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.”

California Legislators Express Concerns About Governor’s Education Funding Bill.

The Fresno (CA) Bee (5/19, Siders, Reese) reports that Democrats in the California legislature have reacted critically to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) education finance proposal, noting that state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) “lit up on Twitter with a burst of criticism of a major part of the plan, a bid to shift more state aid to poor and English-learning students.” Meanwhile, “Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, convened a hearing on the matter in the Assembly Education Committee the next day, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento,” expressed concerns. The piece notes that while most California students will benefit from the changes, “all but a handful of lawmakers who will vote on the measure represent at least one school district identified by the Department of Education as a potential loser.”

Theresa Harrington writes at the Contra Costa (CA) Times (5/17, Harrington) “On Assignment” blog that though Brown’s proposal contains “some extra money for schools...some are still questioning whether his education funding proposal goes far enough to provide adequate funding for all districts.”

CDC Report Points To Rising Mental Health Issues Among Children

The Washington Post (5/20, Pugh) reports that according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is being “billed as the first comprehensive look at the mental health status of children in the country,” as many as a fifth of “American youngsters — about 7 million to 12 million, by one estimate — experience a mental health disorder each year.” The report says that the rate is increasing, and that “childhood mental disorders that alter the way children learn, behave and cope with their emotions affect 13 percent to 20 percent of youths under age 18.” The report said that these disorders “cost families and society at large an estimated $247 billion a year in treatment, special education, juvenile justice and decreased productivity.”

Pennsylvania Seeking Alternative To AYP Scoring

The AP (5/20, Niederberger) reports that Pennsylvania districts will be able to abandon the AYP system if the state is granted an NCLB waiver. The piece explains how AYP is determined, and relates Congress’ inaction on reauthorizing ESEA and ED’s subsequent initiation of the waiver program. Noting that Pennsylvania applied for a waiver at the end of February, the AP reports that the state “wants to use a newly devised Pennsylvania School Performance Profile as the basis for the scoring system that would be used to assess public schools.”

California Teachers Collaborate To Create Common Core Curriculum

Bakersfield Californian (5/20, Adamo) reports on some of the collaboration that teachers in California are undertaking to devise teaching strategies aligned with the Common Core Standards, noting that though the standards “go into great detail about what students should know when, the state Board of Education hasn’t dictated how teachers should teach the new standards, nor has it provided a curriculum or instructional materials.” Therefore, educators around California, already beset by budget woes, have had to craft their own programs. The article describes how teachers from a number of districts came together to form the Rigorous Curriculum Design Team, which “first underwent training on the demands of Common Core, then set out to design projects and assignments aligned to the new standards.”

Maryland District Officials Ponder High Math Failure Rate

In a front-page story, the Washington Post (5/20, George, Bui) reports on the “startling phenomenon” in Montgomery County, Maryland, in which more students than expected are failing math final exams despite having demonstrated mastery of the subject matter in the classroom. Noting that students in the district usually perform well, the Post reports that “parents and elected leaders are demanding answers: Why did 62 percent of high school students flunk their geometry finals in January?” High numbers of students also “bombed” algebra 2 and precalculus exams. The questions “intensified late Friday, when school officials released detailed data showing the high failure rates were consistent across five school years.”

Opposition To Common Core Field Tests Grows

The New York Times (5/20, Hern├índez, Subscription Publication) reports that “hundreds of thousands” of New York State students who “sweated their way through some of the toughest exams in state history this spring” will now have to take “another round of exams” consisting of “field tests,” which “exist solely to help testing companies fine-tune future questions.” The piece notes that over a million students in 22 states will take the tests next year “in an effort to help develop a national exam” aligned with the Common Core Standards. The piece notes that opposition to the field testing, which is being implemented by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, comes amid growing opposition to the Common Core Standards.

Study: Mild Shocks To Brain Improve Math Skills

The Huffington Post (5/17, Underwood) reports that a new study “suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months.” However, researchers don’t understand the process, and “there could be side effects.” Noting that electric impulses to the brain have shown other beneficial effects, the Post describes the new research, noting that it “showed that, when combined with training, electrical brain stimulation can make people better at very basic numerical tasks, such as judging which of two quantities is larger.”

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rhode Island May Be First State To Adopt Next Gen Science Standards

Erik Robelen writes at the Education Week (5/17, Robelen) “Curriculum Matters” blog that Rhode island may “be the first state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards,” noting that the state BOE will hold a vote on the matter on May 23. He writes that sources told him that the board members have expressed a “very positive reaction” to the standards, noting that Rhode Island “was among the 26 ‘lead state partners’ that helped to develop the new science standards in collaboration with several national organizations.”

ED May Be Open To Pausing Common Core Stakes

Noting that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten last month called for a moratorium on consequences stemming from assessments tied to the Common Core Standards, Michele McNeil writes at the Education Week (5/17, McNeil) “Politics K-12” blog about a new survey of high-level education “insiders” which indicates that most of them “believe states will enact some sort of moratorium on stakes.” However, only 18% believed that ED would place a hold on such consequences. McNeil writes that she “asked Education Department press secretary Daren Briscoe about whether Arne Duncan would echo these calls for pausing stakes tied to common core, and take relevant action at the federal level. Briscoe said federal officials have heard these concerns and are ‘thinking them through carefully,’” she writes, but adds that Briscoe “wouldn’t elaborate.”

California Struggles To Improve, Assess Teacher Training Programs

Citing research indicating the importance of high-quality teachers for struggling students, the Hechinger Report (5/17, Mader) reports that “there’s an emerging consensus that how teacher candidates are chosen and trained can make all the difference.” Nevertheless, the article reports, teacher training institutions “often have no way of ascertaining if their programs produced strong teachers.” The piece describes legislation passed in California in 1998 “meant to strengthen teacher preparation programs,” but notes that this led to only marginal gains in student performance. The article continues to explore the issues of improving teacher preparation programs, and how those programs are best assessed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Columnist: Brown's Budget Shortchanges Other Social Programs In Favor Of Education

In a column in the Sacramento (CA) Bee (5/15), Dan Walters writes about California's 25-year-old Proposition 98, which "engraved a complex school finance structure into the state constitution," noting that the mandate that the state give schools "more money than politics and fiscal economics otherwise would have allocated" was controversial because it set up "conflict with other big-ticket spending categories, such as health and welfare services and prisons." Walters writes that Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) school funding budget brought this conflict to a head, noting that it mandated that "all of a multibillion-dollar revenue windfall must be given to schools, thus leaving advocates of restoring multibillion-dollar cuts in health and welfare services for the poor, the elderly and the infirm sputtering."

Philadelphia Mayor Proposes Sin Taxes For Schools

The Philadelphia Inquirer (5/16, Woodall) reports that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter "proposed Wednesday to tax cigarettes at $2 a pack and raise the city's liquor-by-the-drink tax from 10 percent to 15 percent" to increase school funding by $135 million within two years. "Nutter stressed that the money would benefit not only students enrolled in district schools but those who attend the 84 taxpayer-funded charter schools in the city."

LAUSD Ends "Willful Defiance" Suspensions

The Wall Street Journal (5/16, Phillips, Subscription Publication) reports on the controversy surrounding the Los Angeles Unified School District's decision to discontinue suspensions for "willful defiance," noting that opponents of the practice say that it discriminates against minority students and is counterproductive, while supporters of it say that willful defiance is disruptive and can prevent other students from learning. The Journal places this story within the context of the national debate over whether some school discipline policies discriminate against minority or special education students, noting that ED is investigating potential civil rights violations in 20 districts across the country.

More Common Core - May 16, 2013

Georgia Governor Asserts State Rights Over Curriculum.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/16, Niesse) reports that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal "signed an executive order Wednesday affirming Georgia's rights over how to educate its children free from federal interference. But Deal also maintained his support for Common Core standards," the paper adds, noting that Deal "sought to clarify that standards are not the same as curriculums."
The AP (5/16) reports that Deal's order imposes "restrictions" on the Common Core Standards, and "will prohibit certain student information from being gathered, although he acknowledged that data isn't currently being collected." The AP places the order within the context of the "growing debate over the Common Core standards."
The Atlanta Business Chronicle (5/16, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports, "While the order doesn't specifically mention the Common appears to be Deal's response to a flurry of criticism in GOP circles that the Obama administration is attempting a federal takeover of public education." This piece predicts that the Common Core will be in for significant criticism at an upcoming state GOP convention.

Common Core Opponents Launch "Barrage" At Kansas BOE Meeting.

The Lawrence (KS) Journal World (5/14, Hancock) reports, "The Kansas State Board of Education heard a barrage of criticism Tuesday over" the Common Core Standards, noting that "the state board listened for an hour and a half as speaker after speaker from many parts of the state spoke out against the new Common Core standards for reading and math." The paper describes the anti-Federal opposition voiced by attendees, noting that few "said they objected to the specific content of the standards, but most did share the opinion that they represent a form of federal intrusion into state and local education matters."

Pennsylvania House Holds Common Core Hearings.

The Allentown (PA) Morning Call (5/14, Esack) reports that after several members of the Pennsylvania state Legislature received similar letters that were "part of an organized campaign to paint Common Core standards as an attempt by the federal government to wrest control of public education from state and local school boards," state Rep. Paul Clymer (R) "held a hearing Tuesday on Common Core." The article relates the views expressed at the hearing, and notes that "allegations about federal involvement in the Common Core began in 2010 when President Barack Obama's administration" started tying participation to Race to the Top grants. WPMT-TV Harrisburg, PA (5/15, Gorsegner) reports that the state Senate is now scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue, and lays out arguments for and against the Common Core.

Potential Impact Of Common Core Explored

The Christian Science Monitor (5/15, Paulson) reports that the implementation of the Common Core Standards in 45 states is one of the most sweeping education reforms currently underway, and has "the potential to drastically change curriculum in elementary, middle, and high schools around the country." The article notes that supporters say the standards are "the most promising education reform in decades," while skeptics call it "yet another reform that's being pushed through too quickly, paired with too many high-stakes consequences, and it will further drive teachers from the classroom and discourage kids." The Monitor suggests that the truth of the standards' impact will come over the next few years as wide-scale implementation takes place. The article describes the origins of the standards, and delves into the "fair amount of backlash" that they're generating.

New Assessments Face Comparisons With Old.In a separate analysis, the Christian Science Monitor (5/15, Paulson) explores the assessments that are being created to accompany the Common Core Standards, considering questions about whether they will be "any better than those states are using now?" Noting that the new assessments won't be in use until the 2014-15 school year, the Monitor says that many teachers hope that "the assessments will be much more thoughtful and informative than the current fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests."

Common Core - May 16, 2013

Baltimore Teachers Union Joins Call To Hold Common Core Consequences.

The Baltimore Sun (5/15, Green) reports, "The Baltimore Teacher's Union has called for the district hold off" imposing consequences on teachers and schools related to Common Core-aligned assessments. The Sun notes that this position is in line with that of the American Federation of Teachers, which recently "called for a moratorium on penalties associated with the standardized testing that will measure a radically new curricula being rolled out across the nation, including Maryland, next year."

Indiana Common Core "Pause" Leaves Teachers With Questions.

The Shelbyville (IN) News (5/15, Gable) reports that given the new Indiana law that postpones the state's implementation of the Common Core Standards pending hearings, "local educators are left with more questions than answers." The piece reports that Shelbyville Central Schools Superintendent David Adams "said while the legislation may decide to pause, schools cannot," quoting him saying, "It is our job to prepare students for the future. For years now, the state has given the impression that they were moving forward with the Common Core." Adams laments the time and resources that would be wasted by backing away from the Common Core.

Teachers Stress Importance Of Social And Emotional Learning.

Nirvi Shah writes at the Education Week (5/16) "Rules of Engagement" blog that according to a new survey commissioned by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, "a majority of teachers say it's very important for schools to work on developing students' social and emotional skills." The survey also shows "that a majority of teachers believe that improving students' social and emotional skills will help them do well in school and prepare them for the workforce."

Duncan Phones Minnesota Teacher.

The Forest Lake (MN) Times (5/15, Riese) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan phoned Bruce Leventhal, a science teacher at Forest Lake High School in Forest Lake, Minnesota, last Friday, noting that "Leventhal, a self-described 'even-keeled guy,' was rattled" by the call. "For seven or eight minutes, Duncan quizzed Leventhal about his background in science, his application of inquiry education and his beliefs regarding" the Common Core Standards. The article notes that the Teacher Appreciation Week-based call "stemmed from a recent visit to the district by three ambassadors from the US Department of Education."

Common Core Raises Profile Of Social And Emotional Learning

EdSource Today (5/16, Adams) profiles Michelle Flores, a third-grade teacher at Aspire Capitol Heights Academy in Sacramento, California, who "incorporates social and emotional instruction, including the idea that making a mistake is not cause for embarrassment, into academics at the charter school using an approach called Responsive Classroom." The piece notes that some California educators pondering implementation of the Common Core Standards "say that explicit instruction in social and emotional competence – teaching students how to regulate their emotions, problem-solve, and disagree respectfully, among other abilities – should be a key part of the equation."

Maine Senate Mulls Daily PE Requirement

The AP (5/16) reports that the Maine state Senate is debating a bill designed to reduce childhood obesity by requiring "students from kindergarten to grade five to participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of daily physical activity at school." Noting that the state DOE has remained neutral, the AP reports that the "Maine School Nutrition Association supported it, saying the focus of obesity prevention so far has been food, and the bill starts to address the role of physical activity as well."

Los Angeles Board Votes To Keep Classroom Breakfast

The Los Angeles Times (5/16, Castellanos, Watanabe) reports that given the increased funding under California Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) education budget, the "Los Angeles Board of Education agreed to pay for more school police, maintain a classroom breakfast program and keep supplemental staff at schools. ... The breakfast program, which feeds more than 2,000 students in about 290 schools across the L.A. Unified School District, passed unanimously," the Times reports.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Missouris Districts Settle

Missouri District Teachers Ratify Contract.

The Springfield (MO) News-Leader (5/14, Riley) reports that teachers in Springfield, Missouri, "unanimously ratified a tentative 2013-14 contract with an across-the-board pay hike and an extra boost to make up a little of the financial ground lost during the economic downturn." The piece describes the pay increases, including boosts to step levels, and quotes Springfield National Education Association President Ray Smith saying, "There's not been a time that I'm aware of that the district has frozen a step and then unfroze it. It was something that was stuck in the craw of a lot of teachers."

Missouri District Board Approves Contract.

The Columbia (MO) Missourian (5/15, Holland, Bauman) reports that the school board in Columbia, Missouri, has approved a contract with the Columbia Missouri National Education Association, noting that the contract "outlines 250 minutes of weekly instructional planning and 25-minute, duty-free lunch periods for full-time teachers." Though there are no raises, the compensation for PD hours is nearly doubled.

California Governor Resists Pressure To Change Education Funding Plan

The San Jose Mercury News (5/15, Harrington) reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) resisted "push-back from his own party" over his "bold new education-funding plan...aimed at helping schools better educate disadvantaged students," noting that the plan is reflected in his budget proposal released Tuesday. The paper reports that Brown "said all K-12 schools would get more funding than they received in 2011-12, but that those with higher concentrations of low-income students, English language learners and foster youth would get more" in the form of a 35% supplemental grant "for each unduplicated student." The piece notes that Democrats in the state Senate recently released a counterproposal "which would eliminate concentration grants and spread them to all districts to increase the base amounts for every student."

The AP (5/15, Lin) reports that Brown's new proposal "looks much different from the ones Californians have become accustomed to in recent years: It has a surplus." The proposal shunts "more money to K-12 schools" but is "otherwise taking a cautionary approach to spending." The AP reports that Brown "wants to spend extra money on schools in economically disadvantaged communities, giving California a new narrative from the multibillion dollar deficits that led to teacher layoffs, IOUs for state workers and deep spending cuts for nearly all government programs just a few years ago." The piece notes that Brown's fellow Democrats "are eager to spend the additional revenue to restore health care programs and social services."

Common Core - May 15, 2013

Common Core Political Battles Heating Up.

Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week (5/15) "State EdWatch" blog about the "political battle over the Common Core State Standards," noting that "some supporters of the standards appear to be taking notice that the ride may get very bumpy, at least politically." According to education consultant Andrew Rotherham, "common-core advocates who issued simple dismissals of concerns or criticisms about the standards' path ahead were exhibiting a disconcerting 'view from the Green Zone.'" Meanwhile, Common Core opponents "are smelling blood in the water and are trying various methods to diversify their portfolio of attacks."

Pennsylvania Democrats Protest Unfunded Common Core Implementation.

The Allentown (PA) Morning Call (5/13, Esack) reports on the preparations for implementing the Common Core Standards in Pennsylvania over the past three years, and notes that some Common Core-aligned testing has already begun in the state. However, the piece questions whether the standards and assessments are likely to remain, noting that on Monday, American Federation of Teachers members and Democrats in the state Senate "called on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and the Department of Education to" stop implementing the Common Core Standards and to end a requirement that students pass the related assessments to graduate. The opponents said that the standards and tests "are causing too much angst for students, parents and educators and are too costly to implement because Republican Corbett has cut education funding."
Pennsylvania Senate Hearing Likely To Focus On Common Core Options.The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (5/15, Murphy) explains that Pennsylvania has adopted a "customized" version of the Common Core Standards, and notes that the state has the option to adhere to its own version, revert to the basic Common Core Standards, or follow Indiana's lead by taking "actions to apply the brakes so more discussion about whether to proceed with this initiative can take place." The article notes that there will be a state Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

Critics Lambaste Common Core At Kansas BOE Meeting.

The AP (5/14) reports that Common Core critics urged the Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday to reconsider adopting the standards, spending "nearly two hours criticizing the standards during a public comment session that opened the board's two-day monthly meeting." Former board member Walt Chappell "said Kansas was 'sucked in' by proponents of the standards" and argued that they are ultimately controlled by ED. Opponents argued that the "standards would stifle creativity and lead to more federal intrusion in the classroom through data collection." Supporters "said the standards would improve academic rigor."

Dropping Common Core Could Jeopardize States' Waivers, RTTT Funding.

Education Week (5/15, McNeil) reports that states considering dropping out of the Common Core Standards must consider that the move "could jeopardize federal waivers and competitive grants," noting that many states that won Race to the Top grants or obtained NCLB waivers did so in part by promising to "adopt and implement college- and career-readiness standards, and tie appropriate tests to them." The piece notes that the Common Core "is not required, but it's the most direct route to satisfying the requirement-and the one most states are taking." The article cites Indiana, which vowed to adopt the Common Core and aligned assessments before its waiver was granted.

Analysis: Young ELL Students Benefit From Dual-Language Programs

Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (5/15) "Learning the Language" blog that according to a "new federally funded analysis" of dual-language learners, "young English-language learners who are still developing oral and literacy skills in their home languages benefit most in early-childhood programs that regularly expose them to both languages." The analysis "also underscores that dual-language learners develop language skills differently than" English-only students, taking longer to reach proficiency.

Sequestration Leads NAEP To Cut Social Studies Testing

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (5/15) "Politics K-12" blog that because of Federal budget sequestration, "fewer students will take national tests in civics, history, and geography," noting that "the executive committee of the National Assessment Governing Board, on the recommendation of the National Center for Education Statistics-which administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP-voted recently to indefinitely postpone the 4th and 12th grade tests" in the subjects. This will offset the $6.8 million NAEP lost due to sequestration.

California Governor Proposes $1 Billion For Common Core Implementation

The Sacramento (CA) Bee (5/15, Siders) reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has released a budget proposal including plans for spending $1 billion for Common Core Standards implementation. The piece notes that the move comes as the state is set to channel some $4.5 billion in revenue surplus to schools, and that Brown is "seeking a major overhaul of education funding," "seeking to give local school districts greater flexibility in how they spend state money while directing more money to school districts with high proportions of poor students and English learners."

EdSource Today (5/15) reports that Brown called for directing "all of the extra $2.8 billion in revenue that the state expects to receive this year to K-12 schools and community colleges, mostly for one-time uses, including $1 billion to implement the Common Core standards." The piece explains that the $2.8 figure is a revised total of the unexpected revenues, owing to "sequestration of federal spending and new payroll projections." Brown also "defended his sweeping school finance reform, which would direct significantly more money to low-income students and English learners."

The AP (5/14, Lin, Williams) reports that Brown blamed the Federal government's decision not to extend a 2% payroll tax reduction and sequestration for "eroding the budget projections for the fiscal year that starts July 1." Southern California Public Radio (5/14, Nixon) reports in its "Education" blog that the Common Core implementation funding will amount to roughly $170 per student. The article explains how the remainder of the funding will be distributed to districts. The Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record (5/15, Richman) also covers this story.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Groups Expressing Concerns About Common Core

NPR (5/1, Lieszkovszky) reports in a "StateImpact" Piece that though opposition to the Common Core started with the tea party, "teachers unions in Ohio say they have their own concerns, mostly about the tests that will accompany the new curriculum." The article describes opposition to "loss of local control of schools" and the Common Core's focus on non-fiction texts among conservatives, adding that now "some on the left are worried about" the standards. Teachers unions, the article reports, want to "slow down parts of its implementation." The article states that the Administration is unhappy with the new opposition, and quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, "If any state wants to lower their standards, dummy down their standards they have the right to do that. They can do that tomorrow. I don't see how that educates children or helps to bring good jobs to a state."

Meanwhile, the Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle (5/1, Johnson) reports that the Common Core Standards' backers "say they're needed to better prepare students for college and the workforce, but critics of the measures contend they don't know enough about them and are concerned about the federal government's involvement." The piece describes a recent panel discussion in Nashville "that highlighted concerns ranging from the cost to implement the common core state standards to how involved the federal government will be in developing them." The paper reports that "a growing number of such events" are taking place across the country.

Philadelphia Officials Seeking School Funding Increase

The Philadelphia Inquirer (5/10, Warner, Graham) reports that Philadelphia city officials and state legislators "pledged their strongest efforts Thursday to find an additional $180 million for the School District, as about 300 students marched peacefully to City Hall, asking the government to 'save our schools.'" The officials committed to meeting the School Reform Commission's "request for $180 million in additional stop cutbacks beyond those the SRC has already imposed."

The Philadelphia Inquirer (5/10, Graham) reports in a separate article that the protesting students were opposing "budget cuts that threaten to strip their schools of counselors and support staff, swell class sizes, and chop all extracurricular activities." Student organizers said that the "heard Friday about what the cuts would mean," and quickly decided to protest the cuts.

LAUSD Considers Ending Suspensions For "Defiance."

The Los Angeles Times (5/13, Watanabe) reports on the "pervasive and disproportionate use of suspensions from school for mouthing off and other acts of defiance" in US schools, saying that the phenomenon is particularly noted among students of color. The Times reports on how the issue impacts students in Los Angeles, and profiles a student who "has joined a Los Angeles County-wide effort to push a landmark proposal by school board President Monica Garcia that would make LA Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for willful defiance." Noting that critics describe the offense as arbitrary and ill-defined, the Times reports that nearly half of all suspensions during the last school year were for willful defiance. The measure to ban the practice "would mark a watershed moment in a long battle by community activists against 'zero tolerance' policies adopted after the Columbine school shooting."

School Reform Said To Require Diversity In Teachers

Dr. Ann-Marie Adams writes in an op-ed in the Hartford (CT) Guardian (5/12) that a lack of diversity "has likely resulted in the tepid result" of Connecticut's school reforms. Adams defines teacher diversity as "having culturally responsive teachers who understand students and adapt to different learning styles." While "teacher diversity has been marginalized in discussions about ed reform and submerged in contentious debates over testing, privatization, or charter vs public schools," Adams argues that teachers need the cultural competency to interact with students and parents.

Educators Call For Greater Racial Diversity Among Teachers.

Diverse: Issues In Higher Education (5/13, Hawkins) reports on a recent forum at Howard University "to address the lack of diversity in the nation's teacher workforce," noting that shortly after winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education integration case, Thurgood Marshall warned that black teachers would be displaced by white job competitors after schools were integrated. The piece notes that forum attendee Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick said that the "elimination of Black teachers from the classroom would not only be an economic loss for those educators, but a disservice to their students and a detriment for the teaching profession."

Schools May Get All Of California's Surplus Revenue

The Los Angeles Times (5/13, York) reports California's revenues for the first half of the year are about $4.5 billion higher than predicted, "and complicated budget formulas could direct nearly all of that money to public schools and community colleges" even as other interests could be asked to cut budgets. Proposition 98 entitles schools to about 40% of the revenue. Under Proposition 111, when, as now," revenues grow faster than personal income," the state must give new money to schools. Finally, Proposition 30's income tax increase was retroactive, requiring the 2011-12 and 2012-13 budgets be revised on the money owed to schools.

Common Core - May 14, 2013

Indiana Pauses Common Core Implementation.

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (5/14, Strauss) "Answer Sheet" blog that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has signed legislation under which the state "is postponing implementation of the Common Core initiative so that there can be more discussion on the quality and impact of the standards," characterizing this as "a compromise between forces that want the Common Core to go forward because they say they will raise academic achievement, and forces who believe the standards are not as good as Indiana's old ones and want education decisions to be local." Strauss notes that Indiana "is one of the handful of states that are either pulling back or considering halting the standards."
The Washington Times (5/14, Wolfgang) reports that Pence's predecessor, Mitch Daniels, "was one of the biggest supporters of" the Common Core, but adds that Indiana "has now become ground zero in the fight against the controversial system." The Times quotes Daniels saying, "I have long believed that education is a state and local function and we must always work to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that our curriculum is developed by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers."

Pennsylvania Senate To Hold Common Core Implementation Hearing.

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (5/14, Murphy) reports on growing controversy about the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, noting that the state Senate will hold a hearing on the standards and a "high-stakes graduating testing requirement" on Wednesday, and that "Democrats are planning a news conference for today to voice outrage over this initiative's implementation without legislative approval." The article describes opposition to the Common Core based on favoring local control, noting that the widespread acceptance of the standards leads "some to believe this will lead to a much-feared national curriculum." The piece notes that supporters say that the decision to move forward was made three years ago by the state BOE, "and school districts have been or should have been preparing for this change since then."

Writers Urge Conservatives To Support Common Core.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (5/14, Stern, Klein, Subscription Publication), author Sol Stern and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein praise the potential for the Common Core Standards to positively transform US education, giving students college- and career-readiness, as well as basic civics education. The writers express unsurprised resignation that some liberal elements oppose the standards, but are dismayed that conservatives oppose them. They refute opposition based on the idea that the Administration coerced states into accepting the standards, citing the state-level origins of the standards, and single out the Republican National Committee for criticism over its opposition.

Briscoe Refutes Link Between Common Core, Facial Recognition Systems.

Andrew Ujifusa, writing at the Education Week (5/14, Ujifusa) "State EdWatch" blog, expands on a point made in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch (5/12, Crouch) article (summarized in yesterday's Department of Education News Briefing) about statements from Common Core critics that the standards have been linked "to 'facial recognition' technology they said the U.S. government would use to read students' minds and pry into their eating habits at home." He notes that the Post-Dispatch reported that an ED draft report titled "Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century" makes reference to certain biofeedback metrics, but also reported that ED "spokesman Daren Briscoe asserts that there is no connection between the common core and this report."

Tennessee Paper Says Common Core Should Be Given Chance.

The Sevierville (TN) Mountain Press (5/14) editorializes that the poor performance of US schools "cannot be allowed to continue," noting that this is why Tennessee has signed on the Common Core Standards. The paper concedes that the transition may be moving too rapidly, but says, "despite the concerns, Common Core is a good thing," because it will foster education research, standardize assessments, and teach students to apply knowledge rather than simply memorize it. The piece concludes that the Common Core "deserves a chance to succeed."

Students' Early Reading, Math Skills Tied To Future Success

HealthDay (5/13) reports that according to a new study from researchers in Great Britain, early childhood math and reading abilities "influence how successful [people] are as adults." The piece notes that researchers found that "people who had higher reading and math skills at age 7 had higher incomes, better housing and better jobs" by the time they were in their 40s. This link "was independent of intelligence, education and socioeconomic status in childhood, according to the study."

Michigan District Refuses To Ban Explicit Edition Of Anne Frank Diary

The New York Daily News (5/14, Malmsheimer) reports that the mother of a student at a middle school in Northville, Michigan, last month "filed a formal complaint...stating that the unedited version of 'The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank' contained 'pornographic' passages that were inappropriate for her seventh grade daughter and her classmates." The piece notes that district officials nevertheless "have decided not to remove the definitive edition of Anne Frank's diary from its middle school's reading options."

Study: Kindergarten "Redshirting" Not As Common As Thought

EdSource Today (5/14) reports that a new study says that the practice of "redshirting" kindergarten students, or keeping them out of school for an extra year, "is not as prevalent as previously believed," impacting only 4% or 5%. The study "found that most children who were held back might not really need the extra year," in that there was not likely to be an increase in math, reading, or social skill level.

Troubled Detroit District May Reopen "Skills Camp" This Month

The Detroit Free Press (5/14, Higgins) reports that Deborah Hunter-Harvill, superintendent of the troubled Buena Vista School District near Saginaw, Michigan, announced yesterday that the district "could reopen as early as Monday - after more than a week of canceled classes - but only to hold a voluntary camp for students in which they would receive instruction in reading, writing and math." Hunter-Harvill announced Monday "that said classes are canceled until further notice," and the Free Press reports that the "the financially distressed school district" has been shuttered since May 3 "because the district ran out of money" after the state withheld state aid.

MLive (5/14, Knake) reports that Hunter-Harvill met with state Superintendent Mike Flanagan and Saginaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Richard Syrek on Monday "to come up with a plan to get students back into a learning environment," coming up with the plan for the "skills enhancement camp." This article explains that the state is withholding aid because "the district took $401,962.51 to educate students from the Wolverine Secure Treatment Center after Wolverine severed its contract to have the district provide teaching to them." The piece notes that the camp would be funded in part with Title I money.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Maryland Teachers Say They Need More Common Core Training

The Washington Post (5/8, Bui) reports that teachers in Maryland surveyed by the Maryland State Education Association said that they need "more time and training to meet the demands of new evaluation systems and education standards" as the state adopts the Common Core Standards. The piece notes that nearly two-thirds of teachers say they are "unprepared to teach" the Common Core, and "72 percent said they aren't ready for new teacher and principal evaluation systems."

Writer: Unions Must Focus On Learning Instead Of Teaching

In commentary for Education Week (5/8) , Arthur Levine writes that the current climate of high-level criticism being directed against teachers unions stems from the US' shift from being "a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital, information economy." Noting that the US education system had its genesis in the industrial age, Levine writes, "information economies focus on common outcomes" with variable processes. He argues that teachers unions adhere to "the focus on teaching and advocate time-based rewards to teachers," whereas many policymakers "have adopted the information economy's focus on learning."

AFT Poll: Teachers Back Standards, But Feel Unprepared

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (5/7, Postal) reports in its "School Zone" blog that a poll by the American Federation of Teachers shows that while teachers nationwide "overwhelmingly support" the Common Core Standards, they "also are overwhelmingly worried that new tests tied to those new standards will be given to students too soon." Moreover, the poll found that some 57% say "their districts are prepared to implement the new standards," though 72% "don't think their districts have given them the tools and resources to successfully teach the Common Core."

Survey: 75% Of Students Learning Cursive

The Washington Post (5/8, Shapiro) reports that a new survey by school supplies company Really Good Stuff shows that despite concerns about the "decline" of cursive writing, some 75% of second- and third-grade teachers teach it, showing that cursive is "still alive in many classrooms across the country." The piece notes that the advent of the Common Core Standards--which don't include cursive--and the ubiquity of electronic communications have raised questions about cursive's "relevance," and that some teachers "opt to spend more time preparing their students for standardized tests."

Questions Surround Use Of Digital Technology In Pre-K Classes

Education Week (5/8, Samuels) reports on the use of digital technology in pre-K classrooms, noting that some teachers consider them to be part of their assortment of educational tools. Moreover, the use of tablet computers "is particularly seductive at the preschool level because tablets do not require children to have the keyboarding or mouse skills" that traditional computers require. However, the use of such technology "poses tough questions for educators, among them: how to select developmentally appropriate software; what academic areas are best supported with technology; and how technology use should be balanced with other classroom activities."