Friday, March 30, 2012

Duncan, Genachowski Discuss Digitizing Textbooks With Tech Executives

Brendan Sasso writes in The Hill (3/30) "Hillicon Valley" blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski "led a discussion on Thursday with technology executives and education groups about how to replace textbooks with tablet computers in schools. The United States spends about $7 billion per year on textbooks, but many students are still using books that are seven to ten years out of date, according to the FCC." The piece notes that Genachowski focused on the strides that other nations are making in switching to textbooks on tablet computers, and the savings per student that such a transition could bring.


Katie Ash writes at the Education Week (3/30) "Digital Education" blog that Duncan, Genachowski, and "the newly formed LEAD Commission...met today with textbook publishers and technology providers in Washington to discuss the future of digital textbooks in K-12 classrooms." Duncan "appealed to the crowd of technology company CEOs and senior executives, urging them to consider how they can contribute to lowering the dropout rate and improving education throughout the country. 'Things are tough, so we're going to keep limping along, or we're going to change the game. And I think you guys collectively have the ability, potentially, to change the game,' he said. Duncan expressed interest in fostering dialogue with the ed-tech execs to determine what role government can play in removing barriers for innovation."

California District Board Shoots Down Parent Trigger Effort

The Los Angeles Times (3/30, Watanabe) reports that the Mojave Desert, California, School Board "late Wednesday denied a petition by parents to overhaul their children's failing school, dealing a major blow to forces aiming to win the first reform under the state's pioneering parent trigger law. Adelanto school board members unanimously rejected the petition to turn Desert Trails Elementary into a charter campus, finding that it failed to win the support of parents representing at least half of the school's 642 students, as the law requires." However, "Petition supporters, who allege that opponents doctored documents to sink their campaign, said they would challenge the board decision in court."


In a subsequent article, the Los Angeles Times (3/30, Watanabe) reports that a day after the board rejected the parent trigger bid, "the embattled campus finally appeared calm even as supporters vowed to continue the fight. David Mobley, principal at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, said Thursday that the school was free from weeks of conflict between supporters and opponents of the petition to hand over management to a charter operator under the state's landmark parent trigger law. ... But petition supporters reiterated their outrage and said they would challenge the school board action in court."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

NEA's Van Roekel Blasts "Corruptive Influence" Of NCLB-Based Testing

In a piece for the Huffington Post (3/29), National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel laments "the corruptive influence high-stakes tests have had on our students, teachers and schools," pointing to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's report last weekend about its analysis of testing irregularities in districts across the country. Van Roekel stresses that educators must not condone cheating regardless of cause, but adds that "we should never miss an opportunity to underscore the possible consequences when real learning and effective teaching are sacrificed at the altar of high test scores. ... For the last 10 years we have shortchanged countless children because of NCLB's overemphasis on standardized multiple choice tests." He concludes by calling for a lessened role for standardized testing and a greater focus on broader classroom teaching.

Advocates Accuse California District Of Failing To Identify Special Needs Students

The Contra Costa (CA) Times (3/29, Hagen) reports that advocates for special needs students say that San Gorgonio High School in San Bernardino, California, "is failing many students without giving them legally required early intervention and testing." School board member Gil Navarro said "I have families that have called me for help, and I end up advocating for their students that have multiple Fs and there's no documented intervention that would be specific as far as getting those Fs corrected."

New York Organization Holds Workshops To Keep Math Teachers Energized

Writing at the New York Times (3/29, Subscription Publication) "SchoolBook" blog, Yasmeen Khan profiles Gil Kessler, a "self-described math enthusiast" who "taught math in New York City schools for 30 years." Now retired, Kessler "conducts math workshops for fellow teachers as part of the New York Math Circle, a non-profit organization that holds courses for both teachers and students. ... Kessler led a four-session course this month for about 10 teachers who decided that, once a week, they would like to unwind at the end of their workdays by learning new geometry proofs and theorem applications."

Research Points To Teachers As Potential Asset For Positive School Change

Diette Courrege writes at the Education Week (3/29) "Rural Education" blog that a new study published in the Journal of Staff Development indicates that teachers are "an untapped, powerful asset that can spur school-based changes." Courrege writes that researchers "studied a two-year partnership between faculty from a state university and three rural schools. ... The study didn't identify the schools or university involved, but it said the partnership was created to help facilitate professional learning communities in mathematics. Its major finding-teachers are powerful yet overlooked assets-has applicability to all types of schools, and it can be an especially important truth for rural schools facing diminishing resources."

Seattle Schools Using Grant To Develop K-12 Arts Curriculum

The Seattle Times (3/29, Rosenthal) reports on the deleterious impact that budget cuts have had on arts instruction in Seattle, Washington, noting that "students' access to the arts varies widely - and often depends on parent fundraising. ... Seattle Public Schools officials recently received a $1 million grant from The Wallace Foundation to confront that reality. The money comes with a January 2013 deadline for the district to develop a districtwide arts curriculum - essentially, minimum requirements for visual arts, music, dance and theater - as well as strategies to enlist support from principals and community partners." The piece notes however, that the effort faces funding and logistical challenges.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More States Enacting Third Grade Retention Policies

Education Week (3/28, Robelen) reports that Oklahoma and a number of other states have "recently adopted new reading policies that-with limited exceptions-call for 3rd graders to be held back if they flunk a state standardized test." The piece notes that these changes appear to be modeled on one made in Florida under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, adding, "Supporters say that retention is intended as a last resort, and that a key goal of the policies is to place a greater focus-and apply some extra pressure-to make sure schools intervene early with struggling readers. ... But critics say that it's misguided to base a promotion decision on a standardized-test score, and that holding a child back may do more harm than good."

California Anti-Crime Group Releases Report Supporting Early Education Funding

The Pasadena (CA) Star-News (3/28, Cruz) reports that Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California has released a report titled "Pay Now or Pay Much More Later" which "says protecting early education funding in the state could be a long-term solution to keeping children in school, reducing crime and saving money. The news comes as California grapples with difficult budget choices and may propose significant cuts to its preschool and transitional kindergarten programs, which serve 3- and 4-year-old children across the state." The report "cites studies in Chicago and Michigan, as well as data from similar programs in other states, showing that 'high quality programs provide solid evidence that preschool education is an effective way to get kids on the right path and avoid costly problems later.'"

More Schools Using iPads In Classroom

McClatchy (3/28, Tate) reports that Jamestown Elementary in Arlington, Virginia, is "on the leading edge of what many educators describe as the classroom edition of the digital revolution." Noting that students at the school are using iPads in the classroom, the article notes that "while this revolution is far from complete amid concerns about its cost and effectiveness, schools and textbook publishers say it's opened up a new chapter in education, changing the way students interact with teachers and with one another."

Writers: Research Points To Importance Of Early Math Skills

In commentary for Education Week (3/28), Deborah Stipek of the school of education at Stanford University; Alan Schoenfeld of the University of California at Berkeley, and Deanna Gomby, vice president for education at the Heising-Simons Foundation, write that despite concerns about literacy rates in the early grades, early math skills are better predictors of later academic success than are literacy skills. The writers cite research which found "that in a comparison of math, literacy, and social-emotional skills at kindergarten entry, 'early math concepts, such as knowledge of numbers and ordinality, were the most powerful predictors of later learning.' A large-scale Canadian study from 2010 echoes those findings: Math skills at school entry predicted math skills and even reading skills in 3rd and 2nd grade, respectively, better than reading skills at school entry."

Teachers Group Urges Parents To Opt Children Out Of Standardized Testing

The Miami Herald (3/28, McGrory) profiles Ceresta Smith, a teacher in Florida's Miami-Dade school district who "had a litany of concerns about high-stakes testing," and therefore allowed her teenage daughter to "opt out" of Florida's FCAT standardized test. "Smith is part of a coalition of teachers urging parents across the country to opt their children out of standardized tests. The group – which says parents have a right to say no to standardized tests - has supporters in all 50 states, Smith said, and has caught the attention of education bloggers and think tanks. State education officials, however, say state law requires all children to participate in the testing program."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paper Praises California Governor's Plan As Way To End Chronic Layoffs

An editorial in the Marin Independent Journal (3/26) laments the policy of many school districts in California to issue teachers pink slips every year, because they "are required to adopt preliminary budgets for the coming school year months before knowing for sure how much money they can count on from the state. With the state's annual budget crisis and political gridlock holding the adoption of a state budget hostage, local school budgets are often based on a best guess. ... This year, much depends on passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's sales tax plan" which is dedicated to "stabilizing" education funding.

Nebraska Educators Discuss Rural Education With ED Teacher Ambassador

The Kearney (NE) Hub (3/26, Giboney) reports that Bruce Wellman, an ED Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow and teacher at Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, Kansas, "met Friday with six Amherst [Nebraska] teachers to discuss the rural teaching experience." Wellman "meets with teachers to gather information that will be used to transform federal education policy as part of the RESPECT Project. ... Wellman's goal at Amherst was to listen to the concerns and ideas of rural teachers."

District Ordered To Replace Internet Filter That Blocks Gay Sites

The New York Times (3/27, Winerip, Subscription Publication) reports that under the 2000 Children's Internet Protection Act, schools must use Internet filters to block inappropriate content. However, some of these filtering programs discriminate against gay rights websites. "'These filters are a new version of book-banning or pulling books off the shelf,' said Pat Scales of the American Library Association." Meanwhile, "over the last year, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked officials from hundreds of school districts around the country to make changes in their Internet screening systems to eliminate bias, said Anthony Rothert, a civil liberties lawyer based in St. Louis." However, the district in Camdenton, Missouri, refused to do so, and the ACLU sued it last year. The Times notes that a Federal judge has ruled that the district must replace the screening system with one that does not discriminate against pro-gay websites.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Report: California Districts' Teacher Layoff Process Needs Overhaul

The Los Angeles Times (3/23, Ceasar) reports that according to a report from a state legislative analyst, "California school districts issue more pink slips than necessary and the state should consider alternatives to seniority-based layoffs." The report "said that because state and local budget information is available only after the initial deadline for districts to send out layoff notices, more pink slips are issued. ... The report suggests that the initial deadline be pushed back to June 1, aligning the process more with the state budget cycle."


The Orange County (CA) Register (3/23, Martindale) reports that the report says that "too many teachers in California receive preliminary layoff notices each spring as school districts plan for worst-case budget-cutting scenarios, a time-intensive process that carries a hefty $706 price tag per notified educator." According to the report, some 75% of laid-off teachers don't end up losing their jobs, "but between March and June, districts spend an estimated $706 per teacher to prepare paperwork, formally notify the educator and hold appeals hearings. With more than 20,000 pink-slips issued to California educators last year, that translated to a cost of about $14 million statewide, the report concluded."


The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun (3/23, Mitchell) reports that the Legislative Analyst's Office report suggested that "layoffs should be done later in the year and not solely based on seniority," and that the "hearing and appeals process is unnecessarily costly and inefficient. ... Current law requires teachers to be notified by March 15 if their job may be unavailable next year. This leads to more initial layoff notices being sent than is necessary, because important state and local budget information is not available that early, the report found."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pennsylvania Middle School Student Sues District Over Drug Testing

The AP (3/22) reports that the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania, middle school student "over a drug testing policy that's required if she wants to participate in choir and other activities." The ACLU says "the policy violates privacy rights under the state constitution and want a county judge to prevent the Solanco School District from enforcing it. The lawsuit says the Peach Bottom sixth-grader at Swift Middle School was removed from the orchestra and chorus, and can't participate in athletic or academic teams, because she won't consent to having her urine screened on a random basis by school officials."

Survey Shows Low Teacher Morale

The Huffington Post (3/22, Resmovits) reports on the recent MetLife survey of US teachers showing that "job satisfaction within the profession is at its lowest since the Reagan years," noting that students "face a new economic reality that requires a new set of skills," but "might have disaffected teachers carrying them there." The Post reports that teachers attribute their declining morale to "intense scrutiny from parents, school boards, the media and politicians to increase test scores -- and justify their very positions -- but have, at the same time, been asked to do much more with way less. The recession eroded education funding, taking with it school counselors, teacher aides and the feeling of job security that used to come along with the pencils and books in entering the profession."

Study Ties Teacher Turnover To School Morale.

Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (3/22) "Teacher Beat" blog that according to a new study presented at a Center for Longitudinal Data in Education Research conference, "when teachers leave schools, overall morale appears to suffer enough that student achievement declines-both for those taught by the departed teachers and by students whose teachers stayed put. ... The impact of teacher turnover is one of the teacher-quality topics that's been hard for researchers to get their arms around. ... But a couple years back, two researchers did an analysis that showed, counter-intuitively, it's actually the less- effective teachers, rather than the more- effective ones, who tend to leave schools with a high concentration of low-achieving, minority students," raising the question of whether such turnover could be good for schools. The new research refutes this assertion, Sawchuk writes.

Colorado Elementary Schools Implementing Mandatory Physical Activity Law

The Denver Post (3/22, Robles) reports on the efforts of educators in Colorado elementary schools to comply with a new state law mandating at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day for students. The article describes such activities as yoga, jump ropes, and "themed recess" programs, and quotes teachers describing the benefits of having students energized by brief breaks for activity.

Louisiana District Pilot Explores "Bring Your Own Device" Strategy

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (3/22, Boquet) reports, "Students at St. John the Baptist Parish's two high schools will become part of a pilot program next year that will allow them to bring their own technology devices to school to aid in learning. The Bring Your Own Device pilot is one of several strategies outlined in the district's technology plan for 2012-14, which also includes goals for increased teacher training, use of virtual schools and videoconferencing." The piece quotes district coordinator of educational technology Bonnie Dinvaut saying that the program was conceived because budget cuts prevented the district from placing technology in every classroom.

Teachers, Children's Authors Seek Balanced Approach To Teaching Of Titanic

The AP (3/22, Italie) reports that the story of the sinking of the Titanic-with its "mystery, high technology and heroes"-is compelling for many children. "But there's also death, lots of it, and that has some parents, teachers and writers of children's books balancing potentially scary details with more palatable, inspirational fare focused on survivors, animals on board or the mechanics of shipbuilding."

Poor New Jersey Preschool Students Receiving Less Funding

The NJ Spotlight (3/22, Mooney) reports that private pre-K education centers in New Jersey, which are "the primary caregivers of New Jersey's public preschool program in its poorest cities," are seeing inequities in funding levels. The piece reports that "this so-called 'mixed delivery' system is facing some strains, as some of the state's funding has shifted and left the programs worried if they can provide the services once envisioned. The roots of the concern date back a few years, to the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine, when the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) rewrote the rules for what levels of income would qualify families for programs before and after school and for summer programs that are an inherent part of the centers."

Study-Chronic Early Education Absenteeism Predicts Future Low Performance

Julie Rasicot writes at the Education Week (3/22) "Early Years" blog that according to a new study from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, "prekindergartners and kindergartners who are chronically absent are more likely than regularly attending students to continue to miss school in later grades and to be held back by grade 3." Rasicot details the study's methodology, adding that researchers "found that one-half of early learners who were chronically absent in pre-K and kindergarten continued to miss as much school the following year. More than a quarter of those chronically absent children were retained by grade 3." However, "Head Start students maintained better attendance records when compared with similar kids."

USA Today Supports Student Performance-Based Teacher Evaluations

An editorial in USA Today (3/22) praises the current teacher evaluation movement, calling the former practice of not using student standardized tests to gauge teacher performance "an absurd omission," and criticizing teacher unions for resisting their use. Despite "rare" cases in which "test critics have been right," USA Today writes, "teachers must be accountable for their performance, just like people in other lines of work, and test scores are essential to that effort." The piece praises the influence of "the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition, which made revamping teacher evaluations a requirement to win millions of federal education dollars," and describes the use of value-added data assessment "the right way" to use test data in evaluating teachers.


Education Expert: Systems Preclude Important Instruction.In accompanying op-ed in USA Today (3/22), Kevin G. Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center, argues that supporters of using student test scores in teacher evaluations are doing more harm than good, adding the media's attention to recent test cheating scandals in such large school districts as Atlanta and Washington, DC, ignores the "real scandals... ingrained in these test-based systems." Welner writes that such programs "sell our children short" because "teachers whose job security suddenly depends on the inappropriate application of a statistical model that almost all assessment experts warn cannot validly measure teachers' performance" prevents teachers from focusing on important concepts that "aren't included on the crucial test."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Federal Judge Orders Texas District To Apologize In School Prayer Case

USA Today (3/21, Stanglin) reports that US District Judge Fred Biery "has ordered officials at a San Antonio-area school district to apologize for making disparaging comments to an agnostic family that sued the district over school prayer," noting that Biery "issued what he called a 'non-Kumbaya' order Monday to James Stansberry, superintendent of the Medina Valley Independent School District, and high school band director Keith Riley." The paper describes the terms of the settlement in the case, noting that though these included that district officials not "disparage the plaintiffs," Stansberry "called the case a 'witch hunt,'" and Riley "is accused of posting a Facebook comment saying 'don't get me started on the lies and false accusations' of the former student whose family filed the lawsuit." The San Antonio (TX) Express News (3/21, Contreras) also covers this story.

Survey Finds Teachers Have Little Confidence In Standardized Tests

Education Week (3/21, Rebora) reports that according to a new survey published by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, "most teachers do not believe standardized tests have significant value as measures of student performance," noting that "only 28 percent of educators see state-required standardized tests as an essential or very important gauge of student achievement. In addition, only 26 percent of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know. One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey's findings-that is, only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them."

Maryland Considers Requiring Employers To Give Parents Time Off For Conferences

Michele Molnar writes at the Education Week (3/21) "K-12 Parents and the Public" blog that the Maryland legislature is considering a bill to require "business owners to allow employees up to four hours of unpaid leave twice each semester to attend parent-teacher meetings about their children. Employers could require their employees to bring written proof of having attended the meetings. And employees would be required to provide at least three days' notice of their need to attend a parent-teacher meeting."

Los Angeles Times Criticizes California Parent Trigger Law

The Los Angeles Times (3/21) editorializes that the effort to invoke California's parent trigger law in the Adelanto School District has "ended disappointingly for the pro-reform forces," in a similar scenario to the first case of parents' attempting to use the law in Compton. "Although they submitted the signatures of 70% of the parents at Desert Trails Elementary School - the law requires 50% - to force a switch to a charter school, enough parents later rescinded their signatures that the petition came up 16 names short." The Times points to "troubling evidence" of fraud on the part of anti-trigger forces in the district, adding, "all this trouble with delays and rescinded signatures could have been avoided if the parent trigger weren't the result of a rushed, badly written law and poorly crafted regulations."

Exit Exams May Bar Many Oklahoma Students From Graduation

The Tulsa (OK) World (3/21, Archer) reports that hundreds of high school seniors in Oklahoma are "in limbo over whether they will graduate from high school this spring with the rest of their classmates" because despite having passed their classes, they have yet to pass the state's exit exams in four out of seven required courses. "The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face the state graduation requirement passed by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence - or ACE - legislation." The paper quotes a transition interventionist at an Oklahoma high school saying that while the law was intended to hold schools accountable, it is adversely impacting students.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Successful Small Kansas District Foregoes Popular Education Reforms

The Hechinger Report (3/9, Butrymowicz) profiles the school district in the "tiny farming community" of Waconda, Kansas, which has a population of 469. The article characterizes the district's students as unusually successful, both in school and after, adding, "The methods behind the educational success of this community, which encompasses four blink-and-you'll-miss-'em towns stretched out on the flat plains of north-central Kansas, provide a stark contrast to popular education reforms playing out across the United States. Waconda does not link student test-scores to teacher evaluations or offer merit pay to its teachers; it has no plans to distribute iPads to students. Waconda's approach is rooted in the basics, with a community that champions education, coupled with faculty dedication and a relentless focus on early intervention and prevention."

Report Points To Modest Rise In US High School Graduation Rate

A number of media outlets cover the release today of the America's Promise Alliance report showing rising high school graduation rates, mainly presenting the news as positive. The CBS Evening News (3/19, story 7, 0:30, Pelley, 6.1M) reported, "A national effort to get kids to stay in school is beginning to pay off. A report today by the America's Promise Alliance says that over a decade the high school graduation rate in the United States has increased 3.5%." Nevertheless, CBS added, roughly a quarter of US students fail to graduate on time.


The Christian Science Monitor (3/20, Paulson, 48K) reports that the group's annual Building a Grad Nation report shows that "the graduation rate rose by 3.5 percent between 2002 and 2009," though "10 states had lower graduation rates in 2009 than in 2002." The Monitor reports that the report shows that schools are "slowly making progress," but "shows that progress varies significantly by state: Twelve states accounted for the majority of gains between 2002 and 2009, while 10 states had lower graduation rates in 2009 than in 2002." Tennessee and New York made the highest gains, the Monitor reports, but Nevada stands out for its graduation rate having fallen by 15.6%. The Monitor concludes by quoting Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, "This year's report proves struggling schools are not destined to fail. The reality is that even one dropout factory is too many."


CNN (3/20, Holland) reports that the report points to a decrease in the "number of 'dropout factory' high schools in the United States," suggesting that the number of "high schools that graduate 60% or less of the number of freshmen" in four years "dropped from 1,634 to 1,550, continuing a trend that has accelerated in recent years, the report says." CNN notes that the Grad Nation initiative has the stated goal of increasing the nation's high school graduation rate from 75% to 90% by 2020. "Only the state of Wisconsin currently reaches that benchmark, although Vermont is less than half a percentage point away, the report says."

Panel: National Security Threatened By Low-Performing US Schools

The AP (3/20, Hefling) reports that according to a report from a Council on Foreign Relations task force led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, "the nation's security and economic prosperity are at risk if America's schools don't improve." The panel's report "cautions that far too many schools fail to adequately prepare students." The report suggests that "critical shortfalls in the number of foreign language speakers" in the State Department and the intelligence agencies could threaten national security, and a dearth of skilled technical workers in the defense and aerospace sectors "is expected to worsen as baby boomers retire." Meanwhile, the report states that "75 percent of young adults don't qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records or inadequate levels of education."

Noting that the report is scheduled for release on Tuesday, the Huffington Post (3/20, Resmovits) compares the report with the 1983 "A Nation at Risk" report which "warned of 'a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.'" The current report, the Post reports, indicates that the "story hasn't changed." The Post adds, "The report, called the US Education Reform and National Security report, argues for treating education as a national-security issue, noting that deficiencies in areas like foreign languages hold back America's capacity to produce soldiers, diplomats and spies. It calls for increased standards, accountability and school choice -- charter schools and vouchers -- to increase America's international educational standing." The Post notes parenthetically that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is among the education experts to have met with the panel in the past year.


Bloomberg News (3/20, Hechinger) reports that the report says that "a crisis in the US public education system poses 'a very grave national security threat,'" and that "subpar public schools threaten recruiting for the State Department, intelligence agencies and the armed forces." According to Klein, Bloomberg News reports, "the policy prescriptions, which have already sparked controversy within the task force, are timed partly to spur discussion in the Presidential election. ... The group's broad recommendations -- including tougher curriculum standards adopted across states and accountability through testing -- resemble the agenda of President Barack Obama's administration."


Monday, March 19, 2012

California District Renovation "Frenzy" Supported by Voter-Approved Bonds

The San Jose Mercury News (3/19, 535K) reports, "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may be winding down, but there's another economic stimulus taking place in and around San Mateo, where two school districts are spending hundreds of millions of dollars overhauling their facilities." The Mercury News adds, "The San Mateo Union High School District and San Mateo-Foster City elementary district are engaged in a building and renovation frenzy fueled by voter-approved bonds." District officials cited noted that "the bonds were needed not because of state budget cuts but because of aging facilities, many of which were built more than 50 years ago."

Online Education Firms Facing Increasing Scrutiny

Ian Quillen writes at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook (3/19) that private virtual school firms are coming under increasing scrutiny from education researchers and policymakers. "Recent studies suggesting declining achievement among full-time public virtual school students don't always distinguish between publicly and privately run schools. Still, the private sector and its two biggest for-profit providers-K12 Inc. and Connections Education-appear to be taking most of the heat." The piece notes that researchers "have warned that virtual public schools run by independent for-profit and nonprofit organizations are growing faster than states can hope to regulate them."

Indiana Reforming Principal Qualification System

The Indianapolis Star (3/19, Butrymowicz, Elliott) reports, "Indiana is poised to dramatically overhaul the way it determines whether educators are qualified to become principals," noting that next year, the state "will abandon its mostly multiple-choice test to receive the administrator license required to become a principal or vice principal. Instead, the new test will feature 'real practical, applicable scenarios -- case-study kinds of things -- that actually show that you know what you're talking about,' said Marg Mast, director of educator effectiveness and leadership in Indiana's state department of education." The piece reports that other states are considering similar changes.

Funding Cuts Could Limit Poor Students' Access To AP, IB Exams

The New York Times (3/17, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports that in approving Federal budget legislation last December, Congress eliminated "financing for programs that offer advanced high school courses to slightly under $27 million, from $43 million the previous year," noting that only $20 million will go toward subsidizing low-income students' AP exam fees. "So, in recent weeks, state education officials have been notifying high schools that low-income students, who have for decades been eligible for fee waivers, will have to pay $15 for each of the first three exams they take, and $53 per exam for any beyond that." Moreover, "the cuts hit even harder for students in the International Baccalaureate program, which also offers college-level work."

Utah Governor Vetoes Sex Education Bill

A number of media outlets report that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has vetoed a "controversial" sex education measure which he had been expected to sign. The Deseret (UT) Morning News (3/19, Wood) reports that Herbert vetoed the "controversial sex education bill" last Friday, "turning back the legislative effort to eliminate classroom discussion tied to contraceptives, intercourse and homosexuality. 'Existing law respects the ability of Utah parents to choose if and how their student will receive classroom instruction on these topics,' Herbert said in a prepared statement. 'I am unwilling to conclude that the State knows better than Utah's parents as to what is best for their children.'" The piece notes that an "overwhelming" majority in the GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill, but that this margin was not sufficient to override Herbert's veto.


The AP (3/19) reports that the measure "would have required only abstinence education be taught in schools," and that Herbert "said the bill went too far in depriving parents the right to choose how their children learn about sexual activity. Herbert said public school instruction should supplement, not replace, lessons taught in the home." The bill's sponsor, the AP reports, "said the law was important to protect the innocence of students." Meanwhile, "Utah Democrats applauded Herbert's decision but criticized him for" not publicizing it more. Reuters (3/19) also covers this story, noting that the measure would have been unprecedented in the nation.

Survey: Teachers Support Evaluations Based On Student Growth

The Christian Science Monitor (3/19, Paulson) reports that despite the common perception that "it's teachers versus reformers on most key issues," a new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation based on teacher surveys "paints a very different picture of teachers and their views," noting that it "offers a nuanced look at how they feel about their profession, testing, controversial reforms, and what needs to change. Far from wanting fewer evaluations of their teaching, for instance, they want more. Teachers want more formalized self-evaluations, more evaluations by principals and district leaders, and more assessments of their knowledge in the subjects they teach." Moreover, respondents support using student growth as a factor, but stop short of the notion of using standardized tests to assess that growth. Roughly 90% of respondents also say that ineffective teachers should not be protected by tenure.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Van Roekel Addresses Teacher Morale Survey

Jillian Blacksmith-Reed writes about the recent release of the MetLife survey of the American Teacher indicating that teacher morale is at a "low point" at 360 Education Solutions News (3/16). "With the highest level of dissatisfaction since 1989, teachers cited issues like budget cuts, layoffs, teacher evaluations, student achievement and standardized tests as being some of the reasons for their reservations," Blacksmith-Reed writes. "National Education Association President, Dennis Van Roekel, while expressed some shock toward these results, explained that education budget cuts contribute largely to this dissatisfaction. 'More than three quarters of the teachers surveyed reported that their school's budget had decreased. For most, budget cuts were significant,'" Van Roekel said.

ED Modifying IDEA Monitoring To Focus On Student Achievement

Education Week (3/16, Shah) reports that ED officials say that they plan to change the department's policies regarding monitoring state compliance with IDEA to take "into account what or how much students with disabilities are actually learning. ... 'For too long, we've been a compliance-driven bureaucracy when it comes to educating students with disabilities,' US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement this month. 'We have to expect the very best from our students-and tell the truth about student performance-so that we can give all students the supports and services they need.'" Annual visits to states will be suspended during the next year as ED officials craft a new "results-driven" monitoring system.

Shorter-Term Programs May Benefit ELLs, Study Says

Education Daily (3/16, Wolfe) reports that according to a Texas study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, "ELL students who transition from English as a Second Language or bilingual education programs to English-only classes within three years may perform better academically than ELLs who stay in ESL or bilingual programs for five years or more. ... 'The weaker academic performance evidenced by long-term ELLs raises important questions on how to address their literacy and linguistic needs,' said Michael Fix, the senior vice president of MPI. 'However, with much still unknown about the reasons why students remain in ELL status for many years, it would not be prudent to conclude that language acquisition instruction should be time-limited.'" The piece describes how shifting demographics will continue to make the issue an important one, and describes the Obama Administration's efforts to promote a state-generated common ELL policy.

Rotherham: Teaching Profession Can Learn From Marine Corps

In a piece for Time (3/16), Andrew J. Rotherham writes about lessons that the teaching profession can learn from the US Marine Corps, noting that while young Marines are "trusted to make extraordinary split-second decisions in an environment more dangerous and confusing than most of us can imagine," education policymakers "still haven't figured out how to give our teaching force...autonomy and accountability in a far less dynamic workplace." Rotherham lists five lessons that education professionals can learn from "the leathernecks." These include coupling extensive training with autonomy, teaching character, and taking "pride in what you do." "Thoughtful criticism is vital," he writes, "but in teacher-training programs, you're as likely to encounter a professor trashing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as you are one celebrating the richness of the field. Likewise, the teachers' unions spend as much time complaining as they do talking up the importance of improving student outcomes."

White Paper: Teacher Evaluators Require Formal Training

Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (3/16) "Teacher Beat" blog that a new paper from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching Project, "formal training of the principals and other observers conducting teacher evaluations is a complex, necessary, and often overlooked component of the systems. ... Such training, including the certification and testing of observers, will help to ensure that judgments of teacher practice are valid and reliable for the purpose of professional development and other decisions, they assert. The paper was written by Catherine McClellan, the research and development project director on the teacher observation component of the Gates project, in which observers scored some 23,000 lessons in 3,000 teachers' classrooms; Charlotte Danielson, a well-known consultant on teacher evaluation, and Mark Atkinson, the founder of professional-development provider Teachscape, which provided funding for the paper."

Survey: Teacher Confidence In Student-Based Merit Pay At All-Time Low

USA Today (3/16, Toppo) reports that according to a newly-released survey from educational publisher Scholastic, "despite years of rhetoric from lawmakers and education reformers about the importance of tying teacher pay to student test scores, fewer teachers now think the move will keep good teachers in the classroom." The survey found that only 16% of respondents "believe linking student performance and teacher pay is 'absolutely essential' or 'very important' in retaining good teachers. That's down from 28% in 2010. In all, only 52% of teachers say it'll make any difference at all, down from 65% two years ago, the first year the survey was done."

Baltimore Schools Pay $65 Million For Unused PTO Over Five Years

The Baltimore Sun (3/15, Green) reports, "The Baltimore school system has paid its employees about $65 million for unused leave over the past five years, a rare perk that many employers have abandoned and that has come under fire as school districts have experienced shrinking budgets." This includes "about $22 million on annual cash-outs of unused sick leave accrued by current employees" and some "$43 million in accrued vacation, sick and personal leave when they have resigned or retired." The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently "told a Chicago newspaper that 'people should take a hard look at whether or not that policy makes sense ... in these tight budget times,' after it was discovered that he had received a $50,000 payout for unused vacation when he left the superintendent's job in Chicago."

Staff Injuries Are Flashpoint In Restraint, Seclusion Debate

Education Daily (3/15, Sherman) reports on the interest that teachers and staff have in the restraint and seclusion issue, noting that a new report from the American Association of School Administrators suggests that this interest tends to be overlooked as observers focus on the plight of students subjected to such practices. The report "quoted Tammie Morin, director of special services for the Middleton (Idaho) School District, who responded to an AASA survey. 'How would you feel if a student in a classroom became violent and the school staff could do nothing but evacuate the room?' she wrote. '[And] how do you explain to a teacher who physically placed himself/herself between the behavioral student and that of the others (which is what we would expect our teachers to do), that it is expected that they might be physically injured on the job?'"

California Legislature Blocks Governor's Move To Defund Transitional Kindergarten

The San Mateo (CA) Daily Journal (3/15, Murtagh) reports that the plan to implement California's new transitional kindergarten grade is "still in limbo after the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance rejected the governor's plan to cut funding Tuesday." The piece notes that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had called for defunding the program in his budget proposal, but an "Assembly subcommittee opposed the proposed cut calling the idea misguided." The piece quotes Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) stating that the program is already set for implementation, and that cutting funding would amount to "pulling the rug out from under these efforts that have already been happening at school sites."

State Cuts Likely To Bring Layoffs, Furloughs To California District

The Ventura County (CA) Star (3/15) reports that California's Ventura Unified School District could see up to $8 million in state funding cuts, "on top of about $20 million in cuts in the past three years," noting that in order to offset these cuts, "six more children would have to be added to kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. ... Also, district officials this week would give layoff notices to 75 teachers and counselors, some of whom have worked in the district for more than eight years."

Tennessee Schools Use Gardens To Teach Math, Science

The Tennessean (3/15, Giordano) profiles a school vegetable garden program at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin, Tennessee, noting that UPS and the American Heart Association "supported the effort with elbow grease and funding to promote healthy eating habits and an understanding of where food comes from. Teachers love the project because of all the curriculum ties, particularly science and math." The piece notes that other schools in the area have similar programs.

Utah Program Works To Engage Fathers

The AP (3/15, Van Valkenburg) profiles the DOGS, or "Dads of Great Students," program at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden, Utah, in which volunteers "read with children, help them with math, assist in the gym and lunchroom, and sometimes just walk the halls of the 460-student school. ... 'It started in Arkansas, after a school shooting,' said Lisa Stephens, the PTA representative who brought the Watch D.O.G.S. program to the school. ... More than 1,150 schools in 36 states participate, and more than 70,000 dads volunteer."


Over 100 Cities Participating In Early Literacy Campaign

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (3/15) "Early Years" blog, "more than 100 cities, towns, and counties have pledged to improve literacy among their youngest citizens as part of a national campaign called the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading." She notes that participating communities "had to submit detailed plans for how they will get children on track to be grade-level readers by the end of the 3rd grade, the crucial point at which students shift from learning to read to reading to learn. The national campaign is a project of several funders and is being headed up by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which invests heavily in efforts to improve early childhood and strengthen families."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Plan To Defund Transition Kindergarten Founders In Legislature

The Los Angeles Times (3/14, Megerian) reports that a subcommittee in the California legislature has voted down Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) "elimination of transitional kindergarten, an extra year of school for children too young or unprepared for regular kindergarten. Citing research on the importance of early childhood education, advocates of transitional kindergarten have said the program will pay dividends because students will be better prepared down the line. ... Since Brown unveiled his spending plan in early January, members of his own party have repeatedly voted against some of his more controversial proposals."

More Teachers Protest California Funding Cuts

The San Jose Mercury News (3/14, Kurhi) reports that a "coalition of teachers and education leaders gathered Tuesday" in Union City, California, "to urge people to take up the matter with the source of the problem in Sacramento. 'We must be clear -- this is a state-funded school system, and it's a constitutional duty to fund it,' said Jill Wynns, president of the California School Boards Association. While Wynns said some districts have sued the state before and will continue to do so 'until they do it right,' other speakers voiced differing ideas for action during the meeting at Emanuele Elementary School in Union City, where teachers received pink slips Monday."

Chicago Teacher In Classroom Since 1935

Noting that "half of all new teachers leave their job after five years," NBC Nightly News (3/13, story 11, 2:20, Williams) profiles Chicago's Olivia Neubauer, who "turned 100 years old" this week, and "may be the nation's oldest teacher, still in the classroom and loving every minute. ... Mrs. Neubauer, as everyone calls her, found her calling 80 years ago." The piece briefly describes Neubauer's career, noting that "fifty years ago, Neubauer founded Ashburn Lutheran School in Chicago and has taught kindergarten and reading ever since."

Study: Stigmatizing Failure Can Hamper Educational Achievement

The Huffington Post (3/14, Resmovits) reports that a French study published in the Journal of Psychology: General "shows how telling students that failure is a natural element of learning -- instead of pressuring them to succeed -- may increase their academic performance. ... The study's findings, publicized by the American Psychological Association, come amid mounting cries against high-stakes standardized tests in the US." The piece notes that critics question the value of standardized testing, particularly as regards teacher evaluations. The study's authors, the Post reports, say that high-stakes testing triggers a "lack of confidence that makes it harder to assess aptitude."

More Districts Using Social Media In Classroom.

The Chicago Tribune (3/14, Manchir) reports on the growing trend of schools using "social media and other technologies to supplement lessons, even for very young students." The piece profiles students who use Twitter to write about classroom lessons, "contribute to a classroom blog, make videos for a private YouTube account intended for parents, and write books using computer software." The piece reports that teachers "who use child-friendly blogging programs and social media are finding the tools are becoming integral parts of their classrooms."

Kentucky Anti-Bullying Bill Dies In Committee

The Louisville Courier-Journal (3/14, Wynn) reports that the Kentucky House Education Committee killed a bill "expand anti-bullying laws by linking harassment to sexual orientation, race and other characteristics" on Tuesday along party lines. "The measure called for a prohibition on bullying and harassment in schools, including acts motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities and other distinguishing characteristics. Critics argued that the state's existing anti-bulling law, passed in 2008, provides sufficient safeguards."


The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader (3/14, Brammer) reports that the committee rejected the measure despite "hearing emotional pleas from the parents and friends of teens who committed suicide in recent months." The measure "fell two votes short of having the majority needed to clear the committee," while "some said the proposal had more to do with gay rights than bullying." The AP (3/14, Patrick) also covers this story, noting that lawmakers cited fears that the measure "would give 'special rights' to gay students." WDRB-TV Louisville, KY (3/14, Chinn) also covers this story on its website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cesar Chavez Resources

by Larry Ferlazzo

Cesar Chavez Day is recognized as a holiday by eight states in the U.S., and falls on March 31st — his birthday (or a Monday/Friday that is closest to a weekend).

I've just updated The Best Sites For Learning About Cesar Chavez.

EL Exercise

He gave her my book, but she said it was hers.

The sentence in the title contains four similar elements: he / she / it - subject pronouns her - object pronoun my - possessive adjective hers - possessive pronoun These pronoun charts... Read more

More on the Survey

MetLife Survey Shows Decline In Teacher Morale.

The Washington Times (3/13, Wolfgang) reports runs an article on last week's release of the MetLife teacher survey, noting that it indicates that an "increasing number of teachers don't like their jobs and are considering a new line of work." The piece notes that the survey "found that only 44 percent of American public school teachers are 'very satisfied' with their jobs, down 15 percentage points from 2009 and the lowest figure in more than 20 years." Moreover, "Teachers' job satisfaction is at its lowest level since 1989, and the decline has accelerated since President Obama took office in 2009." The Times quotes NEA President Dennis Van Roekel lamenting policymakers' decisions, and saying "Important programs have been cut. Early childhood education has been eliminated. Computers and textbooks were out of date, and classes such as history, art, [physical education] and music - which provide a well-rounded education - are no longer offered."


Writer Admonishes Obama, Duncan To Address Teacher Morale.John Wilson writes about the survey at the Education Week (3/13) "Unleashed" blog, noting that it shows the lowest level of teacher morale "in two decades. Who among us can blame teachers for feeling this way? They have been the target of blame, shame, and disdain by the media, politicians, and so-called education reformers." Wilson defends teachers' integrity, dedication, and value and pans their detractors, concluding that the survey is "is a wake-up call to President Obama and Secretary Duncan," upon whom Wilson calls to be "champions for teachers and excellence in teaching."

Obama To Introduce Cartoon Network Anti-Bullying Special

The AP (3/13) reports, "President Barack Obama will deliver an opening message before the debut of 'Speak Up,' a Cartoon Network documentary about bullied youth across America and those who have helped them." The film is part of Cartoon Network's "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" initiative, the AP reports, and "features appearances by star athletes Venus Williams, Chris Webber, Lisa Leslie, soccer player Hope Solo, BMX bike rider Matt Wilhelm and NASCAR drivers Trevor Bayne, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano. ... Obama, who has said he endured school-yard harassment, hosted the first anti-bullying summit at the White House last year."

Connecticut District Exploring Classroom Use Of Student-Owned Technology

The Meriden (CT) Record-Journal (3/13, Primicerio) reports, "Over the next six weeks, parents, students and educators serving on the school district's technology advisory committee will research the use of student-owned technology in classrooms." The piece notes that the groups will analyze "the district's current technology policy and will decide if anything needs to be changed regarding student use of cellphones, e-readers and computer tablets in the classroom. The school system is trying to determine if any of this increasingly popular technology should be embraced in the classroom as an aid to the education process."

Minnesota Paper Calls For More Access To Dual-Credit Programs

An editorial in the Albert Lea (MN) Tribune (3/13) calls on Minnesota state legislators to expand access to programs in which high school students can "save time and money by earning college credits that count toward their high-school diplomas." The piece suggests that such programs could narrow the racial achievement gap, noting that one "bill in the Minnesota Senate, for example, opens college opportunities to younger high school students, ninth- and 10th-graders, and those who may not meet current academic cutoffs - opportunities considered especially meaningful for low-income or first-generation college students who might not see themselves as college bound." The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan "visited Irondale High school in New Brighton, home of a program designed to give a broader array of students access to college classes." Duncan is quoted praising the program.

Districts Collaborate On Virtual School Implementation

Education Week (3/13, Ash) reports that school districts are collaborating on best practices for establishing new virtual schools. "Banding together in multidistrict virtual learning collaborations helps member districts pool resources, increase purchasing power, and share best practices as they launch and support online learning for their students. 'Why re-create the wheel?' asks John Jacobs, the director of online learning for the Wisconsin eSchool Network, based in Webster village. The network, which began in 2002 as a collaboration between two districts-the Appleton and Kiel school districts-in the state, now serves 12 districts and has become its own nonprofit organization."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spellings Advising Romney On Education

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (3/7) "Politics K-12" blog that former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has joined presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign as a volunteer education advisor. "Spellings' day job is still working as a senior adviser to the US Chamber of Commerce on education issues." The piece notes that Spellings played a key role in crafting No Child Left Behind.

DC Public Schools To Increase Class Size, Cut Special-Education Funding

The Washington Examiner (3/7, Gartner, 93K) reports that DC "Public Schools is planning to increase class size in its middle and high schools, and cut funding for special-education coordinators." The Examiner adds, "Next school year, each middle-school teacher will oversee 22 students instead of 20, and high-school teachers will take on 24 students instead of 22." DC Mayor Vincent Gray said that he intends "to increase per-pupil funding for the schools by 2 percent."

Teachers From Underperforming Arizona Schools To Receive Math Training

The T.H.E. Journal (3/7, Sohn) reports, "One hundred and forty elementary and middle-school teachers will be able to receive professional development training in mathematics through 2013 thanks to a new project at the University of Arizona's colleges of Education and Science." Known as the Southern Arizona Mathematics Initiative, the program "is intended for teachers in schools that perform poorly on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards."

Utah Senate Passes Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Curriculum Bill

The Deseret (UT) Morning News (3/7, Wood) reports that the Utah Senate has passed "a controversial bill that mandates an abstinence-only sex education curriculum for Utah public schools." The bill "defines sex education in Utah as abstinence-only and bans instruction in sexual intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and sexual activity outside of marriage."

Illinois School Districts Utilizing National Sex Ed Standards

The Chicago Sun-Times (3/7, McFarlan) reports on "the first-ever National Sexuality Education Standards, proposed state legislation that would impact sex education in Illinois schools, and a study tying a state's sex education programs to its teenage birth rates." The standards, released in January, "were developed by the American Association of Health Education, American School Health Association, National Education Association Health Information Network, and Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education ... in coordination with the Future of Sex Education Initiative, a project to create national dialogue about sex education and promote the institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools." The piece details how the standards are being implemented in local Illinois school districts.

Teacher Stipend Bill Advances In Colorado Legislature

Education News Colorado (3/8, Engdahl) reports that a measure to "provide stipends to teachers who hold certifications from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards" passed out of the Colorado state House Education Committee this week, noting that under the legislation, "all board-certified teachers would receive annual stipends of $1,600; those who teach in low-performing schools would get an extra $3,200. Sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, argued that national certification is a 'proven program' that reflects teacher quality and that teachers should be encouraged to earn certification."

"Vast Majority" Of States Seeking NCLB Waivers

Education Week (3/8, McNeil) reports that the addition of the 26 new states (and the District of Columbia) seeking No Child Left Behind waivers to the 11 that have already been granted waivers "means the vast majority of states are on pace to be free from many of the fundamental requirements of the decade-old federal accountability law." The piece notes that the states which have already been granted waivers promised "to implement specific policy changes backed by President Barack Obama's administration, including tying teacher evaluations to student performance, adopting college- and career-readiness standards, and devising new accountability systems that factor in student growth. ... 'The best ideas to meet the needs of individual students are going to come from the local level,' US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement Feb. 29, a day after second-round applications were due."

Social Media Facilitates Interactions Between Educators, Experts

T.H.E. Journal (3/8, Gordon) reports on the impact that such digital communication technologies as high-speed Internet, social media, and videoconferencing systems have had in facilitating communications between education experts and educators at the district level. The piece profiles Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, who recently "met with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. After Provenzano tweeted a link to a post on his blog in which he opined that the Department of Education was coming up short in its use of social media, he was contacted by Duncan's office, sparking an ongoing conversation that led to a meeting with the education secretary when he was in nearby Detroit."

Arizona District Reports Spanish Immersion Leads To Improved Test Scores

The Tucson (AZ) Sentinel (3/8, Gilbert) reports on a "foreign language-immersion program that focuses on teaching half of the day's subjects in Spanish to children from preschool to eighth grade" at Desert Willow Elementary School in Cave Creek, Arizona. "The program, which is in its ninth year and is one of a handful in the state, enrolls about 50 new students annually. Educators say it has improved standardized test scores, set up students for success in high school and shown the way for others like it in Arizona." The piece notes that he program was expanded with a 2007 ED grant for $465,000.

Technology Groups Back Digital For Early Childhood Education

The New America Foundation's Lisa Guernsey writes at the Huffington Post (3/8) about the angst that some parents of young children feel at the notion of "touchscreens and apps slinking into your children's preschool classrooms," but notes that the "National Association for the Education of Young Children doesn't agree with you. And with good reason." Guernsey cites a statement from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media "about technology and young children (up through age 8). Though the groups discourage 'passive screen technology' usage -- like TV and DVDs -- with children under two, they don't suggest a ban on screens for preschoolers or kindergartners as some child-advocacy groups have suggested."

Observers Skeptical Of Apple E-Textbook Technology

Jason Tomassini writes at the Education Week (3/8) "Marketplace K-12" blog about the recent e-textbook partnership between McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Apple Computer, noting that "on Tuesday, Mike Evans, a senior vice president at Pearson, gave attendees at the South by Southwest education conference (SXSWedu) in Austin, Texas, a closer look of how the textbooks actually work." However, "the audience seemed to leave with more questions than answers about the e-textbooks, seen as a leading example of education innovation by members of the media, bloggers and, oh yeah, the US Secretary of Education." Tomassini describes a number of complaints related about the technology by observers, concluding, "If the price tag for iPads and e-textbooks ends up being too costly and districts aren't seeing much of a different from their print past, meeting Arne Duncan's digital textbook goals may be tough."

USDA Defends Ammoniated Beef In School Lunch Program

The Christian Science Monitor (3/12, 48K) reports, "The US Department of Agriculture is defending the use of ammonium-treated beef, dubbed 'pink slime' by detractors, in meals destined for US schoolchildren as part of the national school lunch program." Although "McDonald's stopped putting the USDA-approved ammonium-treated meat into its hamburgers" last August, "the USDA, schools and school districts plan to buy the treated meat, categorized as 'lean fine textured beef,' from South Dakota's Beef Products Inc for the national school lunch program." A USDA statement said that the agency "has strengthened ground beef food safety standards in recent years and only allows products into commerce that we have confidence are safe."

LATimes Criticizes Student Discipline Study

A Los Angeles Times (3/11, 630K) editorial criticizes a USED study on student discipline as incomplete. The agency "missed an opportunity with this report. If schools are doing a poor job of disciplining students, the department should be gathering the evidence and leading the charge against backward methods that are harming youngsters rather than helping - especially considering that this has a disproportionate effect on many at-risk students. And if minority students are being unfairly singled out for punishment, the department neither proved it nor provided much guidance for how to protect them."


Advocates For Disabled Students Hope ED Study Will Reduce Use Of Restraints.The Washington Post (3/11, Hefling, 553K) reports, "Tens of thousands of students, most of them disabled, are strapped down or physically restrained in school, and disability advocates hope that a new Education Department report detailing the practice of 'seclusion and restraint' will spur federal action to end it." The ED report "shows that 70 percent of students subjected to the techniques have disabilities." The report also found that Black students are a disproportionate number of those so treated.


Administration's Use Of ED Report Faulted.Jason L. Riley writes in the Wall Street Journal (3/10, Subscription Publication, 2.08M), about a new study showing that black students are punished disproportionately to their population in schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is quoted saying, "The undeniable that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise." Riley says that the Administration seems to have more sympathy for the students creating disruptions than for those who are quietly working. Riley argues that the report offers more evidence of the value of charter schools, which, he says are safer and more orderly.

Administration, GOP Governors Generally "Getting Along" On Education Reform

In an article published in some form by more than 100 news sources, the AP (3/10, Hefling) reported that President Obama "and many Republican governors" are tending to get along on the issue of "improving America's schools." Following the President's recent meeting with the nation's governors, "Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal publicly praised the Administration's efforts on education, and Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said there was a lot of room for 'common agreement' on fixing schools." Meanwhile, "GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels freely credits Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for helping to pave the way for a 'tectonic' shift in education, including comprehensive law changes passed in his home state of Indiana last year that include the rigorous use of teacher evaluations and one of the nation's most expansive uses of vouchers to help parents send children to private schools."

Texas Education Cuts Lead To Oversized Classrooms, Teachers Say

The AP (3/11, Weissert) reports, "All over Texas, school districts have laid off teachers, support staff and administrators to cope with steep reductions in state education funding." Educators say that "fewer aides and larger class sizes mean teachers spend more time with potty training and runny noses than teaching the ABCs and basic math." Over the next two years, "the Republican-dominated state Legislature cut $4 billion in education funding... while eliminating an additional $1.4 billion from grant programs, even though statewide enrollment is increasing by about 80,000 students annually." However, the article notes that "this year's cuts were softened by a one-time infusion of $830 million in federal funding which won't be available next year."

Khan Academy Website Seeks To Transform Education.

CBS 60 Minutes (3/11, 7:24 p.m. ET, Gupta) aired a report on the website Khan Academy, through which Sal Khan is "is determined to transform how we learn at every level. One of his most famous pupils, Bill Gates, says Khan, this teacher to the world, is giving us all a glimpse of the future of education." The report featured a segment from a class in The Los Altos School District outside San Francisco, where the new Khan Academy software is being piloted. In the class, "there are no textbooks and no teacher lecturing at the blackboard. Instead, students watch Khan videos at home the night before to learn a concept. Then, they come to class the next day and do problem sets called modules to make sure they understand. If they get stuck, they can get one-on-one help from the teacher – less lecturing, more interaction." Towards the end of the report, CBS featured Google's Eric Schmidt, who was shown saying, "innovation never comes from the established institutions. It's always a graduate student or a crazy person or somebody with a great vision. Sal is that person in education, in my view."


**Note: I've used this in my classroom the past few years and really think it's a great tool. I'd love to experiment with having the students watch the video(s) before class.