Friday, December 16, 2011

Writers: ED's Civil Rights Efforts Harming Gifted Students

In a Washington Post (12/16) op-ed, Michael J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute criticize President Obama and ED for risking "opportunities for our highest-achieving students," noting, "last year the Education Department's civil rights division announced that it would investigate local school policies that have a 'disparate impact' on poor or minority students - signaling a willingness to go to court if department officials think that school systems have too few of such children in gifted programs or Advanced Placement courses. This bit of social engineering ignores the unseemly reality that advantaged children are statistically more likely to be ready to succeed in tough classes than are low-income children raised in households with fewer books and more television." The writers concede ED's good intentions in seeking to narrow the achievement gap, but lament that its NCLB waiver requirements will do even more to "dilute high-level courses."

CEP: 48% Of Schools Failing Under NCLB Despite Duncan's Higher Estimate

Coverage of the Center on Education Policy report on the number of US schools which failed to make AYP in 2011 mushroomed today, with much of the content-most of which was negative in tone-drawing attention to the disparity between the 48% failure rate found in the study and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's predictions earlier this year that that figure could have been as high as 82%.

Bloomberg News (12/16, Hechinger) reports that the report indicated that "almost half" of US schools "are labeled failing under" NCLB, "compared with the 80 percent estimate President Barack Obama's administration cited as a rationale for changing its mandates." The article notes that Obama and Duncan "cited the 80 percent figure this year in justifying a plan to offer waivers to the law for states that agree to abide by the administration's education agenda, including tying teacher evaluations to student performance." However, "the lower estimate still shows the need for change, said Jack Jennings, the center's president. 'Whether it's 50 percent or 80 percent, the law is too crude a measure of what is considered failing,' Jennings said in a phone interview. 'The law is defective, and Duncan is right to want to change it.'"


Politico (12/16, Lee) adds, "Forty-eight percent of public schools nationwide didn't make adequate progress under the standards – up from the 39 percent in 2010 and the highest failure rate since No Child Left Behind took effect in 2002, the Center on Education Policy report said." 35 states saw a 6-year high in their failure rates, Politico reports, while some 24 states and DC saw over half of their schools fail to make AYP. Meanwhile, "in five states – Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, Massachusetts and South Carolina and D.C. - more than 75 percent of schools failed to achieve an adequate level of annual progress."


In its coverage, the Washington Times (12/16, Wolfgang) reports that schools in DC "ranked near the bottom, with 87 percent failing to clear the bar, the report says. Only Missouri was worse, with 88 percent of its schools falling short. Wisconsin schools performed the best, with 11 percent missing the mark. In Maryland and Virginia, 45 percent and 62 percent, respectively, didn't make adequate yearly progress."

Boston Teacher Residency Participants Outperform Peers After Several Years

Education Week (12/16, Sawchuk) reports that according to a new study, "Math teachers trained through the Boston Teacher Residency program are, on average, initially less effective at raising student scores in that subject than other novice teachers. But within five years, their instruction in that subject improves rapidly enough to surpass the effectiveness of their colleagues." The study showed that the program also drew "a more ethnically diverse group of teachers to the profession than is typical; its candidates were more likely to teach the hard-to-fill subjects of math and science, and they were also much more likely than other new teachers to stay in the classroom for at least five years." The piece notes that the NEA has called such residency programs "promising models" for teacher training.

Bush Pushing "Quiet," Bipartisan Education Reform Efforts

In a piece for Time (12/16), Andrew J. Rotherham writes that "George W. Bush is writing a sequel to his big education act," noting that he is "quietly pushing new education-reform initiatives aimed at improving and empowering school principals, who too often lack the training or authority to effectively run their schools. And once again, he's approaching this massive education problem by blurring political lines." He writes that a recent New York City meeting of "advisers he had assembled to guide the George W. Bush Institute's education work" was mostly made up of Democrats, adding that Bush "has already recruited officials from his administration as well as liberal stalwarts like Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust and Democratic education leaders like former North Carolina Governor James Hunt."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lower Child Count Trend Became Obvious In 2011

In another year-in-review article, Education Daily (12/15, Sherman) reports that when Congress reauthorized IDEA in 2004, one of its priorities was to reduce "the number of children unnecessarily classified as students with disabilities," and it therefore "said districts could use RTI as a way of identifying children with learning disabilities. At its core, RTI suggests that schools should improve the quality of their instruction before making any assumptions about a child's abilities. Likewise, Congress said districts could spend up to 15 percent of their IDEA funds on Coordinated Early Intervening Services." Education Daily credits these actions with five straight years of declining numbers of IDEA Part B students.

Virginia District Defends Cutting Classroom Time Due To Budget Constraints

The Washington Post (12/15, Brown) reports that the school district in Fairfax County, Virginia, cut extra classroom time last year to balance its budget, noting that "some schools had tacked hours onto the day, and others added weeks to the year - methods used nationwide to lift student achievement. After the extra time disappeared, scores on state tests slipped at several of the schools." However the district's Graham Road Elementary maintained its high scores despite having "one of the highest poverty rates in Northern Virginia," a statistic which district officials say proves "that extra time was a popular but now unaffordable luxury."

Los Angeles Superintendent Sues State To Preserve Busing Funding

Coverage continues today of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy's having announced plans to take legal action to prevent state budget cuts which would end an integration-related busing program. Education Week (12/15, Jones) reports that Deasy is "acting on behalf of 38,000 magnet and special-education students," and filed suit Wednesday "challenging the state's trigger cuts that would wipe out the $38 million busing program for the rest of the school year." The school board approved the action "as Gov. Jerry Brown was announcing that a shortfall in new revenue would trigger massive cuts in public education statewide." The complaint argues "that the loss of the home-to-school transportation money will mean the end of voluntary busing to scores of magnet schools that are the backbone of its court-ordered desegregation program."

Study: Policy Changes Often Based On Misinterpretation Of Student Test Scores

The Huffington Post (12/15, Resmovits) reports that according to a new report from statistical research group Mathematica, test scores are "regularly misinterpreted" by policymakers implementing changes in education policy. The analysis indicates that "the comparisons sometimes used to judge school performance are more indicative of demographic change than actual learning. For example: Last week's release of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores led to much finger-pointing about what's working and what isn't in education reform. But according to Mathematica, policy assessments based on raw test data is extremely misleading -- especially because year-to-year comparisons measure different groups of students."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DC Special Education Transportation Call Centers Draw Scrutiny

The Washington Examiner (12/14, Gartner) reports that the Washington, DC, public school system's special education call center "handles 330 calls a day -- about one for every 11 students who the city buses to school because their neighborhood school can't provide the special-education services the student requires. Depending on whom you ask, the call center is a place where inspirational messages are passed out and volunteers take care of parents' concerns. Or it's a place where annoyed employees tell you the bus broke down, but don't know where the bus is." The piece notes that at a recent DC council hearing on special-education transportation, officials discussed the center.

NEA Endorses PAR, Performance Assessments

Education Daily (12/14, Njuguna) reports that the NEA has announced "its support for peer assistance and review, higher standards for new teachers entering the profession, and expanded teacher leadership roles. 'We must take responsibility for our own profession; we know what has to get done,' NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said announcing action the union is taking to carry out recommendations from an independent, 21-member NEA Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching." The piece notes that "Van Roekel acknowledged in his speech that NEA has in the past been 'schizophrenic' about whether PAR is a good idea, but now recognizes there are examples where the evaluation model has worked."

Report Finds 33% Spike In Homelessness Among Children

ABC World News (12/13, story 10, 2:00, Sawyer, 8.2M) reported, "A new study showing a 33% increase in the number of homeless children in just four years."


USA Today (12/13, Bello) adds that according to the report, released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, "one in 45 children in the USA - 1.6 million children - were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year," representing "a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children." Noting that the study analyzed four years of ED data, USA Today adds that it "finds the worst states for homeless children are Southern states where poverty is high, including Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, and states decimated by foreclosures and job losses, such as Arizona, California and Nevada."

ELL Groups Criticize New Mexico's NCLB Waiver Application

Lesli Maxwell writes at the Education Week (12/14) "Learning the Language" blog about the implications for ELL students to be gleaned from the applications that have been sent in by 11 states for NCLB waivers, noting that many of them "would move away from focusing on English learners as a stand-alone subgroup, (along with the other traditional subgroups) by folding them into a 'super' subgroup, or lowest performing 25 percent, for example." She notes that despite its heavy ELL population, New Mexico's application had "only a few references" to this group, noting that an "observer suggests it's connected to the state's outreach efforts as it crafted the waiver application, which really irked groups that advocate for ELLs-so much so that several of them sent a letter to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging him to reject the state's proposal because it did not meet the department's requirement for engaging in meaningful consultation with stakeholder groups."

Tech Startup Seeks To Use Teacher Input To Develop Classroom Technology

The Boston Business Journal (12/14, Alspach, Subscription Publication) reports in its "Startups" blog that though teachers are "the users of classroom products," other officials "actually choose which products to buy, such as textbooks and technology. It's a dysfunctional market, according to ClassroomWindow -- a brand-new web startup in Needham that wants to upend the market with a Yelp-style, crowdsourced approach." The piece notes that the site will include user reviews, along with "publicly-available research and student test scores to enable the best possible buying decisions in schools." The piece notes that a "special assistant for innovation at the US Department of Education" has signed on to participate in the program's beta.

Teacher Group Makes Recommendations On Longer Chicago School Day

The Chicago Tribune (12/14, Ahmed-Ullah) reports that teacher advocacy group the VIVA Project has released a set of recommendations with "49 suggestions on how time can be used more efficiently to Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard on Monday. On Tuesday, they planned to present their recommendations to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis." Noting that Brizard is calling for a 90-minute extension to Chicago's school day, the Tribune adds that the report's suggestions "include everything from requiring students to attend school on lesser-known holidays like Lincoln's Birthday and Pulaski Day to a staggered schedule that would allow for two shifts for teachers so students needing remedial help could ultimately be in school longer, until 5 p.m."

Report: Increased Classroom Time No Guarantee Of Academic Success

The Washington Times (12/14, Wolfgang, 77K) reports that according to a new study released by the National School Boards Association, increased classroom time does not guarantee higher test scores, and "many nations that outpace the US on standardized reading and math assessments keep their children in school for much less time." The Times reports that he study refutes "a popular theme in education debates, one espoused by federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan. 'Right now, children in India ... they're going to school 30, 35 days more than our students,' he said at an education forum in September, explaining one reason he thinks the American education system is falling behind those of global competitors. ... While Mr. Duncan is technically correct that Indian students have a longer school year when measured in days, they spend fewer hours in class than almost all their American counterparts."

Despite Budget Cuts, New York City Arts Education Spending Rises

The New York Times (12/14, Santos, Subscription Publication) reports that according to a new report from the New York City Department of Education, arts education spending rose 2% over the last year "despite the many challenges posed by several consecutive years of budget cuts to city schools." The report states that there "were more arts teachers on schools' payrolls last year, as well as more students taking part in school-based arts programs. According to the report, based on surveys of school administrators citywide, all of the city's elementary schools offered at least one arts discipline, most commonly visual arts classes, taught by classroom teachers, arts teachers or instructors from cultural organizations."

California Forced To Cut Education, Healthcare Due To Budget Shortfall

The CBS Evening News (12/13, story 5, 2:10, Tracy, 6.1M) reported that today at the Los Angeles Public Schools headquarters, about "200 students protested the latest budget cuts." However, Governor Jerry Brown urged the cuts, saying "we don't want to dig ourselves into a hole that becomes virtually impossible to climb out of."


According to the New York Times (12/14, A20, Medina, Subscription Publication, 1.23M) California's projected budget, passed in June, relied "on optimistic projections," and on Tuesday the Brown said California was "$2.2 billion short" of the predicted $88.5 billion in state revenue, meaning budget cuts were needed, "primarily to state colleges and universities as well as to healthcare." There would be $248 million less in "public school transportation" funds, and cuts would likely "increase fees" at colleges.


The Los Angeles Times (12/14) reports that Brown's cuts "slashed spending on higher education in California and eliminating funding for free school bus service but avoiding deeper cuts that many had feared. The long-anticipated cuts are due to California's tax revenue falling below the optimistic targets that Brown and legislative Democrats used when they approved the state budget in June. 'This is not the way we'd like to run California, but we have to live within our means,' Brown said at a midday press conference." The Times notes that Brown "tried to emphasize the positive. School funding was poised to be sliced by $1.5 billion," but "a burst of new tax revenue led Brown's Department of Finance to raise its projections for California's cash flow."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Classic Christmas Carols – an ELD Resource from Kenneth Beare

Classic Christmas Carols

By Kenneth Beare, Guide

It's the holiday season and that means it's time to sing Christmas Carols (songs)! The links below lead to some of the most popular Christmas Carols in English. Each carol has the first verse and the difficult words defined at the end of the song so that you or your classes can understand each song. There is also a link at the end of each page to a printable sheet so that you can print the Carol out for use at home and in class.

Jingle Bells
Silent Night
Joy to the World
The First Noel

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
What Child is This?
We Three Kings
Auld Lang Syne
Away in a Manger
Deck The Hall
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
O Christmas Tree
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Lullay Thou Little Tiny Child

Another Christmas tradition is the reading of by Clement C. Moore. Follow the links below to followed by a reading comprehension based on this Christmas classic.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
Reading Comprehension based on 'Twas the Night Before Christmas



Kentucky Superintendent Balks At Evolution Content In State Biology Test

The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader (12/13, Warren) reports that Hart County, Kentucky, Superintendent Ricky D. Line "is arguing that a new test that Kentucky high school students will take for the first time next spring will treat evolution as fact, not theory, and will require schools to teach that way," noting that he has complained to Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Kentucky Board of Education members, calling on them to "reconsider the 'Blueprint' for Kentucky's new end-of-course test in biology." The piece relates Line's objections "that the Blueprint essentially would 'require students to believe that humans ... evolved from primates such as apes and ... were not created by God.'"

National Park Service Program Expanding STEM Instruction

Education Week (12/13, Fleming) reports profiles "NatureBridge, a residential environmental field-science program in partnership with the National Park Service," noting that some 200 6th graders have recently started attending the program, which over 40 years "has served close to 1 million children from all over the country at four national parks on the West Coast: Yosemite, Olympic, Golden Gate, and the Santa Monica Mountains. This coming spring, the program will expand to the East Coast, with the help of a $4 million grant from Google Inc., to set up camp in the Prince William National Park, about 40 minutes outside the nation's capital." The group's efforts, Education Week notes, come "alongside a national push to improve the quality of STEM-or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-instruction, in light of US students' lackluster test performance compared with many of their international peers'." The piece continues to describe pending collaboration between ED and Interior on STEM and the Green Ribbon Schools program.

Georgia To Start Requiring Ninth Graders To Choose A Career Path

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (12/12, Badertscher) reported, "Following a national trend, Georgia is about to start requiring its ninth graders to pick a career path and follow a class schedule that's at least partially tailored to it." The Journal-Constitution reported, "Public school students will pick a potential job to pursue in one of 17 broad career categories, known as career pathway clusters." State School Superintendent John Barge "and key lawmakers say the state has to make this move, if students are to have hope of getting the jobs of the future -- nearly half of which are forecast to go to people with an associate degree or occupational certificate."

Analysis: Online Charter Schools Making Large Profits, Educational Value In Doubt

In a 5,000-word front-page article, the New York Times (12/13, A1, Saul, Subscription Publication, 1.23M) reports that though Agora Cyber Charter School is failing "by almost every educational measure," it is, financially speaking, "a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers." The Times describes the curriculum offered by cyberschools, suggesting that the "pencil and paper" work done by students belies the industry's high-tech image, and continues to focus on the business model on which the sector is based, reporting that its analysis of K12 "raises serious questions about whether K12 schools - and full-time online schools in general - benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed." The article characterizes the industry as focused on profit instead of learning.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Columnist: Vouchers Would Allow DC To Sharply Cut Special Needs Transportation Costs

In a column in the Washington Times (12/12), Deborah Simmons writes that the DC council is opening "the door to the spiraling costs of providing transportation for 3,500 special-education students, whose busing system currently costs taxpayers about $26,285 per student, per year." Simmons concedes that "the laws of humanity dictate that no expense be spared to educate children with special needs," but suggests that giving "vouchers to parents with special-needs children" could help to sharply reduce transportation costs for special-needs students.

Former Rutgers Student Rejects Plea Deal

USA Today (12/9, Stanglin) reports that Dharun Ravi, the "former Rutgers student charged with using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate has rejected an offer for probation in exchange for admitting to bias and invasion of privacy," noting that Ravi "told a court in New Brunswick today that he would rather go to trial than accept the charges of bias. His 18-year-old roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September only days after he found out that a webcam, operating remotely, had broadcast his intimate encounter with a man in his room."

Michigan Turnaround District Chief Reaches Out To Local Educators

The Detroit Free Press (12/10, Higgins) reports that John Covington, chancellor of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority, "assured local superintendents and educators Friday that he's not out to take over their schools but to work hand-in-hand with them to help improve achievement. 'I do want to work with you as equal partners so we can change the system, so it can serve as a model for the rest of Michigan and the rest of the country,'" Covington said in Waterford on Friday at "the first of what will be a series of forums across the state this month and next to seek input from the public about the EAA, its mission and how it should operate to improve student achievement."

Los Angeles Teachers Contract Would Stymie Charter Programs

The Los Angeles Times (12/12, Blume) reports describes the innovative curriculum at five Los Angeles schools which "coexist at the Sotomayor Learning Academies, which opened this fall under a Los Angeles school district policy called Public School Choice. The 2009 initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, has allowed groups from inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to compete for the right to run dozens of new or low-performing schools." The piece notes that under a tentative teachers contract with the district, "the district would no longer hand over campuses to outside nonprofits, including charter schools. That would be a step backward, said former school board member Yolie Flores, who wrote the Public School Choice policy two years ago."

New Jersey State TV Network Gives Teachers Access To Educational Programming

The Courier News (NJ) (12/12, Schiavi) reports that New Jersey's state public TV station, NJTV, "has recently launched VITAL New Jersey, a free resource that allows teachers around the state to tap into PBS' vast library of resources to complement their curriculum. VITAL, which stands for Video In Teaching And Learning, is the result of a collaboration between NJTV and PBS LearningMedia, and is designed to offer teachers instant access to thousands of classroom-ready, digital resources including interactive, video and audio programs, as well as in-depth lesson plans."

Writers Stress Link Between Poverty, Low Academic Performance

In an op-ed in the New York Times (12/12, Subscription Publication), Helen F. Ladd, professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, and education author Edward B. Fiske lambaste policymakers for failing to acknowledge that "students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school" and for incorrectly arguing that "since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control." The authors cite "abundant" research linking poverty with low educational achievement, asking, "Can anyone credibly believe that the mediocre overall performance of American students on international tests is unrelated to the fact that one-fifth of American children live in poverty? Yet federal education policy seems blind to all this." The writers argue that policymakers who believe that "schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty" or that low expectations for poor students "will be self-fulfilling" are in denial, and call for a focus on offering better "social support" to underprivileged students.

Friday, December 9, 2011

NEA Releases Teacher Effectiveness Guidelines

Liana Heitin writes at the Education Week (12/9) "Teaching Now" blog, "A National Education Association commission issued a report today with specific recommendations for upping pre-service requirements, establishing career paths for teachers, and developing new evaluation systems. The commission, assembled last summer by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, was charged with examining options and making recommendations about how to help the union promote effective teaching practices." Heitin notes that Van Roekel "promised that his union would begin a number of new initiatives based on the commission's findings-though how much sway the pronouncement will have on state and local affiliates has yet to be determined."

Ousted Philadelphia Superintendent Applies For Unemployment Despite $900,000 Severance

The AP (12/9) reports that Arlene Ackerman, the "ousted" former Philadelphia superintendent, "says she's only taking what's rightfully hers by applying for unemployment benefits after receiving a $900,000 contract buyout." Ackerman said she "received about $400,000 after taxes and lawyer fees as part of the severance package settled on in August. The former superintendent is eligible for the state maximum of $573 a week, based on her former salary of about $350,000."

Surveys: Teachers Say Testing Narrows Curriculum

Education Week (12/9, Robelen) reports that according to a "new set of surveys" commissioned by "Washington-based research and advocacy group" Common Core, "most teachers believe that in the era of high-stakes testing in math and English/language arts, other important subjects are getting pushed out of the classroom. At the same time, nearly half of those polled believe the extra focus on math and English is helping to boost students' 'skills and knowledge' in one or both subjects."

States Moving Away From High School Exit Exams

Catherine Gewertz writes at the Education Week (12/9) "Curriculum Matters" blog that according to a new study from the Center on Education Policy, "fewer students are being required to pass exit exams to graduate from high school, but high school testing is increasing because more states are requiring college- and career-readiness tests," noting that the study's "findings are echoed in states' applications for waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, as well." Gewertz cites such states as "Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, which used to require exit exams, but now incorporate the scores from those tests into students' grades in a course they must take to graduate. The downward trend in required exit exams, though, is being offset by a rise in other kinds of tests."

Ethics Law Bars Alabama Teachers From Accepting Gifts

The AP (12/8) reports on a new ethics law in Alabama under which a teacher "who accepts a Christmas ham or a $25 gift card from a student" could face "up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine. ... The law, which took effect earlier this year and is considered one of the toughest in the country, limits what public officials and employees can receive as gifts to a 'de minimis' value, but it doesn't define that amount. With most schools about to get out for the holidays, the State Ethics Commission has been flooded with calls about what students can give." The state Ethics Commission announced on Wednesday that "'hams, turkeys or gift cards with a specific monetary value are not permissible.' Items of nominal value, such as homemade cookies, coffee mugs and fruit baskets, are acceptable."

Report: Wide Disparity In State Science Standards

Education Week (12/8, Robelen) reports that according to a report from business coalition Change the Equation and the American Institutes of Research, "a student in New Hampshire or Rhode Island is likely to have a much tougher time achieving academic 'proficiency' in science than another in Virginia or Tennessee" because "states around the nation set the bar for science proficiency at widely varying levels. ... Billed as the first-ever national analysis of how states define proficiency on science assessments, the report finds that states have established 'radically different targets' for what their 8th graders should know and be able to do in science." The article notes that many states' "proficient" scores are equivalent to NAEP's "basic" designation.

Nevada District Struggles To Provide Services To Homeless Students

The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal (12/8, Martinez) reports that some 1,800 students in Washoe County, Nevada, are considered homeless by the local district, adding that local administrators are struggling with rising numbers of "Children in Transition," who are "homeless - living in shelters, motels, cars, parks or doubled-up with family or friends because of economic hardship. With nearly one in two students in Washoe County's schools coming from low-income families, a steadily emerging subpopulation of the district's more than 62,000 students is homeless, having reached a high of more than 1,900 in the 2007-08 school year." The piece describes the efforts of the district to keep homeless children in school.

Report: Poor Students Less Likely To Seek Academic Help

The Huffington Post (12/8) reports that though observers have long noted "disparities in success among students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds," a new report from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania "suggests that while home and institution are factors, inequalities in education also reflect differences in the resources that children can identify and secure for themselves in the classroom." The study concluded that "children from middle class families ask their teachers for help more often and more assertively than children from working class families. As a result, middle class students tend to receive more support and assistance from their teachers."

Urban Students Outpacing Nation On NAEP Math Scores

The latest release of data from the NAEP has generated massive coverage today, mostly focused on gains made by urban students on the math portion of the test, or on the results in given cities or states. Most coverage touted the gains, while other reports focused on lingering gaps between urban students and their peers. Several national articles single out Atlanta, which was embroiled in a recent cheating scandal. The Christian Science Monitor (12/8, Paulson) reports, "Students in America's largest cities are making gains in math, in many cases faster than students in the nation as a whole." However, all students reading scores have remained stagnant. Meanwhile, "in some cities – including Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston – students have made particularly striking gains over the past eight years, while in other cities progress has lagged." Wednesday's report "provided detailed scores for students in 21 large cities – a voluntary subset that participates in NAEP's Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA)."

The Education Week (12/8, Robelen) adds, "In math, four out of 18 big-city districts posted statistically significant 4th grade gains from 2009 to 2011, while six out of 18 made progress at 8th grade." Moreover, "Atlanta was the only district to make math gains at both grade levels since 2009. In reading, meanwhile, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district was the only participant to see reading gains of statistical significance since 2009, and those were only at the 8th grade level." The article suggests that viewed within the historical context, the results are "hopeful" because most TUDA districts "since the early 2000s have made gains in both subjects."

The AP (12/8, Turner) reports that "Federal officials said there was no evidence that the [Atlanta] cheating had carried over to the" NAEP, "and that Atlanta fourth- and eighth-graders have made substantial gains since 2002." Meanwhile, "Federal officials warned against comparing the urban districts that participated in the national test because they vary widely in student makeup, teacher experience and culture. Still, the urban districts' results mirror results released in a national report last month -- students made progress in math but their reading scores have mostly remained stagnant in the last two years."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Many Teachers Moonlighting To Supplement Income

The Tulsa (OK) World (12/6, Archer) profiles a local teacher who in December "takes on a fourth job to supplement her primary income," noting the she is "an example of the rising number of public school teachers across the country taking extra jobs to make ends meet. Although that isn't unusual for anyone in this economy, researchers say significantly greater numbers of teachers do so. US public school teachers in 2010 earned 12 percent less weekly than those in other professions with comparable experience and education, according to a recent report from the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute."

Chicago Educators Look To Promote STEM Education To Hispanic Boys

The Chicago Tribune (12/6, Cullotta) reports that Manuel Adrianzen, principal of Chicago's Nobel Elementary School, says that it is harder to interest Hispanic boys in STEM courses than it is with Hispanic girls, noting that "For Chicago-area educators such as Adrianzen, empowering Latino boys and girls to enroll in and excel in math and science classes is important to combating relatively high absenteeism and dropout rates, low college enrollment rates and disproportionately low numbers of minorities working in STEM careers. For Gerard Kovach, teaching at Chicago's Salazar Bilingual Center - a prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade school where roughly 80 percent of the students are categorized as ELL, or English language learners - demands a vibrant, hands-on math and science curriculum, not rote learning intended to prepare students for standardized tests."

Friday, December 2, 2011

NEA Economist Warns Of Lean Education Funding

In the "Digital Education" blog of Education Week (12/1), Ian Quillen writes that Richard Sims, the chief economist for the National Education Association, "warned not to expect any significant increase in education funding until at least 2017, based on real estate tax revenues that are likely to decrease significantly as they follow the housing downturn on a three-year delay, policymakers that favor taxation policies with revenues lagging economic growth, and the loss of federal stimulus dollars." He added that "with property taxes remaining the biggest funding agent for education, their expected precipitous drop in revenues could mean even more lean times for school budgets."

School Lunch Rules To Be "Less Ambitious" Following Congressional Action

Education Week (12/1, Shah) reports, "This month, Congress added clauses to the agriculture appropriations bill that keep the USDA from limiting how many servings of starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, students are allowed each week," as well as "allow a small amount of tomato paste on a slice of pizza to be considered a serving of vegetables, cut back on some of the limits the USDA wanted to place on the sodium content of school meals, and require the agency to define what items are considered whole grains." USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said that the final rules for breakfast and lunch "will be less ambitious because Congress bowed to food companies and specific industries instead of listening to experts on health and nutrition."


The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (12/1, Williams) reports, "The new nutrition regulations were based on a 2009 report by the Institute of Medicine and were backed by a number of medical and health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Dietetic Association."

Wisconsin Schools Experimenting With iPads

The Sauk Prairie (WI) Eagle (12/1, Tucker) reports the iPad "a regular classroom tool for some students in the" Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin, School District. Patti Kaderavek, technology coordinator for the district, said, "I'm not trying to sell Apple's stuff, but they're really good. And they're so intuitive that kids 2 or 3 years of age can use them." Most of the district's 20 iPads are "being used in the special education department or with special-needs students." Still, "Superintendent Craig Bender said right now the use of iPads in the school district is an experiment."

Waldorf School "Rejecting Technology."

NBC Nightly News (12/6, story 11, 2:20, Williams) reported, "As high technology becomes more and more a part of most school experiences in this country we have a school that is rejecting technology completely." NBC (Ellis) added that at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in California, "learning is hands on-blackboards, chalk, paint. Even shovels but no computers." Ellis continued, "The Waldorf method is almost 100 years old. Nationwide there are 30,000 students at 160 schools. ... In the upper grades Waldorf students do use computers, but sparingly." Ellis noted, "And education experts say despite decades of computer use in schools, the benefits are hard to compute."

Experts Concerned Social Sciences Being Left Behind

Education Week (12/1, Sparks) reports, "As the majority of states implement common-core content standards, some experts are arguing that that the focus on mathematics and language arts leaves out the social and economic studies that can help students connect content to their daily lives." They believe "that the expansion of testing in math and reading under the No Child Left Behind Act has led to a piecemeal approach to social and behavioral science subjects." Meanwhile National Assessment of Educational Progress reports "found mostly mediocre performance for students in geography, civics, and history."

Schools Teaching Good Digital Citizenship

USA Today (12/1, Toppo) reports, "Schools across the USA are adding coursework focused on privacy, cyberbullying and electronic plagiarism," seeking to teach "students to be better 'digital citizens.'" Besides "incorporating Internet safety into lesson plans," schools are "shifting their focus from the pervasive 'stranger danger' message typically given to young computer users" to the challenge of "teaching kids that what they say and do online can have immediate, profound consequences - and that an offhand cruelty or indiscretion can last forever."

Education Department: Districts Short-Changing Poorer Schools

According to the New York Times (12/1, A29, Dillon, Subscription Publication), a Department of Education report found that "tens of thousands of schools serving low-income students are being shortchanged because districts spend fewer state and local dollars on teacher salaries in those schools than on salaries in schools serving higher-income students." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Low-income students need extra support and resources to succeed, but in far too many places, policies for assigning teachers and allocating resources are perpetuating the problem rather than solving it." According to the Times, a "loophole" in the part of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act requiring districts to show they spend at least as much of their money on poor schools getting federal money as on more affluent schools "allowed school systems to report educator salaries to Washington using a districtwide pay schedule, thus masking large salary gaps between the higher-paid veteran staffs in middle-class schools and the young teachers earning entry-level pay in poor parts of the district."


The Washington Times (12/1, Wolfgang) reports, "More than 40 percent of low-income schools don't get their 'fair share,' the report says, despite federal requirements that districts spend "comparable" amounts of money at poorer schools eligible for Title 1 funding." Duncan said, "Children who need more are getting less." However, he "conceded that districts are technically in compliance with federal law as it is currently written" and that "only action by Congress...can close the loophole."

In the "Answer Sheet" blog of the Washington Post (12/1) Valerie Strauss writes that the report's "findings won't surprise anybody who follows equity issues in public education funding, as high-poverty schools have long had fewer resources than wealthier ones." The report also found that "providing low-income schools with comparable spending would cost as little as 1 to 4 percent of the average district's total school-level spending."


The "Politics K-12" blog of Education Week (12/1, Klein) reports, "Duncan singled out a few districts he thinks are doing a good job making sure high-poverty schools aren't shortchanged," and he "highlighted" part of a Senate bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act addressing the issue. However, "some folks worry that closing the comparabilty loophole could lead to forced teacher transfer" or "needless bureacratic maneuvering as districts try to balance the books"

In the "Next" blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education (12/1), Jeff Selingo notes, "College presidents have been getting older over the past two decades," and questions if "this generation of college presidents, who in some ways contributed to the myriad problems facing colleges today-especially on cost, are in the best position to lead innovation in the future." Reuters (12/1), the "Sentienl School Zone" blog of the Orlando Sentinel (12/1, Roth), and the "K-12 Zone" blog of the Houston Chronicle (12/1, Mellon) also cover this story.

"Draconian" Cuts To Hit Federal Education Programs

Education Week (12/2, Klein) reports, "Education advocates and local school officials are nervously eyeing a series of draconian cuts set to hit just about every federal program in 2013-including Title I, special education, and other key K-12 priorities-in the wake of a special congressional committee's failure to come up with long-term recommendations for how to cut the federal deficit." The Department of Education "could see an across-the-board cut of 7.8 percent," meaning a $3.5 billion dip from the fiscal 2011 discretionary budget. The National Education Association estimates this "would result in the loss of more than 24,000 jobs in elementary and secondary education." Mary Kusler, the manager of federal advocacy for the union, said the "dramatic cuts...will be felt by every student and every school district." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that reducing the US debt needs to be done "in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time."

Florida Governor's Policies Challenged During Meeting With Teachers

The Orlando Sentinel (12/2, Postal) reports Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with Osceola County teachers, who "shared their professional frustrations...challenging some of his policies and urging him to promote Florida's public schools." They said "teachers feel unfairly criticized, judged and micro-managed." Scott "said he is a strong supporter of education" but "made it clearly he believes firmly that public education needs to change," saying that "the public views the public-education system as one unwilling to police itself."

Group Gets Grant For Cultural Immersion Camps For New Alaska Teachers

The AP (12/2, D'Oro) reports that many teachers hired to work in remote Alaska Native villages quit after a year or two, possibly because for many the state, their career, and the tribal cultures are new to them. The Rose Urban Rural Exchange program seeks to change that by pairing "rural Alaska schools with big-city counterparts," and it earned a $1.92 million grant from the US Department of Education "to launch cultural immersion camps for incoming rural teachers." This "represents a missing piece of the exchange program by introducing new educators to a way of life quite foreign to their own experiences" and "prepare teachers for communities that might have a historical distrust of outsiders dating back to early boarding schools where western education was imposed and indigenous culture was discouraged."

Report Offers Suggestions To Help Math Teachers Cope With Common Standards

In the "Curriculum Matters" blog of Education Week (12/2), Erik Robelen writes that a report by three experts in math education contains "some recommendations to help ensure that teachers get the right training and assistance to bring the common standards to life in the classroom." The suggestions include engaging teachers "in a 'focused and integrated way," offering "'vivid images of teaching and learning' consistent with the standards," and providing "a 'continuous and coherent set of experiences' over an extended period of time."