Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More Districts Nationwide Turning To In-School Advertising

USA Today (6/3, Hughes) reports on an increase in the amount of advertising that districts are allowing to be seen in schools, noting that "administrators say that with a public unwilling to adequately fund K-12 education, they're obligated to find new ways to keep teachers in classrooms." In one example, the paper reports, the Twin Rivers Unified School District in McClellan, California, "this spring signed a deal with the Colorado-based Education Funding Partners (EFP), a for-profit corporation, with a goal of bringing $100 million to major public school districts by 2015, company President Mickey Freeman says." The piece lists a number of other districts across the country partnering with businesses, and notes that consumer advocates complain that "kids are especially vulnerable to persuasive advertising while they are still learning how to think critically."

Education Professor Argues Against Third-Grade Retention

In an op-ed in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader (6/3), Thomas R. Guskey, professor of education at the University of Kentucky, writes that "on the surface," it seems logical to "retain students at the end of third grade who have not met expected learning goals." Theoretically, students could make academic gains during the extra year in third grade, but "the problem is that nearly all the research on retention shows it doesn't work that way. From studies dating back to the early 1980s, one point is clear: Retention is not effective in producing significant gains in student achievement or in having lasting benefits for struggling students. In fact, retention does more harm than good." Moreover, students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school, tend to have lower academic achievement, and "display more discipline problems."

Investigation Finds Fraud, Waste In NCLB Tutoring Program

In a 2,800-word article, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (6/3, Meitrodt, Burnette, 328K) reports on its investigation into the Federal Supplemental Education Services tutoring program, a $1 billion-per-year program intended to provide free after-school assistance to students at schools deemed "failing" under No Child Left Behind. The paper states that it found the program to be "rife with mismanagement and fraud," noting that "most participating students are failing to achieve the academic gains educators expected a decade ago." The article relates reports of tutoring firms being "predatory or incompetent," noting that at least 21 of them in Minnesota alone are accused of billing the government for tutoring that they could not prove took place. The Star Tribune adds that ED "introduced new rules to improve oversight in 2009, but federal regulators have not checked to see whether states are implementing the measures, acknowledged Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary of the department's office of elementary and secondary education."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Video Games Provide Benefits For Students With Autism

USA Today (6/1, Toppo, 1.78M) reports that students struggling with autism in high school can "now get help most days from video-game avatars - simplified digital versions of themselves doing things most autistic children don't generally do." Students "play games that help with coordination, body awareness and cooperation, all challenges for kids on the autism spectrum." The piece notes that as "educators quietly discover the therapeutic uses of motion-controlled sensors" such as the Xbox Kinext, "autism researchers, teachers and therapists are installing them in classrooms and clinics, reporting promising results for a fraction of the price of typical equipment."

Writer Calls For ESL Focus In Nation's Pre-K Programs

In an op-ed in the Washington Post (6/1, 553K) author Maggie Severns, a policy analyst for the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative, writes about the low academic performance of recent immigrant students within the context of recent reports about rising US minority populations, noting that such students "will account for virtually all growth in the workforce over the next 40 years, the Brookings Institution has estimated." Severns warns that without "an effective strategy for exposing immigrant children to English and building their literacy skills, these kids are at risk of falling behind." In order to address this issue, she writes, Illinois policymakers have combined pre-K programs with "public school services for English-language learners, which has led to new efforts to train teachers who work with children as young as 3. Training teachers who give immigrant children their first systematic exposure to English sounds like common sense - but in almost every state, there is no such push."

California Districts Devising Digital Strategies

The San Jose Mercury News (6/1, Rosen, 535K) reports that as teachers and students increasingly rely on digital technology in the classroom, "three San Jose school districts are moving into this new era. In the 2011-12 school year, the Cambrian and Union district began collaborating on this new form of learning, while San Jose Unified will begin implementing its new strategy at the start of the 2012-13 school year on Aug. 15. San Jose Unified School District superintendent Vince Matthews said the district has been working on the plan for the past nine months with its administrators, as well as local business and community members." The piece quotes Matthews saying, "Digital literacy is only one part of the tools needed for students in this century. They must also be able to think critically and communicate those thoughts. From now on we will be teaching our 32,500 students in a way that blends these skills."

Summit Focuses On Needs Of Low-Income Gifted Students.

Nirvi Shah writes at the Education Week (6/1, 37K) "On Special Education" blog that speakers at the National Association for Gifted Children's national summit said that "while the problems with identifying and nurturing gifted and talented students from low-income and minority families are well established, despite years of attacking the issue from many angles, it remains." Shah describes the challenges that underprivileged gifted students face in being identified and having access to the resources that more affluent students have.

In New "Digital Divide," Poorer Students More Likely To "Waste Time" With Devices

Maureen Downey writes at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (6/1, 209K) "Get Schooled" blog, "When technology first began to infiltrate American childhoods, there were fears of a digital divide; children from lower-income families would not have access to the emerging new technologies because of the cost and thus fall behind their more affluent peers whose families could afford cell phones, computers and video game systems." However, now educators are reporting "a new divide: Poorer kids are wasting more time on their assorted electronic and computer gadgets than more affluent peers." Downey notes that less affluent families lack the resources to monitor that their children are using their devices for educational pursuits instead of entertainment.

Court Rules Against Charter In Troubled Pennsylvania District.

The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (5/31, Kopp) reports that a Pennsylvania state court has ruled "against Chester Community Charter School in two lawsuits in which the school sought to obtain delinquent charter payments from the Chester Upland School District." The piece notes that the school had argued that it "was owed an undisputed $3.86 million and entitled to receive about $18 million more from Chester Upland and the Pennsylvania Department of Education during the remainder of the school year. The court ruled, 4-3, against awarding Community Charter summary relief for those payments."

Pennsylvania Districts At Odds With State Over Reserve Cash.

The York (PA) Dispatch (5/31, Shaw) reports that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's (R) office and state education officials "are wagging the finger at school districts, saying they're pleading for more money at a time the state believes they should just turn to their reserve funds." However, "local school district business managers say a website set up by the governor's office -- -- highlighting how much districts have in their fund balances is misleading. For one thing, $3.2 billion might sound like a huge amount but breaks down to about $6.5 million per district, right in line with what an average district's budget would call for, according to business managers."

ACLU Lawsuit Alleges Ineffective ELL Instruction

The AP (5/31, Hoag, Wozniacka) reports on an ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of teachers, parents, and students in Dinuba, California, alleging that the local district's "program to teach English to young elementary school children is ineffective and violates the students' constitutional rights." The plaintiffs allege that the district's "grammar-intense curriculum" is "unproven for first- and second-grade children and is causing them to fall far behind in both English learning and in other academic skills." Near the end, the piece notes that last fall, ED "found that California's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, was violating students' rights by failing to provide an adequate English program."


The Los Angeles Times (5/31, Blume) reports that the lawsuit alleges that "state officials are neglecting their legal obligation to ensure English learners are receiving an adequate and equal education," noting that the case has the potential to reverberate beyond Dinuba. "The suit claims the Dinuba Unified School District in Tulare County is using a substandard, unproven curriculum in a misguided effort to improve the lagging performance of students who have yet to master English."

Stanford Team Releases Common Core Teacher Training Materials

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (5/31) "Learning the Language" blog that a "team of prominent experts" from Stanford University are releasing draft materials on "how to prepare educators for teaching the common standards to English-learners," noting that the group "gave a preview of several resources under development at a Seattle meeting of the Council of the Great City Schools earlier this month." The group released a "a draft of six instructional principles to help guide teachers who work with ELLs as they implement the more rigorous math and English/language arts standards," the first of which instructs teachers to utilize elements from the students' native language and culture.