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."