Monday, January 6, 2014

California Referendum Would Tie Teacher Layoffs To Performance

KERO-TV Bakersfield, CA (1/3) reports that a California ballot initiative backed by StudentsFirst “would require teachers layoffs to be based on performance rather than seniority.” The piece notes that the group and other supporters are set to begin seeking petition signatures.

USDA Relaxes Healthier School Lunch Guidelines

Reuters (1/3, Cooney, Krasny) reports that USDA has announced that it is making permanent a decision late last year to relax new school lunch calorie and portion restrictions, quoting USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon saying, “Earlier this school year, USDA made a commitment to school nutrition professionals that we would make the meat and grain flexibility permanent and provide needed stability for long-term planning. We have delivered on that promise.”

Incoming New York Chancellor Signals Middle School Focus

The AP (1/3, Peltz) reports that as she began her job on Thursday, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina stressed “that middle schools would be an early focus of her tenure,” telling students “in a rather animated Bronx classroom that she likes it when learning makes some noise.” Noting that Farina will face significant challenges in supporting middle school education and backing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledges to improve parental engagement, the AP reports that Farina said that “improving students’ engagement in middle school...increases their chances of progressing to and graduating from high school.”


Philadelphia Schools Struggling To Cope With Fiscal Crisis

The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/6, Graham) reports on the difficulty administrators at Philadelphia’s Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts have in covering the jobs that were left vacant when climate managers, counselors, assistant principals, and other aides were laid off as a result of “the Philadelphia School District’s financial implosion.” Noting that the district cut “hundreds of millions” from its budget to try to deal with its massive deficit, the Inquirer adds that many schools “lack counselors, extracurricular activities, and key programs.”

Common Core

Mathews: Teachers Want Common Core, So Keep It.

In his “Class Struggle” column in the Washington Post (1/6), Jay Mathews writes that the Common Core Standards will not do anything to change the main indicators of academic success, which he lists as family income, teacher proficiency, and student effort. However, he writes that this does not mean that “we should dump the new standards,” because surveys suggest that most teachers “want to try them anyway.” he writes that this is important because teachers’ job satisfaction and confidence are “crucial to schools’ success.”

Common Core Criticism Complicates North Carolina Testing Plans.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer (1/2) reports that though North Carolina has been part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the “backlash” against the Common Core Standards “has complicated the decision on whether to adopt the national tests” the consortium generates. The piece notes that the legislature has barred the state Board of Education “from spending any money on new tests linked to the standards, including SMARTER Balanced,” without legislative approval. Meanwhile, the BOE has postponed a vote on the issue that had been scheduled for next week to “get more information on options and what other states are doing.”

Common Core Faces Myriad Criticisms.

The AP (1/6, Elliott) reports on the “relentless warnings” from Common Core critics, who “say they were written in private and never tested in real classrooms, and that educators aren’t familiar enough with” them. Moreover, critics also cite the “multi-billion dollar price tag” that come with the standards. Opponents also pan the unfamiliar classroom content, but supporters say that such“worries are overblown and miss nuances” of the standards. Critics also “argue that states were pressured to sign onto the Common Core standards to get federal economic stimulus money to keep teachers on the job.” The article notes, near the end, that Education Secretary Arne Duncan “has little patience for the criticism,” noting that he has pushed back against accusations that the Common Core constitutes a “federal takeover of the curriculum.”

Common Core Inspires “Strange Bedfellows.”

The AP (1/4, Elliott) reports that both opposition to and support for the Common Core Standards have “yielded strange bedfellows,” noting that teachers unions are “linking arms with tea partyers” in opposition, while President Obama is “working in tandem with the US Chamber of Commerce and energy giant Exxon.” Meanwhile, the AP reports that there has been significant GOP infighting over the standards, reporting that once small-government desiring tea party activists gained prominence, “they targeted the standards and forced lawmakers to choose between the business wing of the Republican Party and them.”

Mississippi Common Core Opponents Preparing Legislative Push.

The Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald (1/4) reports that opponents of the Common Core Standards “have been trying over the past year to build opposition to” the standards, and are now “bringing that opposition to the Capitol,” with a rally planned for this week at the state Capitol. However, “key lawmakers continue to signal support.”

New York Regents Task Force Analyzing Comments From Common Core Forums.

The AP (1/6, Thompson) reports that a new task force of the New York Board of Regents is planning to analyze public comments from “a series of volatile public forums” on changes related to the state’s rollout of the Common Core Standards. The AP reports that the intention is to generate “ideas for smoothing the way forward” on Common Core implementation, noting that at the meetings, “parents, teachers and students described excessive and stressful student testing and a loss of creativity in the classroom.”

Florida Preparing To Transition To Common Core Assessments.

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (1/6) reports that the Florida Department of Education is preparing for the “herculean task” of “choosing, and then deploying, the next generation of standardized tests.” The piece notes that the state is replacing its Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test with Common Core-aligned assessments, adding that state officials say that the plan to make the switch in the next 18 months is on schedule. The article notes that though Florida had been participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Gov. Rick Scott in September “raised concerns about the cost and technology requirements, and directed the state Education Department to consider other options.”

New York Education Chief Defends Common Core.

The Huffington Post (1/2, Klein) reports that New York Education Commissioner John King has written a letter to superintendents and other administrators around the state to “defend” the Common Core Standards and to “clear up what he called ‘misinformation’ being spread about them.” King concedes in his letter that the rollout of the standards has caused some problems in the state, and the Post notes that he has “faced backlash from citizens who felt the process was rushed and done without transparency.”