Tuesday, February 28, 2012

California Governor Seeks Medi-Cal Cuts, "Leeway" For Schools

The Los Angeles Times (2/25, York, 630K) reports Gov. Jerry Brown "delivered a message to the Obama administration this week in Washington: Back off." Brown "wants the federal government to let him make more cuts in the Medi-Cal program that serves low-income Californians and to exempt state schools from new sanctions that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Brown said he raised the issues in a White House meeting with President Obama and 11 other Democratic governors Friday morning and in a private meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday. Brown told reporters at the White House on Friday that he was asking for 'greater flexibility so that we can cut the Medi-Cal program where we need to and...flexibility on some of the federal restrictions on our education programs.'"

Pennsylvania Retained Healthy Student-To-Teacher Ratios Despite Cuts

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (2/27, Veronikis, 73K) reports that "Pennsylvania cut nearly $900 million in public education funding this year, and schools would lose at least $80 million more under Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2012-13 state budget." The article adds, "Teacher layoffs have stretched from the suburban districts that often rank among the nation's best, such as Cumberland Valley, to the urban districts that had been promised extra money and help from the state." However, despite the cuts, "most central Pennsylvania districts have better student-to-teacher ratios compared with the national average of 15.1 students per teacher."

Federal Report Shows Less Violent School Crime

Education Daily (2/28, Riley) reports that according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "violent crime in the nation's schools has declined between 1992 and 2010." The piece quotes NCES's Tom Snyder saying the report "brings together a variety of sources to present a synopsis of important data about changes in school crime." Education Daily adds that the report's "data is also presented on crime away from school to place school crime in the context of crime in the larger society, Snyder explained, and covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, and student and teacher perceptions of personal safety at school."

Professor Calls For More School Resources To Assist Students With Emotional Challenges

Education Professor Mark Phillips of San Francisco State University writes in a Washington Post (2/28, 553K) guest blog that "we spend so much time arguing about national educational policy issues - assessment, inequity and the achievement gap, for example - that we sometimes forget about lower profile issues that also need attention." Philipp notes that "most schools have more than a handful of kids wrestling with significant emotional problems, and schools at all levels face an ongoing challenge related to school violence and bullying, both physical and emotional." Philipp concludes, "schools need more resources than they receive in order to provide more programs that actively identify and counsel those kids that need help."

Activists Petition MPAA To Downgrade Bullying Documentary's R-Rating

The Huffington Post (2/28) reports that after the Motion Picture Association of America denied "an appeal to downgrade" the R rating of "Bully," "a documentary, which highlights the effects of school bullying," parents, educators and other activists petitioned "the MPAA to overturn its ruling." Due to "strong language," supporters of the film "are upset that a film intended to educate audiences about an important issue will be barred from schools and won't be accessible to those who are most affected by it -- children under 17." The piece adds, "Still, the MPAA defends its decision."

California Student's Death Ruled Homicide

The AP (2/28) reports that "what began as an after-school fight between two young girls over a boy exploded into a homicide investigation Monday, when authorities said a 10-year-old died of a head injury after the confrontation with an 11-year-old classmate." The piece adds, "Police have said the fight lasted less than a minute, did not involve weapons, and no one was knocked to the ground." According to the police, "there was no indication that" the victim was bullied and so far no arrests have been made.


Meanwhile, USA Today (2/28, 1.78M) reports that "Joanna Ramos died of head trauma Friday night after fighting with a fifth-grade classmate at Willard Elementary School in Long Beach, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled today." The article adds, "Police have interviewed the other girl involved in the fight, along with family members and friends of both girls." The piece concludes, "The results of the investigation will be submitted to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, which will decide if charges will be filed."

New York Teacher Information Release Sparks Criticism

Maria Newman writes at the New York Times (2/28, Subscription Publication, 1.23M) "SchoolBook" blog, "Some teachers said they worry that the public release of individual teacher data is going to lead to fights over high-performing students, and to the neglect of those who most need their help. Others said they were angry that their teaching careers were being reduced to a sliver of data." The piece notes that the release Friday of 18,000 New York City teachers' rating information has become a major topic in New York education circles, adding that the "the overwhelming reaction from educators and even parents is that the information is too flawed to really be used by anyone to make judgments about who is a good teacher and who is not."


Authorities Consider Outlawing Future Ranking Releases.The Wall Street Journal (2/28, Fleisher, Gershman, Subscription Publication) reports that New York education are considering making future releases of such data illegal in order to prevent a backlash among teachers that could jeopardize the recent breakthrough on teacher evaluations.

Common Core Standards' Publishers' Criteria For English Criticized

Joanne Yatvin, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, writes as a guest blogger for Education Week (2/28, 37K) that she became "alarmed" after reading "Publishers' Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy" by David Coleman and Susan Pimentel. Yatvin says, "In these instructions to curriculum developers and publishers of classroom materials, I saw not only a misreading of children's capabilities, but also the intent to redefine the purpose of K-12 education and to control its curriculum and methods." Yatvin adds that "most disturbing in these quotes, however, is the authors' demand that any content or skill not specified in the standards be excluded from the school curriculum."

California Parent Trigger Controversy Closely Watched Nationwide

The Los Angeles Times (2/28, Watanabe, Times, 630K) reports that "California's parent trigger efforts have been closely watched nationwide, as more than 20 other states have considered similar legislation." Under the law, "parents at low-performing schools, who represent at least half the students, to force changes in staffing and curriculum, close the campus or convert to a charter school." However, "in a stunning setback" for the first time the law was used, the school board of Adelanto, California, "unanimously rejected" such a petition, "announced that parents of one-fifth of the students had rescinded their signatures, and set the stage for another bruising battle over the controversial law." There are accusations that petition supporters misled parents into signing it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Iowa Districts See Sharp Rise In ELL Expenses

The Des Moines Register (2/8, Dooley) reports that according to data from the Iowa Department of Education, "the cost of teaching non-English-speaking students is rising dramatically in some Iowa schools, with local property taxpayers paying a bigger share of the expense." The data indicates a 40% boost in state funding for ELL instruction, adding that nevertheless, "an increasing number of schools spent more state money than they received, prompting them to seek additional funds from property taxpayers. Eighty-two districts last year needed extra money, up from the 68 that did so five years ago. And the amount they collected nearly doubled during that time." The paper reports that its analysis indicates that there is a disparity in how districts spend such funds.


The AP (2/8) also covers this story, noting that "spending more money hasn't resulted in academic gains in some cases. The percentage of Davenport ELL fourth-graders able to read at grade level fell from 71 percent in 2007 to about 62 percent in 2011. Reading proficiency among Des Moines' ELL fourth-graders increased from 45 percent to 51 percent." Meanwhile, districts with the largest ELL student censuses "kept their expenses within state funding limits and didn't ask taxpayers for additional help."

Los Angeles To Replace Entire Faculty At School Where Alleged Molestation Occurred

The temporary closure and the replacement of the entire faculty at a Los Angeles school in the center of a sexual abuse scandal generated significant national coverage today, mostly focused on the outrageous nature of the alleged crimes and the Los Angeles Unified School District's drastic response. The Los Angeles Times (2/7, Blume) reports that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has told parents at the elementary school rocked by allegations that two if its teachers had sexually abused a number of students "that the district is replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in the wake of the arrests last week of two teachers on lewd conduct charges. The unprecedented move is intended to build confidence among the many families who have lost faith in their neighborhood elementary school. More than a quarter of students did not show up for classes Monday."


The New York Times (2/7, Lovett, Subscription Publication) also reports that the school's "entire faculty" is being replaced, noting that "Deasy announced the school would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and when students returned on Thursday, an entirely new corps of teachers and staff members would have been hired to greet them. All current teachers, administrators and staff members will be moved to a school still under construction for the rest of the school year, where they will be interviewed by school officials and, if necessary, the police. In addition, a psychiatric social worker will be assigned to every class once the school reopens." Deasy stated that his priorities were to assist victims and "restore parents' trust in the school district."