Friday, June 7, 2013

Some Common Core

Coalition Calls For Moratorium On Common Core Consequences.

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

Blogger Explores Role Of Civics Education In Common Core.

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

Obama Calls For Expanded E-Rate, Universal Classroom Broadband

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Common Core

Huckabee Urges Oklahoma To Stick With Common Core.

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

Fordham Institute Defends Common Core.

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

New Hampshire Districts Facing Common Core Implementation Deadline.

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

Challenges Stymie Classroom Technologies

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

Philadelphia Report Exposes Lunchroom Concerns.

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Law Calls For More Computer Science Instruction In Washington Schools

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

Common Core Controversy Explored

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

California Students, Teachers, Parents To Have SBAC Sample Access

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

North Carolina Senate Passes Cursive Bill

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

California Transitional Kindergarten Program Receives Praise

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

Study: Parents Want More Mobile Devices In Classroom

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