Monday, August 31, 2015

Pennsylvania School District Teachers And Staff Will Keep Working Despite Uncertainty About Next Paycheck.

The Philly (PA) (8/28, Boccella) reports Chester Upland school teachers and staff voted on Thursday to keep working despite the possibility they may not be paid next month because of a recent court ruling rejected the school district’s financial recovery plan.

Georgia Third Grader Brings Gun To School And Accidentally Fires It At Other Student.

The AP (8/28) reports a third-grade student at Hornsby Elementary School in Augusta, Georgia brought a gun to school and accidentally shot a classmate who was treated at a hospital and then released. Authorities are not releasing the names of either of the children because they are minors. Richmond County Department of School Safety Chief Alfonzo Williams said that the boy found a gun while looking for a toy in his kitchen.

California Wipes Testing Database History Ahead Of Common Core Release.

Liana Heitin writes at the Education Week (8/28) “Curriculum Matters” blog that California education officials have removed 17 years of math and reading test scores from the state’s public database “in preparation for the release of its new test scores” from the new Smarter Balanced assessments. State officials said they “removed the data to ‘avoid confusion,’ and to help comply with a 2013 law that forbids state agencies and local districts from comparing scores on the old and new standardized tests.”

        EdSource (8/28) reports that state officials have “repeatedly cautioned against comparing students’ scores on past state standardized tests with forthcoming results on tests aligned with the Common Core standards,” and therefore “deleted old test results going back more than 15 years from the most accessible part of the department’s website, impeding the public’s ability to make those comparisons.” Science and history results were left untouched. The New Orleans Times-Picayune (8/28) also covers this story.

Public Supports Common Core Concepts, Opposes Brand.

Public Supports Common Core Concepts, Opposes Brand.

MinnPost (MN) (8/27) reports that while a pair of recent polls show that support for the Common Core Standards has fallen below half, “respondents favor using the same academic standards from state to state — the ‘common’ part of the effort’s name — and the same assessments to measure how well students and schools are meeting them. And they want those math and reading standards — the ‘core’ — set high.” The article attributes this contradiction to a general lack of awareness about the actual content of the standards.
        In commentary for the US News & World Report (8/27) “Knowledge Bank” blog, the Center for American Progress’ Carmel Martin writes about this apparent disconnect, noting that a “closer look” at the polls indicates that “parents and teachers alike broadly support holding all students to high academic standards and taking a balanced approach to testing in schools.”

CDC Finds School Lunches Are Becoming Healthier.

The New York Times (8/28, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reports that new data released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “showed that the nutritional profile of meals in the nation’s public schools had improved substantially since higher government standards went into effect in 2012.” Nearly 80 percent of schools offered two or more servings of vegetables per meal in 2014, up from 62 percent in 2000. Two or more fruits were offered “in about 78 percent of schools, up from 68 percent in 2000.” According to the Times, experts hope the healthier lunches will help reduce the obesity rate among older children.
        The Los Angeles Times (8/28, Kaplan) reports CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement, “School meals are healthier now than ever before,” adding, “We’ve made real progress, but there is much more to do.” The study was published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
        The Hill (8/28, Wheeler) reports the CDC also found almost all “schools were offering whole grains at breakfast and lunch, too — 97.2 percent and 94.4 respectively — while nearly one-third of schools, 30.5 percent, were offering self-serve salad bars.”

Early School Start Times Depriving Teens Of Sleep, CDC Says

The Washington Post (8/28, Hoder) reports that a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all middle and high schools delay start times to at least 8:30 a.m. “so that more teens will get the minimum 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep they need.” Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s Division of Population Health and the lead author of the report, said, “Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety and academic performance,” adding, “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.” The article adds that in 40 states, at least 75 percent of public schools start earlier than 8:30, according to the CDC.

More Schools Introducing Coding Into Elementary School Curriculum

Education Week (8/27, Heitin) reports more schools around the country are teaching elementary school students how to code. Avondale Elementary in Arizona began teaching all of its K-8 students computer programming last year. San Francisco plans to introduce computer science as part of its curriculum for all elementary and secondary education students over the new few years. Chicago is also planning to make computer science a core subject in kindergarten.

Researchers Raise Eyebrows At Homework Study

Maggie DeBlasis writes at the Education Week (8/28) “Teaching Now” blog that researchers say that a recent well publicized study about homework--which determined that students have too much of it--is drawing criticism from researchers who fault its methodology and say its source material was too limited in scope.

Ten Years After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Schools Are Better, But Still Need Work.

Near the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, The Huffington Post has two stories on how city schools are doing. Former Louisiana superintendent of schools Paul Pastorek wrote a piece in The Huffington Post (8/28, Pastorek) where he recalls that more than 100 schools in the city were severely damaged by the storm. Between 2007 and 2011 he worked with Governor Kathleen Blanco and Senator Mary Landrieu to using emergency federal funding to restore the schools. Some of them are now in better condition then they were even before the storm. Louisiana’s Recovery School District helped enable that recovery by allowing local principals and teachers to run their schools, “rather than imposing a top-down bureaucracy.” In another piece, The Huffington Post (8/29, Workneh and Klein) reports that education in New Orleans has “steadily improved since 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.” Two reporters interviewed educators in the city to find out how the schools have improved so much, and also what else still needs to be done. Among their findings, the reports conclude that while success has increased, poverty still has a big impact on students and there is still a huge need for more experienced teachers in the city.

Today's COMMON CORE news:

AP Analysis: Goal Of Comparing “Common Core” Results Unrealized.

The AP (8/30, Armario) reports the Common Core test results are starting to become available; however, the goal of being able to compare scores across state lines “has largely unraveled” as states opt out of testing groups to create their own exams. The article notes that the scores now available in some states are “higher than expected” but below what parents are accustomed to seeing.

Two Dozen States Delay Accountability From Common Core Tests.

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (8/31) “Politics K-12” blog that as results from Common Core-based testing begin to come in, 24 states and the District of Columbia will not be using the results to determine “school ratings on state accountability systems.” She explains that last year, ED told states that while they switch to the new tests based on the Common Core, they can “‘pause’ state-level accountability during the 2014-15 school year.” The piece notes that of that 24, Colorado’s approval is contingent upon the approval of an extension to its NCLB waiver.

Nearly Two Dozen Oregon Districts Fail To Meet Common Core Participation Targets.

The AP (8/31, Frazier) reports that Oregon state data show that 21 of the nearly 200 districts across the state “failed to meet federal testing targets for Smarter Balanced assessments,” noting that ED requires states to test at least of 95 students in all subgroups. State schools chief Salam Noor told administrators that the state could lose $344 million in Federal funding.

Common Core Support Weighs Against Bush, Kasich With Some GOP Voters.

USA Today (8/28, Thompson) reports that Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have both faced criticism on the campaign trail for their support for the Common Core Standards, both from potential voters and from rival candidates. The piece points out that they are correct in their assertion that the standards are not Federal in origin or implementation, but notes that the candidates “need the vote of Republicans who disagree with them.”

New Jersey Teacher Keeps Job Despite Over 100 Logged Tardies.

The Washington Post (8/28, Brown) reports on the controversy surrounding a New Brunswick, New Jersey teacher “who was late to work more than 100 times over the course of two school years,” noting that an arbitrator has decided that he “may keep his job.” The arbitrator sharply criticized the teacher, Arnold Anderson, but “ruled that the district did not formally notify Anderson of his shortcomings and failed to give him a required 90-day period to improve.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie painted the case as an example of unions protecting incompetent teachers.

Opinion: Standardizing Testing Hurts Student Teachers.

Jennifer Wallace Jacoby, an assistant professor of psychology an education at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, wrote an opinion piece in The Answer Sheet blog in The Washington Post (8/30, Jacoby) that argues alongside students and teachers, student teachers are also suffering from standardized testing. Jacoby says that with more at stake under standardizing testing, teachers are less able and willing to train student teachers. The blog post then outlines different ways that teacher education programs can support teachers mentoring student teachers and certain advantages to having student teachers in classrooms.

Apps Can Help Kids Regain Science Knowledge After Summer Vacation.

The New York Times (8/30, Dell'Antonia) reports that apps can help children regain knowledge lost over the summer by teaching them more about math and science in a fun way. The article lists several apps designed to teach children.

Pennsylvania Budget Impasse Beginning To Impact Education.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/31, Boccella) reports that as a budget agreement continues to elude state leaders in Pennsylvania, local schools and programs are beginning to be affected. The article reports that education leaders say the problem is going to get worse, and notes that administrators are “dipping into reserve funds, putting freezes on new hires, and starting to ponder their next moves if the gridlock continues into the fall.” The paper explains that Gov. Tom Wolf “wants the legislature to give him an additional $400 million in education funding next year,” but Republicans are balking at his plan to raise taxes. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials last week “mourned what it called Red Thursday, the day that roughly $1 billion in the first large installment of basic state education aid normally would have been delivered.” The Inquirer quotes PASBO Executive Director Jay Himes saying, “Unfortunately it’s a guessing game because there’s no way to predict when” the impasse will end. “People are getting more and more worried whether they will have adequate recourse to open schools and keep them open,” Himes said.

Cash-Strapped District Says No Money For Paychecks. The AP (8/31) reports that the state’s chronically struggling Chester Upland School District “says it cannot afford to pay its staff amid an entrenched state budget stalemate,” with neither district nor state officials offering any answers. The piece notes that teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, and other workers have voted to work even if the district can’t make its scheduled payroll.
        Under the headline “In A Bankrupt Pa. School District, Teachers Plan To Work For Free,” the Washington Post (8/28, Layton) reports that employees in the district “don’t expect to get paid,” but will show up for work anyway. Local teachers and allied workers “voted unanimously to work without pay as the new school year opens.”
        Districts Scrambling, Borrowing To Cover Gap. The Hazelton (PA) Standard Speaker (8/31) reports that state districts were expecting “millions” from the state last Thursday, but “received nothing, and instead are borrowing money and depleting reserves to make payroll and pay for utilities.” The piece quotes Carbondale Area School District business manager David Cerra saying, “It has been absolutely devastating. We have no visibility going forward to when it will be resolved.” The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials says that half of the state’s districts “have or are considering borrowing money.”
        The Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat (8/31) chronicles the steps taken surrounding the budget impasse by Wolf and Republican lawmakers in recent weeks, noting that a recent Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials survey found that “almost 6 out of 7 survey respondents are using fund balances or may use them to cover the lack of state subsidy payments. Half said they have borrowed or are considering borrowing.”
        Budget Debacle Complicates Teacher Contract Negotiations. The Scranton (PA) Times Tribune (8/31) reports that “area teachers’ contracts are taking longer to negotiate” than usual because of the budget standoff, suggesting that some districts’ teachers may follow the example of those in Scranton, who “plan to strike this week.” Several districts have contracts that are either set to expire soon or have already done so.
        Advocates: Early Education Providers Under Siege. The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (8/29) reports that advocates for early childhood education say that “Harrisburg’s inability to adopt a budget on time is having an extreme impact on day care and pre-kindergarten providers and creating uncertainty for their employees and the families they serve.” Educators held a press conference “calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to agree on a budget — one which includes Wolf’s proposal for enough funding to add 14,000 more toddlers to Pennsylvania’s pre-K roles.” The West Chester (PA) Daily Local News (8/29) also covers this story.