Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ryan Has An Education Record That Suggests Compromise.

Education Week (10/27, Ujifusa) reviews the track record of the next Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, on education issues. The article suggests that Ryan will be willing to compromise on education issues with the Obama Administration and highlights Ryan’s past support for school choice and student loan reform.

Common Core News of the Day

Poll: More New York Voters Oppose Common Core Than Support It.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (10/26, Spector) reports a Siena College poll found that more New York voters believe that Common Core has worsened public education in the state rather than improved it. The poll found that 40% of voters believed the standards were bad for schools, while only 21% believed they were good for schools, with the rest being unsure. Voters in New York City were more supportive of Common Core, while voters in the city’s suburbs and upstate New York were more opposed to it. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state DOE previously announced they would review the standards.

Study: NAEP And Common Core Have “Overlap”, But Gaps Remain.

Education Week (10/27, Heitin) reports a study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Validity Studies Panel found that the NAEP test had “reasonable” overlap with Common Core standards, but the test failed to measure some of the standards in the Common Core curriculum. For example, 87% of the NAEP’s eighth grade math test questions “matched material from the common-core standards”, but only 58% of the Common Core standards were tested on the NAEP.

Missouri Panel Submits Proposed New Standards To Replace Common Core.

The AP (10/27, Ballentine) reports a panel of Missouri education experts, teachers, and parents presented their recommendations to the state BOE after working for a year to develop new academic standards to replace Common Core as well as for social science and science. The panel was created in 2014 by the state legislature in response to criticism of Common Core. The new recommendations from the panel have been criticized for challenging Common Core and also for being too similar to Common Core. One panel member said the sixth to twelfth grade English standards work group said many of the new standards are “exactly” the same as the old standards.

Segregation Of Latino Students Is A Growing Problem That Needs Attention.

The Huffington Post (10/27, Klein) highlights the ongoing problem of school segregation in the US with special attention paid to the segregation of Latino students from their peers. The article illustrates the disparity between the quality of education received by Latino students in California versus their non-Latino peers. The article also quotes several school segregation experts who decry the lack of research on how school segregation affects Latino students compared to the large amount of research on how it affects black students, but some also predict that a growing Latino population will shift the focus of those working for school integration away from the black-white divided towards the Latino-white divide. Some educators are hopeful that John King, who is scheduled to replace Education Secretary Arne Duncan later this year, will place more emphasis on stopping school segregation. King said, “Schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country.”

Migration Policy Institute Report Recommends Teachers Do More To Adapt To Culture Of English Language Learners.

Education Week (10/27, Mitchell) reports the Migration Policy Institute released a report recommending that educators do more to adapt their teaching to the culture of foreign students learning English to facilitate their education. The new report was based in part on a two-year ethnographic study that followed 19 Somali Bantu refugees attending an elementary school in Chicago. The ethnographers’ concluded that educators’ insistence that the refugees follow all the classroom rules created lots of “avoidable problems and conflicts.”

Montgomery County Teachers Don’t Want To Get Rid Of Final Exams.

The Washington Post (10/27, St. George) reports that a “large number” of Montgomery County high school teachers said that eliminating final exams “could have a negative effect on how well students are prepared for what they will face in college,” according to a survey from the county teachers union. The “strong voice of support for exams” comes a month after the school board first addressed the question and two weeks prior to the board voting on policy revisions that reflect the change. The board decided to get rid of final exams “amid concerns about overtesting and lost instructional time.”

More Educators And Parents Reducing Or Eliminating Homework.

The AP (10/27, Boccella) reports there is a growing movement to end homework in US schools. The article shares the story of a parent in Ardmore, Pennsylvania who requested her daughter’s first grade teacher stop giving her child homework, and the teacher complied. More school districts and educators have begun reducing or eliminating homework because of concerns that too much can affect children’s health and well being by causing stress or sleep deprivation.

New York City Will Make SAT Free For Juniors.

The New York Times (10/27, Harris, Subscription Publication) reports New York City will begin offering the SAT free to all public school juniors. The test will be administered during the school day, instead of on aSaturday, which is the current practice. The change takes effect in the spring of 2016-17, and New York joins “several statewide efforts to increase the number of students taking college entrance exams.” According to the Education Department, only 56 percent of the city’s class of 2015 took the SAT at least once.
        Chalkbeat New York (10/26) adds that the initiative will cost the city about $1.8 million per year. It is part of a “number of new efforts of Mayor Bill de Blasio to help more city graduates reach college.” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Monday, “This is saying, we believe in you, we know you are ready to go to college.” She added that the initiative will be “paired with new teacher training, classroom materials, and parent workshops that focus on preparing students for college.”

Obama Makes Case For “Smarter” Standardized Testing.

In a Huffington Post (10/26, Obama) op-ed titled “An Open Letter To America’s Parents And Teachers: Let’s Make Our Testing Smarter,” President Obama yesterday called for limits on standardized testing in schools, arguing that he has “heard from parents who worry that too much testing is keeping their kids from learning some of life’s most important lessons,” and from teachers “who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students.” The President went on to outline the Administration’s Testing Action Plan, noting that kids “should only take tests that are worth taking,” tests “shouldn’t occupy too much classroom time, or crowd out teaching and learning,” and tests “should be just one source of information.”
        Chris Jansing reported on NBC Nightly News (10/26, story 7, 2:15, Holt) that in “a major reversal,” the Administration “is saying enough, calling on schools to cut back testing to no more than two percent of class time.” Under the White House plan, “annual standardized testing will stay as an assessment tool, but fewer overall tests with more local control.” NBC News (10/26) also carries a report online.
        The Atlantic (10/26) reported on its website that the Administration’s “high-profile pitch to reduce testing” comes in reaction to an analysis by the Council of Great City Schools, which “offers an unprecedented look at the testing load in large urban districts across the nation, finding considerable redundancy and a lack of coordination among the exams.” According to the analysis, “on average, students take over 110 federally, state, or locally mandated assessments between kindergarten and 12th grade,” and at “the eighth-grade level, where the testing load is the highest, test-taking accounts for 2.34 percent of the student’s instructional time.”
        Obama, Duncan, King Meet With Educators On Testing. The Washington Post (10/27, Brown) reports that the President met with two teachers “along with a cadre of federal, state and city education officials” at the White Houseon Monday. Several people in attendance “said the president made it clear that some minimum amount of standardized testing is needed to hold schools accountable for educating all children, especially those from groups that have been historically underserved.” The Post adds that he “mused that one solution could be to give a short assessment at the beginning of the school year to establish a baseline and a brief test at the end to measure student growth.”
        Testing Time Cap Sparks Controversy. US News & World Report (10/26) reports that the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools are taking issue with “the administration’s recommendation that schools cap the amount of time students spend taking tests at 2 percent” saying it could drive districts to cut tests “blindly” irrespective of their value. The article quotes Council of Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly saying, “It’s not clear to me that a one-size-fits-all cap is the solution. It will reduce time, but the issue of quality won’t be addressed.”

Monday, October 26, 2015

Kids In Foster Care More Likely To Have AD/HD Diagnosis, CDC Study Suggests.

TIME (10/24, Brown) reports that a study due to be presented Oct. 26 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics and conducted by the CDC “has found that rates of children in foster care diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) towered above rates of children not in foster care.” After reviewing “Medicaid claims from 2011,” researchers found that “children (ages 2-17) in foster care were three times more likely than children not in foster care to have a diagnosis of AD/HD.”
        According to HealthDay (10/24, Preidt), “about half” of the youngsters with AD/HD “in foster care also had some other psychological disorder, such as depression, anxiety or oppositional defiant disorder.” The study revealed some “good news,” however. “All children with AD/HD, regardless of their home situation, were equally likely to be treated with AD/HD medication,” researchers found. Medical Daily (10/24, Scutti) also covered the story.

Experts Recommend Early Intervention To Help Children With Selective Mutism.

HealthDay (10/24, Willingham) reported on a condition called “selective mutism,” a “little-known anxiety disorder that renders one in every 150 children speechless in certain situations.” Kids with the condition “may be able to speak easily at home, but in other situations will become silent and even appear ‘frozen’ when expected to talk.” Symptoms “usually” appear before a child’s fifth birthday and kids with the condition “don’t just grow out of it.” Experts recommend “early intervention” to avoid social, psychological, or educational disadvantages.

Common Core

Debate Surrounding PARCC Assessment Continues In Massachusetts.

The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette (10/23, O'Connell) reported that Commissioner Mitchell Chester introduced the concept for a standardized test at last Monday’s board of education meeting which combines elements from both the previous MCAS assessment and the recently adopted PARCC, which is more closely aligned with the standards established by Common Core. However, despite the compromise, supporters of the PARCC have reportedly been steadfast in their support for the assessment, maintaining that PARCC represents a significant improvement over the previous exam and provides educators and employers with a better metric to measure students’ abilities. Opponents of the PARCC exam, however, voiced there concern that that assessment’s standards actually fell below those previously established by the state, and argued that, with the adoption of PARCC, Massachusetts could lose control over the standards of state education.

Maine Adopts SAT As 11th Grade Assessment Replacing Common Core’s Smarter Balanced Test.

The Portland (ME) Press Herald (10/20) reports the Maine DOE announced they would use the SAT as their 11th grade assessment test, and use a New Hampshire company, Measured Progress Inc., to provide their third through eighth grade assessments. The SAT will replace the Smarter Balanced test, which was widely criticized for being difficult to administer and take.

Governor Jindal Appeals Court Ruling Against His Common Core Lawsuit.

The AP (10/23) reported that Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration has filed an appeal at the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals contesting a previous ruling rejecting his lawsuit against the US Department of Education alleging that states were illegally coerced to adopt Common Core standards. In that ruling, Judge Shelly Dick argued that Gov. Jindal had provided “no evidence” supporting his allegations.

Teachers Benefit From Good Training.

NPR (10/24, Hulett) writes on its Education Blog about Deborah Ball, Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Education, who is “trying to model...a system where future teachers have to model they can do some core things” before being allowed to teach. The article summarizes her view as: “Good teachers aren’t born, they’re trained,” which it says has made Ball a “kind of a rock star in the field of teacher education.”

TechBoston Connects Local Schools With Nonprofit To Teach Math In An Interactive Way.

The Boston Globe (10/26, Fox) reports eight Boston schools are participating in TechBoston, a joint venture with “EdVestors, a nonprofit group that connects local schools with funders seeking to improve public education.” The program allows students at participating schools to solve math problems on computers and receive instant feedback.

Nonprofit Working To Close Gender Gaps In STEM.

The Houston Chronicle (10/26, Radcliffe) reports on the efforts of Girlstart, an Austin-based nonprofit focused on closing gender gaps in STEM fields. The article says that “it takes more than painting a robot pink” to get some girls to think of becoming engineers. The article says the girls need to be shown that STEM jobs can improve the world. The article says that cultural change is needed to assure girls that engineers are “builders and problem-solvers” rather than “nerds.”

Ambitious Colorado Wood Manufacturing Class Gains Interest.

The Denver Post (10/25, Hernandez) reports that in the small, rural town of Peyton, Colorado a teacher named Dean Mattson has been recruited to create a “business-oriented” wood manufacturing program for Peyton Junior High and Peyton High School. According to the article, equipment worth $700,000 has been donated for the new program, the facilities of which will be visited by “executives from across the globe.” The article’s headline calls the facilities the “most advanced woodworking lab in the country.” Mattson says that woodshop is “where you make birdhouses,” while his wood manufacturing classes are “where we take kids who are often ignored and give them professional training on real-world machinery so they can get high-paying jobs out of school.”

Administration Urges Cap On Standardized Testing.

President Obama on Saturday called for a cap on standardized testing as his Administration conceded partial responsibility for the over-reliance on the examinations. Media reporting – including two minutes on CBS – is sympathetic toward the new policy, but also focuses on the previous White House push for the testing as being a significant reason that the education system’s reliance on the tests reached the current level.
        The New York Times (10/25, Zernike, Subscription Publication) reports that “faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing,” the White House “declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.” The Times quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, “I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support. But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction. It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves. At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”
        In a video released on Facebook, according to the AP (10/25, Lederman, Kerr), Obama “called for capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time.” Obama said, “Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble. So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.” The NPR (10/24, Kamenetz) “NprEd” blog quoted Obama as adding, “I hear from parents who rightly worry about too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.”
        USA Today (10/25, Doering) reports the White House released a 10-page plan that “outlined a series of steps to help educators end assessment that is burdensome or not benefiting students or teachers.” The Administration says tests should be “‘worth taking,’ time-limited and provide a ‘clearer picture’ of whether students are learning.” Obama echoed that feeling on Saturday, when he said that in “moderation, smart, strategic” tests can help understand students’ progress and facilitate learning. According to Politico (10/24, Emma), the plan says “In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students.” It adds that “The administration bears some of the responsibility for this, and we are committed to being part of the solution.”CNN (10/24, Ure, Liptak) reported on its website that the White House “isn’t citing specific tests that should be continued or scrapped, leaving that decision” to specific jurisdictions, but the Los Angeles Times (10/25, Resmovits) indicates the Administration promised to provide “‘clear guidance’ on how to use federal money for testing audits by January 2016.” In its report, the Times reports that Duncan and “his nominated successor, John B. King Jr., will meet with Obama at the White House on Monday to discuss how to reduce the amount of time students spend on what the administration called ‘redundant or low-quality tests.’”
        The Hill (10/24, Richardson) “Briefing Room” blog reported that while the President “can’t force states and districts to change their testing policies,” he will “direct the Education Department to make it easier for schools to satisfy federal testing mandates.” Obama Duncan will meet with education professionals on Monday “to outline a plan to reduce time spent test-taking.” The Wall Street Journal (10/25, Tau, Subscription Publication) reports the Administration also urged Congress to reduce student testing as part of its reworking of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
        The Christian Science Monitor (10/25, Toh) quotes Duncan as saying, “I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” but teachers “are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”
        On the CBS Evening News (10/24, story 5, 2:00, Axelrod), Julianna Goldman reported the “mea culpa was timed to a survey released Saturday showing standardized tests have exploded in the past decade.”

Gridlock Over Pennsylvania’s Budget Threatens Schools.

Reuters (10/22, Russ) reports that the political gridlock over Pennsylvania’s 2016 budget, which is now 113 days overdue, poses a severe threat to the institutions and services which rely most heavily on state support. The current deadlock is reportedly partly due to a lack of consensus over how to pay for increased education funding, and it is the school system that is among the most effected by the lack of resolution. Although some school districts have described their financial system as “desperate,” state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale remarked that, “we don’t see any settlement any time soon” and confirmed that some less districts that are more reliant on the state will be “getting close to a breaking point” by mid-November if funds are not dispersed.
        The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/22, Boccella, Nussbaum) expands coverage of the budget impasse with a 1,004-word examination of the hardships school districts across the state are facing and reports that, in reaction to Governor Tom Wolf’s statements this week that he would not advance money to school districts in need, many are considering lines of credit and other measures to cover expenses in the meantime. In an effort to provide assistance, the Wolf administration reportedly stated that it would help districts obtain low-interest loans and would work to include plans for reimbursement of interest and fee payments incurred as part of the final budget agreement. In the words of Jeff Sheridan, a Wolf spokesman, “the administration will continue to work with districts to mitigate the effects of the impasse and will continue working toward a final agreement on a budget.”
        The AP (10/22) reports that Philadelphia is among the school districts considering borrowing money due to the budget impasse. However, emphasizing the severity of the situation, Superintendent William Hite Jr. has stated that, even with a loan, Philadelphia’s schools could not remain open if a budget is not passed by the end of the year.
        The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/22, Graham) provides further coverage of the effects of the Philadelphia school districts weak financial position, and reports that the School Reform Commission will meet to authorize temporary borrowing, yet gave no estimate regarding how much the district will take. However, while borrowing may provide a stopgap measure to continue operating, SRC Commissioner Feather Houstoun expressed her concern that any cuts that the school district makes “come right out of the classroom.” Furthermore, the Inquirer reportedly that the Philadelphia school district has been unable to fill teaching vacancies and also lacks sufficient nursing services. Officials did, however, announce on Wednesday that the district was no longer considering plans to outsource nursing services.

ACLU Wants Schools To Review How They Use Resource Officers.

The AP (10/23) reports that in the wake of an incident last week in Providence, Rhode Island in which a school resource officer was filmed “taking [a] student down,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island “is calling on schools with resource officers to reevaluate how they’re used.”

Los Angeles Allocates $5 Million To Prepare Schools For El Nino.

KABC-TV Los Angeles (10/22, Bankert) reports that the Los Angeles Unified School District has allocated $5 million to prepare schools for El Nino, which will be put towards making necessary repairs at 10 LAUSD campuses. Roger Finstad, LAUSD director of maintenance and operations, noted the urgency of these efforts to prepare for severe weather, and measures are reportedly also being taken to prepare all schools in the district.

Utah School Reverses Position Allowing Teacher To Keep Instagram Account With Fitness Pictures After Parent Complaints.

The New York Daily News (10/23, Ng) reports North Sanpete Middle School in Utah reversed its position on a teacher’s Instagram account after some parents complained the teacher’s pictures were “inappropriate” and “pornographic.” Mindi Jensen posted “pictures of herself body-building and wearing bikinis in competitions” to her account in order to inspire women to be physically fit. After parents complained about the account, the school threatened to fire Jensen unless she deleted the pictures or made her account private. Jensen at first complied, but then challenged the school saying her pictures were motivational and inspiring to other women and there was nothing inappropriate about them. Jensen said, “If you are not comfortable with seeing me in my fitness uniform on stage posting then take that way from your kid. Don’t take it away from me.”

Teach For America Pledges To Increase Number Of Latino Recruits.

NBC News (10/23, Nevarez) reports Teach For America has “pledged to recruit 2,400 Latino undergraduates and young professionals to teach in low-income public school nationwide over the next three years.” The organization will also work towards having 30% of those recruited will have a background in STEM fields. Teach For America wants more students to identify with their teachers and found that while a quarter of K-12 students are Latino, only 8% of teachers are.

All-Girls Schools Advocated As Way To Encourage More Women To Enter STEM Fields.

The Christian Science Monitor (10/22, Khadaroo) reports some education leaders are creating all-girls schools in order to encourage more women to enter STEM fields. The Young Women’s Leadership School (TYWLS) of Astoria in New York City is part of a network of five public schools just for girls around the country. Advocates of the model say that girls who attend such schools can develop the confidence they need to enter fields, like STEM, where they are often underrepresented. TYWLS student Geraldine Agredo says that attending an all-girls school lets her focus on her studies and worry less about how she looks, “It gives us that freedom.”

Opinion: Smaller High Schools Can Improve Student Achievement.

In a Hechinger Report (10/23, Grauer) opinion piece, Dr. Stuart Grauer, teacher and founder of the Small Schools Coalition, advocates for smaller high schools with fewer than 400 students, but ideally fewer than 250 students. Grauer explains that the social dynamics of large high schools often distract students from learning, which is why many teachers have called for smaller schools for decades. Grauer also cites ED research that found larger high schools are more likely to have high dropout rates and violent incidents among students as further evidence that small high schools are better for students’ well being.

New Jersey District Implementing Eighth Grade STEM Class.

The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group (10/23, Bahrenburg) reports Closter public schools in New Jersey are implementing a mandatory STEM class for all eighth graders. Students at Tenakill Middle School meet four days per week to learn about robotics for their STEM class.

Minneapolis High School Decides To Focus On Arts To Keep Students Engaged.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/23, Matos) reports Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis is hoping to keep their students engaged in school by emphasizing the arts. While the district has pressured the school to focus on math and reading courses, the high school has decided that theater shows, art exhibits, and musical performances are a better way of keeping students connected to their education.

Opinion: Reading Helps Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills.

In an opinion piece in The Idaho Education News (10/23, Maxcer) Moscow High School student council president Miles Maxcer explains why he is alarmed by the decrease in young people reading literature because reading literature has helped him develop critical thinking skills. The National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of 17-year-olds who had not read a book in the last year increased from 9% to 27% over the past 30 years. Maxcer recently won a contest to write a letter to an author, living or dead, whose work had personally affected them. Maxcer wrote a letter to science-fiction author Michael Crichton explaining how his books “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World” helped him think about the role of science differently and inspired him to learn more about the natural world.

University Of Tennessee Hosts Engineering Event For 1,500 High School Students.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (10/23, Slaby) reports that the University of Tennessee hosted “more than 1,500 high school students” at its annual “Engineers Day,” an event “where the College of Engineering offers a glimpse into its various disciplines.” The article mentions that TVA senior vice president Ric Pérez was the keynote speaker.

California Elementary School Experimenting With Standing Desks.

NBC Nightly News (10/22, story 11, 2:10, Holt) reported that Vallecito Elementary School in Northern California is combating “the age-old problem of getting kids to sit still and pay attention by not having them sit at all.” The school is using standing desks, after a pilot in a few classrooms last year. “Students can take a seat whenever they are feeling tired and every desk has a fidget bar to keep kids moving.” The piece notes that cost can be a deterrent, but reports that local parents raised the funds to buy the new desks.

ED Approves Teacher Distribution Plans For 17 States.

Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (10/23) “Politics K-12” blog that ED has announced that “it has given 17 additional states the greenlight on plans to bolster teacher quality and make sure that low-income kids get their fair share of effective teachers.” Klein lists the states and notes that ED approved the plans of 16 other states last month. The state plans include “steps to bolster teacher quality, including improving teacher preparation.”
        Education Dive (10/23) reports that ED’s initiative “aims to guarantee equal access to high-quality education for all students, and the approved plans include strategies for eliminating gaps by addressing localized problems.” ED released a statement indicating that the state plans include “solutions that support, strengthen, or modify teacher prep programs; boost data-driven decision-making; offer teachers incentives to excel or continue working in high-need schools; and publicly report progress in closing equity gaps.” The piece quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying in a statement, “All parents understand that strong teaching is fundamental to strong opportunities for their children. We as a country should treat that opportunity as a right that every family has. — regardless of race, ethnicity or national origin, zip code, wealth, or first language.”
        Several media outlets run articles about individual states’ plans being approved. The AP (10/23) reports, for example, that North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler says that ED “has approved North Dakota’s state equity plan to ensure quality teachers in classrooms.” The piece explains that ED “required all states to submit a plan to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers.” ED “praised North Dakota for its incentives, saying that the state’s teachers are provided with easily accessible information about loan forgiveness and can receive signing bonuses to work in hard-to-staff areas.”
        Other media outlets that cover this story at the state level include EdSource (10/23), the Chattanoogan (TN)(10/22), and the North Jersey (NJ) Media Group (10/23).

San Diego School District Proposes Change To State Education Funding.

The San Diego Union-Tribune (10/21, Magee) reports San Diego Unified School District released a proposal to increase the state’s education funding by $350 million per year, or $3,250 per student. The district calculated how much it would take to scale up proven education initiatives such as lowering class sizes, extending the school year, and hiring additional counselors, nurses, and other specialists. Superintendent Cindy Marten said the proposal is a call to action for state education leaders and she plans to discuss the proposal with her peers and other education officials.

More Pennsylvania School Districts Looking For Funding Solutions After Governor Says He Will Not Advance Money.

Philly (PA) (10/22, Boccella and Nussbaum) reports after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said he would not give money to struggling school districts while the state budget impasse continues, more school districts started planning for alternative solutions. School districts are considering getting lines of credit or cutting programs.

Coalition Launches Petition To Raise Oklahoma Sales Tax To Increase Education Funding.

The AP (10/22, Talley) reports “Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future”, a coalition of educators and civic leaders, filed a petition with the Oklahoma Secretary of State to initiate a “statewide vote on a new one-cent sales tax to fund public schools and give teachers a raise to address a chronic teacher shortage.” If the petition gets enough signatures, then a state constitutional amendment implementing the tax would be on the ballot in 2016. University of Oklahoma President David Boren, Oklahoma’s teacher of the year Shawn Sheehan, and others released statements in support of the petition. Boren said, “Enough is enough. We must invest in our children and grandchildren’s future if we want to succeed.” Sheehan said the number of teacher vacancies in the state has created a crisis.

LGBT Students Face More Bullying At Schools, Bullying Prevention Month Events Trying To Change That.

The Los Angeles Times (10/20, Kohli) reports a 2013 national survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network found that the majority of LGBT students have felt unsafe at school. LGBT students are more likely to be bullied than other students and many choose not to report it out of fear that school staff will not respond effectively or make the situation worse. Some schools are using Bullying Prevention Month to try to change that. Beethoven Elementary School in Mar Vista, California hosted a GLAAD Spirit Day event to show LGBT students they have support from their schools and communities.

Sesame Street Cast Now Includes Muppet With Autism.

USA Today (10/21, Mallenbaum) reports that yesterday Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational entity behind Sesame Street, announced that the newest Muppet to join the cast is “Julia, a preschooler with autism.” Julia will join “Elmo and the gang in books and a new app as part of the new ‘Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children’ campaign.”
        The AP (10/22) reports that Julia “will be portrayed as a girl who ‘does things a little differently’ when playing with her Muppet friends, the workshop said.”
        CNN (10/22, Smith, Laddaran) reports that Sesame Workshop’s new campaign and Julia will promote autism awareness as well as provide families with extra resources for helping a child with autism.

Analysis: Teachers Strikes Did Not Significantly Increase Or Decrease Over Past Six Years.

Education Week (10/21, Brenneman) reports the number of teachers’ strikes hasn’t increased or decreased significantly over the past six years. Some suspected the number had increased after the widespread media coverage of strikes across Washington as well as in Scranton, Pennsylvania and East St. Louis, Illinois, but an analysis by Education Week showed the number stayed roughly the same.

Survey Finds Ohio Teachers Want To Use Education Technology, But Need More Training.

The Hechinger Report (10/22, Dobo) reports a survey of Ohio public school teachers found that traditional schools are more likely to use blended learning than charter schools, but that many educators at traditional schools needed more training to use the technology in blended learning effectively. The survey also found many teachers want to use more education technology, but need more professional development to do so.

Facebook Launches Website To Help Families Learn More About Computer Science Careers.

Bloomberg News (10/21, Frier) reports Facebook launched a website called TechPrep, which aims to help parents who want their children to learn about computer science and develop technical skills. The website offers resources in English and Spanish for parents and children. Facebook hopes the program will increase the number of minority children interested in STEM fields and eventually STEM careers. USA Today (10/21, Guynn) adds TechPrep also offers books, games, and community events to help those interested in computer science of all ages. Facebook also wants to increase the diversity of its own workforce, which is currently 4% Hispanic and 2% African-American. TheWashington Post (10/22, Tsukayama) explains that part of the inspiration for the website came from a survey commissioned by Facebook that found the majority of low-income parents without college degrees “did not know how to help their kids pursue a career in computer science.” Facebook also wants to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of America and other groups to promote the website and the ideas behind it throughout the country.

Writing Teacher: Texas Textbooks Use Grammar To Downplay Slavery.

In a New York Times (10/22, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Dartmouth writing lecturer Ellen Bresler Rockmore condemns Texas high school textbooks for minimizing slavery, saying the ways in which the authors utilize grammar “shape the message that slavery was not all that bad.” According to Rockmore, the textbooks “employ all the principles of good, strong, clear writing when talking about the ‘upside’ of slavery.” However, Rockmore says “when writing about the brutality of slavery, the writers use all the tricks of obfuscation.”

Fellowship Aims To Engage Girls, Minority Students To STEM Subjects Through Video Game Design.

In commentary for The Hill (10/22, Taylor) “Congress Blog,” Rich Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the Entertainment Software Association, writes about the need for more female and minority workers in the technology sector. Taylor cites the need to find ways to better attract such workers and to expose students to STEM subjects. Educators must present students “with opportunities to help them reach their full potential and find careers that will challenge them, expand their minds, and propel them and our country forward.” His organization has partnered with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to develop the Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) Video Game Innovation Fellowship, which “challenges young people to not only build video games – which is challenging enough in its own right – but also to develop these resources to address social issues.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Common Core

New York Education Commissioner Will Launch Online Survey On Common Core.

The New York Daily News (10/21, Chapman) reports New York state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced the state DOE will launch an online survey to gather public input during the state’s review of the Common Core standards. More than 200,000 New York students boycotted the Common Core exams in 2015.

Hawaii Releases Common Core Test Scores, Students Do Better In English Than Math.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (10/21, Kalani) reports out of Hawaii’s 288 public schools, 76 had a majority of students that achieved proficiency on the math portion of the Common Core test, while 129 schools achieved proficiency on the English portion of the test. The data was released by the state DOE.

Study: Teachers Willing To Earn Micro-Credentials.

Education Week (10/20, Doran) reports in its “Digital Education” blog that a study by non-profit Digital Promise found that, once they were informed of the opportunity to do so, nearly two-thirds of teachers polled responded that they would be at least “somewhat likely” to pursue micro-credentials. According to Peter Grunwald, author of the study, the micro-credential method of improving teachers’ skill sets is more efficient than lectures and noted that the study demonstrates that educators are likely to pursue micro-credentials not only for career advancement but more so to be able to better serve their students.

Native American Ph.D. Student Speaks To College Students At Launch Of North Star STEM Alliance.

The Bemidji (MN) Pioneer (10/19, Dey) reports Joshua Marceau, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical sciences at the University of Montana, spoke to college students of Leech Lake Tribal College and Bemidji State University in Minnesota about his educational journey at the launch of the North Star STEM Alliance. The group is funded by the National Science Foundation and aims to increase the number of minority students who pursue STEM degrees and careers. Marceau’s presentation was entitled, “From a Tribal College to a Ph.D. Unique Perspectives and Challenges.” Marceau grew up on Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana before getting his GED from Salish Kootenai College, a tribal college in Pablo, Montana. There he met a lifetime mentor who has guided him to his current Ph.D. program.

ED Gives Districts Guidance On Supporting Undocumented Students.

Corey Mitchell writes at the Education Week (10/21) “Learning the Language” blog that ED has released “the first in a set of resource guides designed to help school officials support undocumented immigrant students.” The guidance lays out undocumented high school and college students’ rights and explains “resources about federal and private financial aid available to them.” ED plans to release “a resource guide for preschool and elementary school settings in the coming month.” The article quotes incoming Education Secretary John B. King Jr. saying, “Our nation’s public schools should be welcoming, safe, and supportive places where all students ... are given the opportunity to succeed. We know undocumented youth face unique challenges and we also know that educators and other caring adults in schools and colleges can play a major role in helping all students, including undocumented students, to achieve at the highest levels.”
        NBC News (10/21) reports online that the guide is intended to “help undocumented students and educators ensure that young people are on a path to academic success regardless of their immigration status.” The document includes instructions for educators to “know how they can better support undocumented students, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.”
        The Washington Times (10/21, Dinan) reports that in an effort to “push illegal immigrant students to enroll in high school and college,” the Administration announced “a list of rights...they said illegal immigrants are entitled to, and offering tips on how the students can apply for scholarships or financial aid.” The Times says the “63-page handbook” from the Education Department, “warned against asking students’ legal status” and encouraged schools to “challenge leaders in states ‘with exclusionary or less inclusive policies.’” The Times says the guidance is “the latest step in President Obama’s push to try to mainstream illegal immigrants as much as possible, despite laws that still outlaw their presence in the country.” The Times notes that in “a separate letter to state officials,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan “said he’d been getting requests from school leaders asking how to assist illegal immigrants” and “the guidance is a response to that.”
        US News & World Report (10/20) reports that the guidance is intended to help districts “integrate into their public school systems students who have streamed into the U.S. without legal permission from Central America and elsewhere.” The guidance comes as state legislatures across the country have consider “legislation that would make it more difficult for students in the country illegally to attend school.” In a letter to states accompanying the guidance, Education Secretary Arne Duncan “underscored that under the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, states and school districts are obligated by federal law to provide all children – with or without legal status – with equal access to basic public education.” The piece quotes Duncan saying, “As a nation of immigrants, America has benefited from the vitality and enthusiasm brought to its shores by those seeking a better life – and education is a key pathway to success for many new Americans.” The Washington Examiner (10/21) reports

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Corporal Punishment Still Used In “Deep South” Schools, Especially Mississippi.

The Washington Post (10/20, Harlan) reports 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools, but 60% of “the students paddled nationwide come from just four neighboring states – Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.” The article highlights Mississippi, where 16% of public school students are African-American, and 35% of them receive corporal punishment while in school. Page 19 of the student/parent handbook for Greenwood Public School District in the state outlines the district policy on corporal punishment, which allows a principal or assistant principal to give up to “five swats with a paddle.” The National Education Association has said that corporal punishment is “more than ineffective – it is harmful.”

Sen. Cruz Says President Obama Using Texas High School Student’s Story To Divide The Country.

The Dallas Morning News (10/20, Jeffers Jr.) reports Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, said that President Barack Obama is trying to use Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas high school student who was arrested for bringing a clock he built to school after it was mistaken for a bomb, to “divide the country.” Cruz said, “President Obama, at every stage, tries to politicize what happens, whether it is this teenager here in Texas, whether it is the shootings we saw in the Pacific Northwest. Over and over again, sadly, he seeks to try to divide us, to try to tear us apart.”

Teen Clockmaker Among Attendees At White House Astronomy Night.

Coverage of Monday evening’s White House Astronomy Night focuses mainly on President Obama’s invitation to Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager who was arrested last month after a homemade clock he brought to school was mistaken for a bomb. The AP (10/20, Freking) reports that Mohamed “capped a whirlwind month with a visit to the White House on Monday” after getting an invitation from the President for Astronomy Night. The President and Mohamed “met and chatted briefly during Monday night’s event. Earlier Monday, Ahmed said he was grateful for the president’s support and said he’s OK with the nickname that so many have given him over the past few weeks – ‘clock kid.’”
        USA Today (10/20, Korte) says Obama “hosted 300 students, 11 astronauts, and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) on the south lawn of the White House on a clear Monday night” for the second White House Astronomy Night, “and in the third row, among the students,” was Mohamed. Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest “tamped down expectations for a meeting.” He said, “After all, there are several hundred people who are planning to participate in tonight’s festivities on the South Lawn.”
        The New York Times (10/20, Harris, Subscription Publication) says Mohamed, “the 14-year-old Texas boy who became a cause célèbre after he was detained and handcuffed for taking a homemade clock to school, visited the White House,” while the Dallas Morning News (10/20) headlines its report “Clockmaking Teen From Irving Meets Other Science Lovers, President At White House.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times (10/20, Parsons) notes Obama’s invitation to Mohamed in the first line of its report, but focuses on the President’s “fascination with all things scientific.”

ED Says 22% Of Teenage Students Are Bullied.

US News & World Report (10/19, Pannoni) reports bullying and cyberbullying have decreased, but ED data shows that about 22% of teenage students report being bullied. October is National Bullying Prevention Month where teachers and adults are encouraged to talk to students about tolerance and respect and how to address bullying.

Appeals Court Upholds Post-Newtown Assault Weapon Bans In New York, Connecticut.

The Huffington Post (10/20, Farias) reports that a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday“referenced the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, while holding up the core of gun control legislation passed in Connecticut and New York following the attack.” The court “upheld in large part” gun control legislation passed “in the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” The ruling “dealt a blow to the various gun groups that mounted a constitutional challenge against the laws, which prohibit possession of a number of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. ‘The core prohibitions by New York and Connecticut of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment,’ wrote Judge José Cabranes.”
        The New York Times (10/20, Weiser, Subscription Publication) reports that the court said the states “had acted ‘based on substantial evidence’ and had ‘tailored the legislation at issue to address these particularly hazardous weapons.’” Judge Cabranes “noted that state legislatures were ‘far better equipped than the judiciary to make sensitive public policy judgments (within constitutional limits) concerning the dangers in carrying firearms and the manner to combat those risks,” and he pointed out that “the legislation had been ‘targeted to prevent mass shootings like that in Newtown,’ referring the school shooting in Connecticut in which the gunman, Adam Lanza, fired 154 rounds.”
        The AP (10/20, Neumeister) reports the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Connecticut and New York state gun control laws passed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The laws ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes held that the laws can aid a state’s compelling interest in “controlling crime.” The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, one of the plaintiffs, said they would appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.

Brooklyn Mother’s Fights To Help Disabled Son Graduate High School.

The New York Times (10/19, Harris, Subscription Publication) reports that the mother of an 18-year-old with a disability is fighting for her son to graduate high school. Laurie De Vito said her son, Dylan Cunningham, “has had difficulty with speech and language” throughout his life. New York students are required to pass five Regents exams with a score of 65 or greater to graduate high school, although students with a disability can pass with a score of 55. Dylan passed four of his exams, but only managed to score a 54 on his algebra exam. De Vito, upset her son wouldn’t graduate high school over one point, “looked up phone numbers for the state’s Education Department and started dialing.” Her persistence led to meetings with “several high-ranking education officials,” which led to a new rule allowing for an appeal for special education students who score at least a 52 on a Regents exam.