Friday, December 14, 2012

Judge Places Pennsylvania District In Receivership

The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/14, Giordano) says Delaware County Judge Chad F. Kenney on Thursday granted state Education Secretary Ronald J. Tomalis' petition to place the Chester-Upland school district in receivership and "accepted his recommendation to appoint Joseph P. Watkins, who was already serving as the district's state-selected chief recovery officer." Kenney's decision accepts Watkins overhaul plan that "calls for increasing scholastic achievement, luring back students who have fled the district's schools, increasing programs, and attracting private funding. However, it also calls for closing and consolidating schools, including two of the district's higher achievers; increasing class sizes; raising taxes, and turning the schools over to external control, such as education-management companies or converting them to charter or cyber schools if they fail to met federal progress goals by the end of the 2014-2015 school year."


The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (12/13, Kopp) notes the receivership will last for three years and quotes Kenney's order as saying, "The petition for appointment of Joseph P. Watkins to serve as receiver for the Chester Upland School District is not arbitrary, capricious or wholly irrelevant to restoring the school district to financial stability. In fact, the petition with an attached recovery plan speaks to only, and addresses only, the specific issue of restoring the school district to financial stability."

Philadelphia Officials Mull Safety Impact Of School Closures

The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/14, Snyder, Purcell) reports that some 14 "most dangerous" schools in Philadelphia are among the 44 that have been scheduled for closure, adding, "But just what impact the closing of the schools will have on overall safety in the 146,000-student district is uncertain and some officials say the potential exists for things to actually get worse. Some schools will grow larger as they are forced to take in students from shuttered buildings. ... And Philadelphia is known for its neighborhood rivalries, which over the years have erupted in violence inside and out of school." The piece quotes Kelley B. Hodge, the state-appointed "safe schools advocate" saying, "I think it's definitely going to have an impact on safety. How significant, I can't say at this point. It's a very intense social experiment. I think every student in the district is going to be affected in some way, shape or fashion."

District Officials Welcome Results From Nation's First Standardized Health Test

The Washington Post (12/14, Cohen) says students in the District "scored an average of 62% on the nation's first standardized health test, results that were better than education officials had expected because D.C. schools have not had a long history of teaching subjects the test covered." Sandra Schlicker at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education told DC Council members that she was "pleasantly surprised" with the results. Leaders of organizations that "work on teen health in the District said at Thursday's hearing that the test results are a valuable evaluative resource. Scores on the reproductive health section of the test, where high school students answered an average of 75% of the questions correctly, might improve if schools devoted more class time to that subject, said Shana Bartley, a peer health and sexuality education program coordinator at the Young Women's Project."


The ABC News (12/13, Jennings) "Health" blog quotes Ayan Islam, communications specialist for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, as saying the results "will be very helpful in determining the improvements needed to be made for teacher professional development training and create challenging material that can further student's interest and knowledge in personal health. ... Fifth-graders seem to know a lot more when it comes to recognizing their own personal health. When it comes to general knowledge and physical education on alcohol, tobacco and drugs, they have a slight idea, but may not be exposed enough to give them an awareness to be prepared when they are exposed to those things."


Students Show Greater Proficiency In Health Than Math, Reading.The Washington Times (12/14, Howell) says the test results "exceeded the public school students' proficiency on in math and reading, at about 49 percent and 46 percent, respectively, in scores released in July. However, respondents to the health questions may have included students who did not take the traditional DC CAS in those core subjects." Adam Tenner of the Metro TeenAIDS organization praised the exam as "historic," adding: "While the results are concerning to Metro TeenAIDS, they demonstrate exactly how serious this epidemic is and which schools are most in need of improvement."

Writer: Cultural Sensitivity Requirements May Stymie Common Core Assessment Creators

In commentary for Bloomberg News (12/14), Emory University professor of English Mark Bauerlein writes that despite the Common Core Standards' bipartisan support and widespread acceptance, "a battle may break out once states and districts develop curricula and administer tests that align with Common Core's standards on English language arts. The clash revives the so-called canon wars from 25 years ago, when multiculturalists in high school and college demanded an end to the dead-white- male dominance of the humanities." Bauerlein states that the Common Core is "unambiguous" in its preference for the classics, adding that the "mandate is a problem for test developers," who must "heed 'bias and sensitivity guidelines' that rule out race and sex imbalances, stereotypes and pretty much anything that might upset or disserve any particular group of students."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fiction or Nonfiction? Considering the Common Core’s Emphasis on Informational Text



(From the New York Time)


Overview | Does the emphasis on reading "informational text" in the new Common Core State Standards set up a "fiction versus nonfiction smackdown" in English classes? If so, is that good or bad?

In this lesson, students will reflect on their reading experiences in and out of school and discuss the roles that both nonfiction and fiction have played. Then, they will become familiar with what the Common Core standards say about reading, and what critics and supporters have written in reaction, in order to discuss and write about the question "What Should Children Read?"

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Rural Districts' After-School Programs Benefit From 21st Century CLC Grants

Education Week (12/12, Courrégé) reports on the high degree to which rural districts rely on grant programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant program for after-school programs, which "face a host of challenges because of their isolated locations," such as low funding, staffing difficulties, and transportation programs. "That lack of money is huge for Sherry Comer, who has directed an after-school program in Camdenton, Mo., for 14 years. Her program was one of the original recipients of the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, and it's relied on a combination of sources, such as federal Title I and economic-stimulus money, to keep afloat since then." The article notes that many rural communities need 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to operate, adding that it "offers funding for centers that provide academic-enrichment opportunities during nonschool hours for children, especially those who are considered poor and attend low-performing schools."

Advocates Complain ED Focus On ELL Instruction Waning

Education Week (12/12, Maxwell) reports that advocates for English language learners are concerned "that the distinctive needs of those students and the educators who work with them are receiving diminishing attention from the US Department of Education." The piece notes that despite the rising ELL population and roughly $750 million in annual Federal spending, ED's Office of English Language Acquisition "has seen its clout steadily shrink. In mid-October, the office lost its director, Rosalinda B. Barrera, who was appointed in August 2010 and became the first permanent political appointee in that post since 2008. The department did not publicize her departure, and no one has been named to replace her." Education Week notes that OLEA also declined to renew a contract with George Washington University to manage ts National Clearninghouse for English Language Acquisition without explanation. Meanwhile, "Raúl Gonzalez, the director of legislative affairs for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic-advocacy group in Washington, said ELL issues have not been front and center in the Education Department in President Barack Obama's first term because officials have been focused on major initiatives such as the Race to the Top grant program and No Child Left Behind Act waivers." The piece quotes Gonzalez saying, "I think there's an opportunity in the second term to engage the department more intensely on English-learner issues."


Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (12/13) "Learning the Language" blog about the above article written by her, noting that advocates complain about "the splitting of responsibilities over Title III, the provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that provides roughly $750 million in federal aid to states and local districts for English-language acquisition programs. Since 2008, authority over the funds has been in a division of the department's office of elementary and secondary education, a change made at the tail end of President George W. Bush's administration and continued under President Barack Obama. That move has left the Office of English Language Acquisition-where authority over all of Title III had originally been placed-largely on the sidelines when it comes to major policy decisions that impact English-learners."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

California Governor's Top Education Advisor Retiring

EdSource Today (12/11, Baron) reports that California State Board of Education Executive Director Sue Burr is stepping down after "guiding California through decades of education reform." The piece describes Burr as "Gov. Jerry Brown's top advisor on education policy," and notes that she "gave no specific reason for leaving other than the end of the year marking 40 years in public service. Her retirement follows the administration's exhausting and successful campaign to win voter support for Proposition 30, Brown's ballot initiative to raise taxes on the wealthiest Californians and increase the sales tax to boost education funding." The piece quotes Brown saying in a statement, "Sue brought a deep understanding of school policy and operations to her many years of public service. I thank her for her counsel and steady leadership."

ACLU Files ED Complaints Against Schools With Same-Gender Classes

The Bayou Buzz (12/11) reports that the ACLU has filed complaints with ED against school districts in Middleton, Idaho, and Birmingham, Alabama, that have middle schools that offer single-gender classes. "The ACLU said the programs...appear to violate federal law 'by forcing students into a single-sex environment with little or no alternative options, rely on harmful gender stereotypes and deprive students of equal educational opportunities merely because of their sex.' The organization filed the complaints last week, saying the schools are in violation of Title IX, which 'prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs.'"

Columnist Dismisses Idea Of Longer School Days

In her column in the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record (12/10, Liu), Pauline Liu writes, "Starting next year, 20,000 public school kids in the U.S. will spend an extra hour and a half each day in school, to boost achievement." Liu dismisses the "idea of keeping them late for more of the same instruction," saying, "If it's not working now, how will it be better if they're tired? There are many grown-ups and kids alike who would call that punishment." Liu adds, "some people in high places support longer school days, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He believes children of poverty can be helped if you 'give them the time to learn more.' While there are some studies to support this view, what about the importance of play in the development of a healthy child?"

AIR Releases ELL Support Guide For Waiver States

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (12/11, Maxwell) "Learning the Language" blog that a team from the American Institutes for Research has "developing guides to help states and districts keep the promises they made to win" NCLB waivers. "English-language learners are the focus of the first of these AIR waiver guides, which, among other things, highlights promising practices that state and local leaders may use to ensure that the particular needs of the English-language learners in their schools are served well under states' waiver plans." Maxwell writes that Diane August, who wrote the guide, "lays out concrete steps states and districts must take on behalf of English-learners under three of the four main principles that the Education Department required as a condition for states to receive flexibility."

English Teachers Express Concerns About Common Core's "Informational Text" Standards

The Huffington Post (12/10, Zhao) reports on growing concerns among "teachers and parents that literary classics will go the way of the dinosaurs" under the Common Core Standards, which "call for 12th grade reading to be 70 percent nonfiction, or 'informational texts' - gradually stepping up from the 50 percent nonfiction reading required of elementary school students." The Post notes that "the new guidelines are increasingly worrying English-lovers and English teachers, who feel they must replace literary greats like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye with Common Core-suggested 'exemplars,' like the Environmental Protection Agency's Recommended Levels of Insulation and the California Invasive Plant Council's Invasive Plant Inventory." However, the piece adds that David Coleman, who helped to craft the standards, says educators "are misreading the guidelines. The boost in informational texts, he says, is intended across disciplines: When social studies, science and math teachers increase nonfiction and informational reading assignments, English teachers won't have to alter their literature lessons."


Voxxi (12/10, Gillette) also runs an article on the angst teachers are expressing about deciding "which novels and poems will be eliminated from the classroom in favor of informational reading. ... Proponents of the new non-fiction book reading policies – including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers - claim students are entering college ill-prepared for the rigors of research." However, teachers argue that students' boredom with school will be exacerbated by emphasizing non-literary prose.

Maryland District Superintendent Calls For Assessment Moratorium

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (12/11) "Answer Sheet" that Montgomery County, Maryland, Superintendent Joshua Starr "said Monday that the country needs a three-year moratorium on standardized testing and needs to 'stop the insanity' of evaluating teachers according to student test scores because it is based on 'bad science.'" Starr, speaking at a Washington Post educaiton event, "solidified his role as a prominent and thoughtful critic of federal education policy as he challenged major initiatives launched by the administration and the reform community," Strauss writes.

Education Experts Debate Common Core

In an online "Room for Debate" feature, the New York Times (12/10, Subscription Publication) presents the views of a number of education stakeholders on the Common Core Standards. In his commentary, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (12/10, Subscription Publication) (R) praises both state and Federal governments for having adhered to their "proper roles" in developing the standards, which he stresses should be crafted by the states. Texas Board of Education chairwoman Barbara Cargill (12/10, Subscription Publication) writes that states should be free to design and implement their own standards, free from the funding vagaries she associates with the Federal government. Frederick M. Hess (12/10, Subscription Publication) of the American Enterprise Institute also argues against the "conformity" of the standards, while Rishawn Biddle (12/10, Subscription Publication), the editor of Dropout Nation, argues that the Common Core is key to ensuring equitable education opportunities for all students.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Special Needs Teachers See Assessments As Irrelevant

The Twin Cities (MN) Daily Planet (12/9, Brown) reports on the use of standardized testing on special needs students, relating the story of a teacher who must spend time assuaging the concerns of parents who are dismayed by their children's low scores. "That standardized test scores flatten the incredible variety of circumstances kids bring to school is something that all teachers recognize, but the problem is amplified in special education programs. For students in special education, the potential is greater for the test to mislabel an excelling student as failing." The piece notes that many Minnesota special education teachers see standardized testing "as being irrelevant to instruction."

Los Angeles Teacher Evaluation Deal Foregoes Use Of Value-Added Data

The Los Angeles Times (12/10, Watanabe, Blume, Times) reports, "The recent groundbreaking agreement over evaluations for educators in the Los Angeles school district is a major victory for the teachers union because it limits the use of a controversial - but increasingly widespread - measurement of teacher effectiveness," that being value-added analysis of student performance data. "That opposed by many teacher unions as unreliable; but it is being used in Illinois, New York, Texas, Florida, Washington, DC, and elsewhere."

Massachusetts Columnist Touts Interest-Based Bargaining For Teachers Unions

In a column in the Boston Globe (12/8, Harmon), Lawrence Harmon writes about the often rancorous nature of negotiations between districts and teachers unions, writing, "It turns out there is a better method - something labor experts call interest-based bargaining. Basically, it's the opposite of traditional collective bargaining. Instead of issuing tough demands and counter demands, the sides begin with a clear statement of their interests and objectives. Rather than pummel each other with data, the parties collect information jointly and analyze where each dollar is being spent contractually." Harmon describes a recent conference sponsored by the Massachusetts Educational Partnership at which "teachers' union officials and management representatives from Fitchburg and Franklin told scores of their counterparts from other communities how they overcame mistrust to craft mutually agreeable contracts."

Connecticut District Looking To Align Math Curriculum With Common Core

The Stamford (CT) Advocate (12/8, Chamoff) reports that a "committee of administrators, teachers and parents" in Greenwich, Connecticut, are preparing to review the district's math curriculum as the district "implements the common core standards, national standards for language arts and math that are intended to encourage more analytical thinking and in-depth problem solving. Brenda Brush, the district's math program administrator, said the committee will be looking through different materials and programs that support instruction with the common core." The piece notes that some area stakeholders have been critical of the current curriculum, saying it "doesn't allow students to master basic skills."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pennsylvania Auditor Criticizes Charter's Finances, State Funding System

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (12/7, Vidonic) reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Education responded to state Auditor General Jack Wagner's report that "an 'out of whack' formula left the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter school flush with cash" by indicating that Gov. Tom Corbett will prioritize analyzing the state's charter funding system. "Wagner said the audit shows that the Midland, Beaver County, cyber school, the largest in the state with 10,600 students, is receiving much more public funding than it needs, and he criticized how the school spends some of it. The audit showed that at the end of the 2009-10 school year, the cyber school had a $13.8 million surplus, and between 2008 and 2010, it spent at least $3.5 million in taxpayer money for print, TV and radio advertising."

California Appeals Court Reverses Decision On Charter School Space

The Los Angeles Times (12/7, Blume) reports on the Los Angeles school district winning a "key legal battle with charter schools this week, when an appeals court struck down a ruling that could have opened up vast numbers of classrooms for charters." As a result of the decision, "charter schools will continue to receive space in much the same way as traditional schools" based on the same ratio of students to a classroom. An appeal was made by the California Charter Schools Association, which "argued that its operators were entitled to more space because the district uses many rooms for purposes other than regular classroom instruction." Following initial consent by a Los Angeles County Superior Court, a "California Court of Appeals unanimously reversed that decision Wednesday."

NAACP Launches Education Overhaul Push

The AP (12/7, Gamboa) reports, "The NAACP is going on the offensive on education, deploying volunteers across the country in its biggest push for a public education overhaul since the nation's classrooms were ordered desegregated in 1954, the civil rights group said Thursday." The AP reports that the group's volunteers will lobby for extended learning time, better teacher training, better pre-K programs, and more support for needy students. "Such changes for all children, not just minorities, are the only way to ensure an educated American workforce and a thriving economy, said NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous." The piece quotes Jealous saying, "We will always play defense on Brown (vs. Board of Education). We will always play defense when folks who are disproportionately disciplining our children harshly in ways that do not help them. You know what we are playing offense on? We are playing offense on these four things." The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is backing the initiative, and that he cited high dropout rates in minority communities. The piece quotes Duncan saying, "This is not just devastating individuals and families. This is devastating entire communities." The AP adds, "Duncan and others said a system with those kinds of results puts the nation at a competitive disadvantage. But if the NCAA could ban the University of Connecticut's men's championship basketball team from postseason play next year because of poor athlete graduation rates, Duncan said, surely activists could take on 'this sacred cow.'"


Duncan: Parents Should Demand Better Education System.Michele Molnar writes at the Education Week (12/7) "Parents and the Public" blog that Duncan, speaking at the release of the "Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America's Children" program, said that the "US has a shortage of demanding parents." The piece quotes him saying, "One of the countries out-educating us by every measure is South Korea," and relates his description of the Administration's efforts to learn from South Korea, where parents universally demand top-quality education. Molnar quotes Duncan saying, "I wish we had more demand. I wish we had a lot more parents ... demanding a world-class education-not just on the policy side, but on the advocacy side. We have a 25 percent dropout rate in this country-a million young kids leaving our schools for our streets each year. ... Our goal has to be to go from 25 percent to zero as fast as we can."

Los Angeles Moves Toward Incorporating Test Scores In Teacher Evaluations

The Los Angeles Times (12/7, Blume) reports the Los Angeles teachers union leaders are backing a "tentative agreement on teacher evaluations that incorporates the results of student standardized test scores. The approval was a key hurdle but rank-and-file members will have the final say when they vote at their schools in January." Proponents of the plan stressed "the deal did not permit a 'value-added' calculation for an individual teacher to be a specific part of that teacher's job evaluation. Value-added formulas gauge a teacher's role in student growth by attempting to account for past student performance and outside factors that affect test scores." The agreement allows "for test results to factor into an evaluation, but it doesn't specify how much they will count for. Union President Warren Fletcher characterized this lack of specifics as a victory for union negotiators."

Student Data Tracking Model Used To Improve Academic Success

In an article on its website, PBS NewsHour (12/7, Fritz) profiles Broadmoor Middle School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which three years ago, had major discipline and academic problems. Administrators at the school implemented "a data-driven model known as Diplomas target students who were showing early signs of dropping out. Traditional models use testing to track student performance in the classroom. Under the Diplomas Now model, tardiness, unexcused absences, and misbehavior are also charted and flagged as problems that could lead to larger issues later in a student's life." The piece quotes Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, who founded the program, saying, "We can really map where the schools and where the kids are. It's almost like insider trading for the social good."

Writer Argues For Competency-Based Common Core Assessments

In a blog posting for Forbes (12/6), Michael Horn writes that education policy observers are "nervous" about "whether states will stick with the Common Core state standards once the Common Core assessments arrive in the 2014-15 school year." Horn supports the concept of the Common Core "in part because of the innovation their adoption could seed through the creation of a common market. Having common standards across the country could begin to reward content providers that target the long tail of learners because they would help to aggregate demand across the country, as opposed to what happens today where those providers that tailor their offerings to different and idiosyncratic state standards, for example, are rewarded." Horn continues to lay out an argument that competency-based assessments could be crafted into Common Core assessments, reducing the need for "end-of-the-line" assessments and strengthening academic performance.

Some States Implementing Fragmented School Choice Programs

Reuters (12/6, Simon) reports that Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White and his counterparts in Michigan, Arizona, and Utah are implementing a new education model in which students are allowed to create custom curricula chosen from a range of options offered by public schools and private firms, all of it funded by taxpayer money. Reuters notes that some educators find the system alarming in that it may result in less funding for public schools.

NCES Study Shows Many Students Lack Basic Vocabulary Skills

USA Today (12/6, Toppo) reports that according to a new study from ED's National Center for Education Statistics, "US schoolchildren may not improve their reading skills until they have a better grasp of basic vocabulary." The study "looks at the vocabulary skills of students nationwide and finds that they closely track students' reading comprehension levels. ... The findings represent the first time that the federal government has analyzed vocabulary in isolation, and the results show that students have a long way to go: The average fourth-grader scored 218 points in 2011, essentially unchanged from 2009. The average eighth-grader scored 265, also unchanged from 2009. Twelfth-graders' results for 2009 averaged 296 points, but the test wasn't repeated in 2011." The piece notes that the data comes from the NAEP.


The Christian Science Monitor (12/6, Khadaroo) reports that it is the first time that NAEP data has been used to assess students' vocabularies in this manner, noting that the "results show that students' vocabulary knowledge tracks closely with their overall reading ability." The piece quotes NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley saying, "About half of the variation in reading comprehension [on the main test] can be associated with variation in vocabulary." The Monitor adds that the report "also hints that schools and parents have a long way to go to ensure that their children can precisely understand the kinds of texts they will encounter in an academic context."


The Huffington Post (12/6, Resmovits) reports that education experts find the results "troubling - but not unexpected," adding that "average performance on the US Education Department's national exams was mostly stagnant at low levels between 2009 and 2011, and the highest performers lost ground during that time." The Post explains that it is "the first time the results of a separate scale for vocabulary questions on the national reading comprehension test have been released."


The Wall Street Journal (12/7, Banchero, Subscription Publication) also covers this story, noting that Margaret McKeown of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh expressed concern about the results, but not surprise. The piece quotes her saying, "There is very little vocabulary done in any classroom at any age. There is quite a bit of research about vocabulary and the best ways to teach it. Unfortunately we are not seeing that go into the classrooms as much as we would like."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Study: Least Experienced Los Angeles Teachers Often Placed With Neediest Students

The Los Angeles Times (11/19, Watanabe) reports that according to a new study from the Strategic Data Project, which is associated with Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research, "inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to lower-performing math students, perpetuating the achievement gap. The study also found that L.A. Unified teachers 'vary substantially' in their effectiveness, with top teachers able to give students the equivalent of eight additional months of learning in a year compared with weaker instructors."

Writer Warns Of Lack Of Social Studies Focus Under Common Core

Marc Brasof of the National Constitution Center writes at the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook (11/15) about the gradual decline in social studies instruction in US schools in recent decades, concurrent with an increase in classroom time devoted to math and English. The piece attributes this shift to No Child Left Behind's focus on those two subjects, adding, "This is an important lesson to consider when states, responsible for establishing learning standards for public schools, are now agreeing to implement the new national curriculum standards known as the Common Core. ... Although some scholars have found that the arguments in support of Common Core are flawed, more troubling is the quality of these standards in terms of history and civic education."

Some Schools Dropping Cursive Writing Under Common Core

The Joplin (MO) Globe (11/17, Younker) reports that cursive handwriting "is slowly losing ground in elementary school curricula as technology invades the classroom. The Common Core Standards, a set of national education standards that have been adopted by most states, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, do not specifically require that cursive handwriting be taught in classrooms." The piece notes that the Common Core Standards "include keyboarding skills," but not cursive writing. "Locally, most districts include cursive, but many administrators say that the specific skill of writing in cursive is declining in importance in a digital era, when students are more tech-savvy than their predecessors and may prefer a computer keyboard to a pencil and paper."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Groups Aiming To Include ELL Students In Common Core Assessments

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (11/15, Maxwell) "Learning the Language" blog that as the release of new Common Core Standards-linked assessments nears, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers--the two groups which are crafting the assessments--"are ramping up efforts to ensure English-learners and students with disabilities won't be left behind. An overview of the testing accessibility and accommodation work underway" by the groups "was a major feature of an event in Washington yesterday that focused on the common-core standards and English-language learners. The American Federation of Teachers organized the panel, the second such event that the national teachers' union has held on how the new standards will impact ELLs and their teachers."

Ohio Districts Spending Millions On Common Core PD

The Pulse Journal (11/15, Poturalski) reports that Ohio districts "are spending millions of dollars annually on professional development" for teachers related to the Common Core Standards, "and several school districts have staff members dedicated to facilitate training. ... The updated curriculum - with coinciding new instructional practices - has been the primary focus of professional development in local school districts over the past two years, according to officials. The federal government now requires that 10% of Title I funds for under-performing schools be allocated to professional development. Each school district has a professional development committee and an individual plan for each teacher, as required by law, said Keith Millard, director of secondary programs for Hamilton City Schools."

Report: High School Dropouts Blame Parental Disengagement, Teen Pregnancy

US News & World Report (11/15, Sheehy) reports in its "High School Notes" blog that according to a new report from Everest College and research firm Harris Interactive, "a lack of parental support and the challenges of teen pregnancy are among the primary factors driving students to leave high school before earning their diploma." The report showed that 23% "of high school dropouts surveyed cited lack of support and encouragement from their parents as the reason they quit school," while 21% cited having their own child as a reason. "With nearly 1.3 million students leaving high school each year, the dropout crisis is 'equivalent to a permanent recession,' and siphons close to a trillion dollars from the national economy, Tony Miller, deputy secretary of the US Department of Education, said during a panel discussion in May."

Kansas Districts Reject Notion Of Science Grades Without Instruction

The Topeka Capital-Journal (11/14, Llopis) reports that though a recent survey found that many Kansas elementary school teachers felt so pressured to improve math and reading scores that they provided no science instruction at all--though they nevertheless reported grades for their students. However, "districts in the Topeka area said Wednesday that wasn't the case locally. ... The national No Child Left Behind Act has long drawn criticism from educators who say it pressures schools to spend less time on subjects like science and social studies in favor of math and reading."

ED: California District's Non-Union-Endorsed RTTT Application Denied

The Glendale (CA) News Press (11/16, Corrigan) reports, "Glendale's Hail Mary pass in the $400-million Race to the Top federal grant program has been called by the officials: Incomplete." The piece notes that tough the district could not garner the support of the local teachers union, it applied for the grant anyway "in a last ditch hope that it may be considered anyway, but federal officials on Thursday said it would be a futile effort." The piece quotes Assistant Secretary Peter Cunningham saying in an email, "We require the union signature because this challenging work cannot be done at the district level unless everyone is committed and working together." The paper adds, "Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson refused to sign the grant application because the district could not promise it wouldn't lay off teachers to combat its $15-million structural deficit later this year." The piece notes that Los Angeles also submitted an application which lacked a union signature.

Cincinnati Teacher Part Of "Flipped Classroom" Movement.

The Cincinnati Enquirer (11/14, Amos) reports on the use of flipped lessons--in which students do "homework" assignments in class and receive lectures at home online--at Wyoming Middle School in Cincinnati, Ohio, profiling history teacher James Zoller, who sometimes uses the practice. "Two chemistry teachers in Woodland Park, Colo., began 'flipping' their classrooms in 2007, to help students who were missing classes because of sports. The teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, wrote a nationally-known book offering their experiences and advice. Today, teachers around the world are trying it, according to the website"

Texas Witness Testifies Larger Class Sizes Bring More Dropouts

The Dallas Morning News (11/14, Stutz) reports that as testimony in the Texas school finance lawsuit continues, Clive Belfield, an economist at New York's Queens College, testifies that "larger classes typically trigger higher dropout rates and wind up costing more in the long run with less educated workers who pay less in taxes." Moreover, Belfield "said there are several steps school districts can take to increase their graduation rates, but most involve spending more money, and there has been resistance to funding increases in Texas and other states. Over the long term, he said, raising teacher pay, reducing class sizes and funding other improvements has a direct impact on how many students will graduate from high school - and he offered several examples of the return Texas could expect if it were to finance such upgrades."

State Officials Say Only 31% Of California Students Are Physically Fit

In its "L.A. Now" blog, the Los Angeles Times (11/16, Castellanos) reports that "for the second year in a row, California students have tested relatively low in a series of statewide physical fitness tests, the state Department of Education announced Thursday." In a statement, State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson indicated that approximately 31% of students got healthy scores in all six of the tested areas. He remarked, "When we can call fewer than one out of three of our kids physically fit, we know we have a tremendous public health challenge on our hands." Out of the roughly 1.3 million students in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades that were tested, "only 31% were able to score in what state officials call a 'healthy fitness zone.'"

New Mexico Legislators Pan Letter Grade System For Schools

KOB-TV Albuquerque, NM (11/16, Dyson) reports online, "Some powerful state lawmakers want to make changes in the state Education Department's new A-through-F grading system for New Mexico's public schools. Some Democratic leaders on the Legislative Education Study Committee said during a Thursday meeting the system needs tweaks, some said it needs to be thrown out, while Republicans said officials need to give the policy a chance." Noting that Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera addressed a legislative hearing on the issue, the piece notes that "Some of the state's smaller school districts seem to be having trouble with the technology for reporting data to the education department."

Columnist Hopes Kansas Will Keep Cursive Writing

In a column in the Kansas City (MO) Star (11/15) , Cindy Hoedel writes about the Kansas Board of Education's meeting this week to discuss whether cursive writing should be required in schools, expressing her hope that the board will deliver "a ringing endorsement of penmanship," noting that it is "a question many states are facing after the Common Core State Standards, a set of curriculum guidelines adopted by 45 states including Kansas, left out cursive handwriting instruction in favor of teaching keyboard skills." Hoedel writes, "Being able to form letters with our hands is one thing that separates us from primates, who can be easily trained to use a keyboard. Why would we want to lose that ability?"

Friday, November 9, 2012

California Voters Pass Tax Increase To Stave Off Education Cuts

Bloomberg News (11/8, Oldham, Marois) reports that voters in California "sent a clear signal they are tired of failing schools" in passing Proposition 30 on Tuesday. "The success of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, averting $5.5 billion in cuts to public schools, underscored the growing importance of Latinos, Democrats and younger voters in California's policy making and highlighted the efforts of an unlikely coalition of backers, including the state's higher education institutions and businesses. It also showcased a realization on the part of state residents that with class sizes growing to 30 children in kindergarten and fees rising at public universities, the tax- increase proposal provided a make-or-break moment."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

California Voters Pass Proposition 30 Education Funding Tax Hike

Under the headline "California Voters Approve Higher Taxes," the Wall Street Journal (11/8, Vara, Subscription Publication) reports that California voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) Proposition 30, painting the vote as a victory for Brown, noting that it is projected to generate some $6 billion in revenues, and quoting him saying, "Last night, Californians made the courageous decision to protect our schools and colleges and strengthen the California dream. The people of California have put their trust in a bold path forward and I intend to do everything in my power to honor that trust."

The AP (11/8) reports that Brown "took a big step toward delivering on a campaign promise he made two years ago to fix the state's perpetual budget deficits and to raise taxes to do it only if voters agreed. Brown said voters put their trust in his plan during Tuesday's election by approving Proposition 30, which raises the statewide sales tax and boosts income taxes on the wealthy." Brown "said Wednesday that Proposition 30 will put California on a course to fiscal stability after five years of battering by the recession. He characterized his victory as 'a vote of confidence with some reservations.'"

Reuters (11/8, Russ) reports also covers Proposition 30's passage, noting that it contributed to a total of $30.8 billion in new state and municipal bond debt approved by voters across the country Tuesday.

Kline: Pressure On To Reach Bipartisan Agreement On Education Legislation

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (11/8, Klein) "Politics K-12" blog that since the GOP retained its majority in the House, John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce, will keep his leadership of the panel, and relates an interview with him on the prospects for "bipartisanship on K-12 and other issues." She quotes him saying, "I think both sides will probably still stick to principles. I certainly expect that to be the case on our side of the aisle." He also said that House Speaker John Boehner said that Republicans "would be willing to work with anyone who was willing to reach out to us. ... There is pressure to get stuff done, and maybe that pressure will help us come together."

Education Issues Loom During Second Obama Term

Coverage of the presidential election and its implications for education policy continues today. Michele McNeil writes about Education Secretary Arne Duncan's stated plans to "stick around" during a second Obama term at the Education Week (11/8) "Politics K-12" blog, and explores the "significant issues" that Duncan or a potential successor will face in the coming years. She discusses the "incredibly complicated, evolving plans" tied to NCLB waivers, future iterations of Race to the Top, and ESEA reauthorization. Moreover, "Duncan will have to fight hard to spare education programs, such as Title I and special education, from cuts as Congress and the White House figure out how to get out of a big fiscal mess." He will also "have to walk a fine line between supporting states as they implement common standards and tests, and, in the words of Checker Finn, not loving them to death."


Education Week (11/8, Klein) reports on President Obama's having been reelected, noting that he "pushed through an unprecedented windfall of education funding in his first term and spurred states to make widespread changes to K-12 policy through competitive grants. ... Although school issues were a major focus of the president's first four years in office, he did not outline a particularly robust second-term agenda for education during a campaign dominated largely by the economy. As the Democratic standard-bearer, he reiterated a pledge, made earlier this year, to recruit and train 100,000 new math and science teachers, but otherwise steered clear of trumpeting new initiatives." The article touches on ESEA reauthorization, higher education funding, and the future of ED's competitive grant programs. The piece also notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has received both bipartisan praise and criticism from teachers, plans to stay on. Meanwhile, Education Week reports that teachers unions have released statements taking partial credit for Obama's victory, quoting NEA President Dennis Van Roekel saying in a statement, "From day one, NEA members have supported President Obama and his vision for America and public education. And over the past two years, they worked tirelessly on behalf of America's public school children."


The Hechinger Report (11/8, Butrymowicz) reports that Obama's win "gives him a chance to build on the education policies he has pushed since 2009 and ensures that the federal government's role in education will not diminish over the next four years. In his victory speech, he promised to expand 'access to the best schools and best teachers' and spoke broadly about hope for America's future, particularly for children, but did not offer specific policy ideas." This piece notes that NEA Political Director Karen White "said she expects to see Obama focus on early education and college affordability during his second term."

Rural-Based Vermont School Mulls Encroaching Technology.

The New York Times (11/8, Yee, Subscription Publication) reports on the Mountain School in rural Vershire, Vermont, which is in a "remote corner of Vermont where simplicity is valued over technology. ... But that is about to change. The school offers high school juniors, many from elite private institutions in the Northeast, a semester to immerse themselves in nature." However, "This fall, technicians will start laying fiber-optic cable to bring high-speed Internet to the town," which "presents a challenge for the Mountain School: how to regulate the use of smartphones and other devices that serve as a constant distraction for 21st-century teenagers, who are here to engage with the rural setting and with one another."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

California District Teachers Union Backing RTTT Grant

The Los Angeles Times (11/7) reports that the teachers union in Merced, California, "has voted to back a controversial federal grant program, but only after extracting district guarantees that student test scores would not be used to evaluate individual instructors. Sheila Whitley, president of the Merced Union High School District Teachers' Assn., said Tuesday that 67.6% of 191 teachers surveyed said they would support the Race to the Top grant application as long as the district honored its pledge not to use test scores in individual performance reviews. Both sides agreed to negotiate the possible use of schoolwide or district scores to evaluate teachers instead, clearing the way for Merced to submit its application last week."

Kentucky Scores Drop With First Common Core Release

Education Week (11/7) continues coverage of the drop in test scores as Kentucky education officials release the first Common Core-aligned test scores. The piece notes that the results "show that the share of students scoring 'proficient' or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given. Kentucky in 2010 was the first state to adopt the common core in English/language arts and mathematics, and the assessment results released last week for the 2011-12 school year are being closely watched by school officials and policymakers nationwide for what they may reveal about how the common standards may affect student achievement in coming years. So far, 46 states have adopted the English/language arts common standards; 45 states have done so in math."

DC Sends Letters To Non-Highly Qualified Teachers' Parents

The Huffington Post (11/6) reports that DC Public Schools officials recently mailed letters to parents "informing them if their child was being taught by a core subject area teacher who has not met the 'highly qualified' definition. The document also contained instructions for how to access information on the non-highly qualified status of said teacher." The piece notes that districts are required under NCLB to "notify parents or legal guardians when their child has been taught for four or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who has not satisfied the requirements to be deemed 'highly qualified.'"


**Note: Why would the parents of the non-highly qualified teachers need to be contacted?

Philadelphia Officials Hope To Use RTTT Funds For "Personalized" Technology

The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/6, Graham) reports that school officials in Philadelphia have applied for a district-level Race to the Top program, noting that ED is "offering money to individual school districts that plan to 'personalize learning, close achievement gaps and use 21st century tools to prepare students for college and careers.' Philadelphia, in its application, said it would use the money to make learning more personal - through 'personalized engagement and the use of mobile devices, such as iPads and response clickers.'" The paper notes that the district stands to win up to $40 million, and that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and Home and School Council "have signed on to support the district's application."


The Philadelphia Daily News (11/6, Medina) reports that Philadelphia officials would use the Race to the Top grant to buy "smart tables with technical capacities similar to that of an iPad. ... The winners of the competition, which aims to personalize education, close achievement gaps and use the latest technology to prepare students for college and jobs, will be announced in December."

Researchers Point To Slowing Suburban School Flight

USA Today (11/6, Toppo) profiles Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in New York City, which is "one of a small but growing group of schools that actively seeks to fill its seats with students from varied racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Researchers say schools like it are getting a boost from urban middle-class parents who are quietly saying 'No' to the typical suburban exodus once their kids reach kindergarten." The piece notes that rather than moving to seek better schools, parents are engaging schools to meet their children's needs. "Observers caution that the trend of white middle-class parents sticking with urban schools is still small and won't soon reverse the USA's decidedly mixed record on school integration since the 1954 US Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education, which declared 'separate but equal' schools unconstitutional."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Common Core Standard Requires New Teaching Methods

The Eatonton (GA) Messenger (11/2, Hobbs) says the Common Core changes "are so drastic that local schools are planning training classes for parents to understand the new way of learning." For example, Putnam County Elementary School Principal Raymond Braziel said that, "rather than textbooks, PCES students are reading novels that incorporate other academic subjects in the story. ... Instead of fill-in-the-blank tests or multiple-choice tests, testing now incorporates open-ended questions."

Illinois Officials Tout New Common Core-Aligned Assessments

The Chicago Daily Herald (11/1, Placek, Sanchez) reports that education officials in Illinois "say the current method of testing students isn't properly measuring their progress," though they hope that new tests aligned with the Common Core Standards will change this. "It's expected the new tests, administered by a 23-state consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, will be given at least twice a year, unlike the current Illinois Standards Achievement Test, which is given annually to students in grades 3-8. ... More frequent testing - which will be administered on computers - will give teachers more timely information about how well their students are learning, or where they're struggling, said State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

California Think Tank Releases Report Criticizing Governor's Education Funding Plan

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (10/30, Walters) reports, "Gov. Jerry Brown has been seeking implementation of a 'weighted student formula' that would give more school money to districts with high levels of poverty and other educational impediments and low levels of achievement. But the proposal has been a hard sell in the Legislature, because districts that would lose money under the redistribution plan are opposed." Meanwhile, "Brown's proposal, which has never been fully fleshed out, is now receiving flak from another source, Education Trust-West, an education think tank based in Oakland." The white paper is in favor of a weighted formula, but takes issue with specifics in Brown's plan.

New York Teacher: Common Core Math Questions Too Advanced For Fourth-Graders

The Huffington Post (10/30) reports that Madrid, New York, fourth-grade teacher William Gotsch "is urging the state to revisit its new education standards, after determining that the common core sample math question on the Education Department's website are too difficult for fourth graders." Noting that the Common Core Standards call for "teaching some concepts in earlier grades than they were previously taught," the Post notes that some teachers have expressed frustrations with implementing this, adding that "according to Gotsch, fourth graders will be expected to form algebraic equations from multi-step problems and calculate geometric angles at a level 'too high for fourth-graders to complete.'"


The Watertown (NY) Daily Times (10/30, Purcell) reports that Gotsch "says the state Education Department's changes to standardized tests expect students to perform far beyond a realistic skill level," adding that he also "said last week that if school districts do not rally against the changes, students and teachers will suffer as a result. On Tuesday, Mr. Gotsch asked his district's Board of Education to urge the state to revisit its new education standards after reviewing the common core sample math questions on the Education Department website."

Report Criticizes Philadelphia's Response To Cheating Allegations

Jackie Zubrzycki writes at the Education Week (10/30) "District Dossier" blog that an investigation by the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook blog and WHYY found that "during the first year of stricter test-security measures in the 146,000-student Philadelphia school district, the district's handling of new allegations of cheating in one city school was 'baffling.' ... Daniel Piotrowski, who was head of the district's test security program, reported a slew of violations at Gen. Louis Wagner Middle School last March." The investigation described the district's responses to the cheating allegations, noting that monitors were summarily removed, district officials dismissed monitors' complaints, and the district "waited seven months to file a formal memo to the state department of education about what happened at Wagner."

California DOE Strips 23 Schools Of Top Ranking After Cheating

The Los Angeles Times (10/30, Blume) reports that officials with the California DOE has "stripped" 23 schools "of a key state ranking for cheating, other misconduct or mistakes in administering the standardized tests given last spring. The offenses ranged from failing to cover bulletin boards to more overt improprieties, including helping students correct mistakes or preparing them with actual test questions." The piece notes that the paper obtained data on the move through an open records request, and that state DOE officials call such problems "adult irregularities." If such problems "affect at least 5% of students tested at a school, the campus loses its annual rating on California's Academic Performance Index, which was released this month."


The Huffington Post (10/30) also covers this story, noting that the API status that the schools lost is "considered the 'cornerstone' of the state's high-stakes student accountability system that determines whether a school meets federal Adequate Yearly Progress requirements under the No Child Left Behind law. A poor API and failure to meet AYP could mean state intervention that range from giving students the option to transfer out to school closures and staff turnover. California submitted an application seeking a waiver from NCLB last month, but its application lacks key reform plans outlined by the president."


KSEE-TV Fresno, CA (10/30, Greenwood) reports that after a teacher in Fresno was "caught breaking the rules on state standardized tests...months of studying and preparation for a state test all went down the drain."

New Jersey Paper Blasts Group For Opposing Anti-Bullying Event

An editorial in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (10/29) blasts "conservative Christian group" the American Family Association for its opposition to the "Mix It Up at Lunch Day" anti-bullying initiative. "The promotion encourages kids to sit next to someone new at lunch" in an effort to break up cliques and prevent bullying. However, the group calls the program "a plot for homosexual indoctrination."

Despite Lack Of Differences, Education Repeatedly Discussed In Presidential Debates

An article in Slate Magazine (10/26, Butrymowicz) notes that the presidential candidates, in all three of their debates, repeatedly pivoted from the topics at hand to education. "The surge of interest in education in the final weeks of the campaign, including campaign ads that attack Romney's views on class size and sidetracked answers during debates, follows months in which both candidates mostly ignored the subject. Education's sudden popularity has to do mainly with Obama, who has pounced on it as a way to draw a contrast between himself and Romney on the most important issue in the campaign-the economy." The piece notes that the two candidates have few substantial differences on education policy, adding, "Romney has praised US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, raising speculation that he might even appoint him to his Cabinet if elected."

California Teachers Attend Common Core ELL Symposium

The Merced (CA) Sun-Star (10/29) reports that 350 California educators "took part in a symposium recently to guide them on implementing common core standards for English-learners. The symposium, held last week, was aimed at supporting participants' next steps in implementing those standards." The piece notes that the California Department of Education says that "teachers, parents and education experts designed the standards to prepare students for success in college and the workplace. ... The symposium brought presenters to guide educators through best practices to implement these standards."

California District Still Has $1.1 Million In Education Funding To Spend

The Ventura County (CA) Star (10/28, Leung) reports that the school district in Ventura County, California, has "less than a year to spend about $1.1 million in vouchers for education technology. More than $268 million in the form of vouchers became available to qualified state schools in 2006. The funding opened up after an antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp. following a class-action lawsuit by California consumers."

California District Increasing Emphasis On Auto Shop

The Los Angeles Times (10/28, Perry, Blume) reports that auto shop classes in US schools may be on the rebound, noting, "Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District, where officials have built automotive program facilities at three high schools and hope to upgrade shops at two other schools if voters approve a bond issue next month." The piece explains how in recent decades, "tight budgets and a pervasive emphasis on academics, especially college preparation, contributed to the decline of auto shop." However, the Times reports, there has been an increasing interest in imparting vocational skills.

Study: Delaying Kindergarten Tied To Future Success

Noting that many parents struggle with the decision over whether to delay kindergarten for children born in summer or early fall, the Sacramento (CA) Bee (10/26, Gutierrez) reports, "A study at the University of British Columbia is getting some attention for the link researchers are making between children's birth months and their chances of becoming a successful CEO. Researchers attributed the low number of company leaders in the S&P 500 with birth dates in June and July to the cutoff dates for school admissions. In other words, students with June and July birth dates tend to be among the youngest in their classes."

Reading Rainbow Host Embraces Digital Reading

The Chicago Tribune (10/29) runs an article about LeVar Burton, the long-time host of PBS early literacy program Reading Rainbow, discussing his passion for literacy. "The series, with its heartfelt embrace of bound, physical books and bricks-and-mortar libraries, seems at first quaint in this era of tablets in classrooms and preschoolers on e-readers." However, Burton is still a prominent figure in education circles, even garnering "face time wit Secretary of Education Arne Duncan." The piece notes that Burton has relaunched the series of iTunes and launched an associated iPad app, and relates his enthusiasm for digital learning via tablet computers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Education Researchers Say Value-Added Models Should Be Used Cautiously

Education Week (10/26, Sparks) reports that a group of "top researchers" say that value-added student achievement models "should be used in staff-evaluation systems with more caution than they have been so far. That area of agreement emerged in an Aug. 9 meeting that drew together a who's who of a dozen of the nation's top education researchers on value-added methods-in areas from education to economics-to build, if not consensus, at least familiarity within a disparate research community for value-added systems. The US Department of Education's research agency, which organized the forum, today released the proceedings of the meeting, as well as individual briefs from each of the experts." The piece quotes Institute of Education Sciences Director John Q. Easton saying, "There's been a huge amount of research in this field in recent years, but it tends to be really siloed. People don't seem to read each other's work, and it's published in totally different journals. It was so typical to read somebody's study who was not citing all the others."

South Carolina Middle School Program Aims To Teach Students Good Behavior

Education Week (10/26, Shah) reports that Haut Gap Middle School in Charleston, South Carolina, has a mandatory "course in how to be a Haut Gap student," in which students master "concepts such as how to own up to mistakes, accept feedback, and apologize appropriately. Those lessons are part of a schoolwide approach to addressing student behavior that Haut Gap has used for about five years: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS." The article notes that local educators say that the program pays off with reduced discipline issues.

ED Seminar Details "Early Warning" Indicators For Rural Students

Diette Courrege writes at the Education Week (10/26) "Rural Education" that experts at a recent ED Webinar said that "rural school leaders can use statistics on students' 'ABC's-attendance, behavior, and course performance-to spot trouble in those areas and pinpoint specific intervention thresholds. ... The 90-minute presentation earlier this month, 'Utilizing the Village: Using Early Warning Indicators and Interventions to Help Rural Students Succeed in School,' offered detailed strategies for rural educators looking to improve their graduation rates and prevent dropouts."

Study Links Student Performance With Principal Effectiveness

The Huffington Post (10/26, Kuczynski-Brown) reports that according to a new study published in Education Next, "the effect of highly effective principals on student achievement is equivalent to 2-7 months of additional learning each school year, while ineffective principals negatively impact student achievement by a comparable amount." The piece explains the value-added data model used by the study's authors, and explains its findings.

Writer: Duncan's Calls For Digital Textbooks Misguided

In a columnin the Emporia (KS) Gazette (10/26) , John Richard Schrock writes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent calls for 100% use of digital textbooks in the next few years "reveals again how he is isolated from the American public classroom and economically poor students." Schrock points out that some 40% of US households lack broadband internet access, and continues to lambaste both Duncan and Kansas schools officials who demonstrate the same inclination to push for digital technology despite many students' lack of access.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Florida Virtual School Moves Toward Blended Learning Model

Education Week (10/24, Davis) reports that the Florida Virtual School, the largest state-sponsored virtual school in the US "is venturing into a blended learning model that is in growing demand. The move is in part the effect of market forces, as the FLVS strives to meet the needs of school districts, and in part the evolution of the blended model, which mixes face-to-face instruction and virtual learning. Facing state-mandated class-size restrictions and a state requirement that all students take an online course before graduation, districts are turning to Florida Virtual to help meet both those obligations."

Philadelphia Officials Promote Pre-K To Fight Crime

The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/24, Graham) reports that Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and other local officials "think they know a way to reduce crime in Philadelphia: Invest more in high-quality preschool programs." The officials "are expected to underscore that point Tuesday, when they gather at the Penn Alexander School to read to Head Start students and tout a just-released report about the connection between preschool programs and crime reduction. ... The problem, organizers say, is that the government spends too much on prisons and not enough on preschool."


KYW-TV Philadelphia (10/24, Tawa) reports that the officials "say Philadelphia's waiting list for pre-kindergarten programs is long, and it's not helping children get a head start in life. They're calling for more funding at the state and federal levels. Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams says inadequate funding for early childhood education is 'closing the door of opportunity' to low-income, at-risk children."

Efforts Underway To Support ELL Teachers Implementing Common Core

Leslie A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (10/24) "Learning the Language" blog that dual-language teachers implementing the Common Core Standards "must prepare and adapt their instructional strategies to teach the more-rigorous common standards in language arts and mathematics not only in English, but in a second language." Maxwell describes some projects that are geared toward helping teachers adapt the standards to other languages.

Pennsylvania Charter AYP Policy Sparks Controversy

The AP (10/25, Matheson) reports on the controversy surrounding Pennsylvania education officials' move to "measure charter school achievement by a different yardstick than traditional schools, a standard that critics say inflates the success of charters for political reasons." The piece notes that the state has already begun using this separate APY metric even though ED has yet to approve the move, noting that "public education advocates characterize the request as a stealth move by the state, favoring the charter lobby that supports Republican Gov. Tom Corbett." The AP characterizes ED's response as a "wrist-slap," and quotes an ED statement saying, "The department understands the pressures of time in getting these analyses done, reviewed, and published, however, (Pennsylvania) acted prematurely."

Despite Education Gains, Women Still Face Pay Gap

USA Today (10/25, Dugas) reports that according to a new study from the American Association of University Women based on 2009 ED data, "women have made tremendous gains in education, employment and earnings in the past 50 years, but there is still a persistent gender pay gap. Even young working women continue to lag behind men," making some 82% of what their male peers make. "The result is similar to a broader study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which said that in 2011, the gender wage gap for working women of all ages was 82.2%."

The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con

By Mary Beth Hertz

I recently attended the ISTE conference (1) in San Diego, CA. While I was only there for about 36 hours, it was easy for me to pick up on one of the hottest topics for the three-day event. The "flipped classroom" was being discussed in social lounges, in conference sessions, on the exhibit floor, on the hashtag (2) and even at dinner. People wanted to know what it was, what it wasn't, how it's done and why it works. Others wanted to sing its praises and often included a vignette about how it works in their classroom and how it transformed learning for their students. Still others railed that the model is nothing transformative at all and that it still emphasizes sage-on-the-stage direct instruction rather than student-centered learning. I engaged in a few of these discussions offline and online, and while I'm still on the fence about my feelings toward the model, I can offer some insight and interpretation.

**Click here to read this in its entirety.