Monday, April 29, 2013

Georgia County To See First Integrated Prom

The New York Times (4/26, Brown, Subscription Publication) reported Wilcox County, Georgia, "is one of the last pockets in the country with racially segregated proms." However, students are organizing its first integrated prom this year. The organizers "have received an outpouring of support from across the country," and "the Wilcox County school board plans to vote this spring on making future proms official school events, which would prohibit racial segregation."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (4/29, Leslie) reports that resident of Rochelle, Georgia "didn't much like it, being prodded to explain, over and over, that what outsiders might take for racism is just-the-way-it's-always-been," following the publicity from the integrated prom. Many white residents "say the town has been wrongly portrayed," noting that "a Latino boy attended this year's white prom as the date of a white girl" and that some of the school's dances are integrated.

Skepticism On Turning Around Failing Schools

USA Today (4/28, Toppo) reports that President "Obama wants to 'turn around' the USA's worst public schools, improving the schools we've got." However, early findings from the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program show that one third of schools got worse and the rest mostly saw modest gains. "U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urges caution on the findings," saying, "We're in this for the long haul. One year of gains isn't success. One year of declines isn't failure." However, "nearly every observer, on both sides of the political spectrum, agrees: Big, centralized urban districts often make things worse, not better," and critics on all sides say that "'turnarounds' are bound to disappoint." While some say that failing schools should be replaced with charters, others not that charter schools "don't have a much better track record than other schools."

Five Factors To Help Reading Proficiency Examined

The Des Moines (IA) Register (4/28, Stegmeir) reported, "Educators agree a handful of factors can greatly increase the likelihood a child will be able to read fluently by the end of third grade." Factors helping Iowa students boost their reading abilities include reaching out to new parents to help them stimulate their babies' language centers, working on preschoolers' pre-reading skills, working on reading for an hour each day in elementary school, involving community volunteers in helping students become interested in reading, and intervening early for students having difficulty reading.

Pennsylvania Standardized Tests Brought On Physical Complaints

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (4/29, Newhouse) reported, "Stress from standardized tests has brought on physical complaints among children in a least one" Pennsylvania school. At a Perry County school board meeting, Newport Elementary School principal Michael Smith said "that five children experienced nosebleeds during a recent week of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests (PSSAs)," adding that "that some children were 'worked up to a point of nausea' and that there were frequent bathroom trips during the test."

Iowa School District Uses Data-Based Reading Program

The Quad-City (IA) Times (4/29, Martens) reports all the schools in Bettendorf, Iowa, "are required to have a data-based reading program as part of the district's efforts to comply with the statewide Response to Intervention initiative." This "allows teachers to address the specific needs of identify patterns of skills students as a group are lacking and to adjust the curriculum at lower grade levels to address the issue." Two of the schools divide the children into small groups based on their ability and give them specialized instruction.

Some Questioning Common Core Standards

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (4/29, O'Donnell) reported that some Ohio residents and legislators oppose the state's adoption of the Common Core standards. As a result, $10 million in the education budget "for districts for technology improvements, largely to help them prepare for the new online tests that students would take starting in 2015 under the Common Core," is no longer earmarked for the tests, and the legislature will hold hearings on the standards. However, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, during a trip to Cleveland, said "that the Common Core is an effort to increase the standards for students and schools to make the country more competitive internationally," adding, "If any state wants to dumb down their standards, they can."

The Cincinnati Enquirer (4/29, Amos) reports there "is a growing chorus of critics and skeptics" of the Common Core standards "hosting public forums, organizing phone trees and emailing elected officials," as well as organizing on the Internet. In response, "Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked U.S. Chamber of Commerce members to speak up for the Common Core" while "other proponents are reminding people" the standards began with a bipartisan group of governors. Opponents argue "it's better – and cheaper – for state and local boards to decide how to teach and test students."
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (4/27, Man) reported, "A growing sounding the alarm over" the Common Core State Standards, similar to that which opposed healthcare reform. In fact, some opponents "some have dubbed it 'Obamacore.'" Now "proponents are clearly worried" and seeking to defend the move. However, the issue does not divide on partisan lines, with some GOP supporters and Democratic critics.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

California Governor Warns Fellow Democrats Of Education "Battle."

The Los Angeles Times (4/24, York) reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) "offered a spirited defense of his plan to overhaul the state's education system Wednesday," warning fellow Democrats who oppose his plan that they are "going to get the battle of their lives" if they make any changes to his plan. The Times explains that Brown "wants to direct more state funds to school districts that serve large numbers of poor students and non-native English speakers while giving districts more" spending flexibility. The Times notes that Democrats in the state Senate have released a less expansive counterproposal.

ACLU Sues California Education System Over ELL Instruction

The AP (4/25) reports that according to an ACLU lawsuit against the state of California and state educators, "about 20,000 students in California who need to learn English aren't getting adequate language instruction" as mandated by Federal law. The lawsuit alleges that this deficit has led to poor academic outcomes, and "describes the educational struggles of three families with Spanish-speaking children."

Study: Common Core Success Could Take Years


The Cincinnati Enquirer (4/23, Amos) reports that according to a new study from the Carnegie Corporation, the Common Core "will likely push teachers and students to stretch further academically" increasing college and career readiness, but "it may take five years or more before high schools enjoy higher graduation rates and more on-time graduates." The Enquirer adds that the report "urges education and policy leaders nationwide to make big, structural changes in high schools" as they prepare for Common Core implementation.

DC Schools Using Pep Rallies, Cash Incentives To Prepare For Assessments

The Washington Post (4/25, Brown) reports on a "pep rally" at Savoy Elementary in Washington, DC, at which "cheerleaders cheered, students in school T-shirts chanted and the principal gave a go-get-'em speech" to prepare for the DC Comprehensive Assessment System. The Post describes the controversy surrounding the test, including cheating and teacher evaluations, and notes that educators, "under great pressure to raise test scores, are finding creative ways to inspire students to show up and take the exam seriously." Moreover, some schools are vowing to sanction students who don't show up.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

States Consider Wide Array Of School Safety Measures After Newtown

Education Week (4/24) reports on the "hundreds of possible strategies" that have been floated in state legislatures to improve school safety in the wake of December's school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. The piece reports on Education Week's analysis of over 400 bills across the country, ranging from "arming teachers, adding guards or police officers, and shoring up the security of school buildings." The piece discusses the differences between this spate of legislation and that which followed the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. "Although the concept of arming teachers has received more attention than other proposals, a plurality of the bills reviewed by Education Week would encourage or require school emergency planning: more drills, more types of drills, and more detailed and dynamic plans."

Minnesota District Unveils Bulletproof Whiteboards

The AP (4/24) reports that Minnesota's Rocori School District, "where two students were killed in a 2003 shooting unveiled a new device Tuesday aimed at adding a last-ditch layer of safety for teachers and students: bulletproof whiteboards" that "can be used by teachers for instruction and used as a shield in an emergency." The article describes a demonstration about the item's defensive power given by local police officials, adding that "the manufacturer, Maryland-based Hardwire LLC, has been working on armor protection devices for military vehicles and personnel for years. The company turned its attention to school security after the Connecticut elementary school shootings in December that killed 20 children and six educators."

Common Core

Alabama Legislator Sponsors Common Core Withdrawal Measure.

WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL (4/24, Jackson) reports that Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason has sponsored legislation to withdraw the state's participation in the Common Core Standards, quoting him saying, "This one size fits all, top-down approach is not going to improve education in the long run. And they will eventually see that. I do not what to have a dumb downed education system, where things become centralized." The piece also cites a local superintendent who supports the standards.
Alabama Educators Protest Plans To Shut Down Common Core.The AP (4/24) reports that some 300 educators and business leaders "gathered on the Capitol steps" in Montgomery, Alabama, "to show their support for the Common Core standards," noting that the gathering "was in response to bills pending in the Legislature that would repeal the standards adopted by the State Board of Education in late 2010. Critics say the standards will lead to the nationalization of public education and take away local control of public schools."
Common Core Repeal "Dead" This Session.The AP (4/24, Rawls) reports in a separate article that state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said that such legislation "is dead for this session but could come back next year." The piece quotes Marsh saying, "Anything with Common Core, as far as I'm concerned, is off the table." The piece notes that Marsh's announcement followed the protest in Montgomery. "The leader of event, state Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice, applauded Marsh's announcement."

Papers Defend Common Core.

In a "StateImpact" article, NPR (4/23, Mack) reports that several recent "exasperated editorials" in the New York Times and other publications urging critics of the Common Core Standards to "knock it off." Noting that criticism of the standards has been rising in recent weeks, the article notes that the New York Times editorial "summarily dismisses the parents and activists who are outraged by the Common Core."

Kansas Governor Signs "Innovative District" Law

The AP (4/24) reports that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has signed a new law that "will designate some school districts as innovative and make them exempt from certain state education rules," noting that the law "establishes a pilot program that will allow 10 percent of the state's 286 school districts to be designated as innovative school districts for five years. ... The innovative districts will be exempt from several state education laws but still must conduct annual testing of students and comply with state finance laws."

US-Educated Students Have Trouble Returning To Mexican Schools

The Christian Science Monitor (4/23, Medrano) reports on the difficulties that Mexican students face when they have been educated in the US, but have to move back to their home country and assimilate into Mexican classrooms. "arriving in an unparalleled migration exodus from the US to Mexico," such students "are changing the country's classrooms and posing new challenges to an education system that experts say is ill equipped to integrate children accustomed to US schools." Across Mexico such students "face multiple barriers to school enrollment and, once in the classroom, many struggle in their new environment" due to different pedagogy and cultural barriers.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sequestration Complicates Education Budgets

On "Tell Me More," NPR (4/16, Martin) reported, "The dueling forces of sequestration and the president's new budget have created a confusing picture in education funding." NPR (Sanchez) added, "The sequestration has made a mess of what's already a complicated process," and "school systems that receive impact aid also are getting really hit hard in the short term by sequestration." Sanchez continued that "public education, educators, classroom teachers, staff, faculty - I mean, these are folks - and including higher ed, by the way - are under enormous stress."

Pennsylvania County Holds School Safety Conference

The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (4/16, Sullivan) reports on "District Attorney Jack Whelan's Safe Schools Summit at the Drexelbrook Conference Center Monday" designed to "prompt law enforcement and school officials to create executable plans to respond to a real incident like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn." The summit "culminated with a 'table-top' exercise featuring school officials and first responders reacting to a fictional shooting incident at a Delaware County school."

Michigan District Uses iPads And iPods To Help Students With IEPs

The Saline (MI) Reporter (4/16, Yelick) reports, "Two special education students and their teachers presented the use of iPads and iPods in the classroom to Willow Run School Board at their regular meeting Monday." Teachers "Barb Sartorius and Christine Newell, showed a short video presentation on how the iPads and iPods have been used in the classrooms." Superintendent Laura Lisiscki explained, "It is a full-inclusion program, where the iPads are shared with the general education students...This allows for students to teach other students, which is another benefit of the iPads." They also offer "the opportunity for the special education staff to help students with individualized education programs achieve academically, develop and refine social interaction skills and develop and improve receptive and expressive communication skills."

Professor Says Next Generation Science Standards Would Narrow Curriculum

The Lawrence (KS) Journal World (4/16, Hancock) reports that Richard Schrock, "an education professor who trains biology teachers at Emporia State University" faults the Next Generation Science Standards as meaning that "students will no longer be taught certain disciplines." He said, "At the secondary level in the standards, there is no zoology for animals, no botany for plants ... No anatomy or physiology, no microbiology." The standards' supporters said that "those subjects would still be covered, although not in the same way."

Common Core To Require More Nonfiction Reading

The Cincinnati Enquirer (4/16, Amos) reports, "Reading has been declining in the nation's schools for more than two decades, but some experts say, the new Common Core standards for English and Language arts might halt that slide." The standards are being implemented in "all public and many private schools in Ohio, Kentucky and 44 other states." Part of that are "tougher" reading standards "with students in every grade expected to read more nonfiction, informational texts." One expert pointed out that "students need to practice reading nonfiction, especially complex, technical writing, because if they get a job or go to college, chances are good nonfiction reading will be the bulk of what's required."

New York Advises Schools On Students Refusing To Take Tests

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (4/16, Bakeman) reports on guidance being given to schools by the New York state Education Department regarding the new tests aligned to Common Core standards being given this week. They are being told that "schools have no obligation to offer students who refuse to take state exams alternative instruction," and that "principals should use regular attendance or disciplinary policies to decide how to deal with those students." Also, "teachers should not be hurt by the expected lower test scores this year in their performance evaluations." Finally, "state education department administrators said 'opting out' or boycotting exams was not an option, and schools are not obligated to make other arrangements for children who wouldn't take the tests."

Some Parents Keep Children From Tests.The Village Voice (NY) (4/17, Kamenetz) reports, "There are reports of testing opt-outs at 22 public schools in all five boroughs this week. Parents cite stress on students, the diversion of instructional time and resources for weeks of test prep, poor alignment with the curriculum, what they see as inappropriate use of the test scores to evaluate teachers and schools, and most recently, New York state's sharing of student data with the Gates Foundation-funded nonprofit startup InBloom."
The Central New York Your News Now (4/17, Meran) reports, "Some parents have elected to keep their children from taking the test. ... In the West Genesee School District, the superintendent says they had four students opt out." But, "the education department says all students are expected to take the exam."
WHEC-TV Rochester, NY (4/17, Levato) reports, "The New York State Education Department says all students are expected to participate in these tests. But that's not stopping some parents from refusing." One principal "told parents of kids not taking the test that they would have to sit silent while the test was being given."
Students, Parents Frustrated By More Difficult Tests.The New York Daily News (4/17, Lestch, Chapman) reports, "New state exams stumped public school students across the city Tuesday as they struggled to answer more difficult questions aligned to national standards. City school officials said the tests went well, but parents and students were frustrated by dummy questions included in the exams and policies for students who chose to opt out." Officials said that dummy question results "will help test-makers calibrate the exams."
The Canandaigua (NY) Messenger Post (4/17) reports, "Parents say they see little value - and possibly damage - in putting more emphasis on tests to measure success of students and teachers. But that won't change the fact that millions of kids statewide this week will begin a rigorous round of tests Tuesday."

Turnaround Arts Initiative Seeks To Boost Low-Performing Schools

NPR (4/16, Blair) reports in part one of three about education and art, "The Turnaround Arts Initiative, spearheaded by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is using an intensive arts curriculum to try and improve eight low-performing schools" that "serve students from poor families." Among the actions is to offer "between $70,000 and $80,000" in funds or in-kind aid over two years. Also "big-name artists, like Forest Whitaker and Yo-Yo Ma, have each adopted one of the eight schools participating in the initiative." At one school, the arts are being used to help students "feel good about coming to school." The schools generally are "experiencing better attendance and fewer visits to the principal's office."

Pennsylvania School Experiments With Students Bringing In Electronic Devices

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (4/17, Von Dobeneck) reports the pilot project "Bring Your Own Technology" has some Hershey Elementary School teachers allowing fourth- and fifth-graders to bring their own electronic devices to school. In a presentation to the school board, teacher Alex Jones said that they were surprised "that there have been no broken or stolen devices yet." Teacher Christine Yarzabek said that keeping the devices on the tops of desks prevented texting by students who should be paying attention. She added that she keeps some devices in the classroom for those who forget or don't have their own. Both said that "there have so far 'been no roadblocks' to continuing the experiment next year."

California School District Showcases Technology In Classrooms

The U-T San Diego (4/16, Breier) reports New Zealand educators visited the K-8 Escondido Union School District for their eighth year of viewing technology in classrooms. The New Zealanders originally connected with the district to see its "award-winning iRead program"; Scott Soucy, a district educational technology teacher, said that program brings in visitors all year. The iRead program has over 130 Escondido teachers participating. Originally a literacy assessment tool, it "has expanded to include all sorts of curriculum-centered audio projects, such as podcasts and blogs."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seminar Offers Help In Planning For Emergencies

The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/16, Schaefer) reports, "About 450 officials from schools, universities, and law enforcement agencies attended the one-day seminar in Upper Darby, hosted by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office, to discuss preventing and preparing for crises." While there, "educators learned that it would be about 10 minutes before any police arrived and that what they needed most in those first few critical minutes was a plan - and backup plans." One expert "advised watching for signs that include evidence of feelings of isolation...increased absenteeism; fascination with previous attacks; destruction of property; physical changes."

Washington State High School Students Must Pass Math Test To Graduate

The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune (4/16, Blankinship) reports, "Thousands of high school students in Washington's Class of 2013 don't know yet if they will get a diploma later this spring because they have not yet met the state's newest graduation requirement: a math exam." So far, "77.5 percent of this year's senior class have passed three statewide tests, are in line to earn all their credits, and are ready to complete a senior project and write a plan for what they want to do after high school." That means that "about 8,000 students in the class of 2013 have not yet fulfilled the math testing requirement and another 4,300 have not met any of the state testing requirements for reading, writing or math," while several thousand more have not passed all of the necessary tests.

More Schools Teach News Literacy

The Washington Post (4/16, Bui) reports, "With information so readily available via social media, the internet and traditional news sources, educators say news literacy - teaching students how to identify credible information and good journalism - is increasingly important." Such programs are appearing "across the country, with a growing nonprofit sector dedicated to the cause and new education standards that require students to read and analyze more nonfiction text." Alan C. Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is president of the News Literacy Project, which "develops lesson plans, activities and curriculum for middle and high schools." Those lesson plans can come with "journalists who visit classrooms as part of the lessons, including editors and reporters from about two dozen news organizations such as the New York Times, ProPublica, NPR, CBS News and The Washington Post." The News Literacy Project "is expected to reach about 3,800 students" this year. Miller said that "the new Common Core education standards have driven that demand."

Los Angeles Teachers Dislike Breakfast In Classroom

The Los Angeles Times (4/15, Watanabe) reports that in an online survey of Los Angeles teachers by United Teachers Los Angeles regarding "an L.A. Unified program to serve breakfast in the classroom" over "half of 729 respondents disliked the program but would support it if sanitation and time issues were resolved." A majority also said that "they have seen an increase in bugs and rodents in their classrooms, and that it takes an average of 30 minutes to set up the breakfast, feed the students and clean up." Meanwhile, "district administrators, who could not be reached for comment, have said that schools are reporting better attendance, less tardiness and fewer trips to the nurse's office." Overall, "88% of teachers surveyed supported breakfast in the schools, but wanted it served in the cafeteria, not the classroom."

Friday, April 12, 2013

From Huffington Post - by Randy Turner

A Warning to Young People: Don't Become a Teacher

Nothing I have ever done has brought me as much joy as I have received from teaching children how to write the past 14 years. Helping young writers grow and mature has been richly rewarding and I would not trade my experiences for anything.

That being said, if I were 18 years old and deciding how I want to spend my adult years, the last thing I would want to become is a classroom teacher.

Classroom teachers, especially those who are just out of college and entering the profession, are more stressed and less valued than at any previous time in our history.

They have to listen to a long list of politicians who belittle their ability, blame them for every student whose grades do not reach arbitrary standards, and want to take away every fringe benefit they have -- everything from the possibility of achieving tenure to receiving a decent pension.

Young teachers from across the United States have told me they no longer have the ability to properly manage classrooms, not because of lack of training, not because of lack of ability, not because of lack of desire, but because of upper administration decisions to reduce statistics on classroom referrals and in-school and out-of-school suspensions. As any classroom teacher can tell you, when the students know there will be no repercussions for their actions, there will be no change in their behavior. When there is no change in their behavior, other students will have a more difficult time learning.

Teachers are being told over and over again that their job is not to teach, but to guide students to learning on their own. While I am fully in favor of students taking control of their learning, I also remember a long list of teachers whose knowledge and experience helped me to become a better student and a better person. They encouraged me to learn on my own, and I did, but they also taught me many things. In these days when virtual learning is being force-fed to public schools by those who will financially benefit, the classroom teacher is being increasingly devalued. The concept being pushed upon us is not of a teacher teaching, but one of who babysits while the thoroughly engaged students magically learn on their own.

During the coming week in Missouri, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill which would eliminate teacher tenure, tie 33 percent of our pay to standardized test scores (and a lesser, unspecified percentage for those who teach untested subjects) and permit such innovations as "student surveys" to become a part of the evaluation process.

Each year, I allow my students to critique me and offer suggestions for my class. I learn a lot from those evaluations and have implemented some of the suggestions the students have made. But there is no way that eighth graders' opinions should be a part of deciding whether I continue to be employed.
The Missouri House recently passed a budget that included $2.5 million to put Teach for America instructors in our urban schools. The legislature also recently acted to extend the use of ABCTE (American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence), a program that allows people to switch careers and become teachers without having to go through required teaching courses.
It is hard to get past the message being sent that our teachers are not good enough so we have to go outside to find new ones.

And of course to go along with all of these slaps in the face to classroom teachers, the move toward merit pay continues. Merit pay and eliminating teacher tenure, while turning teachers into at-will employees are the biggest disservice our leaders can do to students. How many good classroom teachers will no longer be in the classroom because they question decisions by ham handed administrators looking to quickly make a name for themselves by implementing shortsighted procedures that might look good on resumes, but will have a negative impact on student learning.
If you don't believe this kind of thing will happen, take a look at what has occurred in our nation's public schools since the advent of No Child Left Behind. Everything that is not math or reading has been de-emphasized. The teaching of history, civics, geography, and the arts have shrunk to almost nothing in some schools, or are made to serve the tested areas. Elementary children have limited recess time so more time can be squeezed in for math and reading.

Even worse, in some schools weeks of valuable classroom time are wasted giving practice standardized tests (and tests to practice for the practice standardized tests) so obsessive administrators can track how the students are doing. In many school districts across the nation, teachers have told me, curriculum is being based on these practice standardized tests.

That devaluation and de-emphasis of classroom teachers will grow under Common Core Standards. Pearson, the company that has received the contract to create the tests, has a full series of practice tests, while other companies like McGraw-Hill with its Acuity division, are already changing gears from offering practice materials for state tests to providing comprehensive materials for Common Core.

Why would anyone willingly sign up for this madness?

As a reporter who covered education for more than two decades, and as a teacher who has been in the classroom for the past 14 years, I cannot remember a time when the classrooms have been filled with bad teachers. The poor teachers almost never lasted long enough to receive tenure. Whether it is was because they could not maintain control over their classrooms or because they did not have sufficient command over their subject matter, they soon found it wise to find another line of work.

Yes, there are exceptions -- people who slipped through the cracks, and gained tenure, but there is nothing to stop administrators from removing those teachers. All tenure does is to provide teachers with the right to a hearing. It does not guarantee their jobs.

Times have changed. I have watched over the past few years as wonderfully gifted young teachers have left the classroom, feeling they do not have support and that things are not going to get any better.

In the past, these are the teachers who stayed, earned tenure, and built the solid framework that has served their communities and our nation well.

That framework is being torn down, oftentimes by politicians who would never dream of sending their own children to the kind of schools they are mandating for others.

Despite all of the attacks on the teachers, I am continually amazed at the high quality of the young people who are entering the profession. It is hard to kill idealism, no matter how much our leaders (in both parties) try.

I suppose I am just kidding myself about encouraging young people to enter some other profession, any other profession, besides teaching.

After all, what other profession would allow me to make $37,000 a year after 14 years of experience and have people tell me how greedy I am?

Teacher's Letter To Duncan Posted On Blog

The Washington Post (4/12, Strauss) reports in its "Answer Sheet" blog carries a post from "Christine McCartney, an English Language Arts high school teacher in Newburgh Free Academy in Newburgh , NY" in which she criticizes school reform efforts. She addressed the letter to Secretary Duncan. She writes, "I will not be leaving the teaching profession anytime soon. ... In spite of the fact that you consistently attempt to find new ways to hijack the time I spend teaching, planning, collaborating, reflecting, researching, conferencing, bettering myself, and addressing my students' needs, I manage to complete all of the menial administrative tasks you mandate in an effort to comparatively measure my efficacy in the classroom."

Common Core

Common Core Tests Expected To Bring Large Drops In Scores In New York.

The New York (NY) Daily News (4/12, Chapman, Lestch) reports, "City and state education officials predicted a dramatic drop in test scores this year after rolling out more difficult exams kids will start taking next week." In fact, "students in grades 3 to 8 could see a whopping 30% decrease in scores, officials said." The new tests are "the culmination of a national effort - called Common Core - to engage students to think more critically in reading and math."

Indiana PTA Defends Common Core.

WRTV-TV Indianapolis (4/12) reports, "The fight over using Common Core education standards in Indiana is heating up, as the Indiana PTA sounds a new alarm over the plan to remove the guidelines from Hoosier schools." The group argues that "some school districts have already spent two years planning and making purchasing decisions based on the implementation of Common Core, and it's too late to turn back now." But "state Sen. Scott Schneider said the state should set its own standards and is championing legislation to, at least temporarily, pull the plug on Common Core."

Los Angeles Superintendent Receives Vote Of No Confidence From Teachers

The Los Angeles Times (4/12, Blume) reports, "Los Angeles teachers overwhelmingly expressed 'no confidence' in L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy in the first vote of its kind in the nation's second-largest school system. ... 91% of the participating teachers expressed disapproval of Deasy, with about 17,700 of the union's more than 32,000 members casting ballots, the teachers union announced Thursday."

The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram (4/12, Jones) reports, "LAUSD's teachers union issued an overwhelming vote of no-confidence Thursday in the leadership of Superintendent John Deasy as he finishes his second year ... In the poll by United Teachers Los Angeles, 16,040 union members expressed displeasure with Deasy, while only 1,647 said they had confidence in the direction of LAUSD since he took the helm two years ago." Yet, "a new coalition of civil rights groups, led by the United Way, was releasing its own survey of civic, education and community groups, reflecting strong support for Deasy's efforts. The survey by CLASS - Communities for LA Student Success - was conducted in the wake of a divisive school board race that pitted the so-called reform movement against organized labor." And "according to the poll, 98 percent believe it is important or critical to improve graduation rates for Latinos and African-American students, and 95 percent supported greater autonomy for local schools. There also was strong support for expanding the use of technology in the classroom and for using a data-based system to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals."

Michigan District To Launch Single-Sex Classrooms This Fall


WDIV-TV Detroit (4/12) reports, "Thursday afternoon Southfield Public Schools released details on changes it's making to high school classes including creating single-gender classes for many students. Southfield Public Schools superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson said the research backs up what they're doing." And "students already attending a high school in Southfield seem to like the idea, but not necessarily for all grade levels."
The Detroit Free Press (4/12, Higgins) reports, "A quarter of the ninth-graders who enter high schools in the district are enrolling in the district for the first time. And teachers are finding many of these students are behind academically. The redesign is aimed at addressing that issue."

Experts Say Improvement In Graduation Rates Is Real

PBS (4/12, Woodruff, Merrow) "NewsHour" reports on graduation rates, "according to a U.S. Department of Education report, they have been going up all across the country." Yet "can the numbers be trusted?" The story covers a number of techniques used to reduce dropout numbers or improve graduation rates, but the experts cited "say the recent improvement is real." The improvement is attributed to a focus on "dropout factories" and on adopting "proven strategies like smaller schools, where everyone knows your name."

Texas Considers Dropping Algebra II From High School Diploma Requirements

The New York Times (4/12, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports, "As Texas re-examines what students must learn to earn a high school diploma, a single math course has attracted more attention than any other part of the state's curriculum." The House has voted to "drop algebra II as a core diploma requirement." That "has raised alarm from business leaders and national advocacy groups concerned about how the changes might affect academic achievement in the state, particularly for low-income and minority students." Achieve President Mike Cohen said that "if Texas moves away from those will threaten the progress it has made in closing gaps among white, black and Hispanic students." Yet, "some education researchers caution against overstating the importance of advanced algebra in preparing for college and career success."

More Pennsylvania Parents Keep Children Out During Testing

KYW-TV Philadelphia (4/11, Loeb) reports, "A growing number of parents are asking to have their children excused from the PSSA standardized assessment tests, being given this week to third through eighth graders throughout Pennsylvania." The decision is said to be "part of a growing national trend." And "in Pennsylvania, parents exercising the opt-out option went from 71 in 2010 to 256 last year, and the state expects more to opt out this year."

Preschool For All Gets Positive Reaction


The Los Angeles Times (4/11, Castellanos) reports on the Preschool for All plan to be paid for by a "94-cent hike on cigarettes...projected to generate more than $78 billion over 10 years." In response, "some Los Angeles-based early-childhood education providers praised the proposal for its plan to fund education for preschoolers across all types of socioeconomic backgrounds." Though one pointed out, "It's complicated for the federal government because there's a spectrum of readiness across the states."
The Seattle Times (4/11, Varner) reports, "The White House proposes expanding preschool to cover all low- and middle-income 4-year-olds nationwide through a federal-state partnership backed by $66 billion over the next decade." It "would be a huge game-changer in early learning policy." And "research shows that investing in high-quality preschool is the best public investment in education." It would also "dovetail nicely with ongoing efforts in Washington state, where a $60 million Race to the Top early learning federal grant is improving preK access and quality."
Bloomberg News (4/11, Duenwald) reports that the program "would go a long way toward helping states create and expand programs for the poorest American 4-year-olds." But "while tobacco taxes are good public health policy, however, they're not a good permanent source of money for early education." That may be fine as "the idea, the administration has suggested, is to jump-start states' pre-kindergarten offerings, not to build a permanent federal program."
The Washington Post (4/10, Strauss) in its "Answer Sheet" blog offers responses to the President's budget proposals concerning education. "Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, both praised and criticized the proposal." He praised the Preschool for All proposal as follows: "NEA members commend President Obama for his commitment to bring quality early childhood education to all children. There are far too many kids without access to a full range of crucial programs like Head Start, pre–K, and full-day kindergarten that lead to long-term student success." Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, said in a statement: "The President's … investment in early childhood development and education is a giant step forward for children."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Report Highlights How Teachers Can Help Homeless Students

Sarah D. Sparks writes at the Education Week (4/8) "Inside School Research" blog that a new report from the National Center for Homeless Education that "highlights ways teachers can identify and nurture these students' academic and emotional resilience." The report "finds that homelessness can bring about multiple risk factors for students, including high mobility, poverty and unsafe living arrangements."

New York Students "Bracing" For Common Core Assessments

The New York Post (4/6, Edelman) reports, "New York students in grades 3 to 8 are bracing for new math and English tests starting April 16 that will be tougher than any in history." The piece notes that education officials are warning that students may not perform well on the assessments, and notes that the new assessments "will be the first to test students on how well they meet the 'Common Core Standards,' a list of math and literacy skills students should master from kindergarten to 12th grade so that they graduate high school prepared for college or a good career."

The New York Post (4/5, Edelman) also publishes a special article on the new assessments, explaining some of the tenets of the Common Core. The piece includes "a summary of the standards at all grade levels, plus sample problems and tasks to help you guide your kids."

Pennsylvania Students Allowed To Opt Out Of Assessments

The AP (4/8) reports on the "rarely used opt-out provision" for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, noting that Kathy Newman, the mother of a nine-year-old, has "caused a buzz by encouraging others to follow her 'act of civil disobedience.' ... Opting out is extremely unusual in Pennsylvania: Only 260 out of about 932,000 students were excused from the math and reading PSSAs last year; an even lower number opted out of the science exam, according to the state Education Department."

Pennsylvania Students Allowed To Opt Out Of Assessments

The AP (4/8) reports on the "rarely used opt-out provision" for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, noting that Kathy Newman, the mother of a nine-year-old, has "caused a buzz by encouraging others to follow her 'act of civil disobedience.' ... Opting out is extremely unusual in Pennsylvania: Only 260 out of about 932,000 students were excused from the math and reading PSSAs last year; an even lower number opted out of the science exam, according to the state Education Department."

Indiana Legislator Expresses Concerns About Decline Of Cursive

The Goshen (IN) News (4/8, Hayden) reports that Indiana state Sen. Jean Leising is concerned that students visiting a nearby museum with documents written by Abraham Lincoln may soon be unable to read the documents "because schools in Indiana and elsewhere are now allowed to drop cursive writing instruction under new national teaching standards crafted for the digital age. ... The use of cursive writing has been fading from society since the arrival of the computer keyboard. Advocates of longhand blame the so-called common core education standards for hastening its demise." The article describes the controversy among educators and historians.

Columnist Questions Whether Standards Matter

Mary McConnell writes in a Deseret (UT) News (4/4) column, "When the debate over the common core standards first erupted, my initial reaction was, 'do standards really matter that much, anyway?'" McConnell makes the point that "standards seldom change what happens in the classroom, and that's where really education reform needs to happen," arguing that "Common Core doesn't matter because standards mostly don't matter."

Columnist Pans Common Core Over Grammar, Cursive

In a column in the Detroit Free Press (4/8) Rochelle Riley laments low literacy rates in Michigan, writing that a turning away from grammar instruction in schools and "the universally accepted notion that writing in cursive is passé" are the biggest obstacles that students face. Riley quotes a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education saying that grammar is addressed by the Common Core Standards, but adds "it is not taught the way it was years ago, so between lax instruction in some schools and texting language outside schools, many children are having difficulty writing themselves into college."