Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Indiana Students Learn About Manufacturing At Local Event.

WLFI-TV Lafayette, IN (9/29, Miller) reports almost 250 junior and senior high school students visited the National Guard Armory in Lafayette, Indiana for a Manufacturing Expo as part of Manufacturing Week in the area. Twenty businesses participated in the event showing students how their firms use manufacturing. Educators and business leaders hope the event will get more students interested in careers in the manufacturing sector.

Weaker Math Curriculum In Low-Income Schools Contributes To Achievement Gap


The Washington Post (9/30, Layton) reports that according to a new study published in the journal of the American Educational Research Association, the math achievement gap “is due in large part to the systemically weaker math content in schools that teach low-income students.” The study was based on PISA scores, and researchers “found that a large amount of the difference in math scores between poor and wealthier students can be traced to unequal access to strong math content in school.”

Michelle Obama: Girls, Don’t Hold Back In School.

The AP (9/30, Peltz) reports that there is no shame in outshining males in the classroom, according to First Lady Michelle Obama. “‘Compete with the boys. Beat the boys,’ she told about 1,000 schoolgirls and young women Tuesdayat an event aimed at publicizing her ‘Let Girls Learn’ campaign to expand girls’ access to education in developing countries.” Charlize Theron, “who founded an AIDS-prevention charity in Africa, and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard” also participated in the Glamour-organized discussion at the Apollo Theater. The Washington Post (9/30, Strauss) meanwhile points out in its “Answer Sheet” blog that the First Lady has “traveled to several countries to promote” the initiative, “which involves numerous agencies and departments of the federal government.” For instance, “since 2013, the US Department of State and USAID have committed more than $22 million to the Safe from the Start initiative to strengthen prevention and response to gender-based violence at the onset of humanitarian emergencies.” And in Ethiopia, “where one in seven girls is married by the time she turns 15, USAID is facilitating ‘community conversations’ with girls, their families, and their community members to discuss the impact of early and forced marriage and to explain the importance of providing resources for the mental and physical health of girls.”

No Child Left Behind

Education Groups Urge Congress To Reauthorize ESEA.

Education Week (9/30) reports “the leadership drama in Congress may be taking up a lot of political oxygen, but 10 education groups don’t want lawmakers to take their eye off reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” In a letter addressed to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va, “those groups, including the two national teachers’ unions and the organization representing state schools chiefs, said that there’s huge demand for them to put the final touches on legislation that would renew the ESEA.” Further, they also stressed “the importance of preserving the federal education law’s focus on low-income students, equity, and high-quality education for all students.”
        Civil Rights Groups Say No Child Left Behind Needs More Accountability. Education Week (9/30, Klein) reports “No Child Left Behind conference negotiations are expected to kick off in earnest this fall,” and a main topic of discussion will be “accountability, particularly for poor students, students of color, and special populations of children.” According to the Obama Administration, “neither the Republican-only House bill, nor the Senate’s bipartisan bill goes far enough in calling for states to hold schools accountable for the progress of long-overlooked students.” That view is also held by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which “has teamed up with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)” to run radio ads in key districts.
        Governors Want A Bill Too. US News & World Report (9/29, Camera) reports the National Governors Association is also urging Congress “to complete its work to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – commonly known as No Child Left Behind in its latest iteration – and get a conferenced bill to the president’s desk by the end of this year.” In a letter to Congress, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, chairman of the NGA’s Education and Workforce Committee, said, “Governors have long called for the bipartisan reauthorization of ESEA to restore the state-federal partnership. We stand ready to work with Congress to complete ESEA reauthorization this year and move on to a state-led law that places every child on a path to success.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sources: NEA Close To Endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Education Week (9/28, Sawchuk) reports that its sources say the National Education Association (NEA) is considering endorsing Hillary Clinton “as early as Friday.” The Education Intelligence Agency (9/28, Antonucci) is cited reporting that an internal survey of NEA members “shows Clinton ahead of Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare that he’s officially running, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, although not by a huge margin.” Education Week considers whether NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia may face “internal blowback” from this endorsement as Sanders has significant support in Vermont and because other union chapters seek additional assurances from Clinton prior to providing endorsement. Education Week (9/28, Sawchuk) also carries this post in its “Teacher Beat” blog.

Common Core News

Republicans Have Turned Against Common Core.

Newsweek (9/29) reports the Republican Party used to support Common Core standards as a way to reform schools and hold teachers accountable, but the Tea Party movement turned the party against the standards.

Louisiana Set To Release Common Core Results In October.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (9/29, Sentell) reports Louisiana will release its Common Core test results onOctober 12. The state DOE has begun sharing preliminary test results with local school superintendents so that they can provide feedback to teachers. After the results are released, the state will be able to compare its students with those in other states that use the standards.

Survey Shows What Public School Parents And General Public Think About Teachers.

Education Week (9/28, Kim) summarizes the results of a survey about Americans’ attitudes about teachers comparing the answers of public school parents to the general public. The majority of people support teachers being paid more: 66% of public school parents and 58% of the general public. The survey also found that 54% of public school parents and 59% of all Americans are opposed to public school teachers having tenure. Joan Richardson, the editor-in-chief of the education journal Phi Delta Kappan, said the survey results show that Americans have “tough love” for teachers, supporting higher pay but not supporting tenure.

Education Week Explores Common Core’s Impact On Teacher PD.

Education Week (9/29) runs a package of stories under the headline “Teacher PD in the Common-Core Era,” focusing on the impact that the Common Core Standards and the push to “personalize learning opportunities for teachers.” Topics include a story about efforts to personalize teacher PD in Long Beach, California (9/30); a program that uses mathematical modeling (9/30)to teach “small groups of elementary teachers in three states to teach a math skill that’s typically been reserved for high school and college students;” an examination of teachers’ questioning techniques (9/30)to foster critical thinking skills; intellectual property rights concerns surrounding lesson-sharing websites for teachers (9/30); the increasing use of video to improve teachers’ instructional methods (9/30);teachers’ use of Twitter to disseminate knowledge (9/30); and the grooming of teacher leaders in Washington, DC(9/30).
        New York Governor Launches Common Core Review Panel. The AP (9/29) reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named the members of a “panel of educators, lawmakers and parents to review the Common Core” standards and aligned testing, noting that he “has been critical of the state’s rollout of the standards and earlier this month promised a review and changes.” Richard Parsons, a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners, will lead the 15-member Common Core Task Force.
        The New York Daily News (9/29, Blain) reports that Cuomo said that the task force is directed to “undertake a ‘total reboot’ of the Common Core standards,” and notes that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will serve on the panel.
        Newsday (NY) (9/29) reports that while Cuomo “called for fewer standardized exams,” but “gave no sign of rolling back his controversial initiative to tie test scores to school closings and teacher evaluations.” Cuomo said that the panel “would conduct a ‘top to bottom review’ of the state’s academic standards, curriculum and exams.”
        Writers Criticize Cuomo For Succumbing To Anti-Common Core Pressures. In commentary in Newsday (NY)(9/29), Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticize Cuomo for “seeking to ride the wave” of populism generated by presidential campaign rhetoric “by standing with parents against Common Core standards.” The writers suggest that the Common Core is incompatible with Cuomo’s “pet reform: test-based teacher evaluations,” and pan him for not availing himself of Federal flexibility in implementing teacher accountability systems.

Gifted And Talented Education Can Benefit Students, But Hard To Define And Determine Who Qualifies.

NPR (9/28, Kamenetz) outlines the potential benefits and ongoing controversies surrounding gifted and talented education. The article shares the story of Ron Turiello in California, who wanted his daughter Grace to enjoy school and be challenged, so he founded a private school in Sunnyvale with his wife Margaret Caruso, which Grace and Ron’s son Marcello now attend. The article also discusses the controversial nature of gifted and talented education because of the difficulty in defining “giftedness” and measuring it.

NSF Awards $2 Million Grant To Research Effect Of Minecraft On Interest In STEM Careers

The Bangor (ME) Daily News (9/29, McCrea) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $2 million grant to researchers at the University of Maine who will study how playing Minecraft affects children’s interest in STEM careers. The researchers will create a program that can teach students how to program using Minecraft and then study its effectiveness and whether students are more interested in pursuing STEM careers. Minecraft is an “open-world game in which the player mines blocks of materials used to craft items and build structures.”

Monday, September 28, 2015


Baltimore City Council Rejects Proposal To Reduce Funding For Charter Schools.

WJZ-TV Baltimore (9/26, Barnett) reports the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to reject a proposal by school officials to decrease funding for the city’s charter schools, including some of the city’s highest performing schools. The Baltimore Sun (9/26, Anderson) reports that the proposal would have cut funding to 26 of the city’s 34 charter schools. The Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools organized a rally attended by hundreds of students, parents, and teachers in support of preserving funding for the charter schools. Many wore shirts with the slogan, “#SAVE THE CHARTERS BMORE”, and chanted “Hear our voices. Hear our choices. Hear our voices. Save our Choices.” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently shifted $68 million in state funding from education to the underfunded pension system putting pressure on many districts in the state to make up for the lost funding. Baltimore lost $11.6 million from the change.

Editorial: Colorado Needs To Talk About Education Funding.

The Longmont (CO) Times-Call (9/28) editorializes a recent case decided by the Colorado Supreme Court should be a wake-up call to the state to fix education funding. The editorial criticized the premise of the case because even if the plaintiffs had won, there was no money in state accounts that could have been used to fulfill the court’s order. The editorial goes on to say that instead people who want to change the state’s education funding should be pushing for a change in the law to increase funding.

Michigan, Pennsylvania Have The Most School Districts With “Junk” Credit Ratings.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (9/26, Ferral) reports Pennsylvania has the second most number of school districts with “junk” credit ratings; Michigan has the most. Poor credit ratings make it harder for districts to borrow money, making it more expensive for them to take action to improve schools.

Arizona Lawmakers Considering Voter Initiative That Would Change School Funding.

The Arizona Daily Sun (9/26, Fischer) reports some Arizona legislators are planning to ask voters to approve a ballot initiative that would change state education funding. The law since 2000 has required the state to match actual inflation in education funding up to 2%. Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs wants to change the law to increase state education funding by 1.6% every year regardless of inflation. Biggs said the change is a good deal for the state because current inflation is near 1.1%, but critics say the law would be costly if inflation picks back up again. The initiative would also reverse a court ruling that determined the state owed $330 million to the state’s schools instead of $74 million.

New Mexico Schools Chief Predicts Dip In First PARCC Scores.

The AP (9/28) reports that New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera “is warning parents, students and educators to expect lower scores from a new statewide exam designed to test students’ knowledge of Common Core standards.” This will be the state’s first release of PARCC test results. The piece quotes Skandera saying, “We don’t know where New Mexico is going to fall on that spectrum, but it is fair to say we adopted those same higher standards, so we can anticipate and be prepared. The dip won’t be because our kids got worse or our teachers aren’t teaching as well – it is because we raised the bar.”
        The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (9/28) reports that Skandera “said other states that have started using PARCC...have seen a 20 percent to 40 percent drop in students rated proficient.” Despite the initial dip, Skandera predicted a “rise in the coming years as PARCC becomes more familiar and student achievement improves.” The state will begin releasing test scores in October.

Boehner’s Departure Complicates Push To Reauthorize ESEA.

The Washington Post (9/25, Layton) reports that House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt announcement that he is resigning “muddied” the politics surrounding Congress’ efforts to reauthorize ESEA, noting that his departure “complicates the fragile effort between House and Senate negotiators, who have been working on a compromise to replace the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.” Members of the House Freedom Caucus, who “opposed the House GOP bill because they don’t want any federal role in public education at all,” may be emboldened by Boehner’s departure.

Wyoming District Struggles With Substitute Teacher Shortage.

The AP (9/28) reports school administrators in Fremont County, Wyoming are struggling to find enough substitute teachers. Superintendent Terry Snyder said the district has had a shortage of substitute teachers for three years.

Philadelphia Principal Launches Group To Help Recruit, Retain Black Male Educators.

The Washington Post (9/25, Brown) reports Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker campus in Philadelphia, has launched a group called The Fellowship, which “aims to bring together Philly’s black male educators and provide them with professional support to thrive in their jobs.” El-Mekki also wants the group to “become a hub for the recruitment and retention of black men in education.” The Fellowship will hold its first meeting on October 1 where El-Mekki hopes participants will share their stories of why they chose to become teachers. Only 2% of teachers in the US are black men.

Being Principal Is Hard, Many Quit.

The Hechinger Report (9/24, Tyre) reports “nearly 30% of principals who lead troubled schools quit every year.” The article shares the story of a new principal, Krystal Hardy, at a school in New Orleans as she learns what is expected of her and how to do it better. Due to the increased importance of standardized testing and teacher evaluations, principals are expected to do more to improve pedagogy and classroom learning than in the past. Hardy shares that a lot of her job requires soft skills to communicate effectively with staff and students, and she had to work long hours.

Analysis: “Why Students Hate School Lunches.”

A 1,284-word article in the New York Times (9/27, Murphy, Subscription Publication) analyzes why American students dislike school lunches as evidenced by the “overflowing” trash cans after lunch and the “diminishing” receipts for school lunch programs. The Times points out that the 2012 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act guidelines prevent schools from offering “a classic baguette, semolina pasta or jasmine rice,” things that are “staples of diets in other cultures with far lower rates of childhood and adult obesity than in the United States.” The Times notes that the strict guidelines of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act may also “perpetuate Americans’ uneasy, binge-prone relationship with food.” The piece also highlights what certain school districts are doing to combat the decline in student interest for school lunches.

Arkansas High School Students Participating In International Assessment.

The AP (9/28, Morris) reports 42 students from East Poinsett County High School in Arkansas will represent the state in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA tests students from around the world in math, reading, science, and starting this year financial literacy. The ED sponsors US participation in the country and the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development coordinates the assessment for the 75 participating countries.

Florida School District Changes Standards To Increase Minority Enrollment Into Gifted And Talented Education Magnet School.

The Florida Times-Union (9/26, Thompson) reported Duval County Public Schools in Florida is working to increase minority enrollment in gifted education programs. The district recently opened a gifted and talented education magnet school in a poorer neighborhood to make it more accessible to minority students. The district also created an alternative set of criteria for students to be admitted to the program called the Plan B option, which uses less stringent criteria to identify a study as gifted or talented. Some parents have complained that the changes have “watered down and lowered the bar” for the program decreasing its value.

Rural Mississippi Struggles To Recruit, Retain Teachers, Tries Offering Housing.

The Hechinger Report (9/28, Harrison) reports Mississippi released a report ordered by the ED on why the state’s poor and minority students often have less qualified teachers than their peers. The report found that the state’s rural districts where poor and minority students are concentrated struggled to recruit and retain teachers often relying on Teach for America to fill vacant positions. many Mississippi schools struggle to fill teaching positions. The report recommended offering extra pay or other benefits to try to recruit better teachers. Cassandra Rhone, a mother and teacher-in-training, in rural Hazlehurst School District said her children and others suffer from the lack of qualified teachers.
        Mississippi Tried Affordable Housing To Recruit Teachers, Now Catching On Elsewhere. In a separate article, The Hechinger Report (9/25, Harrison) explores another possible benefit that Mississippi has tried using before to recruit and retain educators: affordable housing. Many of the rural areas that need teachers do not have much affordable housing in good condition available to teachers. The Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act of 1998 gave funding to some rural districts to build affordable housing to try to attract teachers, but more than a decade later many of the complexes built under the law lie vacant or are occupied entirely by non-teachers. The idea has caught on in other parts of the country though where high housing prices can make it difficult for teachers to live in the neighborhoods where they teach. Cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, and Newark have built or are considering building affordable housing complexes just for teachers.

Common Core

Maryland DOE To Release First PARCC Results In October.

The Washington Post (9/24, George) reports that Maryland education officials will begin releasing the first iteration of PARCC test results in October, with the final cohort of results to be released in December. State officials said that “individual student scores will be sent home to families in the weeks following the two state releases.” The Post notes that since this is the first year for establishing a baseline, “scores are not tied to school or teacher accountability in Maryland.”

Review: California Achievement Gap Spreads With SBAC Testing.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (9/24) reports that according to its review of state data, despite long-running efforts to close the income-based achievement gap in California, “the divide grew much wider under the state’s new” SBAC testing regimen, noting that some while 53% of middle- to high-income students scored proficient on the tests, that number fell to 21% for “economically disadvantaged students in California.” In past years, 1.5 times more wealthier students scored proficient than did their disadvantaged peers, while this figure grew to 2.5 times more this year.

Oregon Scores Add Fuel To SBAC Debate.

The Portland (OR) Tribune (9/24) reports that the Oregon Department of Education has released the results of this year’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, and “people across the education debate spectrum readied their storyline.” The state DOE stressed that students exceeded projections based on field testing, and individual districts that scored well “crowed” about local results. Meanwhile, SBAC opponents “took to the blogosphere to warn against the ‘better-than-expected’ news storylines.”

NCLB Architects Recount Crafting Of Law.

Politico (9/24) reports that No Child Left Behind “is perhaps the most controversial education law ever passed,” but at the time of its passage “was a unique achievement: a bipartisan reform pushed by a Republican president, shepherded by Ted Kennedy, and signed in the wake of the national tragedy of 9/11.” The article consists of the reflections of some of the original participants of the law’s creation about what it takes “to get a big bipartisan deal done” and about the law’s legacy. Respondents include Dave Schnittger, a former education staffer for John Boehner; former Sen. Judd Gregg; former Rep. George Miller; former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings; Sally Kress, a former senior adviser to former President George W. Bush; and Danica Petroshius, a former education staffer for Kennedy.

South Carolina Elementary School Named First Lego Education Model School.

South Carolina Elementary School Named First Lego Education Model School.

The Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal (9/23, Fox) reports Jesse Bobo Elementary School in Spartanburg, South Carolina “has been named the nation’s first Lego Education Model School.” The school has used Legos in the classroom for three years for “cross-curriculum activities in every subject”, and also recently opened a Lego Lab for special lessons. Principal Thomas Webster says the school has embraced “teaching by emphasizing 21st century skills.”

DC Public Schools Teaching All Second Graders How To Ride Bicycles.

The Washington Post (9/24, Chandler) reports a new DC Public Schools program is teaching all second graders how to ride bikes. The school district purchased 1,000 bikes at the beginning of the school year with the help of local government and private donors. The bikes will rotate throughout all the elementary schools in the district during the year so all second-grade students will have an opportunity to learn how to ride one. Bicycle riding is one of the district’s new “cornerstone” lessons focused on bringing uniform, memorable, and relevant lessons to students. The program is also part of a growing shift across the country to move physical education away from competitive sports towards more practical lessons focused on wellness and fitness.

Online High School Courses Growing In Popularity Despite Dearth Of Data

Politico (9/23, Samuelsohn) reports on the sharp growth of online courses at the high school level across the country in recent years, noting that some “5 million out of the country’s 54 million K-through-12 grade students have taken at least one online class.” The piece cites the advantages to such instruction, including lower costs, greater convenience, and improved accessibility for students with disabilities, but points out that there is little data on the quality of such education.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ohio Father Mocks Common Core Math With Check To School.

The Huffington Post (9/23) reports that Doug Herrmann, a father in Ohio who was “frustrated while working with his second-grader on his Common Core homework,” wrote a check to the school the next day which substituted a “ten-frame card” instead of regular monetary notation. Herrmann “explained he isn’t against Common Core, which includes math standards that mandate students show their work very specifically and require a certain step-by-step process,” but was simply expressing his frustration with his inability to help his son.

ED Continuing Efforts To Improve ELL Education For Newcomers.

Corey Mitchell writes at the Education Week (9/23) “Learning the Language” blog that Libia Gil, the head of ED’s Office of English Language Acquisition, said that the department is “developing a tool kit specifically for educators who work with immigrant English-learners who are new to the country,” noting that the guide “will mark the latest federal effort to provide an equitable education for ELLS, the largest-growing segment of the United States’ public school population.”

Las Vegas Recruitment Effort To Overcome Teacher Shortage Profiled.

In a 2,337-word article, the Slate (9/22, Huseman) “Schooled” blog highlighted the “creative, desperate, or desperately creative” recruitment efforts that Las Vegas has embraced in order to overcome its teacher shortage. However, according to Slate, “Sin City’s attempted remedies might be most instructive in teaching us what not to do when scrambling to fill teacher vacancies.” The ultimate lessons from Las Vegas is that if the city “can successfully redirect some of its energies from recruitment to retention, it could become a model for cities grappling with their own teacher shortages.”

More High Schools Offering Classes That Prepare Students For Careers Working With Bicycles.

US News & World Report (9/21, Pannoni) reports more high schools are offering classes that teach students “how to fix and maintain bikes, as well as explore career opportunities in the cycling industry.” Students can learn practical skills to prepare them for careers in bicycle maintenance, production, marketing and design.

Catholic University Makes Admissions Tests Optional Joining National Trend

WAMU-FM Washington (9/22, Dejean) reports Catholic University is joining a growing number of colleges and universities that are making the SAT and ACT tests an optional part of admissions.

Report: Education In Middle Appalachia Improving, However Obstacles Persist.

The Education Week (9/22, Mader) “Rural Education” blog discussed a new report by nonprofit CNA Education found improvements in high school graduation rates and ACT scores are among a number of “academic outcomes for students living in “Middle Appalachia” [that] have improved over the past 20 years,” although it conceded “challenges unique to the region remain.”

Opinions Divided About Current Push To Teach More Children Programming

In a Washington Post (9/23, Basulto) opinion piece, Dominic Basulto, a New York City blogger, illustrates how governments across the country and around the world are creating education programs to teach children how to code computers in order to meet the increased demand for people with such skills. New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco have all introduced or will soon introduce programs like this. New York City’s “Computer Science For All” initiative will make computer science education accessible to students in all of the city’s public schools. Australia and the UK are both adding computer science to the elementary school curriculum.
        More Coding In Schools Has Pros And Cons. In aMiami Herald (9/22, Futterman) opinion piece, Laurie Futterman, a science teacher, reviews arguments from proponents and critics of the current push by more schools to teach programming to students. Futterman quotes advocates of such programs who emphasize that programming jobs are in high demand and programming is an easy, exciting way for children to become more interested in other STEM fields. Futterman also quotes critics of the current push who say elementary schools need to focus on teaching children more basic skills like reading and writing. Other critics say that leaders and educators are overestimating how many people will need programming skills in their future jobs by falsely equating the increased use of technology with an increased need to understand how it works.

NPR Interviews Author Of Book On Education Reform In Newark.

Dale Russakoff, the author of “The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools”, was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR (9/21) about education reform. Russakoff’s book tells the story of a plan launched in 2010 to reform the public schools in Newark, New Jersey. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to donate $100 million to the school district if it was matched by donations from others. Zuckerberg worked with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor Cory Booker to improve the city’s schools. The interview discusses what efforts were successful and what can be learned from the story.

New York Conducting Common Core Review.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (9/21) reports that New York education officials are undertaking two “high-profile reviews” of the Common Core Standards, which could lead to a reduction in testing time and possibly a name change. The piece reports that the reviews are being conducted by the governor’s office and by the state Department of Education, and “mark the best chance for substantive tweaks to the more-stringent standards since the state adopted them five years ago.”

Florida Officials Question Tests’ Relation To Standards.

Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week (9/22) “State EdWatch” blog about the dispute over whether the Florida State Assessment matches actual state standards, noting that the state DOE released a study earlier this month intended to “determine whether the Florida State Assessment was, in short, ‘an accurate way to measure students’ knowledge of the Florida Standards,’ as well as whether results could be used as a factor in teacher evaluations and school accountability.” Ujifusa notes that Florida “tweaked” the Common Core Standards last year, renaming them, but largely retaining their content.

South Dakota Students Exceed SBAC Expectations.

The AP (9/21, Lammers) reports that South Dakota education officials released the first round of SBAC test resultson Monday, saying that “students performed better than expected,” though “less than half of them reached levels considered proficient.” The article reports that Secretary of Education Melody Schopp “said the results are in line with other states using the Smarter Balance tests.”

        KELO-TV Sioux Falls, SD (9/22) also covers this story on its website, noting that officials “are pleased even though numbers might look low.” This piece quotes Schopp saying, “The students really exceeded what our predictions were early on,” noting that state projections were based on 2014 SBAC field tests.

Education Technology Company Announces $100,000 Prize For First District To Reach 1 Million Hours.

Education Week (9/21, Molnar) reports education technology company Shindig has announced a prize of $100,000 for the first school district, or other education institution, to reach 1 million hours of online professional development using the company’s platform. Participants are required to register first and will then be able to access the platform for free while competing in the challenge.

LAUSD Video Of Former Tech Skeptic Aims To Inspire Teachers.

The Los Angeles School Report (9/22) reports that 71-year-old California kindergarten teacher Jan Price has gone from being afraid of using computers in her classroom last year to being “a champion of computers in the classroom.” Price is “the star of a video that’s becoming an inspiration for LAUSD teachers — or all teachers — who may be skeptical about using technology in teaching.”

National Program Teaches Girls How To Code, Pursue STEM Careers In New Jersey.

The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group (9/21, Redmond) reports Girls Who Code offered a 300-hour summer program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. The program teaches high school girls how to program computers with the aim of closing the gender gap in STEM careers.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

WPost: School Officials Must Protect Students From Unsafe, Not Offensive, Free Speech.

In an editorial, the Washington Post (9/20, Board) notes that 23 students at a Virginia high school were suspended last week for refusing to remove articles of clothing with the Confederate flag, and says this should “worry every American,” as it involves free speech issues. The Post says although the school argued the Confederate flag ban “stems from racially motivated fighting on campus in the early 2000s,” officials at schools need to “draw a more careful line, recognizing that the goal is not to protect students from all offensive speech, but only to prevent offensive speech from making schools chaotic or unsafe.”

Under Waiver, Most North Dakota Schools No Longer “Failing.”

The Bismarck (ND) Tribune (9/21) reports that last year, most North Dakota schools were labeled “failing” under NCLB, but notes that “most received welcome news late Friday that they met Adequate Yearly Progress” under the terms of the state’s NCLB waiver, which Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said “allowed North Dakota to throw out its students’ standardized test scores in determining whether schools and school districts met AYP.” The article describes this year’s metrics for AYP, and notes that a handful of districts still failed to make AYP. The AP (9/21) also covers this story, following on the Tribune’s report.

Common Core Sparks Controversy In Catholic Education.

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (9/21, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog that the national debate over the Common Core Standards in public schools has overshadowed a concurrent “argument among Catholics over whether the standards are appropriate for Catholic schools.” She writes that there are parallels between the two struggles, noting that some critics “say that Catholic schools that use the Core standards are at risk of losing their Catholic identity.” She continues to explore the views of various Catholic organizations.

State-To-State SBAC Proficiency Comparisons Murky

The San Diego Union-Tribune (9/18) reports that while Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other policymakers had originally touted the Common Core’s “ability to finally compare student performance by state under the nation’s first universal academic standards,” state officials are now backing “away from any immediate comparisons due to differences in everything from student demographics to how students were tested to the exams that were administrated.” The paper notes, nevertheless, that California’s proficiency levels are “among the lowest” of the 10 states that have released SBAC test scores, and says that it remains “unclear” what this means for any of the states.

Study: Percentage Of Black Teachers Declining In Urban Schools.

The Christian Science Monitor (9/19, Lowenberg) reports a recent study by the Albert Shanker Institute found that the percentage of black teachers in nine U.S. cities declined from 2002 to 2012. The article lists several possible factors that could be behind the decline: low pay, increased emphasis on test scores, lack of autonomy, and focus on recruiting instead of retaining teachers.

Research Shows Most US Students Do Not Have Lots Of Homework.

An NPR (9/19, Turner) article compared different studies about how much homework US students have. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that the majority of US students spend less than an hour per day on homework. A report from the Brookings Institution found a large divergence in the amount of homework in high school. Most students continued to have little homework, while a small percentage began to have more than two hours per night. The report concludes that this small cohort of students are those taking a number of honors and Advanced Placement courses. Other research also show a divergence among time spent on homework based on income. Wheelock College Professor Janine Bempechat said, “There’s no question that in affluent communities, children are really over-taxed, over-burdened with homework.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Alabama Introduces New Standards For K-12 Public Schools.

The Washington Post (9/18, Layton) reports that the GOP-controlled board of education in Alabama approved new standards for K-12 schools, which will require students to learn about climate change and evolution. The new standards will also emphasize “learning by doing, as opposed to reading and memorizing.” The Post notes that the new standards were passed with little controversy. This was in part because students are expected to know this curriculum for college and additionally, the standards committee is now a large committee, which includes subject matter experts and university professors.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Texas High School Student Group Files Amicus Brief In School Funding Case.

WBUR-FM Boston (9/17) reports the Houston Independent School District Student Congress filed an amicus brief in a case on school funding that was heard by the Texas Supreme Court earlier this month. The article includes a transcript of an interview with Zaakir Tameez, one of the founders of the student group that filed the brief. Tameez said he went to a good school and he wants to improve the quality of education for all students.

Student Files Lawsuit Against Wyoming School District For Failing To Discipline Student Athlete For Lewd Conduct.

The AP (9/18, Moen) reports a student at Star Valley High School in Wyoming has filed a lawsuit against Lincoln School District claiming that school officials and two coaches failed to timely discipline a student for bullying and harassing other students because he was a star athlete. The lawsuit claims a student athlete on the school’s football and track teams repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments and unwelcome sexual advances include exposing himself to other students, but the coaches refused to discipline him because he was a student athlete.

Virginia Town Divided About Transgender High School Student’s Request To Use Boys’ Restroom.

The AP (9/18, O'Dell) reports the town of Gloucester, Virginia is divided over a transgender student’s request to use the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School. Gavin Grimm has filed a lawsuit against school officials claiming their prohibition against transgender students using the bathroom of the sex they identify as is stigmatizing and discriminatory. Other students and parents are divided about the merits of the policy.

COMMON CORE - September 18, 2015

Delaware Common Core Test Results Show Lingering Achievement Gaps.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (9/17, Albright) reports that the first set of results from Delaware’s Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments show that “students who are minorities, come from low-income families, have disabilities or are learning English all continue to lag their fellow students academically by a wide margin.” Preliminary results had showed overall declines in proficiency, and the new results showed greater aggregated detail. The piece reports that the gaps are similar to past years.
        The AP (9/18) reports that the results show “a continuing achievement gap between black students and other subgroups,” noting that “only 36 percent of black students met the proficiency standards on the English test, compared to 40 percent of Hispanic students, 55 percent of multiracial students, 64 percent of white students and 80 percent of Asian-American students.”

Louisiana DOE To Release Common Core Results In November.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (9/18) reports that education officials in Louisiana will release Common Core test results in November, “there already is controversy bubbling around the scores.” The piece notes that a state BESE advisory panel saw “disputes” over how the results should be used on Thursday.
        The AP (9/18) reports that one point of contention was how the “state will handle school and district scores for students who skipped the exams.”
        Papers Call On Jindal To Drop Lawsuit. The New Orleans Times-Picayune (9/17) editorializes that Jindal is aware that his lawsuit alleging that the Common Core Standards are “a federal program” and “infringe on the state’s power to decide what children are taught” is baseless, accusing him of “tilting at the Common Core windmill” to prop up his presidential bid. The paper blasts his plan to appeal the ruling, calling it a waste of taxpayer money.
        An editorial in the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (9/17) expresses a similar view, saying the state “is doing the right thing” by adhering to the standards, while “doing the political thing, trying desperately to find a judge who will agree that the much-debated Common Core standards are some kind of threat to Louisiana’s children.”

Long Island Teachers, Parents Protest Common Core.

Newsday (NY) (9/18) reports that parents and teachers in over a dozen Long Island towns took part in a “‘Take Back the Classroom’ protest against the Common Core curriculum and associated teacher evaluations” on Thursday. Protesters urged parents to opt children out of tests and called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to roll back “the state’s education reform agenda.”

Ohio Tweaks Ratings To Increase Number Of Students Deemed Proficient.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/18) reports that the Ohio BOE voted Tuesday “to break from the standards set by the 12 states still in PARCC and label students as ‘Proficient’ that fall a little short of PARCC’s performance expectations.” Under the plan, students in the “nearing expectations” range will be classified “proficient.” The piece notes that “a little more than a third of students would be graded as meeting standards” had the state kept the original metric.


Report: Room For Improvement On Teacher Diversity.

The Christian Science Monitor (9/18, Jackson) reports that the Shanker Institute this week “released an in-depth report on teacher diversity, or the lack thereof, in the US.” The report found that while the share of minority teachers has increased over the last 25 years, it has not come close to keeping up with demographic changes. The report found that the problem is not “training or recruitment,” but instead may be “teacher turnover.”

Report: Teacher Diversity Not Keeping Pace With Student Diversity.

The Christian Science Monitor (9/17, Jackson) reports the Shanker Institute released a report showing that the growth in the diversity of teachers has failed to keep pace with the growth in the diversity of students. From 1987 to 2012, minority teachers rose from 12% to 17% of the workforce, far less than the percentage of minority students today. The Shanker Institute report concludes that high teacher turnover is responsible for the large gap. Turnover is especially high in struggling schools with larger numbers of minority students and minority teachers. If minority teachers are more likely to work at schools that are inadequately resourced, then they may be more likely to turnover and leave the field.

House Republicans Advance Teacher Tax Credit Bill.

The Washington Post (9/18, Layton) reports that the House Ways And Means Committee passed a measure on Thursday that would allow teachers “who spend their own money on classroom supplies” to be eligible “for a permanent tax credit of up to $250 annually for unreimbursed expenses.” The credit would be adjusted for inflation, and could “also be applied to the cost of professional development.” A similar provision, though not indexed for inflation, expired in January. The bill passed “without a single Democratic vote.”

Oregon Test Results Give Insights.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (9/18, Manning) lists four lessons from the Oregon Smarter Balanced test results. First, the waiver granted by the ED earlier this year makes the stakes lower for Oregon schools. Second, the new exam presents the same familiar achievement gap with 52.4% of white students scoring proficient on the third grade reading test while only 27.6% of black students and 26.9% of Hispanic students scoring proficient. Third, Oregon’s students math scores declined from elementary school to high school. While 45.6% of students passed the third grade math test, only 30.5% of high school students passed their math test. Fourth, participation rates are falling as more students choose to opt-out.

Education Leaders Want To Push More Hispanic Students Into STEM Fields.

US News & World Report (9/17, Camera) reports education leaders are looking for ways to steer more Hispanic students into STEM fields and eventually STEM careers. Sarita Brown, the president of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit aimed at increasing the number of Hispanic students going to college, said, “The growth of the Latino community is happening simultaneously when the country is talking about a dearth of talent.” The article quotes other leaders speaking about the opportunities for Hispanics to meet the growing demand for high-skilled jobs in the technology sector now and into the future.

Connecticut City Getting First Lego League Robotics Team.

The New Haven (CT) Register (9/17, Ortiz) reports First Lego League, an international robotics program, is starting a team in Branford, Connecticut funded by the Branford Education Foundation. The program teaches students STEM skills by working in groups of 10 to solve problems using robots built from Legos.

MIT President Reaches Out To Ahmed Mohamed.

The CBS Evening News (9/17, story 11, 0:30, Pelley) reported, “In Irving, Texas, this was the last day of Ahmed Mohamed’s suspension for bringing to school a clock he had built.” Ahmed “says he wants to switch schools and eventually go to MIT,” and yesterday, “the president of MIT tweeted that he is delighted.”
        Moniz Tweets In Support Of Ahmed Mohamed. The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (9/17, Gerstein) reported Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz “tweeted his support for Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas 14-year-old arrested by police after he brought a clock he’d constructed to school.” The Dallas Morning News “said Mohamed had a passion for electronics and robotics” and “he built the clock and brought it to school.” When Mohamed’s “English teacher got a look at it, she decided it looked like a bomb.” Moniz wrote in his tweet: “Keep it up, Ahmed. Our #NationalLabs could use your help building gadgets like this one,” with a link to an image of a camera suitable for high-powered telescopes.