Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Jersey Survey Shows Gay Students Report "Hostile Climate" At School

The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (3/26, Boyd) reports that according to a new survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, "the majority of New Jersey's lesbian, gay, and transgender secondary school students report they regularly hear homophobic and sexist remarks and have been victimized at school based on their sexual orientation." The paper lists a number of findings from the survey, adding, "GLSEN's recommendations are that schools implement supports such as comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policies, support Gay-Straight Alliances, provide professional development for school staff on LGBT student issues, and increase student access to LGBT-inclusive curricular resources."

Florida Legislative Panel Approves Measure To Arm Teachers

The Miami Herald (3/28, McGrory) reports that the Florida House's K-12 education subcommittee has voted 10-3 in support of a "controversial bill, which would allow principals to choose certain teachers and school employees to carry concealed weapons on campus. Schools opting against an armed employee would be required to hire a separate safety officer." The Herald notes that the measure "has met resistance from parent groups, local school boards and the state teachers' union, who adamantly oppose the idea of allowing guns on school property."

Maryland County Executive Takes School Takeover Bid To Public

The Washington Post (3/28, Wiggins) reports, "Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) told more than 16,000 people participating in a telephone town hall to discuss his schools takeover plan on Tuesday night that someone needs to be held accountable for the county's struggling schools system and asked residents to 'put me in the hot seat.'" The Post notes that Baker is pushing for state legislation to "put him in charge of the school superintendent and the schools system's $1.7 billion budget. The move would significantly reduce the role of the Board of Education, limiting its responsibility to academic policy and parental engagement."

Papers Take Opposite Sides On Plan.An editorial in the Washington Post (3/28) backs Baker's plan, listing a number of problems in the district. "It's a good idea, and there appears to be a fair amount of support for structural reforms among state lawmakers. They should pass a bill now, before the system hires a new superintendent." The Post criticizes the Maryland legislature for watering down the plan, but adds that "even the Senate's version is better than the status quo."
However, an editorial in the Baltimore Sun (3/27) acknowledges the "dysfunctional" school board and poor academic support, but argues that Baker's plan for "direct control over the district's day-to-day operations and authority over its next superintendent would be unprecedented in Maryland. The carefully constructed wall between public K-12 education and electoral politics would be torn down with potentially troubling, precedent-setting consequences for the state's other school systems."

Protesters At Alaska Capitol Call For More Education Funding

The AP (3/26) reports, "a large crowd of protesters gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday to call for additional funding for public education in Alaska," noting that a number of Democrats in the state legislature criticized "Gov. Sean Parnell and other Republicans for not moving to inflation-proof the per-student cost of education, known as the base student allocation, or BSA."

KTOO-TV Juneau, AK (3/27) reports that many demonstrators were critical of plans to lower oil corporation taxes even as education funding remains stagnant. "The per-student funding amount has been held at the same level for three years now. And across Alaska, school districts are considering budget cuts."

State Senator: Multi-Year Funding Package In Development.The Fairbanks (AK) News-Miner (3/28, Buxton) reports that Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly (R) "said the Senate has a multi-year education funding package in the works," and that "the package hasn't been finalized but it's aimed at bridging the funding gap until a long-term solution can be found."

Teachers Rank High On "Well-Being" Survey

The New York Times (3/28, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that despite "public perceptions of a beleaguered teaching corps across the United States...a new analysis of polling data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that examines 'well-being' as measured by a number of indicators, including physical and emotional health, job satisfaction and feelings of community and safety, found that teachers ranked second only to physicians. In addition, teachers ranked above all other professions in answers to questions about whether they 'smiled or laughed yesterday,' as well as whether they experienced happiness and enjoyment the day before the survey."

RTTT States Take Varying Approaches To Personalized Learning

Education Week (3/27, McNeil) reports, "The 16 Race to the Top district winners, pushed by $400 million in federal grants that put a premium on personalized learning, are embarking on vastly different makeovers of the classroom experience-from districtwide approaches to a narrower blueprint focused on middle school math." The piece notes that nevertheless, the state are "tapping similar tactics: mobile devices and individualized learning plans for students, personalized learning coaches for teachers, and data dashboards that collect all student learning information in one place. What's more, many of the districts are embracing the philosophy that learning isn't defined by time spent in class, but by mastery of a particular subject or lesson."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Colorado District Board Votes To Allow Principal To Carry Gun

The AP (3/26) reports, "As lawmakers across the country debate arming teachers and administrators to prevent another deadly school shooting, one Colorado school district has voted to let its superintendent and a high school principal carry concealed semi-automatic pistols on campus - a move some say sidesteps laws meant to keep schools gun-free." The school board in rural Dolores County "voted unanimously in February to allow Ty Gray, principal of Dove Creek High School, and Superintendent Bruce Hankins to double as security officers, who under state law are allowed to carry guns on elementary, middle and high school campuses." The piece notes that critics "say the school board's decision is merely a semantic argument that skirts state laws prohibiting guns at schools."

California Program Blends Science Curriculum Into ELL Instruction

Education Week (3/27, Fleming) profiles "a federally funded collaborative project between the 4,600-student Sonoma district and the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco. ... As the release of the Next Generation Science Standards draws near, hands-on, inquiry-based methods of science instruction like those taught in Sonoma are becoming more common. Yet its use of science to teach English is a novel approach-one that offers significant potential for other districts to replicate, some educators say, especially as the number of English-language learners rises."

Common Core Could Increase Interest In Open Educational Resources

An analysis in T.H.E. Journal (3/19, Waters) reports that "open educational resources" was a prominent buzzword in education circles in 2012, citing "exciting predictions" in education technology media that the concept would provide high-quality content at low costs and would eliminate traditional textbooks. "Now, as the implementation dates for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) loom large, many districts are facing the need to buy new instructional materials aligned with the standards, and OER is a hotter topic than ever. The inventory of these open resources is exploding, and advocates such as the OER Commons and Achieve are providing districts and teachers with tools for determining the degree of standards alignment of these materials." The piece continues to explore why OER hasn't taken off to a greater degree in US classrooms.

Study: Middle School Algebra Push Yields No NAEP Gains

Education Week (3/27, Sparks) reports that a new analysis from the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy finds that though "many states are pushing students to take Algebra 1 in middle school to prepare them for advanced math in high school," this practice has not increased NAEP performance. "In 1990, only 16 percent of 8th graders enrolled in an algebra course, versus 81 percent in a more basic pre-algebra course. By 2011, fully 47 percent of 8th grade students reported taking Algebra 1 or higher math." However, the study failed to find a resultant improvement in NAEP scores.

Grouping Students By Ability Growing In Popularity

Noting that the practice was considered to be a civil rights violation in recent decades, Education Week (3/27, Sparks) reports that "grouping students by academic ability seems to be back in vogue with a new generation of teachers, according to an analysis of federal teacher data" from the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. Explaining that the practice consists of "separating students for instruction within a single class," the article adds, "In part, the new trend may be a generational issue: A majority of teachers in 2011 had not been in the field in the 1990s, when the debate over tracking and ability grouping was at its height." Education week reports that the practice began to be discouraged when "researchers found that, as in 'separate but equal' segregated schooling arrangements, students in lower academic groups and tracks were given less high-quality instruction and were not spurred to catch up with classmates in higher-level groups."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Emanuel's Budget-Driven School Closures Face Severe Criticism

The Washington Times (3/26, Chumley) reports Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "budget decision to close 53 public schools and 61 buildings isn't going over so well with city residents and union activists. ... From his perspective, he's only trying to help bridge a $1 billion budget gap. But from their perspective: Why are the buildings and schools he's targeted for closure in predominantly minority neighborhoods?"

Dewayne Wickham, in his column for USA Today (3/25, Wickham), notes that the administration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "intends to shutter 61 elementary school buildings, nearly all of them in black and Hispanic neighborhoods." Wickham says "those who push for massive school closings are taking a meat cleaver approach to deficit reduction - one that treats poor and inner city neighborhoods with the disdain of Jim Crow-era lawmakers." According to Wickham, if he gets his way, Emanuel "will render large swaths of Chicago's black and Hispanic neighborhoods uninhabitable education wastelands." Wickham points out that ED's "civil rights division is investigating complaints that claim the school closing decisions of several urban school districts amount to a civil rights violation."

California District Waiver Bid Has Precedent, Conditional Approval Of State Officials

Michele McNeil writes at the Education Week (3/26) "Politics K-12" blog about the "tepid blessing" that California education chief Tom Torlakson and BOE President Michael Kirst gave to the NCLB waiver application that a coalition of California districts has submitted to ED, noting that the letter expressed "reservations about how such a waiver would work, including the role of the state in monitoring these districts, whether other districts will be able to join in, and the process used by federal officials to approve the request. These nine California districts, calling themselves CORE for California Office to Reform Education, are hoping to secure a first-of-its-kind district waiver now that the state's waiver application has been rejected. ... US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seems quite fond of the CORE districts and their proposals, pointing out in a spirited back-and-forth with a group of state chiefs last week that they encompass 1 million students-more than the student population of some entire states." She notes that ED Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle has written to state that the application will receive peer review, and describes past precedents for district-level waivers from NCLB requirements.

New Jersey Governor Announces Camden Takeover

USA Today (3/25, Dunn) reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Monday that the state is taking over the troubled school district in Camden, which "has the second-lowest graduation rate in the state, a declining enrollment and high poverty." The piece quotes him saying, "I don't want anything worse for the children of this city or any other city in the state of New Jersey than I would want for my own children." USA Today adds, "Under a state-run system, the local school board will have an advisory role, and the state will choose a new school superintendent. The process could be in place in six to eight weeks." The piece notes that Camden would become the fourth district to be taken over by the state.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/26, Katz) reports that Christie "formally announced this morning that he is taking reigns of the Camden school district, but he offered few details about how and when students, teachers and parents would see changes in what he considers the lowest-performing district in the state. Instead, a soft-spoken Christie spoke of the need for saving children in America's poorest and most dangerous city through a 'partnership.'" Noting that he never used the word "takeover," the Inquirer quotes Christie saying, "We're acting because inaction is immoral. Let's treat all these children – and make all these decisions – as if they're our own children."
Describing Camden as "a district in which 90 percent of the schools are among the bottom 5 percent in performance statewide," the AP (3/25, Zezima) reports, "Once the state's takeover plan has been approved, the governor said he would appoint a new superintendent. A search is already under way, and the state plans to work within that system." CNN (3/25, Ly) also covers this story.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Activists Vow To Continue To Fight Philadelphia School Closings

The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/22, Graham) reports that Philadelphia activists have vowed to fight plans to shutter 23 schools in the city, noting that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and other opponents were arrested last week protesting the closures. "Weingarten, who with the rest of the group is set for trial in May, said the large-scale closings were part of a larger plan for the Philadelphia School District." The piece quotes her saying, "It is clear to us that this massive plan to close schools has nothing to do with the education of the children of Philadelphia."

California State Officials Backing CORE Waiver Request


The Fresno (CA) Bee (3/23) reports, "State education officials support efforts by Fresno, Clovis and Sanger Unified School Districts to get a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, but remain concerned about who would monitor a new accountability system." The piece notes that State Superintendent Tom Torlakson "signed off" on the move by the California Office to Reform Education, the consortium created by nine districts to seek a waiver, in a letter to ED on Friday. "CORE wants a waiver from No Child, which requires that all students be proficient in English and math by 2014. Instead, they want to use standardized test scores, along with factors like attendance, suspension and graduation rates, to gauge how well a school is doing."
EdSource Today (3/25) reports that Torlakson and California Board of Education President Michael Kirst "expressed support Friday for nine districts' application for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. In letter to the U.S. Department of Education, they also raised questions about how the waiver would be implemented and enforced. ... The CORE waiver proposal is based on three principles: 1) College- and career-ready expectations for all students, 2) State developed differentiated recognition, accountability and support, and 3) Supporting effective instruction and leadership."

Arizona Bill Changing Assessment Sparks Common Core Debate


The Ahwatukee Foothills News (AZ) (3/25, Martinez) reports that in response to the advance of a measure in the Arizona state legislature changing the state's AIMS assessment to align with the Common Core Standards, "parents, teachers, education leaders and activists gathered last week at the State Capitol for an informational meeting that discussed the new Common Core state standards and the possibility of replacing AIMS testing." The piece relates the opposition of education stakeholders concerned about a potential shift to the PARCC assessment. However, "Supporters and the bill's sponsor, Rep. Doris Goodale say that the AIMS test is no longer relevant to be administered since it measures old standards."
Arizona Paper Supports Common Core Assessment Bill.An editorial in the Arizona Republic (3/21) dismisses criticism of the Common Core Standards as being "conspiracy theories" and anti-Federal sentiment, arguing that "needs of 21st-century students" should be paramount. "We're not talking about a revolutionary new idea here. Schools across the state have been preparing for new national academic standards called Common Core, which will kick in this fall." The paper backs the above legislation, and pans Republicans in the state legislature for being influenced by "activists."

Common Core Presents Technology Challenge For Rural Districts

NPR (3/21, Lieszkovszky) reports in a "StateImpact" piece that many rural schools lack the computer equipment to test students using Common Core assessments. "That's because the new standardized tests that accompany the Common Core will be given online. ... Union Local School District in rural Belmont, Ohio, says it'll have a hard time getting ready for the Common Core's online exams on time."

Teacher Diversity Not Keeping Pace With That Of Students


ABC News (3/25, Deruy) reports online that according to a new study from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, "More than 80 percent of the bachelor's degrees in education awarded during the 2009-10 school year were to non-Latino white students," even as "the racial and ethnic makeup of the country's student body has become less monolithic over the years. Nearly half of all children under five right now are minorities, and no racial or ethnic group will constitute a true majority in the United States by 2050, according to Census data." However, ABC notes, the AACTE says that it's analysis of NCES data indicates that the racial makeup of the teaching corps is not making similar changes.

Teachers Seek Balanced Approach To Digital Learning Games

KQED San Francisco (3/25, Korbey) reports online about the balance between electronic games to teach mathematical mastery and traditional drill and practice. The piece quotes fifth-grade teacher Jenny Kavanaugh saying, "The goal is that a student can do division problems with speed and accuracy, and can also describe to me exactly what division is. I have found that my advanced students can move past division of fractions in the online game, indicating mastery, but when I ask for a verbal description of what it is they are really doing – what is the division of fractions, or when would you use that in the real world? – they have no idea." The article adds, "While experts like Gary Stager, founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute, recommend that computers be used to add 'deep and meaningful experiences' to teachers' lessons, much of what the 91% of teachers with access to computers are doing may be just the opposite."

Friday, March 22, 2013

California Legislature Mulls Restricting CABs


EdSource Today (3/22, Fensterwald) reports that the California state Assembly Education Committee unanimously passed a measure to "severely restrict school districts' ability to float construction bonds that would saddle future taxpayers with huge balloon payments," despite the opposition of education groups. "By deferring payments on the bonds for sometimes decades and extending the term of the bonds to 30 or 40 years, districts can end up paying interest amounting to 10 times the principal or more, instead of twice the principal as is common for a standard 25-year school bond."

Half Of States Using Teacher Entry Exam.


EdSource Today (3/22, Riley) reports that there is "a major national education reform under way, with its origins in California; which may result in the creation of a national 'bar exam' to enter the teaching profession; and yet few in the education community seem to be paying attention to this effort or weighing in on whether it's worth supporting? This is the story of the education Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA." The piece notes that the idea has risen quickly, and that it "is now being used in at least 25 states (to varying degree) to determine whether newly trained teachers are ready to set foot in the classroom."

New York Legislator: City To Lose $250 Million In Teacher Evaluation Impasse

The AP (3/22) reports, "Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says New York City schools will lose about $250 million because of the impasse over a teacher evaluation system, but the loss won't be compounded in coming years." The piece notes that Silver says that an additional $300 million in state funding for the 2013-14 school year will offset the loss. "Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers union couldn't agree on a teacher evaluation system required by a state law. The penalty was losing an annual increase in state aid."

Baltimore County Superintendent Sets Universal Bilingual Goal


The Baltimore Sun (3/21, Knezevich, Sun) reports, "Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dallas Dance plans to issue digital devices to middle- and high-school students and wants all children in the school system to graduate bilingual, believing it will make them globally competitive, he said in the county's first state of the schools address Thursday." The Sun adds that Dance "hopes to see kindergartners learning world languages and older students carrying electronic devices within the next five years, he said in an interview Thursday. ... Dance said he can't yet estimate the cost of his plans, but noted that the system spends $20 million a year on instructional materials and resources."

Writers Concerned About When To Introduce Algebra Under Common Core

In an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News (3/22, Humphries, Barbara), Paul Humphries, chairman of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation board, and Manny Barbara, SVEF vice president and retired superintendent of the Oak Grove School District, write about the debate in California over when to introduce algebra to students, noting that "the California board of education's recent shift away from promoting Algebra I in eighth grade - a 15-year-old policy - has intensified the discussion." The writers express their concerns that the move will be perceived as a lowering of expectations, and will be "misunderstood to mean that students should not take Algebra I in eighth grade, and that there won't be an accelerated option as part of the new Common Core state standards being implemented beginning in 2014." The writers notes that while Common Core math standards are expected to be rigorous, "they do not preclude exposing students who are ready to Algebra I in eighth grade."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kansas Legislature Passes Union Dues Deduction Ban


AP (3/20, Hanna) reports that the Kansas House has passed a bill "barring public employee unions in Kansas from deducting money from members' paychecks to help finance political activities," noting that the measure has already passed the state Senate. "The bill's passage was a political victory for conservative Republican legislators and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce." The piece notes that Kansas National Education Association lobbyist Mark Desetti "said the bill singles out public employee unions for special restrictions." The AP quotes Desetti saying, "The bill is there because we disagreed with the Chamber and the governor, and we need to be silenced. Go after us, but you're not shutting us up."

Maryland District Bans Homemade Treats, Hugs


USA Today (3/19, Winter) reports, "Seeking to heighten safety," the school district in St. Mary's County, Maryland, "has banned homemade treats for classes, banished birthday invitations and prohibited parents and volunteers from hugging or touching children who aren't their own. ... The 'best practices' were drafted by a committee of parents and administrators last fall and implemented after the Newtown, Conn., massacre in December, Southern Maryland Newspapers reported Friday."

National School Climate Center Publishes Briefs Linking Climate To Bullying, Dropouts

Nirvi Shah writes at the Education Week (3/20, Shah) "Rules for Engagement" blog that the National School Climate Center has published a set of 11 briefs "about school climate research, measuring school climate, the relationship between school climate and bullying, and climate and dropout prevention," adding, "The briefs, the National School Climate Center says, present the latest in research and best practice for effective school climate reform from experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the National Dropout Prevention Center, and Special Olympics Project UNIFY, among others."

California Intervention Program Targets Potentially Dangerous Students


The CBS Evening News (3/19, story 2, 2:30, Schieffer) reported, "After the massacre on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department embarked on a program to try to identify students who might pose a threat to their classmates and to deal with them before they act." The piece notes that the School Threat Assessment Response team acts on referrals from area educators, and interviews students to determine their threat level and to provide assistance when needed. Officials "believe this program has prevented attacks here in Los Angeles. They say their other goal is to help students stay in school and graduate."

Columnist Urges Minnesota Legislature To Push For Full-Day Kindergarten

In a column in the Princeton (MN) Union Eagle (3/20), Howard Lestrud urges the Minnesota state Senate to focus on full-day kindergarten, noting that "Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, told the ECM Editorial Board on Friday that the Senate will now 'dig in' on all-day kindergarten. Bakk is looking at ways to fully fund the education initiative."

Educator Develops Short PD Presentation Series

Liana Heitin writes at the Education Week (3/20) "Learning Now" blog about a series of three-minute audio recordings accompanied by PowerPoint presentations or videos called LessonCasts, intended to be a widely accessible form of professional development for teachers. Developed by former Baltimore County administrator Nicole Tucker-Smith, the segments feature teachers recording "themselves explaining a teaching strategy that they are strong in to a colleague. ... Tucker-Smith's school began making LessonCasts (which she also calls teacher-created videos) to address the area in which students were struggling the most: reading comprehension."

Most Adults Fail Rhode Island High School Exit Exam


Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (3/20) "Answer Sheet" blog that "of the 50 accomplished adults who took an exam made up of questions from the New England Common Assessment Program, 60 percent received a score that would - if translated to Rhode Island's new diploma policy - put a student in jeopardy of graduating from high school." Strauss explains that the plan for the adults to take the test was "staged by the Providence Student Union, a high school student advocacy group, as a protest against a new state requirement that high school seniors must reach a certain level of proficiency on the exam to graduate."

Red Hot Chili Peppers Drummer, Former Yankee Lobby For Music Education


The Washington Post (3/19, Brown) reports that Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams "went to public schools that nurtured their passion for music. And now both of them are in Washington, headed to Capitol Hill this week to lobby for music education for kids across the country." The Post quotes Smith saying that music programs kept him from dropping out, and notes that the "annual lobbying event is organized by the National Association of Music Merchants, which aims to persuade federal lawmakers that music education is far from frivolous." The advocates are calling on Congress to give ED more flexibility in education cuts.
Rolling Stone (3/20, Flanary) also covers this story, noting that Smith "will join jazz guitarist (and ex-New York Yankee) Bernie Williams on behalf of the National Association of Music Merchants to demand a stronger national presence for music instruction in the classroom. Their visit comes one week after Senate Democrats and House Republicans released opposing budgets, and at a time when the National Education Association union expects the sequester to slice more than $4 billion in spending from the Department of Education and Head Start."

Duncan Says Education System "Falling Short" For Students Of Color

Duncan Says Education System "Falling Short" For Students Of Color.

The Los Angeles Sentinel (3/20, Curry) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking in a private meeting with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said that "instead of being the traditional ticket to success, many of our nation's troubled schools hinder opportunity for upward mobility, especially for students of color." The piece quotes Duncan saying, "The hard truth, the brutal truth, is that in too many places, our education system is falling short of being the engine of mobility, the prized pathway to the middle class. Instead, tragically, these schools often perpetuate inequality and restrict opportunity." Noting that Duncan "described what he calls the paradox of progress," the piece quotes him saying, "The good news is that after the Brown decision, school segregation declined dramatically in the South. The bad news is that our schools today are as segregated as they have been at any time since the death of Dr. King. The good news is that many more Black students today are graduating from high school and enrolling in college than ever before. The bad news is that Black students are still less likely than their peers to receive equal access to top-notch teachers and the college-prep classes they need to succeed in today's globally competitive economy." Duncan is also quoted discussing college attendance and completion among black students, the achievement gap, and violence in schools.

Schools Working To Increase Students' Interest In Physical Education

NBC Nightly News (3/19, story 12, 2:20, Williams) reported that though budget cuts and increased focus on academics are causing many districts to eliminate gym class, "some communities are finding ways around it, helping kids learn and grow in a healthier way. ... In Miami Dade County where 14% of middle school students are obese, there is a new approach to physical education. Catering to kids' interests." The piece notes that the district's physical education director has been drumming up community funding for the past decade, and that "Nautilaus Middle, a school without a gym turned a classroom with worn out equipment into a wellness center with high tech, kid-friendly machines."

Few Minority Students In US Teacher Training Programs


The New York Times (3/20, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports, "Despite major changes in the racial makeup of American public school students, the people training to be teachers are still predominantly white." The piece notes that a new study from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education shows that "82 percent of candidates who received bachelor's degrees in education in 2009-10 and 2010-11 were white. By contrast, census figures show that close to half of all children under 5 in 2008 were members of a racial or ethnic minority." The article touches on potential causes for this imbalance, and the overall difficulty that colleges of education have in recruiting students, particularly in STEM fields.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

California Treasurer Seeking Legal Opinion On Controversial School Bonds


The Los Angeles Times (3/19, Nottingham) reports, "California Treasurer Bill Lockyer sought a legal opinion Monday to determine if some local education officials and the municipal finance firms they employ are violating state law by campaigning to get school construction bonds passed." Lockyer wrote to state Attorney General Kamala Harris seeking the opinion, the Times reports, adding, "In recent months, Lockyer has been examining the way schools handle bonds, in part because of alleged abuses that arose from the issuance of risky and expensive instruments know as capital appreciation bonds."

California Teachers Report Sharp Decline In RIF Notices

The Los Angeles Times (3/19, Watanabe) reports that according to the California Teachers Association, a "boost in money for public education" has resulted in only 3,000 pink slips having been given to state teachers, a "dramatic drop from the 20,000 sent out last year. ... The passage last fall of Proposition 30, which will temporarily increase taxes to raise about $6 billion mostly for education, will help schools avoid the massive layoffs that have crippled art, music, science and other programs statewide since 2008." In fact, the school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego handed out no pink slips at all.

Education Publishers Collaborate On Common Core Math Series

The T.H.E. Journal (3/18, Hudson) reports, "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and Big Ideas Learning have collaborated to introduce "Big Ideas Math 2014," a Common Core-aligned middle school math program." The program "can be adjusted via the regular pathway or the compacted pathway through middle school mathematics. ... The 'dynamic classroom' feature includes an interactive presentation tool for teachers, which includes textbook material such as chapter opener cartoons, virtual manipulatives, essential questions, vocabulary, key concepts, examples, mini-assessments, and warm ups."

Ohio Districts May Lack Sufficient Computers For State Tests


The Cincinnati Enquirer (3/18, Amos) reports, "Ohio public schools appear to be far short of having enough computers to have all their students take new state-mandated tests within a four-week period beginning in the 2014-15 school year." The article quotes Ohio Association of School Business Officials Associate Executive Director Barbara Shaner saying, "With all the reductions in education funds over the last several years and the downturn in the economy, districts have struggled to be able to bring their (computer technology) up to the level that would be needed for this." The piece also quotes state DOE Director of Curriculum and Assessment Jim Wright saying that districts could receive permission to use paper tests, if they lack sufficient computers.

Nevada Bill Would Expand Pre-K For ELL Students

The AP (3/18) reports that under a measure in the Nevada legislature, "the Clark County School District would get millions of dollars to help young children learn to speak and understand English before entering elementary school." The bill "would require prekindergarten programs in Clark County to teach children who are not proficient in English. Clark County is the largest school district in Nevada and among the largest in the nation."

Brookings Study Shows Resurgence Of Ability Group Divisions


USA Today (3/18, Toppo) reports that a new study from the Brookings Institution's Center on American Education "suggest that despite decades of controversy, elementary school teachers now feel fine placing students in 'ability groups,'" noting that the study "finds that between 1998 and 2009, the percentage of fourth-grade teachers who said they created ability-based reading groups skyrocketed from 28% to 71%. In math, between 1996 and 2011, the practice rose from 40% to 61%." Noting that the practice has been discouraged in past decades as being a "civil-rights issue," USA Today reports that Brookings researcher Tom Loveless said "new demands from the federal 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which required schools to focus on struggling students in reading and math," may have prompted the trend.
The AP (3/19, Elliott) reports that the report "shows a dramatic increase in both ability grouping and student tracking among fourth- and eighth-grade students. Those practices were once criticized as racist and faced strong opposition from groups as varied as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to the National Governors Association." The AP quotes Loveless saying, "Despite decades of vehement criticism and mountains of documents urging schools to abandon their use, tracking and ability grouping persist - and for the past decade or so, have thrived."

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Jersey Legislature Considers Full Day Kindergarten

The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/18, Boccella) reports on a mandatory full-day kindergarten plan in the New Jersey legislature, noting that the "all-day plan is a growing trend as districts grapple with more rigorous curriculums for even the youngest students while also working within tighter budgets - the biggest barrier to expanded days. In New Jersey, nearly 30 percent of districts still offer only half-day kindergarten. But with the state issuing beefed-up curriculum standards for next year, many experts say a full day is essential."

California Districts Issue RIF Notices Despite Rising Revenues

The San Bernardino (CA) Sun (3/18, Yarbrough) reports, "Despite additional revenue in their coffers, nine Inland Empire school districts have warned teachers and other employees that their services may not be required in the coming school year." Noting that California law mandates that teachers receive layoff notices by March 15, the paper explains that "many districts tend to send out many more Reduction In Force (RIF) notices than they end up needing to, putting teachers in an uncertain position for weeks or months, as the state budget grinds slowly towards passage."

Mathews Examines Return Of Ability Grouping

Jay Mathews writes at the Washington Post (3/17) "Class Struggle" blog that the practice of dividing elementary students into ability-based reading groups, which fell out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s, has quietly returned to US classrooms. "Depending on your point of view, the No Child Left Behind law deserves credit or blame for the return of" the practice. Mathews writes that Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy "examines this turnabout in his new report, 'How Well Are American Students Learning?' ... Loveless's research shows that the anti-tracking movement had some effect, although middle schools and high schools still have one set of courses for college-oriented students and a less demanding set in the same subjects for those not so academically inclined."

Experts Concerned About Chronic Pre-K Truancy

The AP (3/18, Thompson) reports on the efforts of attendance specialists in Buffalo, New York, to encourage improved attendance for pre-K students, noting that "educators say a district's youngest students are often among those with the worst attendance, in many cases because public preschool is not mandatory and parents regard it as little more than babysitting. It's a problem that needs to be addressed, experts say, especially after President Barack Obama's recent proposal to expand funding of voluntary public prekindergarten for any 4-year-old whose family income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level, a $47,100 threshold for a family of four." The AP adds that educators say that the promise of Obama's proposals can't be realized unless students show up for school.

Friday, March 15, 2013

California Voter Initiative Results In Fewer Teacher Layoffs.

The Huffington Post (3/14, Resmovits) reports on some "relatively good news" in California, where "less than one-eighth of the number of teachers who got pink-slipped last year will be out of work next year." According to the California Teachers Association, the Post reports, only 2,400 RIF notices went out this year, as compared with 20,000 last year. "The change follows California voters' passage in November of Proposition 30, which permanently raises income taxes on the wealthy while temporarily increasing the sales tax by a quarter of a penny in order to raise $6 billion in school and university funding."

California Teachers Protest District's Class Size, Pay Reduction Plans.

The Fremont (CA) Bulletin (3/15, Barry) reports that "hundreds of teachers" in Fremont, California, marched on district offices "in a protest to lower class sizes and increase their salaries." The protest comes after the union "declared a bargaining impasse March 5 following a year of negotiations with the district. FUDTA now believes negotiations have reached a point where the differences in positions are so substantial that future meetings would be futile."

Study: Schools Becoming Less Segregated

Jackie Zubrzycki writes at the Education Week (3/15, Zubrzycki) that amid concerns that US schools are becoming more racially segregated, "new research offers a nuanced but slightly more positive picture of the status of racial integration in the nation's schools. While the nation's schools did become gradually less integrated over the course of the 1990s, that trend has slowed and even reversed in the new millennium." Zubrzycki details the study's methodology, adding that it found that "between 1998 and 2009, white students became increasingly likely to share classrooms with nonwhite students, and minority students were also increasingly likely to share classrooms with minorities from other racial or ethnic backgrounds." Moreover there has been a marked decrease in segregation between black and white students.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Teachers Embracing Interdisciplinary Common Core Implementation

Education Week (3/13, Heitin) reports that some teachers involved in Common Core implementation "are calling attention to an approach they say is working well: interdisciplinary thematic units. Whether they've had these types of units in their repertoires for years or are just now jumping into such cross-curricular work, educators say the new standards support this type of teaching in several ways." Notably, teachers say that the increased focus on informational text lends itself well to the interdisciplinary approach, as such materials can be introduced in non-English arts courses, such as math and social studies. "In addition, the common standards lay out specific literacy requirements for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, and they emphasize research and synthesizing skills."

US Districts Continue To Reduce Teacher Positions

Reuters (3/13, Lambert) reports that districts across the country are still reducing the number of teaching jobs as they continue to cope with the fallout from the recession, and relates the plight of teachers who have given up on finding employment in their field. The piece notes that this trend coincides with the overall reduction in the number of public employees.

Bill Gates Pushes Classroom Technology At SXSWedu.

The Huffington Post (3/12, Llorenz) reports that Microsoft founder Bill Gates, speaking at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas, said, "We currently only direct about 1 percent of total R&D [research and development] dollars toward edtech...our investments don't match our mandate." The Post adds, "Gates believes education technology, facilitating personalized, interactive learning, is key to closing the achievement gap dividing Latino, African American and poor students from the rest of the country, and preparing all American students for the future of global competition with the rest of the world."

Speaker Stresses Equalizing Influence Of Classroom Technology.KQED San Francisco (3/14, Barseghian) reports online about the importance of electronic devises in the classroom, adding, "Access to the Internet connects kids to all kinds of information - and for low-income students especially, that access has the power to change their social structure by allowing them to become empowered and engaged, said Michael Mills, a professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas during a SXSWEdu session last week." The piece quotes Mills saying, "For minorities and for low-income students who have these devices, it might be their only way to access the Internet, to get information about their own health, access to social media. And they're using that as the agent to change their social structure."

New York Principal: Rigor Key To Preparing Students For Common Core

Education Week (3/13, Heitin) reports on the perceived problem of underperforming students being expected to conform to higher standards as states implement the Common Core Standards, noting that Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, New York, believes that increased curricular rigor is the answer. At her school, "nearly every student-including English-language learners and those receiving special education services-takes advanced classes. When students are struggling, they do not receive remediation or a pared-down curriculum. Instead, they are supported on grade-level material and pushed harder. ... Burris, co-author of Opening the Common Core: How to Bring All Students to College and Career Readiness, says her hard-line approach stems from her extensive research on college readiness-including the doctoral work that earned her the 2003 dissertation of the year award from the National Association of Secondary School Principals."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kenneth Beare's EL Lessons

Are you Used to Something or Did you Use to Do Something?
What is the difference between the phrases: Are you used to working out? and Did you used to work out? The first question, "Are you used to working out?"... Read more
The Use of Phrases
Phrases are used in any language and English is certainly no exception. Paying attention to phrases, also known as chunking, helps you learn language which you can use as building blocks to create... Read more
You drive, I'll ride (in the car). We'll have a great trip!
Verbs and nouns referring to travel can be confusing. This article focuses on travel / movement related vocabulary including the use of travel, trip, journey, voyage - as well as common verbs such as drive, ride, walk, etc... Read more
Writing Clear Sentences
Once you've learned basic English, you'll want to begin improving your writing skills. Start by understanding English sentence types. Make sure you also understand basic English punctuation rules. You can then learn how to connect sentences. Finally, understanding text organization will lead to better writing skills for essays... Read more

Districts See Good Returns From 1-to-1 Laptop Programs

Education Week (3/12, Fairbanks) reports on the implementation of the 1-to-1 laptop program in Natick, Massachusetts, where a funding surplus for a new building allowed administrators to purchase 1,500 laptops. "For the Natick schools, like hundreds of other districts around the country, the goal behind the digital conversion was simple: increase academic achievement. Despite the difficulty of investing in a costly program at a time when many districts are also facing tighter budgets, a growing number of districts like Natick are beating the odds by adopting cost-effective 1-to-1 programs-and seeing results."

Bill Clinton Releases Report Detailing Half Trillion In Facilities Upgrade Needs

AP (3/12, Elliott) reports that according to a new report released by former President Bill Clinton and the Center for Green Schools, "America's schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than $270 billion just to get elementary and secondary buildings back to their original conditions and twice that to get them up to date," noting that Clinton wrote in the foreword, "'we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity' to children and urged the first federal study of school buildings in almost two decades." The report found that schools should have spent $271 billion more than they did on facility upkeep. The article adds that the US Green Building Council wants ED to begin keeping track of schools' age and conditions and districts maintenance and utility costs. "'Would you send your kids or grandkids to one of these schools?' asked National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, who supported the report along with the 21st Century School Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Lung Association and the National PTA."

Educators Face Expanding Need For Broadband

Education Week (3/12, Davis) reports on efforts to upgrade wireless bandwidth ad Indiana's Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation, where connection "to the Internet faltered repeatedly last school year. ... Teachers across the country want to personalize learning through technology, districts are putting 1-to-1 computing initiatives in place, tablet devices are flooding into classrooms, and the 2014-15 deadline for online testing under the Common Core State Standards is drawing near. But none of those approaches or plans is possible without high-speed broadband connections." The article notes that FCC has made universal broadband connections a priority, and discusses the infrastructure issues schools face in trying to expand broadband access.

Ryan Plan Would Freeze Pell Grants

The Huffington Post (3/12, Resmovits) reports, "Under Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis) 'Path to Prosperity' budget framework for 2014, college students would have one less weapon against the creep of climbing college tuitions: Pell Grants would freeze at their current level, with a maximum possible grant of $5,645 per student for the next 10 years." The Post quotes National Education Association government affairs official Mary Kusler saying, "We see continued cuts to education. It goes beyond the sequester cuts." Meanwhile, the Post reports, "Though the budget is unlikely to be passed in an Democratic Senate, it signals Ryan's legislative priorities. ... Ryan links Pells to the increasing tuition rates, which many experts say is inaccurate."

More Financially Struggling Districts Utilizing BYOD Systems

The Hackensack (NJ) Record (3/13, Superville) reports on the rising prominence of bring-your-own-device programs in US schools, noting that the "about-face is a growing trend in K-12 districts nationwide, from Georgia and Wisconsin to New Jersey. Cellphones, laptops and tablets are relatively affordable, and rare is the teenager who doesn't own at least one. As such, more teachers are incorporating Internet-based programs, applications and videos into their lesson plans, the 21st-century equivalent of chalk and blackboard." The piece notes that the practice can be especially helpful in cash-strapped districts.

Needy, Impact Aid Districts Bracing For Sequestration Cuts

Education Week (3/13, Klein) reports that "some of the nation's neediest school districts are bracing for tough choices" as they ponder what the Federal sequestration cuts will mean for their funding streams. The series of cuts "is expected to be particularly painful for districts that depend the most on the federal government to supplement their bottom lines. They include districts serving high numbers of disadvantaged children, students in special education, and English-learners, along with those near military bases and on Native American reservations." The article states that the cuts could hinder districts recovery from the recession, and suggests that the impact of Federal budget uncertainty is likely to linger in coming years. The article notes the criticism that Education Secretary Arne Duncan drew when he suggested in February that some 40,000 teacher jobs could be lost, including a letter from Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) and other GOP lawmakers which read in part, "school districts will have final say in determining how cuts are implemented."

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (3/13) "Politics K-12" blog that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin "is hoping to make the cuts a little easier to cope with. ... Harkin, who oversees the panel that deals with K-12 funding, is planning to introduce an amendment to the Senate's year-long spending bill that would include slight increases for the key education programs that school districts depend on the most." Klein lists the modest increases to Title I, special education funding and TRIO programs, and suggests that these "would ease the pain a little bit for school districts, especially those that have a lot of disadvantaged students and students in special education."
North Chicago District Expects To Lay Off Educators Over Sequestration.The Kansas City (MO) Star (3/13, Masterson) reports, "Teachers and administrators in District 187 stand to lose their jobs because of the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts otherwise known as the sequester. North Chicago Unit School District CEO Ben Martindale spent much of last week in Washington, DC, pleading his case against the cuts" with other superintendents of federally impacted districts, the Sun-Times reports, adding that his district stands to lose some $5.6 million in impact aid. "Layoff notices are expected to go out this spring, Martindale said."

California Bracing For Sequester Cuts To Special Education

The Huffington Post (3/11, Sankin) reports that the sequestration cuts could affect special education programs in California, relating the story of a San Francisco family with a severely disabled daughter. "The potential impact the sequester will have on the daily lives of the more than 36,000 K-12 students with disabilities in California show how the across-the-board budget cuts can have harrowing implications for millions in the U.S. It also reveals how government agencies, like individual school districts, increasingly face hard choices making the cuts with the least damage." The piece notes that the National Education Association has released an analysis projecting that "the $67 million cut in federal funding for California's special education programs will result in 671 lost jobs." The piece quotes NEA government relations director Mary Kusler saying, "There's no way at that level of cuts that children will not be affected. From our perspective, that's the greatest danger."

Judge Upholds Law Barring Arizona Mexican Studies Program

The Arizona Republic (3/13, Collom) reports that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and other state officials "have won a significant legal battle in a long-running saga over a controversial Tucson schools ethnic-studies program, with a federal judge ruling that a law designed to ban it is constitutional." Supporters of the law "said Monday that they feel vindicated in their efforts to ban what they deemed to be racially divisive courses in public schools." The paper quotes Horne calling the ruling "a victory for ensuring that public education is not held captive to radical, political elements and that students treat each other as individuals - not on the basis of the race they were born into." Teachers who had taught the program "had claimed the law infringed the constitutional rights of Hispanic teachers and students to free speech and equal protection."

Report: Virginia Hispanic Students Increasingly Attending Segregated Schools

The Washington Post (3/13, Chandler) reports that according to a new report from the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project, "Latinos, the largest minority group in Northern Virginia, are attending increasingly segregated schools." The Post adds that the report "examines enrollment patterns across the state during the past two decades." Noting that nearly 80% of the state's Hispanic students went to "predominantly minority" schools last year, the Post adds that the report shows that "about 7 percent of those students went to 'intensely segregated minority schools' - ones where less than 10 percent of students were white and a large majority of students lived in poverty."

Idaho To Launch Khan Academy Integration Push

Education Week (3/13, Ash) reports that during the next school year, some 10,000 students in Idaho "will log into newly created Khan Academy part of an initiative that aims to infuse technology into instruction and supplement teachers' curricula. In the first such statewide effort in the country to integrate content from the online Khan Academy into school curricula, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, a private philanthropy in Boise, Idaho, will hand out nearly $1.5 million in grants to 47 schools for technology, professional development, and research to determine the impact of Khan Academy resources on teaching and learning." The piece notes that the Khan Academy is a nonprofit with "a library of more than 4,000 videos on a variety of academic subjects."

Group Launching New Financial Literacy Standards

Time (3/12, Kadlec) reports that the Council for Economic Education is rolling out "a new set of standards for financial literacy" for US schools in the hope that "schools will embrace these guideposts and begin to wedge money lessons into students' daily activities." The group's new standards "are broken into six personal finance categories:" "earning income," "buying goods and services," "saving," "using credit," "investing" and "protecting and insuring."

NCES Study: "Honors" Math Classes No More Rigorous.

USA Today (3/12, Toppo) reports that according to a new National Center for Education Statistics analysis of "textbooks, curriculums and transcripts of nearly 18,000 students nationwide," many students enrolled in math classes labeled "honors" "are actually getting intermediate-level work - or worse." The article quotes NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley criticizing the lack of "truth-in-labeling" in the courses, and quotes him saying, "It's a lot of kids that are obviously getting courses that are called one thing, but difficulty-wise look like they're something else." USA Today explains that the analysis "began as an attempt to solve a mystery: Researchers were trying to find out why more students were taking 'advanced' classes in 2005 than in 1990 but weren't turning in better results on nationally administered 12th-grade math and science tests. Tuesday's findings suggest that their course offerings were often 'advanced' in name only."

The AP (3/13, Elliott) reports, "During their review of almost 18,000 high school students' records and textbooks, the investigators found as many as a third of the textbooks weren't about the subject printed on the cover. And within the subjects, the course titles were subjective and didn't really reflect the courses' difficulty." The AP touches on how the revelations will impact college admissions, and says they "suggest that many elementary teachers are not preparing students for high school-level math and that many students who complete Algebra I and Geometry courses are not prepared for future classes, either during later high school years or in college."
Reuters (3/12, Simpson) also covers this story, and quotes NCES Associate Commissioner for Education Statistics Peggy Carr saying, "If we're accepting a watered-down ... course, call it anything, we are in effect suggesting that we haven't met these students' needs."