Monday, December 23, 2013

Delaware Governor Touts Early Childhood Education Progress.

The AP (12/20) reports that Delaware Gov. Jack Markell says his state “is making progress in improving early childhood education, particularly for low-income children,” saying that the “proportion of low-income kids in high-quality early learning programs has grown from one in 20 to one in three” over the past three years. The AP notes parenthetically that Delaware won a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant in 2011.

Los Angeles Officials Reduce Number Of iPads Requested For Testing.

The Los Angeles Times (12/20, Blume) reports that officials in the Los Angeles USD “have sharply reduced the number of iPads they say are needed to carry out new state standardized tests,” noting that despite the $25 million in savings from the move, “examination of the testing plan has raised more questions about the $1-billion effort to provide the devices to every student, teacher and school administrator in the nation’s second-largest school system.”

Mississippi Schools Adapting To Common Core.

Hechinger Report (12/23, Mader) reports on classroom-level changes taking place in Mississippi under the Common Core Standards, “which are slowly transforming the approach to teaching and learning” in the state. The piece explains that most districts in the state are phasing in the standards “just in kindergarten, first- and second-grades over the past two years” to avoid “the pressure of standardized testing, which begins in third grade.” The piece notes that Mississippi is likely to face added challenges because “its old standards are so weak compared to those in other states.”

Common Core Debate Intensifies In North Carolina.

The Statesville (NC) Record & Landmark (12/23) reports that the debate over whether to withdraw from the Common Core Standards “kicked into high gear this week” in North Carolina, noting that the state legislature’s Research Commission Common Core Study Committee “met for the first time Tuesday in Raleigh.” Witnesses on both sides of the issue “presented their thoughts and research,” the paper reports.

Many Ohio Districts Lack Technology Capacity For Common Core Tests.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (12/22) reports that over a third of Ohio districts recently surveyed “say they are not ‘technology ready’” to give online tests aligned with the Common Core Standards. The piece notes that a group of state lawmakers are drafting language to “push back the start of online tests so schools can address technology issues.” The article describes schools with both a dearth of computers and unreliable Internet access.

Maryland Parents Complain Standardized Tests Are Outdated.

The Washington Post (12/23, George) reports that parents in Montgomery County, Maryland are complaining that their children are taking “outdated exams that no longer reflect their classroom teaching,” and are calling for the cancellation of next spring’s Maryland School Assessments. The piece describes the grassroots opposition to the tests, which critics say “lack purpose — and take away time that could be used for instruction — because they do not reflect the Common Core standards now being taught.”

Idaho Students To Take SBAC Exam In March.

The Idaho Statesman (12/21) reports that Idaho students will take “the hardest, most demanding and likely longest statewide assessment ever given” in the state in three months’ time, as districts implement the test crafted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The piece notes that a group of superintendents with concerns about technology issues and the length of the tests met with state Superintendent Tom Luna last week “to air their worries and ask for changes to the exams.”

Mississippi Executive Order May Have Eased Common Core’s Implementation.

An AP (12/22, Amy) analysis reports that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant “may have been doing supporters of the Common Core standards a favor” by issuing a recent executive order “inveighing against a possible federal takeover of education in Mississippi.” The piece explains that the order did nothing to stymie implementation of the standards, and may have lessened pressure on “fence-sitting lawmakers, blocking progress on legislation that would reverse or stall Mississippi’s implementation of the standards.”

Mathews: Many Teachers Give More Homework Than Necessary.

In his “Class Struggle” column in the Washington Post (12/23), Jay Mathews writes about complaints that teachers often give larger or more burdensome homework assignments than are necessary to reinforce lessons, noting that even seasoned educators are critical of giving too much homework, saying that it can be an attempt to persuade parents that they are teaching with rigor.

Utah Teacher Pay Highest In Decades.

Pay The Provo (UT) Daily Herald (12/23) reports that according to recent teacher pay data, “Utah’s teacher pay is the best it’s been since 1980.” The piece explains that the average teacher in Utah earns $49,393, noting that this is still “18th below the national average.” The piece notes that while this is lower than the national average, it is “on par when compared to the region.”

Paper Laments Low North Carolina Teacher Pay.

The Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian Pilot (12/23) editorializes that though North Carolina was “once a beacon of education in the South,” NCES data show that the state ranks 48th in the nation in teacher pay. Moreover, NEA data show that average teacher pay in North Carolina “declined 15.7 percent between 2002 and 2012,” leading to “the highest departure rate in five years.”

IBM, Exxon Criticize Texas For Backing Away From Math Standards.

Bloomberg News (12/23) reports that Texas in 2006 “became the first state to require advanced algebra for high-school students,” noting that the policy resulted in “higher average test scores” and less need for remediation in college. The piece notes that other states followed suit, but that Texas now is “rolling back the requirement for Algebra II under pressure from lawmakers, some educators and business trade associations.” However, “a coalition of corporate interests including IBM Corp. (IBM), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and the Texas Association of Business” oppose the move.

New York School Goes Fully Digital For Textbooks.

The AP (12/23, Fitzgerald) profiles Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, where “nearly every book—from freshman biology to senior calculus—is now digital, accessible on students’ laptops and tablets.” The article reports that the per-student cost of books dropped from $600 to $150, and notes that with some exceptions, “all the texts the school uses are part of a digital bookshelf kept on an Internet cloud.” The piece quotes Vice Principal Frank Portanova saying, “We went to digital because it makes for better learning. This is the way kids learn today. And the online content is a lot richer. You’ve got assessments, you’ve got virtual labs, you’ve got blogging.”

Philadelphia Taking Part In Early Literacy Campaign.

The Philadelphia Daily News (12/23, Leach) reports that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Superintendent William Hite have announced that the city “has signed on to take part in a national campaign to boost literacy in the early grades.” The piece explains that the goal of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is “to double the number of students reading at grade level by the end of third 2020.”

Missouri Legislator Calls For September To May School Calendar.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (12/23) reports on a bill in the Missouri Legislature to “ensure schools don’t start until September and end before June.” Moreover, the bill would “make summer school attendance mandatory for students who score less than proficient on statewide tests.”

Education Experts Concerned About GED Overhaul.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/23, Vitez) reports that as the GED test is overhauled at the beginning of the year, with a focus on promoting better job skills, “many experts fear thousands, especially older Americans, will have little hope of passing the new test.” The paper notes that there has been “a mad rush across the region of people trying to pass all five parts of the exam before it expires.”

California Struggles With Hispanic Achievement Gap.

The AP (12/23) reports that though Hispanics outnumber white Californians next year, many education experts say that California is “a model of what not to do” when educating students of color. The article says that California Hispanic students “in general are getting worse educations than their white peers,” with lower funding and higher class sizes. Moreover, while state test scores “have gone up in the past decade, the achievement gap hasn’t changed.”

California Struggles With Hispanic Achievement Gap.

The AP (12/23) reports that though Hispanics outnumber white Californians next year, many education experts say that California is “a model of what not to do” when educating students of color. The article says that California Hispanic students “in general are getting worse educations than their white peers,” with lower funding and higher class sizes. Moreover, while state test scores “have gone up in the past decade, the achievement gap hasn’t changed.”

New Mexico Testing Opt-Out Movement Grows.

The Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News (12/23) reports on the “new yet growing movement in New Mexico of parents who opt their students out of state standardized tests,” noting that parents of advanced students complain that the tests are not valid measuring tools, while others complain of the stress the tests bring or object to using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Recession Leads To Low Staff-To-Student Ratio For Many Districts.

The New York Times (12/22, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that districts that laid off teachers and other employees during the recession are now facing “unwieldy class sizes and a lack of specialists” for special-needs students. The article relates anecdotes of overworked teachers and counselors, noting that according to Department of Labor data, schools across the country “employ about 250,000 fewer people than before the recession.” The Times reports that these challenges come as “schools are raising academic standards and business leaders are pushing schools to prepare a work force with better skills.”

Recession Leads To Low Staff-To-Student Ratio For Many Districts.

The New York Times (12/22, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that districts that laid off teachers and other employees during the recession are now facing “unwieldy class sizes and a lack of specialists” for special-needs students. The article relates anecdotes of overworked teachers and counselors, noting that according to Department of Labor data, schools across the country “employ about 250,000 fewer people than before the recession.” The Times reports that these challenges come as “schools are raising academic standards and business leaders are pushing schools to prepare a work force with better skills.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ohio Educators Concerned About Need For Keyboarding In Early Grades

The Coshocton (OH) Tribune (11/17) reports on the impact that the Common Core Standards will have on young students on Ohio, focusing on the need for students in the early grades to have keyboarding instruction in order to take Common Core-aligned tests. The piece notes that such changes have “education officials wondering whether students will be able to manipulate their fingers” to properly take such tests.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From Kenneth Beare, your Guide to ESL

Using the Whole Brain
There are many ways to learn a language as there many types of understanding. You can understand something musically, visually or intellectually, as well as emotionally or even through smell. Right Left Brain
This Mind Map reading comprehension lesson provides a number of exercise to help students use this visual technique for longer reads.
Read more
Describing a Scene
The cowboy is riding into the sunset. He fought crime and caught bandits, as well as found love. He's going to become the sheriff in Dodge...
Cowboy into the Sunset
The description above takes the final scene of a movie as the point of departure to write a description using a wide variety of tenses. Use this final scene lesson plan to help students develop stories based on sketches they make of movies they love. Other options include creating soap operas in class, or writing and acting out a script from a favorite movie.
Read more
Three Uses of "What are you doing?"
The present continuous tense - for example, I am writing a blog post. - is used in three situations. The first is to express what is happening at the moment of speaking:
Present Continuous - Now
The second to express what is happening around the time of speaking. In other words, the present continuous can express current projects.
Present Continuous - Currently
Finally, the present continuous may also express a future scheduled event such as a meeting.
Present Continuous - Future Schedule
Learn more about tenses uses the visual guide to tenses.
Check Your Writing Online
Finally! After many, many years there's an online service which checks English writing especially designed for English learners. I don't know how many times I've received an email asking for a recommendation for proofreading software especially designed for learners. 1Checker provides this help. Here's a correction for the following conjugation error in a sentence:
... you intends to say
Subject-Verb Agreement

The subject and the verb have to agree in number and person. Singular nouns in the subject require the singular form of the verb (either in the first or the third person), whereas plural nouns require the plural form of the verb.

Wrong: He walk alone.
Right: He walks alone.
1Checker is free at the moment for the online version. I highly recommend you give it a try!

Philadelphia Rehiring 80 Counselors

The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/5, Graham) reports that the Philadelphia school district is recalling some 80 counselors who were laid off during the district’s “brutal budget crunch,” noting that officials hailed this as “good news,” even though it was “not enough.” The piece notes that the hiring is being funded by “the $45 million Gov. Corbett released to the Philadelphia School District last month.” The piece notes that an indeterminate number of laid-off assistant principals, secretaries, teachers, and special education aides are also being recalled.

California Struggling To Assess Districts’ Testing Readiness


Southern California Public Radio (11/4) reports online that education officials in California are assessing districts’ readiness for “a new computerized field test” tied to the Common Core Standards scheduled for five months from now. However, “fewer than one in four have returned” a classroom technology survey.

ED, California Remain At Odds Over Testing


The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (11/5) continues coverage of the impasse between ED and California over the state’s decision to drop its STAR assessment in favor of a trial run of Common Core-aligned assessments. The piece reports that the logjam threatens “millions of dollars in funding to Santa Cruz County school districts,” noting that “an official” from ED “suggested California could lose at least $3.5 billion in federal aid next year if the state didn’t comply with federal rules.”
The Southern California Public Radio (11/4) reports online that Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle warned that the state is risking $3.5 billion with its “new law to test public school students in only one of two federally-mandated subjects.” The piece quotes her letter saying, “By failing to administer a reading/language arts and mathematics assessment to all students in the tested grades, California would be unable to provide this important information to students, principals, teachers, and parents. In addition, because its new policy violates federal law, California now risks significant enforcement action by the Department.”

Duncan: No Federal Mandate On Teacher Evaluations

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/5) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week praised New York’s teacher evaluation program, “which bases only 20 percent of its evaluation on student achievement.” The piece notes that Duncan, who was asked specifically in an interview about it, “did not mention New Mexico’s controversial” system, which bases 50% of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores. Duncan said in the interview, a video of which has been circulated in New Mexico, “Well, first to be clear, it was never a mandate from us, never has been, never will be. What we’ve always said is that we should be looking at multiple measures for whether it’s teacher evaluation or principal evaluation or looking at districts or schools or, ultimately, states. You have to look at multiple factors.”

KOB-TV broadcast a report on the controversy over Duncan’s comments, showing him giving the above quote.

California District Fielding Electric Buses

The Earth Techling (11/5) reports that the school district in California’s San Joaquin Valley is putting “what’s being dubbed one of the first all-electric school buses” into service, noting that the SST-e “is a Type A school bus” similar to “a prototype model first developed as part of a partnership Trans Tech had with noted electric vehicle manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles back in late 2011.”

Gizmag (11/5) also covers this story, noting that the fleet of buses will save the district 16 gallons of fuel per bus per day, or $11,000 in fuel savings per bus annually.

Colorado Releases Data Touting Literacy Program Success

The Denver Post (11/5, Noon) reports that Colorado education officials have released the results of the first year of the state’s Colorado Reading Corps program, which 208 of 472 K-3 students with low reading skills were able to successfully complete. The article quotes Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia saying, “In its first year, it’s been clear, we got positive results.”


Illinois Districts Adjusting To Rising Minority Populations

The Chicago Tribune (11/5, Delgado, Zumbach) reports that suburban districts in Illinois are “adjusting to their rising Latino enrollment with changes in curriculum and culture” as demographic shifts end the era of such districts being “overwhelmingly white.” The piece explains that the 2013 Illinois School Report Card shows that the state is on the cusp of having a majority of its students part of ethnic minorities.

North Carolina Teachers Protest Education, Teacher Pay Cuts

The Charlotte (NC) Observer (11/4) reports that teachers and some parents in North Carolina staged “a statewide ‘walk-in’” on Monday, protesting “cuts in education funding and low teacher pay.” After calls on social media for a walkout, the North Carolina Association of Educators “rallied behind a ‘walk-in’ as an alternative.” Teachers engaged in such actions as refusing to communicate verbally during classes and displaying protest rhetoric.

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (11/4) reports that the state’s schools are “the latest battleground in the fight over public education,” noting that Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Monday that “teachers have ‘legitimate gripes,’ but added that he didn’t know enough about the protest to say whether it was an appropriate tactic.”
The Greensboro (NC) News & Record (11/5) and WNCN-TV Raleigh-Durham, NC (11/5) also cover this story.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some Common Core

Coalition Calls For Moratorium On Common Core Consequences.

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (6/7, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog that the Learning First Alliance, “A coalition of education organizations and unions that support the Common Core State Standards issued an open letter on Thursday backing a moratorium of at least one year” on consequences tied to Common Core-aligned assessments. Strauss notes that the coalition consists of “the American Association of School Administrators, the American School Counselor Association, the International Society for Technology in Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the National School Boards Association and the National Parent Teacher Association.” She notes that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has recently said that “teachers have not had time to properly absorb and create curriculum around the standards,” making it “unfair for students to already be taking high-stakes tests aligned to those standards.”

Blogger Explores Role Of Civics Education In Common Core.

Justin Reich writes at the Education Week (6/7, Reich) “Ed Tech Researcher” blog in response to an email from Joaquin R. Tamayo Jr., the Assistant Director of the Education & Society Program at The Aspen Institute, about the “intersection between the Common Core and the democratic purposes of education.” Reich addresses the literature on civic education that exists, and concludes, “we cannot lose sight of the fact that great public schools have a responsibility to prepare young people for civic life. I do think that some of the best ideals of learning embodied in the Common Core can be put in service of that important mission.”

Obama Calls For Expanded E-Rate, Universal Classroom Broadband

President Obama’s call, during a visit to a school in Mooresville, North Carolina, for the nation to equip all schools with broadband access within the next five years generated significant national media coverage today. In general, the media is reporting the story in a neutral and fact-based tone. The New York Times (6/6, Calmes, Wyatt, Subscription Publication) reports that at the “innovative middle school,” Obama touted“the Internet-based education programs that he is proposing to make available nationwide.” Obama “called on the Federal Communications Commission to expand an existing program to provide discounted high-speed Internet service to schools and libraries, even if it meant increasing the fees that for years had been added to consumers’ phone bills.” Obama said the plan “could lead to better technology at 99 percent of schools in five years.” The Times quotes Obama saying, “There’s no reason why we can’t replicate the success you’ve found here. And for those of you who follow politics in Washington, here’s the best news — none of this requires an act of Congress.” The piece notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Obama at the school, and that under the plan ED “would work with the FCC to revamp the initiative, known as the Schools and Libraries program or E-rate, to provide local schools with Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.” The Times adds that Duncan “said that he had learned of the innovations in Mooresville...because the local school superintendent was a friend.”

The AP (6/7, Superville) reports that Obama “says a new initiative called ConnectED would mean faster Internet connections for 99 percent of students within five years.” The article quotes Obama saying in a statement, “We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology.” Noting that Administration officials said that the plan could be funded with “a new, temporary surcharge on phone bills,” the AP adds that officials “said faster, school-based Internet access can bring interactive, individualized learning to millions of students.” The AP quotes Duncan saying, “Some people ask if technology is going to replace teachers. That’s not ever going to happen. The answer is always great teachers.”

Bloomberg News (6/6, Lerer) reports that the appearance gave Obama “an make the case for his second-term economic agenda – – major pieces of which have faced stiff resistance from Congress – and offer less-sweeping proposals that don’t require congressional action.” Bloomberg characterizes the plan as a move to “modernize” the E-rate program, and notes that Mooresville Middle School, where Obama made the announcement, is “part of an education district known nationally for its digital-learning program. The school district hands a laptop to every child in grades four to 12, offers special teacher technology training, and uses a predominantly digital curriculum.”

The Los Angeles Times (6/6, Parsons) reports that in his comments, Obama “argued that such access would improve learning opportunities for students all over the country” and “noted that only about one-fifth of US students have high-speed Internet access in their classrooms, while every student in South Korea does.” The Times quotes Obama saying, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools, right?” Meanwhile, Duncan “grinned when he noted that the support of Congress was not needed, calling that ‘a fantastic part of this.’”

Noting that Obama’s legislative agenda has been “largely stymied by a bitterly divided Congress,” the Washington Post (6/6, Rucker) reports that the President is “taking what his aides are touting as a major executive action on Thursday to expand Internet connectivity in the nation’s schools.” The Post adds that “senior administration officials” say that Obama “believes improving connectivity could be transformative for schools, allowing teachers and students to use personalized software, up-to-date electronic texts and engage on Skype and other programs.”

Duncan Promotes ConnectED.Appearing on CNN Newsroom (6/6, 9:16 a.m. EDT), Education Secretary Arne Duncan discusses the need for students to have access to broadband, and expresses his excitement about the proposal. He notes however, “There’s some hard work ahead of us. We along with the FCC have to take a look at what we’re doing. But think of the opportunities for students and teachers if we can get this right over the next three, four, five years.” Duncan points out that schools can’t afford to upgrade their broadband, and explains how the E-rate program can be tweaked to improve and hasten its work. Duncan also stresses the need for US students to have the same advantages as do those in South Korea.

Duncan relates a similar message on MSNBC Now With Alex Wagner (6/6, 10:34 a.m. EDT), expressing enthusiasm about the ConnectED program. Asked about paying for the program, Duncan points out the potential benefits of updating E-rate, working on efficiencies within the program, and possibly implementing “a small increases in fees to fund this.” More of this segment can be seen here.

The Wall Street Journal (6/7, Porter, Subscription Publication), the Huffington Post (6/6, Resmovits), the Reuters (6/6, Holland), the Charlotte (NC) Observer (6/6), the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (6/6, Dunn), CNN (6/6, Aigner-treworgy), the Christian Science Monitor (6/6, Khadaroo), the Hispanic Business (6/7), the Davidson (NC) News (6/6, Boraks), WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC (6/7, Weiss), WFMY-TV Greensboro, NC (6/7, Mickens), and Venture Beat (6/6, Farr) also cover this story.

Costs May Stymie Plan.Politico (6/7, Boliek) reports that “officials said ConnectED would require a one-time infusion of capital that would cost individual Americans little. Administration officials expect to pay for part of the program through savings rung out of the Universal Service Fund.” The piece notes however the FCC sources believe that this “isn’t going to be enough to increase capacity for all the schools and educational institutions that may want it,” in that “requests from schools already exceed the amount available from the $2.3 billion-dollar E-Rate fund.”

More on Common Core

Huckabee Urges Oklahoma To Stick With Common Core.

The Washington Times (6/6, Wolfgang) reports that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, “a leading figure in the Republican Party...penned a letter Tuesday to lawmakers in Oklahoma, urging them to stick by” the Common Core Standards “even as Michigan, Indiana and other states have backed away from them.” The Times quotes his letter saying, “It’s disturbing to me there have been criticisms of these standards directed by other conservatives. I’ve heard the argument these standards ‘threaten local control’ of what’s being taught in Oklahoma classrooms. Speaking from one conservative to another, let me assure you this simply is not true … They’re not something to be afraid of; indeed they are something to embrace.” The Times notes that many conservatives see the Common Core as “a de facto federal takeover of education.”

Fordham Institute Defends Common Core.

In an op-ed in the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (6/5, Finn, Petrilli), Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrelli, president and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, write that “outside groups have been vigorously spreading misinformation about the Common Core State Standards,” but that “North Carolinians should understand that the Common Core arose as a state initiative and, with continued support, the standards will gain traction in schools and yield gains for students as well as for the state.” The writers continue to list “six strong, conservative arguments for supporting the Common Core,” including “fiscal responsibility,” “accountability,” “school choice,” and “competitiveness.”

New Hampshire Districts Facing Common Core Implementation Deadline.

In an online article headlined “Change To The Common Core Will Be ‘Messy,’” New Hampshire Public Radio (6/6, Evans-Brown) reports on the plans to transition to the Common Core Standards in New Hampshire over the next year, noting that “for some schools this will be a big change, but others are well on their way to adapting to the new academic standards.” Meanwhile, “companies are jostling to make money off of helping schools make that change.”

Challenges Stymie Classroom Technologies

T.H.E. Journal (6/4, Nagel) reports that researchers say that despite widespread adoption of classroom technology, researchers say that “significant challenges are preventing widespread effective implementation.” The researchers say that while some challenges are systemic, “teachers and education leaders share in the blame as well.” The article cites a report that “identifies key emerging issues in education technology using primary and secondary research and input from an advisory board comprising ‘internationally recognized practitioners and experts’ in ed tech.”

Philadelphia Report Exposes Lunchroom Concerns.

KYW-TV Philadelphia (6/5) reports that a report “is shedding light on the state of lunchrooms inside Philadelphia’s public schools,” and “identifies solutions for improving kids’ days at schools. It’s based on a survey of 434 Philadelphia School District cafeteria workers and student safety staff conducted by the union that supports them.” The report indicates that there are safety issues regarding limited supervision to prevent violence in the lunch room, and 64% “of respondents said at least half the food served is being thrown away.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Law Calls For More Computer Science Instruction In Washington Schools

The Issaquah (WA) Press (6/4, Clark) reported, “In a bill drafted and promoted by freshman State Rep. Chad Magendanz, the state has undertaken the commitment to increase the availability of computer science instruction within the schools.” The “bill states that the Legislature ‘intends to take additional steps to improve and expand access to computer science education, particularly in advanced courses that could prepare students for careers in the field.’” Magendanz “said he hopes to offer ways to bring many specialists that make up the workforce of big technology giants like Microsoft into classrooms. With their skilled knowledge of advanced computer science, many of those experienced technicians have shown an interest in sharing their time with students.”

Common Core Controversy Explored

New Hampshire Public Radio (6/4, Evans-Brown) runs a piece on the “massive transformation” that the Common Core Standards are bringing to New Hampshire schools, noting that though the standards were released in 2010, “the public is just starting to take note.” The piece describes the “growing conservative backlash” based on Federal involvement, noting that some critics say that “the Common Core Initiative is a direct descendant of liberal efforts to enact a national curriculum in decades past.” The piece describes the origins of the Common Core, noting that the “federal government was not directly involved.”

California Students, Teachers, Parents To Have SBAC Sample Access

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (6/4, Lambert) “Report Card” blog reports that California education stakeholders “can now try the new computer-assisted tests that will be rolled out during the 2014-15 school year,” noting that they are aligned with the Common Core Standards and that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium released a statement saying that the practice assessments “provide a preview of the types of questions that will be featured in actual assessments. ... The tests will use open-response and performance-based questions, which require a student to complete a task or solve a problem, as well as some that rely on the traditional multiple-choice method.”

North Carolina Senate Passes Cursive Bill

The National Review (6/4, Grudnicki) reports that the North Carolina state Senate has passed a measure requiring “public elementary schools to instruct students in cursive writing so that kids can ‘create readable documents through legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.’” The bill is dubbed the “Back to Basics” act. The article notes that the Common Core Standards “do not include any mention of handwriting, so the 45 states who have adopted the standards are left to pass supplementary legislation to cover the exclusion. North Carolina is just one of at least ten states that have considered requiring or recommending that students be taught to write in cursive.”

California Transitional Kindergarten Program Receives Praise

Bakersfield Californian (6/3, Edelhart) reports on the end of the first year of California’s transitional kindergarten program, noting that the “2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act required all districts to change the required birthday for admission to kindergarten and first grade and establish a TK program beginning in the 2012--13 school year.” The piece notes that districts are currently evaluating the first year of the program, adding that though no “hard data” has yet been released, “generally parents and educators are pleased with how things went.” The piece cites anecdotal evidence that “the youngest elementary school students have clearly benefited from the modified curriculum.”

Study: Parents Want More Mobile Devices In Classroom

Information Week (6/4, Booker) reports that a new study underwritten by AT&T found that more parents “want schools to accelerate their use of mobile devices in the classroom.” The study “found that more than 50% of parents believe that schools should make more use of mobile devices in education,” while 32% “said schools should require mobile devices in the classroom.”

Friday, May 31, 2013

Virginia Students Have Online Tests Interrupted By Outage

The Washington Post (5/24, Shapiro) reports that thousands of students taking online tests on Fairfax, Virginia, were interrupted by technical glitches. The school district told parents in a letter that there were “significant problems” encountered with administering the tests to nearly 42,000 students. The cause was said to be “an outage with the school system’s Internet service provider.”

Report Calls For More PE, Activity For US Schoolchildren

A report from the Institute of Medicine calling for more in-school physical educationprograms and out-of-school activity for US schoolchildren received major coverage today.

USA Today (5/24, Hellmich) reports, “Students should be doing at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity at school, with more than half of the activity occurring during regular educational hours and the remaining amount before and after school, says a report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine.” According to USA Today, “estimates suggest that only about half of US kids meet the government’s physical-activity guideline of doing at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day, the report says.”

The Los Angeles Times (5/24, MacVean) reports, “The institute’s report, ‘Educating the Student Body,’ calls on the US Department of Education to designate physical education as a core academic subject.” Currently, “there are no consistent nationwide policies about gym time, and the report recommends that 30 minutes a day in elementary school and 45 minutes in upper grades be devoted to physical education. Other time, such as recess, should be provided for physical activity as well, the report said.”

Bryan Toporek writes at the Education Week (5/24, Toporek) “Schooled in Sports” blog that the report’s “recommended ‘whole-of-school’ approach would require ‘all of a school’s components and resources [to] operate in a coordinated and dynamic manner’ to give students the chance to engage in at least 60 minutes of daily MVPA.”

The AP (5/24, Kerr) reports, “Another concern, the report says, is that 44 percent of school administrators report slashing big chunks of time from physical education, arts and recess since the passage of the No Child Left Behind law in 2001 in order to boost classroom time for reading and math.” Now, “with childhood obesity on the rise – about 17 percent of children ages 2 through 19 are obese – and kids spending much of the day in the classroom, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report said schools are the best place to help shape up the nation’s children.”

On its website, NBC News (5/24, Fox) points out that “the committee said children not only need the exercise for their health – they need it so they can learn better.” Reuters (5/24, Heavey), MedPage Today (5/24, Pittman), HealthDay (5/24, Dallas), EdSource Today (5/24, Adams), and FOX News (5/23) also cover this story.

Maryland District Parents Criticize New Report Cards

The Washington Post (5/28, Bui) reports that parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, “say they are frustrated because their children have been earning fewer top grades on report cards that use ES, P, I and N instead of the traditional A through E system the county uses in its middle schools and high schools.” The article notes that a student may not earn top marks even with a perfect score on a quiz, and “after the first year with the new grading system in place...some parents say they want changes.”

Under Waiver, West Virginia To Focus Less On Assessments

The Charleston (WV) Gazette (5/25, Mays) reports that had West Virginia not gotten a No Child Left Behind waiver “last week, all of the state’s students would have been expected to achieve proficient scores in reading and math on next year’s standardized tests, a standard the state has not been close to reaching in the past.” The piece notes that under the state’s waiver, “the West Virginia Department of Education is promising a state-developed plan that puts less focus on standardized tests,” using them only as a secondary factor “in determining a school’s performance.”

Study Urges Physical Education Should Be A “Core” Subject

The Washington Post (5/26, Strauss) reports in its blog “The Answer Sheet” on the Institute of Medicine’s new report that recommends the US Department of Education “designate physical education as a core subject, just like math and English, to help confront a ‘pandemic’ of physical inactivity that has contributed to a critical national health challenge.” The blog recaps all of the report’s recommendations, which include prescriptions for government agencies.

NYTimes Says Report Shows Importance Of Physical Education To Academics.The New York Times (5/25, Subscription Publication) says in an editorial that “a sensible new report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences” shows the benefits of being physically active for students, and argues that as a result “physical activity should be a core educational concern, not a dispensable option” in US schools. It laments that many schools “have cut physical education and recess periods to leave more time for sedentary classroom instruction.”

More Common Core

State Education Chiefs Call For Common Core “Wiggle Room.”

Michele McNeil writes at the Education Week (5/29, McNeil) “Politics K-12” blog, “The Council of Chief State School Officers is rejecting calls for a moratorium on any high stakes tied to the Common Core State Standards,” noting that the chiefs say that states are already equipped to “smooth the way for what could be a rocky transition.” Nevertheless, McNeil writes, the chiefs are calling for “some flexibility” from ED and Education Secretary Arne Duncan “during these next couple of tricky years as the common core is fully implemented and common tests come on line.” She writes that the CCSSO has released a document calling for “wiggle room” for accountability, teacher evaluations, and assessments.

Education Analyst Lays Out Common Core Concerns.

FOX News America Live (5/28, 1:46 p.m. EDT) broadcast a report on the Common Core Standards, including “controversial claims about how the feds might use this program to data mine our students and their families.” The segment features education analyst and filmmaker Bob Bowden, who--after listing a number of positive potential benefits of the Common Core--says, “What we have increasingly learned is the Federal top down involvement. A third of a billion dollars was used by the... Federal Treasury money was used to set up these groups.” He also notes that the Federal government tied Race to the Top grants and NCLB waivers to being “down with Common Core,” and suggests that the Common Core will suppress education innovation. In a second segment, the conversation turns to “data mining” on the part of ED, and to concerns about politically controversial topics being taught.

Michigan Budget Would Give Legislature Common Core Veto Power.

The AP (5/28) reports that under a budget proposal in the Michigan legislature, the state “would not be able to spend money to implement” the Common Core Standards “unless the Legislature approves it.” The AP adds that the bill “would require the Legislature to affirm the Common Core State Standards and the assessment that goes along with it before the department could use any funding to implement the standards.” The article notes that though Gov. Rick Snyder (R) supports the Common Core, “some Republicans in the Legislature say they strip away local control of the state’s educational system.”

Alabama Columnist Praises State Legislature For Preserving Common Core.

In a column for Alabama Live (5/29, Kennedy), Joey Kennedy praises the Alabama state legislature for not passing the “push by ultra-conservatives to repeal the state Board of Education’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards,” noting that state “education officials and others support the standards and, more importantly, should be the folks developing education policy. The last thing the Legislature should be doing is ordering education changes.”

Common Core Opponents Buoyed By Utah GOP Resolution.

The Provo (UT) Daily Herald (5/29, Warnock) reports that 65% of delegates at the recent Utah GOP convention “approved a resolution denouncing the Common Core,” and noting that Cherily Eagar, who sponsored the resolution, “is preparing for a major push at the legislative interim session.” Eagar “told the Daily Herald on Tuesday that the vote has become a rallying point,” and says that “the Republican delegate repudiation of Common Core opens a pathway for serious discussion about alternatives for Utah.”

Indiana Teacher Says Quality Instructors Better Than Common Core

In an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star (5/29, Neal), teacher Andrea Neal expresses skepticism about the Common Core Standards, noting that since they were adopted by most states in 2010, “questions have arisen about their quality and cost.” Meanwhile, she writes, Common Core supporters “are spewing a great deal of hyperbole in their attempt to preserve it.” Neal relates a number of published arguments against the Common Core, and concludes that “quality instructional materials in the hands of effective teachers are more likely to affect achievement than a rewriting of standards.”

Bill Would Allow Philadelphia To Target Tax Owers To Fund Schools

Noting that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is set “to vote on a doomsday budget with massive cuts,” the Philadelphia Inquirer (5/30, Woodall) reports that state Sen. Mike Stack (D) “Tuesday announced legislation that would funnel more funds to the schools by giving the city new powers to crack down on delinquent taxpayers.” Stack said that the measure “would require the city to garnish up to 10 percent of the wages of delinquent taxpayers, give local governments authority to attach bank accounts to collect unpaid taxes without going to court, and allow municipalities to put liens on property anywhere in the state that is owned by delinquent taxpayers.”

Blackboard Announces Text Message Bullying Reporting System

The AP (5/30, Elliott) reports that “leading education technology company” Blackboard has “announced it would give schools a free and confidential way for students to tell school officials via text that they are being bullied or are witnessing bullying. Blackboard’s TipTxt program could change the school climate — or reveal just how pervasive student-on-student harassment has become.”

Smarter Balanced Releases Practice Tests

Sean Cavanagh writes at the Education Week (5/30, Cavanagh) “Digital Education” blog that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has released “sets of online sample test questions for grades 3-8 and 11 in both English language arts and math,” noting that the consortium will offer the Common Core-aligned assessments to “participating states during the 2014-15 academic year.” Implementing the online tests “will be a major undertaking, and whether the online run-throughs will ease some of the recent agitation about the challenges of implementing those online tests remains to be seen.”

Noting that this test has been selected to replace the New England Common Assessment, New Hampshire Public Radio (5/30, Evans) reports that Jackie King with Smarter Balanced “calls the practice test a service for participating states that is ‘giving schools, parents, teachers an early look and an early chance to interact with the assessment almost two years before it will be operational in schools.’”

Pennsylvania District Officials Criticize State School Funding Formula

The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (5/30, Lynch) reports, “Local school officials and education policy officials voiced concerns about problems with current public education funding formulas” at a legislative hearing in Harrisburg. The article describes the perspectives shared by local officials who panned unfunded mandates, low special education funding, and the impact of charters on district finances.

Common Core - May 2013

Tea Party Groups Fighting Common Core Standards.

The Washington Post (5/30, Wallsten, Layton) reports Tea Party groups, which have “lacked a cohesive goal” since the fight over the Affordable Care Act, are now becoming active in opposition to the Common Core State Standards, a “bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.” The activism has led to legislation in at least nine states “that would at least temporarily block the standards.” The standards “do not dictate curriculum” but would create consistent math and reading standards nationwide. Both Tea Party groups and “some skeptical liberals say the standards amount to a federal takeover of education.” The piece concludes by noting that Education Secretary Arne Duncan “expressed frustration about the rising angst over Common Core” last week in congressional testimony, rejecting criticisms that the Common Core constitute a “Federal takeover.” The Post quotes Duncan saying,“It’s not a black helicopter ploy and we’re not trying to get inside people’s minds and brains.”

WTimes Blasts Common Core.

An editorial in the Washington Times (5/31) says that the Common Core Standards amount to President Obama “drafting the curriculum in our local schools,” noting that though the Common Core originated with “state educational bureaucrats crying out for more centralization,” the “administration is more than happy to advance this because it means a larger role for the federal government.” The paper criticizes the growing role of ED in setting standards and policies, and complains that the Common Core “transfers control of what is being taught in local schools away from teachers, parents and administrators and hands it to a remote bureaucracy.”

Maryland District Implementing Common Core Despite Concerns.

Delmarvanow (5/30, Sharpe) reports that the school district in Newark, Maryland, is working to reassure concerned citizens as it implements the Common Core Standards. Area residents expressed concerns about the role of the Federal government at a recent school board meeting. District officials updating the board on implementation stressed that “the curriculum itself was developed locally.”

Wisconsin Budget Would Bar Common Core Implementation.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (5/31, Marley) reports that under a clause in the budget plan passed by a joint panel of the Wisconsin legislature this week, the “state Department of Public Instruction would potentially be barred from implementing” the Common Core Standards “until hearings are held and new findings issued.” However, “the state would be able to keep the math and reading standards it has already implemented.”

Illinois Teacher Quits Over Testing In Viral Video

KTBC-TV Austin, TX (5/31) reports that Illinois teacher Ellen Rubenstein has taken “to the internet to tell her bosses she’s fed up with the education system in her state and country,” noting that she “posted the video on YouTube last week, saying she is fed up that standardized test results are the only the factor determining how students, teachers and schools are performing.” The piece notes that in the past week, the video “has more than 400,000 views on YouTube.”

Georgia Report Card Shows Charters Trailing Traditionals.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/31, Subscription Publication) reports that according to its analysis of the new “report card” issued by the Georgia Department of Education, “many charter schools in metro Atlanta scored below state averages but outperformed other public schools in their neighborhoods.” The piece notes, however, that this will not “end the debate about traditional versus charter schools. ... The higher scores of most start-up charters than other public schools in their districts are likely to bolster the argument of those who say charter schools are superior alternatives for children in struggling neighborhood schools.”

The Augusta (GA) Chronicle (5/30, Jones) reports that roughly one-third of Georgia charters outperformed their home districts’ averages, meaning that “two out of every three scored worse.”

Duncan Stresses Value Of Dual-Language Instruction

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (5/31, Maxwell) “Learning the Language” blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan “over breakfast yesterday gave perhaps his clearest statements to date on the benefits of dual-language development and instruction, especially for students who are English-language learners.” Duncan told reporters that ELL students “come to school with a major asset—their home languages—that educators should capitalize on, especially in the early grades.” Maxwell quotes Duncan saying, “[It] is clearly an asset that these kids are coming to school with. ... The fact that our kids don’t grow up [bilingual] puts them at a competitive disadvantage.”

Silicon Valley Hispanic Students Lag Behind In Math

EdSource Today (5/31, Fensterwald) reports that though California’s Silicon Valley region is the home to several prominent technology and aerospace firms, “few Latinos who grow up in their shadow are qualified to work for those companies.” The article says that this “disconnect between aspirations and reality starts early,” with most Hispanic students trailing behind in math by 8th grade.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Virginia Among First States To Transition To Online Assessments

The Washington Post (5/21, Chandler) reports that Virginia is transitioning its Standards of Learning assessments to digital format this year, making it “one of the only states to wholly abandon the nearly ubiquitous paper-and-pencil bubble sheets.” The Post points out that this makes Virginia a “model” for states that adopted the Common Core Standards, noting that those “states are scrambling to meet a fast-approaching deadline to implement corresponding online tests.”

Philadelphia Council Committee Approves Alternative School Funding Plan

The Philadelphia Daily News (5/20, Ransom) reports that a committee of the Philadelphia City Council has approved a measure “that would raise an extra $30 million for schools through the use-and-occupancy tax levied on businesses – two days after Mayor Nutter’s proposed tax hikes on booze and cigarettes for the same reason.” The paper explains that the council doubts that “state enabling legislation that would allow for Nutter’s new tax measure” will pass in time.

Classes Resume In Troubled Michigan District

The AP (5/18) reports that classes will resume Monday for over “two dozen teachers laid off in the financially troubled Buena Vista Schools district,” noting that the district “hasn’t held class since May 3 because it ran out of money for payroll. The cash crunch came after the state withheld aid to make up for earlier overpayments.”