Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pennsylvania Paper: Defund Charters That Can't Make AYP

An editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer (1/30) describes the "plummeting" percentage of Pennsylvania charter schools that made AYP after ED overruled a state plan to judge them by less rigorous standards. "Under a new, broader, less-stringent assessment method that the department, without federal approval, used for the first time last fall, 49 percent of the 156 charter schools in the state were said to have met academic benchmarks, based on their students' 2011-12 test scores. But that already unacceptable rate dropped to an abysmal 28 percent after being recalculated according to federal guidelines." The paper hails the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for raising a red flag on the lighter standards and complaining to ED about them, and suggests that academically failing charters be defunded.

Some Teachers Implementing "Deep Learning" Classroom Approach

PBS NewsHour (1/31) broadcast a report on "deep learning," a teaching approach that is "less focused on testing, per se, and more on making sure that students are picking up skills they can apply in the real world." The piece notes that given the failure of the recent focus on standardized testing to improve academic outcomes or narrow the achievement gap, some teachers are working to "give students ways to apply their learning to bigger things than taking tests." PBS explains that the central idea is that "schoolwork can and should have a real-world application."

USDA To Test Offering Greek Yogurt As School Meat Alternative

The Huffington Post (1/30) reports that New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) announced on Wednesday that USDA "is launching a pilot program that could place Greek yogurt in school cafeterias across the country by April as a protein, or meat alternative." Painting this as a "victory" for Schumer, who has advocated for the move, the Post adds that the change "would also provide a boost for dairy and Greek yogurt producers in New York like Chobani and Fage. Currently approved school meat substitutes include nuts, tofu, beans, cheese and eggs."

USDA Set To Roll Out Rules On School Snacks

Reuters (1/30, Heavey) reports that USDA, after a year's delay, is planning to release a set of rule regarding the quality of snacks available for sale in US schools, noting that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the rules were delayed by a year to give the food and drink industry time to adjust to last year's lunch and breakfast rule changes.

Common Core Contributes To Cursive Writing's Decline

The Wall Street Journal (1/31, Bauerlein, Subscription Publication) reports that teachers across the country are increasingly foregoing teaching cursive writing, noting that the Common Core standards have no requirement for cursive instruction, favoring keyboarding skills. The piece notes that the move is popular among students and many state policymakers, and relates criticism from advocates of cursive writing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pennsylvania Legislators Call For Charter Funding Overhaul

The Chambersburg (PA) Public Opinion (1/30) reports that Republicans in the Pennsylvania state House are "proposing legislation to reform charter and cyber charter school funding." The piece details districts charter funding obligations, and notes that the "proposal would do little to ease the overwhelming financial burden that cyber charter school tuition payments place on local school districts, according to Susan Spicka, a school activist in Shippensburg."

Education Agencies Launching Technology Competitions

Education Week (1/30, Cavanagh) reports that some state and local education agencies are holding competitions to encourage collaboration between schools and education technology firms. "The goal is to encourage technology entrepreneurs and companies to think more closely about how they can craft products to meet the specific demands of schools, as opposed to coming up with devices that look or sound great in theory but are of little practical value to educators or students. The architects of those technology competitions liken them to contests that have brought together public and private sector interests in other fields, such as science, aviation, and transportation, with the goal of producing innovations." The article profiles such efforts by the New York City Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Education.

Debate Over Common Core's Impact On Literature Curriculum Continues

Education Week (1/30, Gewertz) reports on the controversy surrounding the requirement in the Common Core Standards regarding informational texts, noting that teachers "are finding themselves caught in a swirl of debate about whether the new standards require them to cut back on prized pieces of the literary canon to make room for nonfiction," noting that recent media reports about the issue have sparked concerns about the Common Core overall. "Prominent coverage has been given by mainstream news organizations to a handful of teachers' complaints that they have had to drop cherished works of literature from their curricula." In response, "the Common Core's staunchest advocates have tried to correct the record, arguing that great works of fiction are a bulwark of the standards."

Activists Call On ED To Stop School Closings

The Washington Post (1/30, Layton) reports that in "a raucous meeting," a group of activists opposed to school closings "converged at the US Education Department on Tuesday to demand federal action to stop the shutdowns, which they say disproportionately affect poor and minority students." Advocates from around the country "detailed how school closings are disrupting lives and destabilizing neighborhoods." The Post explains that such school closings are on the rise as many urban districts see declining enrollment because of demographic shifts and competition from charters, and notes that ED's Office for Civil Rights is investigating civil rights complaints related to school closings in Washington, DC, Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York and Chicago. The Post adds that acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter said that while ED will prioritize the investigations, and while school closings "can be harmful, they are not necessarily civil rights violations." Meanwhile, the Post reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan stressed the complexity of the issue and quotes him saying, "I don't know any educator who wakes up in the morning and says, 'I want to close schools.'"


The Huffington Post (1/29, Resmovits) reports that while "the standards-based education reform movement calls school change 'the civil rights issue of our time,'" the advocates "converged on Washington Tuesday to tell US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan he's getting it backwards on school closures. Members of the group, a patchwork of community organizations called the Journey for Justice Movement, have filed several Title VI civil rights complaints with the Education Department Office of Civil Rights, claiming that school districts that shut schools are hurting minority students. While most school closures are decided locally, the Education Department's School Improvement Grant gives underperforming school districts money for shakeups or turnarounds, including closures." The article relates the views of a number of local activists, and reports that OCR has investigated and dismissed 27 civil rights complaints about school closings, with 33 more investigations active. "Duncan opened the meeting by saying his job was to listen," the Post reports, quoting him saying, "As populations go down, a lot of changes have to be made." The piece notes that due to scheduling issues, Duncan "left the meeting after 45 minutes, leading to a quick 'Where is Duncan? Where is Duncan?' chant."


The Chicago Sun-Times (1/30, Sweet) reports that a group of Chicago activists attended the event, "trying to prod Education Secretary Arne Duncan to intervene" in Chicago Public Schools' efforts to close a number of schools. "The Chicago group is using several strategies to address the closings, including raising questions over whether shuttering neighborhood schools violate the civil rights of the minority communities impacted." Medill Reports (1/30, Lowry) also covers this story.


Alabama Live (1/30, Leech) reports, "Students, parents and community leaders from 18 different cities testified today" at the ED hearing "on the civil rights violations they say are resulting from the closing of schools serving predominantly low-income minority students. While Birmingham was not one of the cities represented at the hearing, it is facing school closures this year as it has many times before." The article reports that advocates "had several demands of the US Department of Education, including a moratorium on school closings until a new process can be implemented nationally; implementation of a sustainable, community-driven school improvement process as national policy; and a meeting with President Obama."


OCR To Investigate Philadelphia Complaint.The Philadelphia Daily News (1/30, Watkins) reports that a group of Philadelphia advocates argue that the local district's plans to "close 37 schools in June disproportionately affects minorities and disabled students and speaks to a widening gap between the city's economically disenfranchised youth and their more fortunate counterparts. Action United and the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) announced Monday that the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights intends to investigate a complaint that the groups filed."


Atlanta Public Schools Parents, Graduates Protest.WSB-TV Atlanta (1/29, 5:47 p.m. EST) reports, "Atlanta public schools parents and graduates traveled to Washington, D.C. for a school protest. There they met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan for several hours today. They're calling for a nationwide moratorium on school closings that they say unfairly targets poor neighborhoods. APS has defended its school closings citing drops in enrollment."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Los Angeles Adding 1,000 Campus Aides To Increase Security

The Los Angeles Times (1/28, Mather) reports, "The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to hire more than 1,000 campus aides to help boost security at elementary schools, a $4.2-million plan that will more than double the number of assistants employed by the district." The plan, the Times reports, "will bring 1,087 new hires to elementary, middle and span schools, ensuring each campus has at least two aides." The Times notes that the new hires "will receive mandatory training in child abuse awareness, mediating student conflicts, conducting a 'random metal detector search' and responding to campus threats" according to district documents.

Florida District Providing Mental Health Screening Training To Teachers

The Miami Herald (1/28, Smiley) reports that Florida's Miami-Dade school system is training hundreds of teachers and other school personnel "to spot symptoms of mental illness among teenagers in an effort to help prevent the kind of schoolhouse massacre that occurred last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Starting in March, the school district will begin training each of its middle school and high school teachers to identify early-warning signs of mental illness through a program called 'Typical or Troubled?'"

More Teachers Using Flipped Learning Model

The AP (1/28, Hoag) profiles the "technology-driven teaching method known as 'flipped learning' because it flips the time-honored model of classroom lecture and exercises for homework - the lecture becomes homework and class time is for practice." The AP notes that the concept, in which students watch brief online video lectures at home, and then do exercises in class, "apparently is catching on in schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of 'flipped' teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director Kari Afstrom."

Friday, January 25, 2013

California District Arming Officers With Assault Rifles

The CBS Evening News (1/24, story 5, 1:55, Pelley) reported that police in Fontana, California, are "arming the officers who protect schools with high-powered semiautomatic rifles." CBS adds that district police last October "spent $14,000 to buy each officer a semiautomatic rifle. Fontana is one of the first school districts to publicly acknowledge having such weapons on campus."

Writer Hails California Governor's Budget Plan

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times (1/25, Plank), David N. Plank, executive director of policy analysis for California Education, a partnership of Stanford University, UC Berkeley and USC, writes about the overabundance of funding requirements in California's school funding system, noting that in recent decades, "Sacramento has piled up layer upon layer of funding requirements in education, adding new regulations to the pile while leaving old ones in place. These 'categorical' programs send money to school districts to support specific activities, and each comes with its own set of rules and obligations." He writes that though they are well-intentioned, they create inefficiencies, and hails Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) budget proposal for doing away with them.

Seattle District Warns Teachers Boycotting Assessments

The Seattle Times (1/25, Shaw) reports that in the wake of the boycott in the Seattle school district in which teachers are refusing to administer the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, "Seattle school officials sent a letter Wednesday asking principals to inform all their teachers by day's end that they will be disciplined if they refuse to give district-required tests." Teachers, however, rallied Wednesday, saying that they "would not back down because the tests are an unreliable measure that hurts students. ... Seattle School Superintendent José Banda, at a news conference held shortly before the rally, said he did not intend the letter to be a threat, preferring to meet with the protesting teachers to find solutions to their concerns."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

US Graduation Rates Hit 40-Year High

Several media outlets are covering new data from the National Center for Education Statistics regarding rising US graduation rates. Reports range from the national to state level, and are generally positive in tone. Reuters (1/22, Kelleher) reports that according to a new ED report, US high school graduation rates have risen to a 40-year peak of 78.2% suggesting that rising graduation rates among Hispanic students are driving the trend. The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the results, particularly the 10% surge in Hispanic graduation rates. However, he called US dropout rates "unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy."


The Huffington Post (1/22, Resmovits) reports that the NCES report shows that more "high school students than ever are graduating on time," noting that "the percentage of students who graduated from high school within four years of starting ninth grade in the 2006-2007 school year hit a record high, according to the report." The Post quotes NCES Director Jack Buckley saying, "What we see is an increase." The Post adds, "NCES has put out this report since 2005, but Buckley's team has made estimates back into the 1970s." According to Buckley, the last time statistics indicate such a high graduation rate was in 1968.

NBC Nightly News (1/22, story 7, 0:25, Williams) reported, "Federal officials say the high school graduation rate is going up. The nationwide average climb to just above 78% in 2010, the last year with numbers available. There's a lot of work yet to be done. But it's the highest it's been since 1974. The main reason, they say, fewer jobs out there to tempt young people to leave high school."


NBC Today Show (1/22, 9:09 a.m. EST) broadcast, "The national high school graduation rate is now the highest it has been since 1976, but the US Education Department says it takes more than the standard four years for more than 20% of students to finish and get their diplomas. Officials credit the rise in the graduation rate to the stiff competition for limited jobs."

The Christian Science Monitor (1/22, Terry) reports that the rise is "motivated in part by grim economic conditions and the need to be competitive in a crowded job market." The NCES reported Tuesday that over "3.1 million high school students received their diplomas in spring 2010, with 78.2 percent finishing in four years." The Monitor quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, "If you drop out of high school, how many good jobs are there out there for you? None. When I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, it wasn't great, but I had lots of friends who dropped out, and they could go work in the stockyards or steel mills, and they could buy a home, support a family, do OK."


The National Journal (1/23, Brannon, Subscription Publication) and FOX News Latino (1/22, Garcia) also cover this story. More Latinos are graduating from high school than they were nearly a decade ago, according to a new study by the US Department of Education.


Several media outlets run state-level reports detailing individual states' performance. Examples include an NPR (1/22, O'Connor) "StateImpact" piece out of Florida, WACH-TV Columbia, SC (1/23, Malone), the Charleston (WV) Gazette (1/23, Mays), the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (1/23), VTDigger (1/22, Freese), KOLR-TV Springfield, MO (1/23), an AP (1/23) article out of New Mexico, an AP (1/23), article out of Pennsylvania, Albuquerque (NM) Business First (1/23, Gerew), Minnesota Public Radio (1/22, Post), WHYY-FM Philadelphia (1/23), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1/23, Downey) "Get Schooled" blog, WPRI-TV Providence, RI (1/23, Nesi), the Wilmington (DE) News Journal (1/23), the Phoenix Business Journal (1/23, Subscription Publication), KCIT-TV Amarillo, TX (1/23), KXAS-TV Dallas (1/23), an AP (1/22), article out of Texas, the Las Vegas Sun (1/22), an AP (1/23) article out of West Virginia, an AP (1/23, Rathke)article out of Vermont, and Minnesota Public Radio (1/22, Post).

Unionization Reaches Lowest Level Since 1912

Data reported Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unionization has fallen to its lowest level since 1912. The New York Times (1/24, Greenhouse, Subscription Publication) reports that according to bureau's annual report on union membership, "the total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year even though the nation's overall employment rose by 2.4 million nationwide last year. The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011." In 1912, unionization "was 11.1 percent, according to a study by two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin." The Times says the figures "point to grave problems for the future of organized labor."


Politico (1/24, Robillard) reports that drops in union memberships in Indiana and Wisconsin, "where unions unsuccessfully fought rollbacks in collective bargaining rights, were much larger. Indiana fell from 12.4 percent to 10 percent, and Wisconsin dropped from 14.1 percent to 12 percent. Those were the second- and fourth-largest declines, percentage point-wise, in the country."


Van Roekel Pans State Education Cuts.The AP (1/23) also covers this story, noting that "overall membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. ... Teachers unions were among the hardest hit, with the ranks of unionized public school teachers and educators falling by 123,000 last year. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, accused politicians who cut public education funding of 'inflicting tremendous harm to our nation's 50 million students and risking our children's future.'"

In its coverage, Reuters (1/23, Kelleher, Lambert, Woodall) points to low state revenues, and the resultant cuts to jobs and benefits. The article quotes National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel saying, "It's not a secret that some politicians chose to cut public education funding, balance the budgets on the backs of students and slash the education workforce."

California District Police Department Buys Semiautomatic Rifles

The AP (1/23) reports that the school district police department in Fontana, California, has purchased 14 Colt LE6940 semiautomatic rifles, noting that they "look like they belong on a battlefield rather than in a high school, but officials here say the weapons could help stop a massacre" like last month's deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The district bought the rifles "last fall, and they were delivered the first week of December - a week before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Over the holiday break, the district's 14 school police officers received 40 hours of training on the rifles." The piece notes that other districts in the region have similar "rifle programs."


The Washington Times (1/24, Chasmar) reports that the district's police department was acting "in response to a wave of gun crime across the country, particularly in Newtown, Conn.," noting that "the acquisition of rifles has naturally received some backlash. School board member Sophia Green said she did not believe the guns would make students safer."

No Cyber Charters Make AYP After ED Overturns Lenient Pennsylvania Standards

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1/24, Niederberger) reports that when the Pennsylvania DOE recalculated charter schools' AYP success rates after ED overruled the attempt to grade them by different standards than were applied to traditional public schools, "the number of charter schools hitting the targets for AYP dropped from 77 to 43. With the recalculation, no cyber charter school in Pennsylvania made AYP. ... The recalculations were ordered in November after federal education officials denied Pennsylvania's request to evaluate charter schools using more lenient standards."

Writer: Character Education No Panacea

In commentary for the Christian Science Monitor (1/23), author and UCLA education professor Mike Rose writes, "There is an emerging opinion about poverty and the achievement gap that holds that America can boost the academic success of poor people...through psychological and educational interventions that will help them develop the qualities of personality or character needed to overcome their circumstances." Such qualities, Rose writes, include perseverance, self control, and belief in personal ability. He concedes that these are "powerful attributes," but warns that "policymakers need to be careful not assume that character education is the long-awaited key to helping the poor overcome the assaults of poverty."

California Districts Collaborate On Common Core, NCLB Waiver Bid

Education Week (1/23, Maxwell) reports that a group of eight districts in California has united "to move ahead on rolling out the Common Core State Standards and designing new teacher evaluations based in part on student performance," noting that officials expressed frustrations with the pace and direction of state-level reforms. "The districts, which include the Los Angeles and San Francisco school systems and enroll more than 1 million students altogether, are also mounting a major breakaway from California in seeking their own waiver from mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act." Should Education Secretary Arne Duncan approve the district-level waiver bid, it "could dramatically alter the relationship between the districts and the state education department when it comes to federal accountability. Known as CORE-the California Office to Reform Education-the member districts also include Long Beach, Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland, and Clovis and Sanger in the Central Valley."

California Transitional Kindergarten Teachers Report Success

The Stockton (CA) Record (1/22, Reid) reports that "by all accounts" the transitional kindergarten program in California's Lodi Independent School District "is a booming success after the first half of its inaugural year. 'We won't really know how successful this has been until next year when these kids are in kindergarten and the kindergarten teachers can tell us how much more prepared they are (than those who were not in transitional kindergarten),' Lawrence Elementary Principal Carlos Vilafana said." Local teachers say "that their classes are moving along at a level that exceeded their expectations coming in."

School Closure Protesters Disrupt Philadelphia School Reform Commission Meeting

The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/18, Moore) reports on public opposition to plans to close schools in Philadelphia, noting that protesters disrupted the city's School Reform Commission's meeting last Thursday. "Chants of 'save our schools' and 'we will fight' drowned out a career- and technical-education speaker. Later, when commission members decided not to renew the charter of Community Academy Charter School, the anti-school-closure crowd applauded."

Recession Kills California Class Size Reduction Efforts

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (1/21, Yamamura) reports on rising class sizes in California, describing a kindergarten teacher with 31 students, noting that the state "launched its most expensive school reform by reducing class sizes to 20 students in the earliest grades" in 1996. "Then the recession struck, and state leaders slashed scores of programs," and allowed schools to raise class sizes. The paper quotes state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson saying, "I think class-size reduction by and large is gone. That was abandoned by most schools in the fiscal crisis the last few years."

Baltimore Sun Backs Paying Teachers To Reduce Suspensions

The Baltimore Sun (1/21) editorializes on the "controversial program at nine city schools aimed at reducing out-of-school student suspensions" which rewards teachers and administrators with cash bonuses "for keeping troublesome or disruptive students in class rather than sending them home on suspension," noting that "the union worries that such financial incentives might blind some administrators and staff to bad behavior or even cause them to ignore potential threats to classroom safety. Preventing unnecessary suspensions is important because keeping kids in school is almost always better than putting them out on the streets, where the likelihood of their getting into more serious mischief cannot be dismissed." The paper concedes that the program could be called "tricky," but concludes that it is worth trying.

United Teachers Los Angeles Approves "Landmark" Evaluation Plan

The Los Angeles Times (1/20, Watanabe) reports that United Teachers Los Angeles on Saturday approved "a landmark agreement to use student test scores for the first time in evaluating Los Angeles Unified teachers," noting that the union "reported that 66% of 16,892 members who voted approved the agreement with the nation's second-largest school district. L.A. Unified now joins Chicago, New York and many other cities in using testing data as one measure of a teacher's effect on student academic progress." The Times paints the plan's limits on the use of value-added data as a victory for the union.


The Huffington Post (1/21, Mendoza) reports that the deal came "after months of negotiations," and that it entails "a controversial multifactor system to evaluate teacher performance. In a two-thirds vote, United Teachers Los Angeles members ratified an agreement with the district that calls for evaluations based on a mix of raw data from the California Standards Test, 'robust classroom observation' and school-level data based on the concept of Academic Growth over Time." Reuters (1/19, Dobuzinskis) also covers this story.

Controversy Surrounds Increased Informational Text Focus

NPR All Things Considered (1/19, Sadowski) ran an article on its website about the controversy surrounding the Common Core Standards' increased emphasis on informational texts, presenting the shift as a response to "dramatically" reduced reading scores for US students. The piece quotes the College Board's David Coleman saying, "So many kids, often as many as 50 percent, graduate high school ... demonstrably not ready for the demands of a first-year college course or job-training program," and describes him as "the lead architect of the Common Core Standards Initiative, a sweeping curricula change that integrates nonfiction text into the English program." The article explores what this will mean for literary classics, noting that "that question is one stirring debate over how to integrate nonfiction works into English programs to improve reading scores, while not abandoning the novels that have become the gold standard of high school reading lists." Audio of this segment can be heard here.

Philadelphia School Closure Plans Spark Public Outrage

The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/18, Graham) reports on the public outrage at "plans to shut 37 Philadelphia schools," noting that demonstrators "lashed out Thursday night at the School Reform Commission. ... District officials have said they must close dozens of schools to save the nearly bankrupt school system, which has 53,000 empty seats." The article focuses on the rancor at the meeting, and relates the negative comments about the school closures expressed by those in attendance.

Idaho Paper Says Year-Round Schooling Should Be Considered

The Moscow-Pullman (ID) Daily News (1/16) editorializes that "avoid the stagnated learning that is so often the result of summer vacation." Year-round schooling advocates also contend that "the program could give poorer students healthy meals they might not otherwise get in the summer. At the same time, it could be a solution for working parents who need somewhere for their children to stay while they are at work. ... The concept of year-round school is not new, but neither is it as popular as the nine-month academic calendar, originally designed to allow students to work - especially in agriculture - during the summer."

Study Finds Physical Environment Influences Learning

Maureen Downey writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1/17) "Get Schooled" blog, "The current debate in American education is how much a teacher influences a child's success in school," while "yet to be understood or even much considered is the role, if any, that the school building itself plays in student success." She cites a British study finding that "the classroom environment - defined as classroom orientation, natural light and noise, temperature and air quality, color usage, organization flexibility of space and storage facilities - can affect a child's academic growth by as much as 25 percent in a year."

Indiana Legislator Proposes Pulling Out Of Common Core

The Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times (1/16, Price) reports that Indiana state Sen. Scott Schneider (R) has introduced legislation "to pull Indiana schools off the national education standards that he said are a 'step backward for Indiana,'" saying that the state's standards "are 'far superior' than Common Core. He said adoption of the Common Core standards has resulted in a loss of local input from parents, teachers and administrators." His bill "would shift the state away from Common Core."


The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (1/15) reports that Schneider "is pushing fellow legislators to eliminate the Common Core standards," and "spoke Tuesday about his proposal to withdraw the state from the standards, which are now used by 45 other states. Schneider has assembled a team that will testify in favor of his bill today when it is introduced . Bill Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said the Common Core causes teachers to implement unorthodox education measures that hurt a child's education." The piece notes that past legislation from Schneider failed last summer.


Indiana's New Education Chief Calls For Common Core Review.The Indianapolis Star (1/17, Elliott) reports that incoming Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz "wants state legislators to back off a plan to change education standards and let her lead a yearlong review instead. Appearing before the Indiana Senate's education committee Wednesday, Glenda Ritz stopped short of asking lawmakers to defeat a bill that would withdraw Indiana from the Common Core, a set of education standards that 45 states have agreed to follow." The paper portrays Indiana as "one of a handful of showdown states where a national battle is playing out over the Common Core, which faces a growing backlash."


Fordham Fellow: Little Difference Between Indiana Standards, Common Core.Meanwhile, an NPR (1/16, Moxley) "StateImpact" piece explores the differences between Indiana's current standards and the Common Core Standards, noting that Kathleen Porter-Magee, a fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says there is little difference. She is quoted saying, "In Indiana, probably more so in most states, there's more overlap than there is difference. A lot of the essential content that was outlined in the Indiana standards exists in the Common Core as well."

Educators See Educational Gains For Girls In Video Games

KQED San Francisco (1/15, Taylor) reports on educators' growing enthusiasm for video games, noting that "Game developers and academics who have been studying the elements that go into making games more attractive to girls found that those very same qualities are also important components of learning. For instance, girls are more drawn to games that require problem solving in context, that are collaborative (played through social media) and that produce what's perceived to be a social good." The piece quotes Second Avenue Learning founder Victoria Van Voorhis saying, "Something we've seen as a tremendous motivator for girls to learn about math and science is that they need to see the connection from the classroom out into the real world."

Former NYC Schools Chancellor: Technology Is Key To Improving Education

The Las Vegas Sun (1/10, Takahashi) reports, during a keynote speech at the Higher Education Tech conference, "Former New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein stressed the importance of technology in the 21st century classroom." Calling the current education system a "broken business," Klein explained that while funding per pupil is at "record highs," the results don't reflect this. The Sun adds, "Klein applauded education reform efforts, such as teacher development and the Common Core State Standards, a new, more rigorous curriculum being implemented in 45 states," but he said that new classroom technology will be the biggest education innovation.

Kansas BOE Considers Giving Schools Two-Year Break From AYP

The Kansas City (MO) Business Journal (1/17, Subscription Publication) reports, "The Kansas State Board of Education is considering a proposal that would give schools a break on meeting Adequate Yearly Progress goals, the Lawrence Journal-World reports." Under the proposal, the school would have "a two-year reprieve from that benchmark."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Common Core Technology Guidelines Don't Include Mobile Devices

The Journal (1/14, Norris) reports on the technology specifications that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers recently released, suggesting that the guidelines don't focus enough on using mobile devices. The article says, "there are truly mobile devices...that satisfy the consortia's specs except for physical screen size, but they are being considered inappropriate for Common Core testing that will start in 2014-2015. But wait, it gets worse: in 2014-2015--only 2 years from now when the testing is to begin in earnest--handheld devices having a Retina-level screen resolution of 2048-by-1536 will be common place at today's prices or less. But again, those devices are NOT acceptable for Common Core testing."

LAUSD Superintendent Pans Standardized Test Cutbacks

The Los Angeles Times (1/15, Ceasar) reports that Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy has written to California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson expressing concerns "about his recent proposal that would reduce the number of standardized tests that students must take next year." Deasy "wrote that he was disappointed that neither LA Unified nor any other large, urban school district was consulted in the development of the proposal. Under the plan, put forward last week by Torlakson, second-graders would not be tested in math and English next year and most high school tests would also be dropped as California moves to a new testing system."

Seattle Teachers Announce Boycott Of Standardized Test

The Christian Science Monitor (1/12, Paton) reports, "Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers here at Seattle's Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America's public schools." The Monitor reports that the teachers announced at a press event that they are refusing to administer the state's Measures of Academic Progress test, arguing that it "wastes time, money, and dwindling school resources." Noting that the test is used for teacher evaluations, adding, "Garfield's civil yet disobedient faculty appears to be the first group of teachers nationally to defy district edicts concerning a standardized test, but the backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country."


Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (1/11) "Answer Sheet" blog that the teachers "have decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they say, the exams don't evaluate learning and are a waste of time. Now teachers at a second Seattle school, Ballard High, said they were joining the boycott, according to the Seattle Education website." According to the teachers' statement, "they oppose the MAP because it is a flawed test that students don't take seriously and that is being used by administrators to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which it was not designed."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Jersey District To Lead State In Bus Advertising

The South Jersey Local News (1/9, Brown) reports that the 52 school buses in Medford, New Jersey, "will soon become roving billboards for local grocery store chain Murphy's Marketplace. Bryan McGair, managing director for the marketing firm Advantage3, brokered the private sponsorship deal." Noting that Medford is the first district in the state to allow such advertising, the paper reports, "School district Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi called the move a significant event for school districts across the state."

Achieve Inc Releases "Action Briefs" To Help Educators Implement Common Core

The eSchool News (1/9) reports that the nonprofit Achieve Inc. has released a "series of action briefs...intended to help elementary school principals, secondary school principals, and school counselors implement the Common Core State Standards." The article quotes Achieve director of content and instructional supports Doug Sovde saying, "The action briefs [give] school leaders a deeper understanding of the [Common Core State Standards] and spell out the leaders' critical role in implementation. Based on feedback from school leaders who expressed a need for more guidance, the action briefs outline strategies and techniques that can be used … by school leaders to prepare their schools, teachers, and students for the standards and upcoming new assessments."

Survey: Idaho Teachers Concerned About Class Size, Salaries

The AP (1/8) reports that "a new survey commissioned by Idaho lawmakers finds that teachers and administrators in districts across the state have deep concerns about class sizes, salaries and negative public perceptions about teachers and their efforts in the classroom." Presented Tuesday to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, the findings "also tone down previous reports by state agencies and media showing Idaho teachers are leaving the state and profession in significant numbers." The AP says that "the report found that 937 teachers, or 5.4 percent of certified staff, left during the 2009-10 academic year and 1,112, or 6 percent, during 2011-12," noting that "those totals are less than the 1,884 teachers the Department of Education reported leaving during the 2011-12 school year."


On its website, Boise State Public Radio (1/10, Cotterell) quotes Lance McCleve with Idaho's Office of Performance Evaluations, who presented the study, entitled "Workforce Issues Affecting Public School Teachers," to the committee. Commenting on the study's findings, McCleve remarked, "We could see an undercurrent of despair among teachers." He added, "this isn't to say all teachers are having a really hard time but we did see a large proportion and responses and results from our surveys that show a large proportion of teacher that seem to perceive that there's a climate that disparages their effort and belittles their contribution."

Calstrs To Divest Itself Of Firearm Holdings

The New York Times (1/10, B3, Walsh, Cooper, Subscription Publication) reports that "one of America's largest pension funds began on Wednesday to divest itself of firearms holdings, a response to the schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Conn., that other pension funds could follow." According to the article, "the California State Teachers Retirement System, known as Calstrs, voted unanimously to begin its formal divestment process." The Times notes that "the vote occurred at a public meeting where teachers said they did not want their retirement nest eggs placed with companies like the Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that authorities say Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school on Dec. 14."

California Parents Succeed In Invoking Trigger Law

The Los Angeles Times (1/10, Watanabe) reports, "Mojave Desert parents made history Tuesday by becoming the first Californians to successfully use the state's landmark parent trigger law to win approval of new charter management for their failing school." Noting that the Adelanto School Board voted this week to "approve the request by parents at Desert Trails Elementary School that a charter school operator take over their campus beginning in August," the Times reports that the move comes at the end of 18 months of legal wrangling. "The successful vote came after two opponents of the parent trigger petition lost the school board election in November and a third opponent left his seat for the Adelanto City Council."

State Senator Wants Indiana Schools To Teach Cursive Writing

USA Today (1/9, Elliott) reports that in 2011, the Indiana Department of Education decided that schools did not need to teach students cursive writing. "That's what prompted state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, to file legislation last year to restore cursive to the state curriculum. She was unsuccessful, but she's trying again because it's a skill she thinks kids will need as adults in order to read notes from their bosses." Some believe cursive writing is "an anachronism in a digitized society," but cursive proponents contend "it benefits youngsters' brains, coordination and motor skills." Leising's bill passed the Senate in a 45-5 last year, but it failed to receive a floor vote in the House. House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning said he remains unmotivated to move the bill forward this year, saying it was "inappropriate" to "mandate curriculum in such a specific way."

Expert Offers Training On Device-Neutral BYOD Lessons

The Journal (1/9, Fortson) reports that Kentucky Academy of Technology Education director Ron Milliner "argues that educators don't have to alter lessons for each device in a BYOD environment," noting that he says that "moving to a digital structure doesn't necessarily require big changes to existing lesson plans." Milliner offers a course which "goes into detail about specific tools teachers can use, highlighting similarly functioning programs across different devices--such as word processing programs Microsoft Word or OpenOffice for PCs, Pages for Apple, Google Docs for Android, and Word Mobile for Windows Phone."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Critics Pan Philadelphia Superintendent's "Blueprint."

The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/9, Graham) reports on the mixed reaction that is greeting Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s "new blueprint for the Philadelphia School District," reporting, "Under the broad goals of boosting academics and restoring fiscal stability, the plan calls for dozens of action items - from professionalizing the teaching force and focusing on early literacy to improving the graduation rate and providing better services to special-education students. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan is skeptical," calling the plan a "grand vision" that will never be realized.

Hundreds Of Teachers In Texas, Ohio Attend Gun Training Classes

Reuters (1/8, Palmer, Forsyth) reports that hundreds of teachers in Texas and Ohio are have signed up for gun training classes in response to the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings. The article describes the support and opposition to the notion of arming schoolteachers, and notes that some teachers are resisting the push.

California Education Chief Proposes New Common Core-Based Assessments

The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin (1/9) reports that California Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson "announced this morning a new proposed standardized test for California students as part of the national Common Core curriculum," noting that he "will be proposing the new test to the governor and legislature, his office said Monday. ... The current system of student assessment has proven to be a very powerful tool for accountability and student achievement, the superintendent said Tuesday." The paper quotes Torlakson saying, "We're moving to a higher dimension, a much more effective dimension. This is good news."

Maryland District To Offer "Compacted" Math Classes

The Washington Post (1/9, Bui) reports, "Montgomery County students moving faster than their peers in math will have the chance to take 'compacted' classes starting in fourth grade under new education standards designed to make instruction more challenging and uniform nationwide." The courses "will teach material in a shorter amount of time and will be available at all schools," though access will be strictly limited. The Post notes that the system was announced by district officials Tuesday "as the county works to implement Curriculum 2.0, Montgomery's plan to meet new, more rigorous national education standards called Common Core."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

California Teachers Transitioning To Common Core

Hispanic Business (1/8, Yawger) reports, "Merced, Calif., area high schools are among the first to adopt California's new common core instructional standards and two dozen local teachers are pioneering the system that's described as a new way of doing business." Noting that the number of teachers using Common Core practices will expand to 100 this April, the paper notes that all teachers are expected to use the standards by 2015.

Indiana State Senator To Introduce Bill Requiring Teaching Of Cursive Writing

The Anderson (IN) Herald Bulletin (1/8, Hayden) reports, "A bill that would require Indiana's public schools to teach cursive writing is one of the first items that may come up for debate as the Indiana General Assembly begins its 2013 session. The bill, sponsored by Republican state senators Jean Leising of Oldenburg and Mike Delph of Carmel, would reverse a 2011 Indiana Department of Education decision that made teaching cursive writing optional." That decision gave school districts the option of dropping cursive as a requirement so students could spend more time learning to type. Despite the decision, "State officials said Monday that they haven't heard of any school districts that have quit teaching" cursive.

Healthier School Lunches Lead To Lower Obesity Rates

The Huffington Post (1/7, Mader) features a story from The Hechinger Report's HechingerEd Blog which praises "the passage of First Lady Michelle Obama's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 and new school lunch requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011," for leading America's school menus to be "healthier than ever – even if kids aren't always happy about it." The article notes that, "Despite disdain from kids, efforts to improve nutrition in schools seem to be helping, especially in states suffering from high child obesity rates like Mississippi." In Mississippi, "A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that in school-based efforts, including more physical education time and nutritional standards for snacks sold in vending machines, have led to a 13 percent decline in child obesity...over the last six years."

Nevada District Rolling Out Common Core Standards.

The Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News (1/8, Cook) reports that the school district in Las Cruces, Nevada, "has embarked on implementing the Common Core State Standards for all students in kindergarten and first, second and third grades." The district "has been preparing CCSS assessments, instructional materials and professional development materials for the last two years so it can roll out new standards for English language arts and mathematics to begin the 2012-13 school year."

Common Core Changing North Carolina Kindergarten Instruction.

The Fayetteville (NC) Observer (1/7, Jenkins) reports that North Carolina kindergarten classes "are more rigorous this year because of new Common Core State Standards in mathematics and language arts that went into effect this academic year. ... While students in middle and high schools and even some elementary grades are used to standardized curriculum and tests, the implementation is especially noticeable in kindergarten." The piece notes that kindergarten students are performing tasks that would once have been associated with first grade instruction.