice Department today asked a Federal appeals court to block Alabama's extremely tough new immigration law which took effect last week." The department argues that the "law invites discrimination against all foreign-born residents and they are especially worried about its effect on children." NBC (Sanders) added, "Alabama's farmers say" the law has "left the agriculture industry as the victims of unintended consequences," and "while they have all lost workers they are yet to see a rush to fill those jobs despite Alabama's 9.9% unemployment rate."


 

The Hill (10/8, Sink) reports in its "Blog Briefing Room" blog, "The law would allow authorities to question those suspected of being illegal immigrants and hold them in jail without bond. It also allows school officials to check the immigration status of students. The Department of Justice said in a release that these provisions 'conflict with federal immigration law and undermine the federal government's careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives.'"


 

Alabama Immigration Law Sparks Exodus Among Likely Targets.The Washington Post (10/9, Constable) says an Alabama law, "largely upheld last week by a federal district judge, seeks to drive illegal immigrants from the state by curtailing many of their rights, punishing anyone who knowingly employs, houses or assists them, and requiring schools and police to verify immigrants' legal status." The result is "panic and chaos among trailer parks and working-class areas where legal and illegal immigrant families from Mexico and Central America - as many as 150,000 people, by some estimates - live and work at jobs their bosses say local residents largely refuse to do. In Foley, a sprawling seaside resort town where hundreds of Hispanic immigrants work in restaurants, sod farms and seafood industries, many families last week were taking their children out of school, piling their furniture into trucks, offering baby clothes and bicycles on front lawns for sale and saying tearful goodbyes to neighbors and co-workers they might never see again."


 

Alabama DOE Officials Waiting On Data On Hispanic Student Attendance.The Decatur Daily (10/10, Ellington) reports on the "dramatic numbers" of Hispanic students who stayed away from Alabama schools last week, noting that "Alabama Department of Education spokeswoman Malissa Valdes said the state may not know for weeks how many of the absences were routine and how many were students who will not return. The department tracks Hispanic student enrollment and their excused and unexcused absences statewide each week." Meanwhile, "Acting state Superintendent of Education Larry Craven and principals around the state said they expect the decline in Hispanic students' attendance to continue."

California Governor Attacks Test-Based Education Reform

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (10/10) "Answer Sheet" blog that in his statement accompanying a veto of "a bill that would have changed the state's accountability system for public schools," California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) sharply criticized "data-based school reform." Strauss adds that the bill "would have reduced reliance on standardized test scores to evaluate students and schools, but Brown called the legislation 'yet another siren song of school reform' and would do nothing to improve the quality of schools." Strauss adds that Brown has "gone further than any other governor in blasting modern test-based school reform."

Teacher Blasts Common Core's "Open Ended" Testing

In an op-ed in the Stamford Advocate (10/10), Wendy Lecker, former president of the Stamford Parent Teacher Council, criticizes the Common Core Standards for the increase that they will bring in standardized testing. "Education Secretary Arne Duncan asserted that these tests will not just be 'fill-in-the-bubble tests' but rather will be open ended. Sounds good, right? Has Mr. Duncan actually examined the open-ended tests that currently exist?" Lecker adds that "the manner in which these tests are scored is horrifying. Scorers, almost always temporary seasonal workers, sit sweatshop style in a large room reading similar essays for eight hours straight," with minimal time devoted to each essay.

ED's Cator Praises Steve Jobs' Classroom Innovations

NPR's "Weekend Edition" (10/10) ran a segment on Apple cofounder Steve Jobs' legacy in US classrooms, noting that "Apple helped pioneer the use of computers in schools back in the 1980s with the graphical interface of the Macintosh. These days, it's the iPad that's the hot trend in education and Jobs' education legacy is growing with the popularity of mobile devices in the classroom." The piece features ED's Karen Cator, who "worked in Apple's education department for a dozen years. She says Jobs' concept of the personal computer was always linked to learning. 'He was very focused on making sure that all of the technologies were focused on people,' Cator says." 'It was about augmenting human performance and helping people be as excellent as possible.'

Nevada Educators Stress Need for Technology, Team Learning For Common Core

The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal (10/10, Martinez) reports, "As education leaders scramble to implement common curriculum standards to assess student performance in all states, they understand that to effectively engage students, greater use of technology, team learning and restructured classes should be the strategies," Washoe County, Nevada, Chief Academic Officer Scott Bailey said at a recent "brainstorming session" in Reno. Bailey stressed the need to integrate students' familiarity with digital technology.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Iowa District Hiring Younger Teachers To Save Money

The Iowa City (IA) Press-Citizen (10/7) reports that the school district in Iowa City, Iowa, "appears to be hiring more inexperienced teachers than in years past," quoting district human resources director Jim Pedersen, "We have been hiring younger. If all things are equal, we're going to hire the less experienced teachers for the cost savings." The piece notes that some 6% of the district's teachers have less than four years under their belt, but compares this figure with NCES stats showing that nationwide "13 percent of teachers have less than three years of experience."

Michigan Republicans Sponsor "Right To Teach" Bill

The AP (10/7) reports that Republicans in the Michigan Senate have introduced "so-called 'right to teach' legislation," under which "public schools would not be allowed to require employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment under the Senate bill. It appears the bill would affect only the state's largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, because it would apply only to unions that represent at least 50,000 workers." The piece notes that a spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said that Snider will likely not sign such a bill.

ED Awards Grant For Tribal Education, Cultural Awareness In Los Angeles

KHTS-AM San Diego (CA) (10/7, Worden) reports that leaders of the FernandeƱo-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians have announced a $1 million ED grant "to promote academic achievement and cultural awareness among American Indian high school students throughout Los Angeles County." The grant will go to a program which is "designed to improve students' academic achievement, reaffirm their cultural identity, prepare them to enter college and" promote new tribal leadership.

Chicago School Looking To Train Next Generation Of Black, Hispanic Teachers

In a "Chicago News Cooperative" piece, the New York Times (10/7, Vevea, Subscription Publication) reports on the efforts of Wells Community Academy High School in Chicago to reduce the rising "gap between the number of minority teachers in Chicago's public schools and minority student enrollment" by "preparing the next generation of teachers." The piece notes that the school's "racial breakdown of students is almost evenly split between African Americans and Hispanics," and reports that "more than 60 students are participating in a teacher training program that gets them to the front of the classroom years before most aspiring teachers." Students "participate in a four-year curriculum - in partnership with National Louis University - designed to focus on best practices in teaching."

Impact Of Steve Jobs' Innovations On Classrooms Noted

Education Week (10/7, Quillen) reports on the death of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, noting that his "creativity and creations such as the Macintosh computers, iPhones, and iPads have influenced more than three decades of students and teachers." The article refers to the long relationship between Apple and the education community, noting that it "remained relevant in schools as the early Apple I and II's developed into subsequent lines of desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices that changed both knowledge sharing and knowledge consumption for students and adults alike." Notably, the iPad tablet computer "has exploded on the educational scene. In the third quarter of fiscal year 2011, the iPad surpassed all of Apple's educational Mac desktop and laptop computer sales combined."


 

Kyle Stokes writes at an NPR (10/7) "State Impact" posting that "part of Jobs' legacy is certainly connected to his company's contributions to education technology. When Apple first marketed its computers to K-12 schools in the '80s, the company created a 'beachhead' for their products which, for good or for ill, remains to this day." New England Cable News (10/7, Maclean) reports that kindergarten students in Auburn, Maine, who have been assigned iPads are also "part of Steve Jobs' legacy."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicago School Lunch Mystery Blogger Reveals Identity, Releases Book

USA Today (10/6, Hellmich) profiles Sarah Wu, a speech pathologist at an elementary school in Chicago, who in 2012 "teacher decided to eat school lunch every day for a year and write about it anonymously as Mrs. Q. on her blog, Fed Up With Lunch. She secretly photographed the meals, ate them and then described the taste and texture of heavily processed chicken nuggets, an unusual peanut butter and jelly sandwich that made her sick, mystery meats and reheated vegetables." Wu is now revealing her identity, and is releasing a book based on her blog.


 

The Chicago Tribune (10/6, Eng) reports Wu may have been able to maintain her anonymity in part because she "does not look like a troublemaker," and notes that her blog "became a minor sensation, but its writer fiercely guarded her anonymity, fearing termination from the Chicago Public Schools, where she was employed." Wu's research "found that many versions of chicken nuggets are half chicken and half fillers, and that school pizza can have up to 64 ingredients." A Chicago Tribune (10/6, Eng) sidebar presents a number of Wu's observations on time allotted for lunch, processed foods, nutrition information, and salad bars.

Chicago District Courts Spanish Teachers For ELL Classes

The Chicago Sun-Times (10/6, Masterson) reports that public school officials in Chicago "recently recruited and hired eight teachers from Spain" to teach ELL classes. "The district is educating about 800 students in bilingual classes," and demand for teachers is high.

California DOE Says Test-Based Color-Coded IDs Violate Student Privacy

The Orange County Register (10/6, Martindale) reports that California education officials have ruled that Kennedy High School in Orange County violated the privacy of its students by issuing student ids that were color-coded based on their scores on standardized tests. Colors indicating high achievement "give students a range of special campus privileges and discounts" for which other students do not qualify, and must stand in longer lunch lines. "Kennedy parents and students say the cards and planners unnecessarily embarrass and single out students who did not perform as well as their peers on state standardized testing, while the California Department of Education characterizes the practice as 'inappropriate' and a violation of state law."

Budget Cuts Highlight Class Size Debate

The Huffington Post (10/6, Resmovits) reports on the impact that larger class sizes are having on some New York City schools, noting that according to ED statistics, "student-teacher ratio declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 13.1 in 2008, when class sizes averaged at 20 in elementary schools and 23.4 in secondary schools. But since then, as the recession took its toll, reports from around the country point to a surge in class sizes." The piece notes that the AJA takes aim at the issue, but "beneath the surface of class size explosions because of budget cuts and layoffs and Obama's attempts to fix it, lies a debate about the importance of class sizes, and a move to deliberately increase them to enable investment elsewhere in education." The piece notes Education Secretary Arne Duncan's past comments about the relative value of small class sizes and quality teachers, and notes the controversy this has caused.

DC Leaders, Parents Voice Rising Concerns About Middle Schools

An article in the Washington Post (9/25, Turque) describes the disparity in student services and activities offered at different middle schools in Washington, DC, noting that with "preschool and elementary enrollment ticking up for the first time in decades, parents and policymakers are scrutinizing the lack of attractive middle-grade options with increasing urgency." The piece describes city leaders' concerns about raising the quality of middle schools in DC, exploring the political and socioeconomic pressures that influence the division of resources among them.

Alabama Education Officials Seek To Reassure Hispanic Population

Politico (10/6, Lee) reports that Alabama interim education chief Larry Craven released a statement Tuesday seeking to "calm fearful parents after many Hispanic students stopped showing up in school in response to Alabama's new immigration law." Craven assured parents that "kids will be enrolled even if they don't have birth certificates," and said "that while a contentious provision of the law upheld by US District Judge SharonBlackburn last week requires all students enrolling on or after Sept. 29 to present their birth certificate, they will be accepted at school even without documents."


 

Montgomery Superintendent Laments Law's Impact. Montgomery (AL) Advertiser (10/6, Bitter) reports that Montgomery Superintendent Barbara Thompson and other district officials "said the state's new immigration law already is having a significant impact on the system with the potential to cost students valuable class time and the system money. 'It's scary for our children,'" Thompson said. "Schools officials said within the past several days there have been an unusually high number of absences for Hispanic students."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mattel Doll Line To Address School Bullying

The New York Times (10/5, Schmidt, Subscription Publication) reports, "MONSTER HIGH, the line of fashion dolls from Mattel that features the teenage children of legendary monsters facing the awkward struggles of high school, is getting a social conscience," noting that Mattel is using the toys "to address school bullying. To assist in the effort, Mattel executives teamed up with Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, creators of the Kind Campaign, a grass-roots movement that offers an empowerment solution to bullying."

Civil Rights Group: Minority Students Face More Suspensions

USA Today (10/5, Toppo) reports that according to a report from Colorado-based civil rights organization the National Education Policy Center based on data from ED's Office for Civil Rights, "US public schools suspend black, Hispanic and disabled students at much higher rates than others." The group, USA Today adds, says its findings call into question the quality of staff training and anti-discrimination policies. The article refers to other recent studies criticizing school discipline policies, relates some of the statistics from the study, and notes that ED spokesperson Justin Hamilton "said department officials hadn't seen the new report, but said they were aware of 'troubling reports across the country' of the disparity in minority and white discipline rates."

Philadelphia To Increase Support, Oversight For School District

The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/5, Graham) reports that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis on Tuesday announced "additional support and oversight for city schools," with the intention to "stabilize a district that's been rocked by budget woes, backroom deals, a public fight over leadership and the departure of a controversial superintendent." The two leaders "announced the appointment of two 'executive advisers' to work directly with district leadership and the School Reform Commission until a permanent superintendent is chosen to replace Arlene C. Ackerman. They also said a working group of business experts is being formed to advise the SRC on reforms in matters of operations and administration."


 

The AP (10/5, Matheson) also covers the "extra academic and financial support" the district is to receive under the plan, with the goal of restoring "public confidence in a system buffeted for months by scandal and political turmoil." Nutter and Tomalis "appointed a pair of executive education advisers to work with district administrators and created a business task force to identify ways the schools can run more efficiently. 'We are going to re-establish the faith and trust that children, teachers, parents and the entire taxpaying public ... should have and deserve to have in this district,' Nutter said at a news conference." The AP notes that the measures are intended to be temporary during the leadership transition.


 

Tom MacDonald writes at NewsWorks.com (10/5) that Nutter "says the goal is to keep the district running," while Tomalis "said the city and the state will work more closely with the School Reform Commission." WCAU-TV Philadelphia, PA (10/5) also covers this story.