Tuesday, October 30, 2012

California Think Tank Releases Report Criticizing Governor's Education Funding Plan

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (10/30, Walters) reports, "Gov. Jerry Brown has been seeking implementation of a 'weighted student formula' that would give more school money to districts with high levels of poverty and other educational impediments and low levels of achievement. But the proposal has been a hard sell in the Legislature, because districts that would lose money under the redistribution plan are opposed." Meanwhile, "Brown's proposal, which has never been fully fleshed out, is now receiving flak from another source, Education Trust-West, an education think tank based in Oakland." The white paper is in favor of a weighted formula, but takes issue with specifics in Brown's plan.

New York Teacher: Common Core Math Questions Too Advanced For Fourth-Graders

The Huffington Post (10/30) reports that Madrid, New York, fourth-grade teacher William Gotsch "is urging the state to revisit its new education standards, after determining that the common core sample math question on the Education Department's website are too difficult for fourth graders." Noting that the Common Core Standards call for "teaching some concepts in earlier grades than they were previously taught," the Post notes that some teachers have expressed frustrations with implementing this, adding that "according to Gotsch, fourth graders will be expected to form algebraic equations from multi-step problems and calculate geometric angles at a level 'too high for fourth-graders to complete.'"


The Watertown (NY) Daily Times (10/30, Purcell) reports that Gotsch "says the state Education Department's changes to standardized tests expect students to perform far beyond a realistic skill level," adding that he also "said last week that if school districts do not rally against the changes, students and teachers will suffer as a result. On Tuesday, Mr. Gotsch asked his district's Board of Education to urge the state to revisit its new education standards after reviewing the common core sample math questions on the Education Department website."

Report Criticizes Philadelphia's Response To Cheating Allegations

Jackie Zubrzycki writes at the Education Week (10/30) "District Dossier" blog that an investigation by the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook blog and WHYY found that "during the first year of stricter test-security measures in the 146,000-student Philadelphia school district, the district's handling of new allegations of cheating in one city school was 'baffling.' ... Daniel Piotrowski, who was head of the district's test security program, reported a slew of violations at Gen. Louis Wagner Middle School last March." The investigation described the district's responses to the cheating allegations, noting that monitors were summarily removed, district officials dismissed monitors' complaints, and the district "waited seven months to file a formal memo to the state department of education about what happened at Wagner."

California DOE Strips 23 Schools Of Top Ranking After Cheating

The Los Angeles Times (10/30, Blume) reports that officials with the California DOE has "stripped" 23 schools "of a key state ranking for cheating, other misconduct or mistakes in administering the standardized tests given last spring. The offenses ranged from failing to cover bulletin boards to more overt improprieties, including helping students correct mistakes or preparing them with actual test questions." The piece notes that the paper obtained data on the move through an open records request, and that state DOE officials call such problems "adult irregularities." If such problems "affect at least 5% of students tested at a school, the campus loses its annual rating on California's Academic Performance Index, which was released this month."


The Huffington Post (10/30) also covers this story, noting that the API status that the schools lost is "considered the 'cornerstone' of the state's high-stakes student accountability system that determines whether a school meets federal Adequate Yearly Progress requirements under the No Child Left Behind law. A poor API and failure to meet AYP could mean state intervention that range from giving students the option to transfer out to school closures and staff turnover. California submitted an application seeking a waiver from NCLB last month, but its application lacks key reform plans outlined by the president."


KSEE-TV Fresno, CA (10/30, Greenwood) reports that after a teacher in Fresno was "caught breaking the rules on state standardized tests...months of studying and preparation for a state test all went down the drain."

New Jersey Paper Blasts Group For Opposing Anti-Bullying Event

An editorial in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (10/29) blasts "conservative Christian group" the American Family Association for its opposition to the "Mix It Up at Lunch Day" anti-bullying initiative. "The promotion encourages kids to sit next to someone new at lunch" in an effort to break up cliques and prevent bullying. However, the group calls the program "a plot for homosexual indoctrination."

Despite Lack Of Differences, Education Repeatedly Discussed In Presidential Debates

An article in Slate Magazine (10/26, Butrymowicz) notes that the presidential candidates, in all three of their debates, repeatedly pivoted from the topics at hand to education. "The surge of interest in education in the final weeks of the campaign, including campaign ads that attack Romney's views on class size and sidetracked answers during debates, follows months in which both candidates mostly ignored the subject. Education's sudden popularity has to do mainly with Obama, who has pounced on it as a way to draw a contrast between himself and Romney on the most important issue in the campaign-the economy." The piece notes that the two candidates have few substantial differences on education policy, adding, "Romney has praised US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, raising speculation that he might even appoint him to his Cabinet if elected."

California Teachers Attend Common Core ELL Symposium

The Merced (CA) Sun-Star (10/29) reports that 350 California educators "took part in a symposium recently to guide them on implementing common core standards for English-learners. The symposium, held last week, was aimed at supporting participants' next steps in implementing those standards." The piece notes that the California Department of Education says that "teachers, parents and education experts designed the standards to prepare students for success in college and the workplace. ... The symposium brought presenters to guide educators through best practices to implement these standards."

California District Still Has $1.1 Million In Education Funding To Spend

The Ventura County (CA) Star (10/28, Leung) reports that the school district in Ventura County, California, has "less than a year to spend about $1.1 million in vouchers for education technology. More than $268 million in the form of vouchers became available to qualified state schools in 2006. The funding opened up after an antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp. following a class-action lawsuit by California consumers."

California District Increasing Emphasis On Auto Shop

The Los Angeles Times (10/28, Perry, Blume) reports that auto shop classes in US schools may be on the rebound, noting, "Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District, where officials have built automotive program facilities at three high schools and hope to upgrade shops at two other schools if voters approve a bond issue next month." The piece explains how in recent decades, "tight budgets and a pervasive emphasis on academics, especially college preparation, contributed to the decline of auto shop." However, the Times reports, there has been an increasing interest in imparting vocational skills.

Study: Delaying Kindergarten Tied To Future Success

Noting that many parents struggle with the decision over whether to delay kindergarten for children born in summer or early fall, the Sacramento (CA) Bee (10/26, Gutierrez) reports, "A study at the University of British Columbia is getting some attention for the link researchers are making between children's birth months and their chances of becoming a successful CEO. Researchers attributed the low number of company leaders in the S&P 500 with birth dates in June and July to the cutoff dates for school admissions. In other words, students with June and July birth dates tend to be among the youngest in their classes."

Reading Rainbow Host Embraces Digital Reading

The Chicago Tribune (10/29) runs an article about LeVar Burton, the long-time host of PBS early literacy program Reading Rainbow, discussing his passion for literacy. "The series, with its heartfelt embrace of bound, physical books and bricks-and-mortar libraries, seems at first quaint in this era of tablets in classrooms and preschoolers on e-readers." However, Burton is still a prominent figure in education circles, even garnering "face time wit Secretary of Education Arne Duncan." The piece notes that Burton has relaunched the series of iTunes and launched an associated iPad app, and relates his enthusiasm for digital learning via tablet computers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Education Researchers Say Value-Added Models Should Be Used Cautiously

Education Week (10/26, Sparks) reports that a group of "top researchers" say that value-added student achievement models "should be used in staff-evaluation systems with more caution than they have been so far. That area of agreement emerged in an Aug. 9 meeting that drew together a who's who of a dozen of the nation's top education researchers on value-added methods-in areas from education to economics-to build, if not consensus, at least familiarity within a disparate research community for value-added systems. The US Department of Education's research agency, which organized the forum, today released the proceedings of the meeting, as well as individual briefs from each of the experts." The piece quotes Institute of Education Sciences Director John Q. Easton saying, "There's been a huge amount of research in this field in recent years, but it tends to be really siloed. People don't seem to read each other's work, and it's published in totally different journals. It was so typical to read somebody's study who was not citing all the others."

South Carolina Middle School Program Aims To Teach Students Good Behavior

Education Week (10/26, Shah) reports that Haut Gap Middle School in Charleston, South Carolina, has a mandatory "course in how to be a Haut Gap student," in which students master "concepts such as how to own up to mistakes, accept feedback, and apologize appropriately. Those lessons are part of a schoolwide approach to addressing student behavior that Haut Gap has used for about five years: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS." The article notes that local educators say that the program pays off with reduced discipline issues.

ED Seminar Details "Early Warning" Indicators For Rural Students

Diette Courrege writes at the Education Week (10/26) "Rural Education" that experts at a recent ED Webinar said that "rural school leaders can use statistics on students' 'ABC's-attendance, behavior, and course performance-to spot trouble in those areas and pinpoint specific intervention thresholds. ... The 90-minute presentation earlier this month, 'Utilizing the Village: Using Early Warning Indicators and Interventions to Help Rural Students Succeed in School,' offered detailed strategies for rural educators looking to improve their graduation rates and prevent dropouts."

Study Links Student Performance With Principal Effectiveness

The Huffington Post (10/26, Kuczynski-Brown) reports that according to a new study published in Education Next, "the effect of highly effective principals on student achievement is equivalent to 2-7 months of additional learning each school year, while ineffective principals negatively impact student achievement by a comparable amount." The piece explains the value-added data model used by the study's authors, and explains its findings.

Writer: Duncan's Calls For Digital Textbooks Misguided

In a columnin the Emporia (KS) Gazette (10/26) , John Richard Schrock writes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent calls for 100% use of digital textbooks in the next few years "reveals again how he is isolated from the American public classroom and economically poor students." Schrock points out that some 40% of US households lack broadband internet access, and continues to lambaste both Duncan and Kansas schools officials who demonstrate the same inclination to push for digital technology despite many students' lack of access.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Florida Virtual School Moves Toward Blended Learning Model

Education Week (10/24, Davis) reports that the Florida Virtual School, the largest state-sponsored virtual school in the US "is venturing into a blended learning model that is in growing demand. The move is in part the effect of market forces, as the FLVS strives to meet the needs of school districts, and in part the evolution of the blended model, which mixes face-to-face instruction and virtual learning. Facing state-mandated class-size restrictions and a state requirement that all students take an online course before graduation, districts are turning to Florida Virtual to help meet both those obligations."

Philadelphia Officials Promote Pre-K To Fight Crime

The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/24, Graham) reports that Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and other local officials "think they know a way to reduce crime in Philadelphia: Invest more in high-quality preschool programs." The officials "are expected to underscore that point Tuesday, when they gather at the Penn Alexander School to read to Head Start students and tout a just-released report about the connection between preschool programs and crime reduction. ... The problem, organizers say, is that the government spends too much on prisons and not enough on preschool."


KYW-TV Philadelphia (10/24, Tawa) reports that the officials "say Philadelphia's waiting list for pre-kindergarten programs is long, and it's not helping children get a head start in life. They're calling for more funding at the state and federal levels. Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams says inadequate funding for early childhood education is 'closing the door of opportunity' to low-income, at-risk children."

Efforts Underway To Support ELL Teachers Implementing Common Core

Leslie A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (10/24) "Learning the Language" blog that dual-language teachers implementing the Common Core Standards "must prepare and adapt their instructional strategies to teach the more-rigorous common standards in language arts and mathematics not only in English, but in a second language." Maxwell describes some projects that are geared toward helping teachers adapt the standards to other languages.

Pennsylvania Charter AYP Policy Sparks Controversy

The AP (10/25, Matheson) reports on the controversy surrounding Pennsylvania education officials' move to "measure charter school achievement by a different yardstick than traditional schools, a standard that critics say inflates the success of charters for political reasons." The piece notes that the state has already begun using this separate APY metric even though ED has yet to approve the move, noting that "public education advocates characterize the request as a stealth move by the state, favoring the charter lobby that supports Republican Gov. Tom Corbett." The AP characterizes ED's response as a "wrist-slap," and quotes an ED statement saying, "The department understands the pressures of time in getting these analyses done, reviewed, and published, however, (Pennsylvania) acted prematurely."

Despite Education Gains, Women Still Face Pay Gap

USA Today (10/25, Dugas) reports that according to a new study from the American Association of University Women based on 2009 ED data, "women have made tremendous gains in education, employment and earnings in the past 50 years, but there is still a persistent gender pay gap. Even young working women continue to lag behind men," making some 82% of what their male peers make. "The result is similar to a broader study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which said that in 2011, the gender wage gap for working women of all ages was 82.2%."

The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con

By Mary Beth Hertz

I recently attended the ISTE conference (1) in San Diego, CA. While I was only there for about 36 hours, it was easy for me to pick up on one of the hottest topics for the three-day event. The "flipped classroom" was being discussed in social lounges, in conference sessions, on the exhibit floor, on the hashtag (2) and even at dinner. People wanted to know what it was, what it wasn't, how it's done and why it works. Others wanted to sing its praises and often included a vignette about how it works in their classroom and how it transformed learning for their students. Still others railed that the model is nothing transformative at all and that it still emphasizes sage-on-the-stage direct instruction rather than student-centered learning. I engaged in a few of these discussions offline and online, and while I'm still on the fence about my feelings toward the model, I can offer some insight and interpretation.

**Click here to read this in its entirety.

Eight Ways to Use Video With English-Language Learners

By Larry Ferlazzo

We can think of far worse things a student might say to us, and John's comment demonstrates our perspective on using video with English-Language Learners (and, for that matter, with all students) -- research (5) and our experience show that it can be a very effective learning tool, but it has to be used as an active one. The word "active" comes from the Latin "actus," which means "a doing, a driving." Here are some strategies for using video with ELLs that reflect those words and avoid the danger of just sitting back and watching the screen. The activities we present connect to multiple Common Core Standards including the following "Anchor Standards" (6) for ELA Grades 6-12:

  • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


    ***Click here to read this article in its entirety.

Tools for Teaching: Managing a Large Class Size

By Rebecca Alber

Do you have more students than ever this year? With serious education budget cuts in most states, we are seeing class size reduction programs as a thing of the past in many schools. Teachers semi-new to this profession may be experiencing class sizes above 30 for the first time. In a recent conversation with such a teacher, as we discussed her new situation, she resignedly said, "Well, there goes group work."

This conversation, and several conversations with others, got me thinking about this sudden change for many teachers. If you've found yourself with a large class size this year, here are a few things to keep in mind…

**Click here to read this in its entirety.

California Adopting Controversial Algebra Changes To Align With Common Core.

Education Week (10/25, Robelen) reports that a new law in California changes "teaching Algebra 1 in 8th grade," noting that the measure "has been the subject of considerable debate. State officials say it aims to help clear up confusion among school districts about state expectations in the 8th grade with the Common Core State Standards, but critics contend that it will effectively end the state's long-standing embrace of Algebra 1 at that grade level. At issue are additions the state made before adopting the common core, essentially approving two sets of 8th grade math standards."

Colorado District Working To Help Teachers Integrate Classroom Technology

The Boulder (CO) Daily Camera (10/23, Bounds) reports that the school district in Boulder Valley, Colorado, "has three people assigned to help teachers at 55 schools figure out how to integrate technology into their classrooms. Looking for a better way to use limited resources, a committee of teachers, principals and community members spent a year developing a vision and researching programs in school districts nationwide." The panel chose a system in which "small groups of teachers will receive extensive training and then serve as mentors to other teachers in their schools."

Presidential Foreign Policy Debate Touches On Teacher Hiring

The Huffington Post (10/23, Resmovits) reports, "Much to the chagrin of moderator Bob Schieffer, Monday night's presidential debate took a decidedly domestic turn," when President Obama "took the opportunity to lace into Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney on teacher hiring" and its impact on the economy. "This dispute dates back to the last few months. The Republican presidential candidate mocked Obama in June for proposing the hiring of more public sector employees." A brief Washington Post (10/22, Matthews) blog posting on the debate notes that "Obama attacked Romney for his comments dismissing the importance of small class sizes. And there's some grounds for that – Raj Chetty has found that students in small kindergarten classes make hundreds of thousands more in their lifetimes than students in larger classes. But it's worth noting that the Obama administration has diminished the role of class size too, with Arne Duncan stating, 'Class size has been a sacred cow and I think we need to take it on.'"

Apple Unveiling Smaller iPad, Seeking Solid Grip On Education Sector

Noting that California's San Diego Unified School District has purchased over 25,000 iPad tablets for classroom use, Bloomberg News (10/23, Satariano) reports that many districts nationwide may be drawn to the price point of the "new, smaller version of the iPad that Apple will unveil tomorrow at an event in San Jose, California. Apple has long been a leader in education, and schools began embracing the iPad soon after its 2010 debut. Yet as fiscal budget shortfalls crimp spending all the more, schools in growing numbers are warming to the handheld devices as an alternative to more expensive laptops." This version, according to Balclays Plc, could cost $249, as compared with the $499 to $829 price tag for currently marketed versions.

Columnist: High-Stakes Testing Benefits Lower-Income Students

In a New York Post (10/22) column, Naomi Schaefer Riley writes that affluent parents in New York City are protesting "this week's 40-minute field tests in math and English" and other high-stakes testing, "which they see as a distraction from the real education their children could be receiving. They actually have a point - but then, the testing isn't really about their kids. High-stakes testing has been shown to offer clear benefits - particularly to lower-income students."

California Parents Consider Suing District Over Free Yoga Classes

The AP (10/23) reports that a group of parents in Encinitas, California, are considering suing the local school district over its free yoga classes, "fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion." The AP quotes attorney Dean Broyles saying, "There's a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices."


The North County (CA) Times (10/23) reports that Broyles, in a letter to Superintendent Tim Baird, "called the program unconstitutional and warned that he may initiate 'a legal course of action' if the district doesn't end it. Broyles declined last week to discuss what the group has in mind, but said it's considering all legal options. ... District officials say that they have stripped any semblance of religion from the classes, but some parents are worried that that may not be true."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Racially Distinct Florida Achievement Targets Spark Controversy

Racially Distinct Florida Achievement Targets Spark Controversy.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (10/20, Postal) reports that since the Florida Board of Education voted to adopt "reading and math goals for students that varied by race, among other categories," the state "has been embroiled in a debate about the message sent by its new race-based academic targets, which are lower for black and Hispanic students than for other children. ... The goals are meant to a be a midpoint on a path to getting all kids mastering key academics, and they would require a faster pace of improvement for struggling students to help them catch up. But that intent was likely lost in the 'resounding negative perception,' said Orange Superintendent Barbara Jenkins in an email."


Paper Praises Governor For Seeking Equal Standards.An editorial in the Daytona Beach (FL) News-Journal (10/20) praises Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) for saying last week that "he will not tolerate any excuse for an achievement gap at public schools. Not race, not gender, not income level. Scott wants no such excuses from the State Board of Education." The piece explains that Scott's comments come in response to the State Board of Education's plan to implement different achievement targets for different racial and socio-economic groups under the state's NCLB flexibility.


More Commentary.In commentary for The Root (10/22, Toldson) , Dr. Ivory A. Toldson of Howard University writes about the "controversial and misguided proposals" in Florida and Virginia to "close the 'achievement gap' by setting different performance standards for black and white students. These demonstrate a dreadfully shortsighted assessment of race and achievement in the United States."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pennsylvania Superintendents Urge State Legislature To Drop Charter Bill

The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (10/18, Puglionesi) reports that a group of fifteen district superintendents in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, have written to the state legislature "requesting changes to proposed charter school legislation in Senate Bill 1115, under consideration by Pennsylvania legislators this week. ... The letter of Oct. 12 states that as proposed, SB115 'reinforces a blatant disregard for the equitable treatment of constituent school districts.' A bullet-point list of grievances primarily concern local control and representation, transparency and funding issues the legislation potentially creates."

Florida Officials Defend Racial Differences In Post-Waiver Assessments.

The New York Times (10/18, Alvarez, Subscription Publication) reports on the lingering controversy surrounding Florida education officials' decision to "set different goals for student achievement in reading and math by race and ethnicity" under the state's NCLB waiver, noting that the "move was widely criticized as discriminatory and harmful to blacks and Hispanics. But the state, which has been required to categorize achievement by racial, ethnic and other groups to the federal government for more than 10 years, intends to stand by its new strategic plan. Education officials say the targets, set for 2018, have been largely misunderstood." The Times explains that Florida officials say that the goal of the policy is to reduce the achievement gap.

Most States Vary Benchmarks By Race.

CNN (10/18, Martin, Valencia) reports on its "Schools of Thought" blog that "civil rights groups and some parents are concerned that new proficiency targets in several states are selling African-American students short." The piece notes that Florida is among the "majority of US states and the District of Columbia" which "have set up different benchmarks for different groups, including racial and ethnic student populations." CNN adds that though it may seem like this is a case of less being expected of some classes of students, they are a reaction to the implausibility of NCLB's 100% proficiency mandate. "But the new benchmarks have been met with outrage from parents and civil rights groups, particularly in Florida, Virginia and DC."

Amazon Announces Initiative To Compete With iPad In Schools

Reuters (10/18, Barr) reports that Amazon has announced a push to enter into the classroom technology market with its Kindle e-readers and tablets, competing in a realm that has heretofore been dominated by Apple's iPad. Amazon unveiled a device content management service called Whispercast this week, Reuters reports, noting that the move is part of Amazon's push to sell devices at cost to profit from subsequent content sales.

Group Raising Funds To Invest In Blended Learning Research

KQED San Francisco (10/18, Schwartz) reports that Silicon Solutions, a new non-profit organization, is looking to raise $25 million to invest in research into blended learning. "With partial grants from the Bay Area's Fisher family (owners of Gap), and the advice of board members Michael Horn from the Innosight Institute and Salman Khan of the Khan Academy, the nonprofit, which has raised $12 million so far, aims to fund new and innovative approaches in existing blended learning programs with grants to each school. ... The movement is in its infancy. There is no blended-learning canon that can be taught to teachers - they are the ones who need to write the playbook."

Mathews Considers Common Core's Increased Emphasis On Informational Text

In his Washington Post (10/18) column, Jay Mathews writes that the Common Core Standards are intended to improve stagnant literacy rates among US students, and notes that they focus more on nonfiction text than do most prior curricula. However, "many English teachers don't think it will do any good. Even if it were a good idea, they say, those who have to make the change have not had enough training to succeed - an old story in school reform." Mathews focuses on the controversy surrounding the shift.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Parenting Program Aims to Help Latinos Close Early-Learning Gaps

By Lesli A. Maxwell on October 16, 2012 8:00 AM


Albuquerque, N.M.

Recent studies are finding that immigrant Latino families provide some of the best starts for young children, even when those families face disadvantages because of poverty.

They are more often than not two-parent households, more likely to have mothers who don't experience mental health issues, and tend to provide a strong foundation for social-emotional learning in their young children, which is a well-documented set of skills necessary for success in school.

But there are still significant gaps in readiness between Latino children and their white and Asian-American peers before they enter school, especially when it comes to literacy. A 5-year-old program is taking aim at eliminating those gaps by focusing on parenting practices for children from birth to age 5.

Called "Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors," the program, while still relatively new, is showing improved outcomes for the parents around the country who have participated. A new research brief from a team at the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the program raises Latino parents' knowledge about early-literacy skills, social-emotional development, and health.

NOTE – This is from an EDUCATION WEEK blog, click here to read the story in its entirety.

New Hampshire District Moving Toward Allowing Ads To Offset Budget Constraints.

The New Hampshire Union Leader (10/17, Alden) reports on the growing trend of cash-strapped school districts allowing "commercial messages" in schools to generate revenue nationwide, noting that "a preliminary proposal to allow limited advertising in Manchester public schools may still have a way to go before getting final approval from the full school board. Finding potential advertisers may be much easier than agreeing on what qualifies as appropriate. The Manchester school board Coordination Committee signed off last week on a draft policy that would allow some ads on school property such as sports venues and cafeterias, provided the product or organization behind the marketing meets district approval."

Analysis Compares State Per-Student Spending With Academic Outcomes.

A National Journal (10/17, Nhan, Subscription Publication) analysis of data from the 2012 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the causal relationship between state per-student education spending and academic outcomes, noting that in general, "states that spend more on their students tend to rank higher, and states that spend less rank lower. But if the answer were that simple, education reform would be a breeze. So like every complex story, outliers and exceptions to the rule exist." The article explores a number of other factors that can impact academic outcomes.

Hutchison, Mikulsky Criticize Efforts To End Single-Gender Education.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (10/17, Subscription Publication) , Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulsky (D) criticize recent attempts to eliminate single-gender classroom options in a number of states. The Senators cite research pointing to positive outcomes for some students, and recount their bipartisan work to overturn former Federal policies prohibiting such classes. The Senators note that a 2008 ED study found that "both principals and teachers believed that the main benefits of single-sex schooling are decreasing distractions to learning and improving student achievement."

Common Core

Districts Uncertain How To Prepare For Common Core Technology Needs.

Education Week (10/17, Davis) reports, "School districts are raising concerns about their ability to be technologically ready to give Common Core State Standards assessments to students online in two years. Administrators say they remain uncertain about the types of devices to buy, the bandwidth they need, and the funding available for technology improvements." The piece notes that observations indicate that districts are facing confusion and "anxiety" over how to prepare for the Common Core from a technological standpoint.

Experts Offer Advice On Common Core Technology Security Issues.

Education Week (10/17, Bock) reports on concerns about the security of digital tests associated with the Common Core Standards, and presents a number of solutions to various technology issues presented by "educational technology experts." Issues include bandwidth limits, out-of-date software, security risks associates with hackers, and software that can detect student cheating.

New York Officials Express Need For Funds To Implement Common Core.

Gotham Schools (10/17, Cromidas, Cramer) reports that New York City Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky has said in a written statement that "the city and other school districts desperately need additional funding if they are to raise academic standards," and that "even though the city has done more to integrate new learning standards known as the Common Core than other districts and states, it cannot adequately train staff or buy the materials it needs with the resources it currently has." Polakow-Suransky issued his call to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reform commission, the article reports.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From Kenneth Beare

Resources for Role-Plays in Class

Role-plays can help students improve their pronunciation, vocabulary comprehension and fluency skills. There are a numerous role-plays on this site for all levels and interests. Use this dialogues for speaking... Read more

English Grammar Help - Rules, Worksheets, Games, Quizzes, Exercises

English grammar instruction for ESL EFL students with help, rules and practice including worksheets, exercises, quizzes, tense usage, grammar guides and charts, lesson plans, exceptions and variations in different forms of English.


Halloween Resources

Edgar Allan Poe - The RavenOnce upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore - While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door - Only this and nothing more."BOO! It's that time of year. Here are some special features for Halloween:... Read more

Using Commas Correctly

Commas are used in many sentences for different reasons. For example, this sentences uses commas, a list, and a linking phase. Use this guide to comma use in English to learn the... Read more

Districts Concerned About Common Core Technology Costs

Education Week (10/17, O'Hanlon) reports, "In the next couple of years, most public school students will be expected to be taking tests online, instead of using pencil and paper, because of their states' adoption of the Common Core State Standards. But in this time of tight budgets, many school districts are wondering how they will pay for improvements they may need to make to their technological infrastructure to test large numbers of students online under the common-core initiative by the 2014-15 school year." The piece notes that some districts may use funds currently allocated for textbook purchases or boost millage rates.

California Administrator Faces Fire Over Special Education Funding Policy

The Bay Citizen (CA) (10/15, Bundy) reports that Lisa Miller, the head of the San Francisco Unified School District's middle school special education department, "urged teachers to re-evaluate whether to offer summer school to special education students as a way to cut costs, a move that special education teachers and attorneys say violates federal regulations." Miller, the Citizen reports, "said in a Jan. 4 email to her staff that the cost of summer school – known as extended school year, or ESY – had become 'exorbitant' and instructed all middle school special education staff not to authorize the service without her approval. ... The directive appears to violate the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which explicitly requires each child's special education plan to be agreed upon by the student's family, educators and disability experts, not district administrators."

Ravitch: Chicago Strike Illustrates National Backlash Against Education Reform

Progress Illinois (10/16, Blake) reports that former Assistant Secretary Diane Ravitch "says that Chicago has taken the lead on education reform – and the revolt against such policies," noting that she "told reporters at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters Monday that the strike gave 'vicarious exhilaration' to teachers across the nation that were 'beaten down' by evaluations based on standardized tests and charter schools." The piece adds that Ravitch "says Chicago is distinctive on education issues because of a 'more militant' teachers' union," as compared with other parts of the country in which collective bargaining rights are less vigorous.

Many Districts Tout Savings, Academic Benefits Of Four-Day Week

US News & World Report (10/16, Sheehy) reports in its "High School Notes" blog that some 300 US school districts have moved to a four-day week in order to save on transportation, utility, and janitorial costs, noting that more districts are considering similar plans. "But the shorter week requires students to power through longer days when they are in school in order to meet minimum class time requirements set by states. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has spoken out against four-day weeks, and school boards in several states have shot down attempts in their districts to move to shorter school weeks." However, despite criticisms, some proponents say the extra day off gives students increased focus and the opportunity to take college courses.

WNWO-TV Toledo, OH (10/16, 4:47 a.m. EDT) broadcast a report based closely on the above article, noting that Duncan "has spoken out against four-day weeks."

Michigan Considers Rating Students Proficient On Assessments For Improvement

The Detroit Free Press (10/15, Higgins) reports that under changes being considered by the Michigan Department of Education, "schools that succeed in helping poor-performing students improve academic achievement could soon get a break from the state," noting that the change to the state accountability system would "allow students who fail the MEAP - but whose scores show significant improvement - to be considered proficient on the exam. The change would mean some schools could get a better rating from the state when it introduces a new color-coded accountability system next year."

The AP (10/16) reports that Joseph Martineau, head of the state DOE's Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, said that "a change is needed to both acknowledge the difficulty in helping students who are the furthest behind and to give schools more credit for doing that successfully." The AP quotes him saying, "Because we set the bar high, it is even more important now to be able to give credit for students making progress. A significant amount of them are below the bar at this point." The AP adds that ED would have to approve the changes.

Common Core Implementation Driving Interest In Open Educational Resources Movement

Education Week (10/17, Ash) reports that at both the state and national level, the Common Core Standards movement is leading to increased interest in open educational resources, noting that "OERs, which are free to use, remix, and adapt, also engage teachers more fully in curricula, allowing them to more easily differentiate instructional materials for students, advocates of the movement say. ... Federal policy has also contributed to greater interest in open education resources, says Barbara Treacy, the managing project director for the Center for Online Professional Education at the Newton, Mass.-based Education Development Center."

Common Core Adoption Could Lead To Sharp Rise In Demand For Broadband Capacity

Education Week (10/16, Quillen) reports on the rising demand for broadband internet access in US schools, adding that "with the Common Core State Standards initiative pushing schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia to administer 'next generation' assessments almost exclusively online-with an accompanying commitment to more digital resources-it's possible schools' demand for bandwidth could exceed even those projections." The piece describes the challenges--both financial and infrastructure-related--that districts face in increasing network capacity.

Some States Tying Adaptive Testing To Common Core Implementation

Education Week (10/17, Davis) reports that at least 20 of the states that are adopting the Common Core Standards are planning to use adaptive online testing and are "looking at states like Delaware," which implemented such testing three years ago. "'Adaptive testing is really beneficial and can pinpoint a student's learning level more closely,' says Gerri Marshall, the supervisor of research and evaluation for the 15,000-student Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Del., which piloted such tests." The piece notes that both the SBAC and the PARCC "have said their assessments will feature high-tech, interactive questions that incorporate video and graphics and are designed both to identify what students know and to be more engaging. Both assessments will be given online, but Smarter Balanced will use adaptive testing, while PARCC will use what are known as fixed-form tests, which feature set questions that generally do not change."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Education Graduation Rates Keep Some Philadelphia Schools From Making AYP

The Philadelphia Intelligencer (10/14, Hegel) reports that a number of high schools in Bucks County, Pennsylvania "failed to meet state standards for special education graduation rates this year, thanks to changes in the way Pennsylvania calculates those rates." This resulted in several schools missing their AYP goal. The students in question have IEPs that allow them three extra years to complete high school. "It's a case of state requirements not matching up with federal ones, said Tom Creeden, principal of Pennridge High School."

Book Explores Decline Of Rote Poetry Memorization In US Schools

The Boston Globe (10/14, Graham) reviews "Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem" by Catherine Robson, noting, "In the one-room-schoolhouse years of American education, Robson explains, recitation was the default teaching method in every subject," and "poetry in particular was thought to have a special power to comfort, elevate, and refine the children who memorized it. ... By the 1960s, however, mandatory memorization began to decline, a change fueled both by new pedagogical theories and the changing forms and social role of poetry."

DC Experimenting With "Teach To One" Program

The Washington Post (10/15, Brown) reports that students at Hart Middle School, one of the "lowest performing middle schools" in Washington, DC, students are taking part in a program in which "nearly 200 preteens" are placed "in one large classroom space," where each "with the help of laptops and a few teachers" learns "math at his or her own pace. ... Pioneered in New York and expanding to other cities, 'Teach to One' puts a computer algorithm in charge of figuring out what each child needs to learn and do each day, a design meant to ensure that students master one concept before moving onto another." The Post quotes DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson saying, "If it works like we think it will, it'll be a game-changer," and adds, "This is the leading edge of the larger 'blended learning' movement that many reformers think could transform education in the United States, harnessing technology to help teachers deliver personalized lessons to every child."

Florida's Race-Based Achievement Goals Spark Controversy

The Miami Herald (10/13, Isensee, Vasquez) reports that Florida's assessments "grade on a curve, with targets related to race and income." The piece notes that the state BOE has "a new six-year strategic plan with student-achievement goals that vary based upon race, income, disability and English proficiency. For example, Florida hopes to have 86 percent of white students at or above grade level in math, but for black students the goal is 74 percent. A torrent of criticism followed, with educators, elected officials and others saying the plan essentially lowers expectations for certain students." The piece notes that state Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart blamed the firestorm on an erroneous public belief that the state is abandoning some groups of students.

Texas School Issues Students Tracking Badges

NBC Nightly News (10/14, story 7, 2:25, Holt) reported that students at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, "are among the first in the country to be assigned radio frequency identification badges." Principal Wendy Reyes "says by using new electronics embedded throughout the school, her staff can instantly locate any student in the building." The state gives the district $30 per student in attendance per day. Better attendance recording enables the district to receive more revenue because the school can now count students who are in the building but not in their chairs. Some students and parents have opposed the plan for religious reasons. Others, like the ACLU, worry that "the tracking capabilities violate privacy rights." However, the district "says attendance numbers are up since the system has been in place, so the badges are here to stay."

Friday, October 12, 2012

California Executive Warns Of Looming School Budget "Cliff."

In a Los Angeles Times (10/11, Lopez) column, Steve Lopez writes that Vernon, California, food processing executive Larry Vanden Bos "has studied two November ballot propositions that will cost him money if they pass," and plans to vote yes on both nonetheless. "One is Prop. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax-increase proposal, which would raise about $6 billion, mostly for K-12 public schools, colleges and universities. The other is Prop. 38, civil rights attorney Molly Munger's tax-increase proposal to raise about $10 billion, mostly for K-12 schools." Lopez continues to describe Vanden Bos' experiences with school budget cuts as a local school board member, and quotes him saying that if the ballot initiatives fail, "We're talking about going off the cliff, not just in our district, but every district in California."

Study: Few Illinois Teachers Qualified In ELL Instruction

The National Journal (10/11, Ramirez, Subscription Publication) reports that according to a new study from the Latino Policy Forum and UC Berkeley, "few Illinois teachers are trained to educate English-language learners and only a small number are interested in obtaining the credentials to work with these children." The piece notes that the study found that roughly six percent of early education teachers "have either bilingual or English as a Second Language training. The ratio of ESL students to credentialed ESL teachers in predominantly Latino schools was 50 to 1, a figure significantly higher than the state's education board's recommended 10-to-1 ratio for optimal learning for limited-English youngsters."

Virginia Audit Finds No Little Difference In Year-Round Schools' Scores

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (10/11, Meola) reports that a review of year-round schools conducted by Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission "finds that some student groups were more likely to improve their standardized test scores in certain subjects at year-round schools than their peers at schools with a traditional calendar. That said, there was 'no appreciable difference' in Standards of Learning test scores of the student body generally at year-round schools compared with traditional schools. ... In Virginia, nine elementary schools in five districts employ a year-round school calendar, which typically means school begins earlier and includes shorter breaks or 'intersessions' during which students can receive enrichment or remediation."

Los Angeles School Board Passes Resolution Prioritizing Arts Curriculum

Eric Robelen writes at the Education Week (10/11) "Curriculum Matters" blog that the Los Angeles Unified School Board voted this week to "elevate the arts to an essential 'core' subject and to gradually restore budget cuts for it. In addition, the unanimously approved resolution instructed the superintendent to develop a plan to integrate the arts across the curriculum as the 664,000-student system moves to implement the Common Core State Standards." Robelen notes that the board passed a resolution calling on "Superintendent John Deasy to match or exceed arts funding to the level in 2007-08, before a series of what the press release calls 'massive budget deficits that crippled district finances across-the-board.'"

SBAC Releases Common Core Assessment Sampling

The Journal (10/11, Schaffhauser) reports that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has "released a sizable sampling of online assessment items, giving teachers, educational leaders, and members of the public an early look at what kinds of items and tasks will appear on the high-stakes tests that are due to debut in the 2014-2015 school year." The piece notes that the group is developing assessments designed to dovetail with the Common Core Standards, adding that the other consortium developing such an assessment system, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, has already released such a sampling.


The Hechinger Report (10/11, Zhao) also runs an article about the previews of the new assessments, exploring the question of whether the new curriculum and tests will "really revolutionize how we measure whether children are learning." The piece describes the blend of "computer enhanced" questions and traditional multiple choice questions, adding, "One of the biggest concerns about the new tests has been how to finance them. The two coalitions designing the tests won grants from the federal government to pay for the beginning of the process, but this funding won't cover ongoing expenses related to the tests, like paying people to score answer sheets and the cost of new computers and expanded bandwidth."

Indiana District May Lack Sufficient Funds To Pay Teachers Through End Of Year

The Munster (IN) Times (10/12, McCollum) reports that the superintendent and local teachers union president in Gary, Indiana, are studying the district's finances, and that Gary Teachers Union President Joe Zimmerman "sent a note to teachers asking for input if the Gary Community School Corp. runs out of money and can't pay teachers after November." Meanwhile, the local school board "the board took decisive action Tuesday night to allay the fears of teachers and other employees," passing "a resolution to accept a $5.7 million loan from the Indiana Bond Bank and began a process to consolidate its obligations." The piece adds that Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt has "asked the Indiana State Board of Accounts to conduct an independent review of the district's financial picture."

Obama, Romney Share Many Education Policy Positions

The Los Angeles Times (10/12, Blume) reports, "When teachers walked off the job in Chicago last month, they were pushing back largely against" such education policies as a teacher evaluation overhaul, reduced job security, and expanding support for charter schools, noting that both President Obama and Mitt Romney support both policies. "Both also support paying more to effective teachers, a move that unions mostly decry as unsuccessful and divisive." The Times suggests that these positions mirror those of most Americans, and notes Romney's "unusual" praise for Education Secretary Arne Duncan in last week's presidential debate. Romney "told NBC News recently that Duncan 'has made a difference,' suggesting that he was, in effect, standing up to unions." Nevertheless, the Times notes, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel recently offered Obama his public support.

Florida Governor Seeking $2 Million In Teacher Training Grants

The Sunshine State (FL) News (10/12) reports that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) "announced Thursday he will recommend a $2 million teacher training matching grant program for the 2013-14 state budget. The program will require private-sector matches." The piece quotes Scott saying, "The best way to strengthen our education system is to have a great teacher in every classroom and this $2 million investment in a competitive education grant program for teacher professional development is a major step toward that goal."

Teachers Selling Lesson Materials Via Websites

The AP (10/12, Blankinship) reports that many teachers across the country are "making extra money providing materials to their cash-strapped and time-limited colleagues on curriculum sharing sites like, providing an alternative to more traditional - and generally more expensive - school supply stores. Many districts, teachers and parents say these sites are saving teachers time and money, and giving educators a quick way to make extra income." The piece notes that one teacher has earned roughly $1 million on the website, noting that "Dozens of Internet forums have been created to help teachers distribute their material and pick up ideas from other educators."

Many Underprivileged Students Given Adderall To Boost Academic Performance

The New York Times (10/9, Schwarz, Subscription Publication) reports on the growing trend of physicians prescribing such stimulants as adderall--usually prescribed to treat ADHD--as an aid for "struggling students in schools starved of extra boost their academic performance" even when no diagnosis of ADHD has been made. The Times adds that "some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed."

Despite Improvement, California Schools Fail To Make Adequate Yearly Progress

The Los Angeles Times (10/12, Blume) reports that the California Department of Education has released this year's Academic Performance Index, noting that though some struggling schools made significant improvement, "to the federal government" they "simply notched another dreary year of failure." The piece notes that 53% of the state's schools reached state targets, an increase of 4%. Nevertheless, many of the state's schools have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB for multiple years, making them subject to "so-called program improvement status."


Similarly, the San Jose Mercury News (10/12, Murphy) reports, "In the Bay Area, public schools in Palo Alto, San Ramon, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek have come to symbolize educational achievement. But on Thursday, those districts joined the ranks of schools and districts that have failed by the federal government's standards. ... Despite steady test score gains locally and statewide, only 26 percent of California's 10,000-plus schools met the increasingly tough and numerous targets of the No Child Left Behind Act this year." The piece notes that California has not received an NCLB waiver, even though "dozens of states have," and adds that "with the proficiency standard nearing 80 percent, the law is playing out as one might expect."


Other California media outlets covering this story include the San Francisco Chronicle (10/12), the Salinas Californian (10/12), the Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise (10/12, Klampe), the San Jose Mercury News (10/12, Harrington), the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat (10/12, Benefield), the Orange County (CA) Register (10/12, LEAL, MARTINDALE), and U-T San Diego (10/12, Magee).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Online Programs May Undermine Inclusion Movement

Education Daily (10/10, Sherman) reports, "In some ways, the growth in online education, including virtual schools, is a blessing for students with disabilities" since they can work without distractions and at their own pace using such programs. "But the growth of online programs raises questions about LRE, according to David Rose, chief education officer at CAST, which promotes the use of universal design." The piece quotes Rose saying, "My darker fears are that this is a new kind of warehousing here for a lot of kids with disabilities. Schools, districts - even parents may prefer them to be in an online environment, but not necessarily for the right reasons, and that is something that the center really wants to get a better handle on."


Disability Scoop (10/10, Diament) reports that as online classes proliferate, "a group tasked with investigating the impact on students with disabilities is raising some serious concerns. In an open letter, officials with the federally-funded Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities say that there are a number of unknowns with this emerging technology." The group cites concerns about accessibility and teacher training.

Columnist Refutes View Of Common Core As Federal Takeover

In a column in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal (10/10), Laura Ofobike writes at length about the relative quality of the US education system, and laments that the Common Core Standards are being represented by opponents as "nationalized" education standards. "For much of the past two decades, corporate executives in business and manufacturing, among others, complained about the high school diploma not being what it used to be, about graduates falling short of employer and college demands, of American teenagers losing academic ground to peers in other industrialized countries. ... The concern to lift up the game continues to inform a variety of reform efforts, from federal legislation such as President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, to voluntary initiatives like the Common Core Standards, developed by governors and state school superintendents." She notes that the Obama Administration's support for the Common Core is "enough to tag it a federal 'takeover' of education and one more reason to neuter the Department of Education."

Report Urges Sharing Of Student Information

Katie Ash writes at the Education Week (10/10) "Digital Education" blog that a new report from Digital Learning Now! "focuses on the sharing of student information and data, something the report contends is not being done well in today's education system. Most teachers know little about the students they receive at the start of the school year, the report says, which prevents them from being able to personalize learning for students from the first day of school." The report suggests that "data backpacks and learner profiles" would help teachers to craft relevant learning experiences for their students.

Writer Rejects Duncan's Call For Electronic Textbooks

In an op-ed in the New York Times (10/10, Subscription Publication), author and Tufts University professor Justin B. Hollander writes about Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent calls for universal adoption of electronic textbooks. Hollander concedes that there are some uses for classroom technology, but argues that Duncan "is threatening to light a bonfire to a tried-and-true technology - good old paper - that has been the foundation for one of the great educational systems on the planet. And while e-readers and multimedia may seem appealing, the idea of replacing an effective learning platform with a widely hyped but still unproven one is extremely dangerous." Hollander argues that more research is needed and that there may be unintended consequences to removing traditional textbooks from US classrooms.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From Kenneth Beare’s Blog:

Learning New Food Vocabulary

Speaking about food is probably one of the most common activities for any English learner. To start off, learn food vocabulary related to different types of food, ways of preparing... Read more

English for the Restaurant

One of the most important tasks for any English class is learning how to order food. Here are resources on the site to help learners learn the basics, as well as more advanced vocabulary... Read more

Food - Containers and Measurements

"I need a ____ of butter." - stick / box / pinch? Which type of food measurement is appropriate? This quiz focuses on different types of food storage containers and the various types measurements used when speaking about food... Read more

Visual Dictionary - Food

This visual dictionary provides images of various fine foods that you might find in a restaurant. Each image contains a description of the foods, dishes and ingredients...Read more

Los Angeles Stakeholders Launch Arts Curriculum Push

The Los Angeles Times (10/9, Blume) reports, "Donors and school officials Monday launched a multimillion-dollar public awareness campaign to promote arts instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District." The piece notes, however, that like other districts, Los Angeles is facing budget constraints that make increasing arts curriculum challenging. "The campaign, called 'Arts Matter,' consists of messages on 'hundreds of billboards, bus shelters, wall postings, mall media and bulletins,' according to organizers. It's being spearheaded by the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, which raises money for projects related to L.A. Unified schools. Those signed up to tweet encouraging messages include singer Justin Bieber and entertainer/producer Ryan Seacrest."