Report Shows Drop In Violent Incidents At New Jersey Schools.
New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (10/28, Calefati, Rundquist) reports that an annual report released this week by the New Jersey Department of Education shows that “New Jersey’s schools are getting safer, but prescription drug abuse is a rising problem.” The report credited “education efforts” for the five percent drop in violent incidents, three percent drop in vandalism, 15 percent drop in weapons incidents, and four percent drop in bullying. Meanwhile, “incidents of substance abuse possession rose — up 6 overall percent in the one-year period, including a 22 percent increase in prescription drugs and a 14 percent increase in incidents involving alcohol.” The findings were from “17,048 incidents reported by school districts in 2008-09.”
New Jersey’s Press of Atlantic City (10/28, D’Amico) notes that according to critics, “the reporting process for violence and bullying remains seriously flawed and represents just a small percentage of actual problems in the schools.” Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, “said he believes the number” of incidents reported are up to “100 times lower than the actual number[s].” According to Green, “schools have been chronically under-reporting incidents for fear of landing on the dreaded ‘persistently dangerous schools’ list as required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.” Currently, no schools in New Jersey are on that list.
New Jersey’s Record (10/28, Brody) notes that school districts “send their own numbers to the state, and some interpret the reporting requirements slightly differently.”
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In the Classroom
Chicago Elementary School’s Turnaround Shows Promising Results After Five Years.
Education Week (10/27, Kelleher) reported that in the summer of 2006, William T. Sherman Elementary School in “one of Chicago’s poorest and most violence-plagued communities… became Chicago’s first official turnaround school.” The school’s “principal, the entire faculty, and all but one of the building’s staff were replaced in one fell swoop.” Now, after nearly five years, “the improvements appear to have taken root.” The school “has made progress on state tests,” although “its scores still lag behind city averages.” According to Education Week, Sherman Elementary is both “a case study in the importance of having…talent ready” in order to reverse the school’s “academic fortunes” and “whether turnarounds can come about as quickly, or dramatically, as the architects of the federal program might hope.”
Research Shows Pre-K Counts Helped Boost Achievement In Pennsylvania.
The Bucks County (PA) Courier Times (10/28, Canelli) reports that Stephen Bagnato, professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh recently “presented results from a study of the Pre-K Counts program in 21 school districts across” Pennsylvania. According to the Courier Times, “The research…looked at more than 10,000 children ages 3 to 6 across the state, including 223 kids in Bucks County. Out of those 223 students, 146 at-risk children exceeded expected competencies in language, reading, math, writing and behavior after transitioning from the program to kindergarten.”
Arizona District Continues To Grow CTE Program Despite Budget Cutbacks.
The Arizona Republic (10/28, Scott) reports, “Career and technical education continues to grow in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, even as resources are shrinking. The Northeast Valley district is working to provide more career options for students, despite a $250,000 cut to its career and technical education budget this school year.” Tony Maldonado, director of the district’s Star Tech Center, said “Innovation is one of our major key” areas, adding “We cannot be as aggressive as we want to be, so what happens is we just have to put those innovative-type things off until our budget picture improves.” Even so, the Republic notes, “growth and emerging career fields continue to demand new programs, so district officials have had to be more strategic. This year, the district launched a program that allows about 30 students to earn a certificate to become an auto-body or collision technician.”
New Jersey Festival Breaks Mold Of “Boring Science Fair.”
New Jersey’s Record and Herald News (10/28, Rohan) reports, “Robots, reptiles and remnants of dinosaurs made Saturday’s New Jersey Science and Engineering Festival at Clifton High School fun for families.” Activities designed to make the event more than just a “boring science fair” included “lectures on topics like ‘the science of superheroes,’ a scaled down fossil-dig and even a simulation of cloud-making.” Meanwhile, “in the lower exhibit hall, Keith Gerhardt of Fanuc Robotics in Massachusetts demonstrated the “color-vision capability” of a robot that had been programmed to distinguish between red, white and yellow M&M’s, and sort them into separate containers.” The festival also hosted a First Tech Challenge scrimmage, as well as bomb-disarming robots used by the police department, among other activities.
Law & Policy
Administration To Launch New Sex Education Campaign.
The Washington Post (10/28, Stein) reports that “the Obama administration has entered the politically sensitive” debate over “safe-sex vs. abstinence-only sex education programs,” with a promise “to put scientific evidence before political ideology. A $110 million campaign will support a range of programs, including those that teach about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception and others that focus primarily on encouraging teens to delay sex.” The Post adds, “Although the program is being hailed by many adolescent health experts, it is being denounced by some on both sides of the abstinence debate.”
Ohio Supreme Court Says School Districts Can Fire Employees For Old Crimes.
The AP (10/27) reported that in the case of a “Cincinnati school employee fired in 2008 over a 1976 drug trafficking conviction,” the Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that “school districts have a right to fire employees over old criminal convictions.” The court said that “a 2007 law that required schools to investigate employees’ criminal pasts and then dismiss those convicted of some offenses is constitutional, even when applied retroactively.” The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (10/27, Nash) noted that after the law went into effect, school districts in Ohio “fired dozens of employees over long-ago criminal convictions.”
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Virginia District Teachers Coping With Influx Of Special Needs Students.
Virginia’s Daily Press (10/28, Shalash) reports, “When Hampton [VA] teachers returned to school after summer break, they were caught unprepared with a major change – most would now be collaborating with a special education teacher, and up to half of their students would have disabilities.” According to the Daily Press, “Mixing disabled and regular students in a general classroom is called ‘inclusion,’ a method that’s federally required for students who can handle it. But it should be done with careful planning and training instead of the all-at-once approach Hampton rolled out over the summer, experts and teachers said.”
Safety & Security
Some Experts Say Education Department Letter Could Lead To Less Bullying.
Inside Higher Ed (10/28, Berrett) reports that school bullying incidents “could grow rarer, say legal experts and student advocates, following the U.S. Department of Education’s release Tuesday of anti-discrimination guidelines” in a letter to a wide range of education institutions. According to Inside Higher Ed, “Colleges’ responses are mandatory, even if a student does not formally file a complaint, according to the letter. In fact, college and university administrators are on the hook for addressing harassment incidents about which they know or ‘reasonably should have known,’ wrote” Department of Education Office for Civil Rights chief Russlynn Ali.
Audit Of Los Angeles School District’s Construction Finds Several Conflicts Of Interest.
The Los Angeles Times (10/28, Blume) reports that an independent audit of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “20-billion school construction program” found several “conflicts of interest, but most problems were eliminated after 2006.” The audit, commissioned by the district “after the March indictment of a senior facilities manager,” looked into “records dating to 2002” and “found 225 instances in which consultant hiring panels included people from the same company as the applicant.” In addition, “auditors identified four people who participated in hiring panels and ‘stood to receive a direct financial benefit because they selected a [consultant] from a firm in which they had an investment.'” The school system plans “to conduct a follow-up investigation, with particular attention to the four unnamed people.”
The AP (10/28, Hoag) reports that Controller Wendy Greuel has “recommended that in the future, newly hired contractors be trained in conflict-of-interest policies and file a statement of economic interest when they are hired and when they leave district employ.”
Also in the News
Blogger Suggests Using College Admittance To Measure Schools’ Success.
Harriet Blackburn of the Adam Smith Institute blog wrote in the Christian Science Monitor (10/27), “The education system in this country is creating a generation of children who are unable to think for themselves.” She asserts that since 1992, priorities in education have shifted “away from traditional teaching methods towards teaching exam tactics to help schools to advance up the league table rankings.” However, Blackburn calls for “a revolution in the way we approach schools and measure their relative success.” She suggests that school success is better measured by “the number of children they can get accepted into” colleges and universities. “With universities becoming more disillusioned with the quality of education of incoming students, it is becoming increasingly important that children are educated beyond the curriculum and taught the skills required to thrive in further education and society in general,” Blackburn concludes.
Foundations Not Doing Enough To Help Neediest Students, Study Says.
The AP (10/28, Blankinship) reports that the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy “is hoping to light a fire under charitable foundations that support education by releasing a report Wednesday that points out how few of them focus enough attention on helping the most needy students.” The study “said that only 11 percent of American foundations devoted at least half their grants to programs that benefit vulnerable students” and the reports also found that “only 2 percent met the watchdog group’s other main criteria for philanthropic success: spending 25 percent of its grants toward advocating for long-term change, through community building, advocacy and civil engagement.”
NEA in the News
Community In Maryland Begins NEA Public Engagement Project.
The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette (10/28, McGill) reports that residents in District Heights, Maryland, are participating in the NEA’s Community Conversation. According to Brenda Vincent, an NEA senior policy analyst, the “public engagement project began in 1997 as a way for communities to meet and identify whether family and community involvement, effective programs, or adequate resources are the key to eliminate achievement gaps in their local schools.” The first Community Conversation was held last week, and another is planned for February 2011. “After the second meeting, a final action plan will be given to NEA that can help the GDHCC identify grant money to solve specific issues by spring 2011,” according to the Gazette.
Education Department Grants Will Help Districts Curb High School Dropout Rates.
Education Week (10/28, Gewertz) reported, “In the first wave of funding under a revitalized high school graduation initiative, the US Education Department is betting nearly $50 million that it can help states and school districts find better ways to hang onto students who might drop out and bring back those who have disappeared without diplomas. Twenty-nine states and districts won grants last month of up to $3 million” from the High School Graduation Initiative “to work with schools whose dropout rates exceed their state’s average.” According to Education Week, the Education Department hopes to use the funds “to exert leverage on high school graduation rates, which hover around 70 percent nationally and can sink below 50 percent in poor communities.”
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In the Classroom
More Atlanta Schools Make AYP After Students Retake Standardized Tests.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (10/29, Badertscher) reports that “32 metro Atlanta schools…got the bump up they needed to meet testing requirements of [NCLB], based on summer” Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests “retests…and summer graduates, new data from the state show.” According to the Journal-Constitution, “Students who fail one or more portions of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) take retests near the end of the school year or in the summer. Those results are paired with the results of the spring CRCT, which last school year showed two of every three public high schools failing to make AYP and 305 schools on the ‘needs improvement’ list.”
Shakespeare Program Aimed At Helping ESL Students Learn English Language.
The Chicago Sun-Times (10/28, Noulihan) reported on the ESL/Shakespeare program at Gage Park High School in Chicago that began last year. Maria Rivera, the ESL teacher who created the program in which students study Shakespeare’s use of language, said it gives students “a new creative avenue into the English language, a new way of learning words and their meanings that they find unique, exciting and fulfilling.” The ESL students learn and perform adapted versions of Shakespeare plays onstage at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
High School Trades Program Partners With Habitat For Humanity To Build House.
KOAM-TV Pittsburgh, Kansas (10/29) reports that when budget cuts threatened to end the Trades Program at Carl Junction High School in Missouri, the school formed a partnership with the Joplin Area Habitat For Humanity that essentially saved the program. Students are working with the home-building group on a house for a family of six. The family will also help build the house before moving in.
Pittsburgh Overhauling Schools’ CTE Program.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (10/28, Weigand) reported on the CTE “overhaul” going on in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, with the board recently voting to eliminate the rolling admissions process. A “first-come-first-served” process was preferred. “In May, the board approved a plan to create a rigorous, career-focused program by the 2011-12 school year, with three regional clusters offering their own specialty courses. All students, however, would be able to take classes in health careers, information technology and business finance or culinary arts.”
Teaching Peers An Effective Learning Tool For Students, Studies Show.
Education Week (10/28, Sparks) reported, “Educators have long held that peer tutoring can help students learn, and emerging research on students working with computer characters points to one possible reason why: Teaching begets learning for the teacher, too. Researchers at Stanford University’s AAA Lab and Vanderbilt University’s Teachable Agents Group call it the ‘protege effect,’ which posits that students will work harder, reason better, and ultimately understand more by learning to teach someone else-even a virtual ‘teachable agent’-than they will when learning for themselves.” Education Week noted that both “labs are moving to bring the lessons from virtual teaching to flesh-and-blood classrooms.”
On the Job
Four Schools In Providence, Rhode Island Develop Own Turnaround Plans.
The Providence (RI) Journal (10/29, Borg) reports that four schools in Providence, Rhode Island, which have been “identified by state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist as among the worst in the state, have devised” plans “to turn themselves around after years of low student achievement.” The efforts are not ordinary, because these plans are “coming from the bottom up. Typically, school reform is developed by the superintendent and staff and imposed on the individual schools.” But, with the bottom-up approach, “principals and teachers have decided which reforms will boost student performance.” The changes will be observed by a “labor-management partnership…believed to be the first of its kind in the” US. Beginning next September, “all four schools will have” up to 75 minutes added to the school day, teachers will have 10 professional training days added to their contract, and more time will be devoted to helping students struggling with math and reading.
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Law & Policy
New Jersey Governor Appoints Task Force For New Teacher, Principal Evaluations.
New Jersey’s Record & Herald News (10/29, Brody) reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday “appointed nine members…to a task force charged with the controversial mission of recommending ways to use student achievement and other measures to evaluate all teachers and principals.” Christie wants the group to present recommendations “for a statewide evaluation system” to him by March 1. The recommendations are expected to fall in line with Christie’s goals of basing “teachers’ tenure, job retention, and compensation…on their results in the classroom rather than on seniority” and for “at least half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student achievement.” Currently, “districts have their own methods and almost everybody is deemed satisfactory or better,” according to the Record & Herald News.
The Newark Star-Ledger (10/29, Mascarenhas) reports that the task force does not include any representative from the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. Union spokesman Steve Baker commented on the exclusion, saying, “It obviously indicates the governor is continuing his disrespect toward practitioners, professionals, and the people who do this work for a living.” Baker also said that Christies goal of creating “an evaluation system in which student achievement measures make up at least 50 percent of a teacher or school leader’s assessment” might “lead to a heavy reliance on standardized testing.” Said Baker, “Standardized test scores are a very flawed tool when it comes to measuring student achievement. … Some students respond better to instruction, some test better.”
Arizona District Proposes Solution For Curbing Use Of “Synthetic Marijuana” At School.
KNXV-TV Phoenix (10/29, Resendez) reports that some students in Arizona’s in the Tempe Union High School District are using a substance called spice or K2 to get high. K2 “is a legal synthetic form of marijuana that can be easily purchased from smoke shops, convenience stores and online, as long as you’re over 18.” Tempe Union spokeswoman Linda Littell said that abuse of the substance is “a big problem” and a school committee “is proposing to the school board that it be listed the same as an illegal drug,” she said. “If the school board approves the proposal in November, the punishment for a student possessing Spice or being under the influence of Spice would be the same as an illegal drug,” KNXV added.
Safety & Security
First Lady Says Adults Should Lead By Example To Stop School Bullying.
The AP (10/29) reports that First Lady Michelle Obama “says adults can address the problem of bullying if they lead by example.” The First Lady’s comments on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” came “days after President Barack Obama addressed the topic in a video posted on the White House website. … Mrs. Obama said young people need to know that they shouldn’t let the challenges they face in high school or college ‘eat them up.'”
Up To Forty-Seven New York City Schools May Close Due To Lagging Performance.
The New York Times (10/29, Otterman) reports that the New York City DOE “said Thursday that up to 47 schools could be closed for poor performance, a huge increase from previous years if all remain on the chopping block.” According to the Times, city officials gave “few reasons” for the sharp increase in school closures. Nineteen “of the schools were to close last year, but won temporary reprieves because of a lawsuit brought by the teachers’ union and” the NAACP. The Times adds that in an effort “to reduce the shock and anger that closing announcements met in past years, the city has a new process to explain its thinking before making a final decision. At least four meetings are being held at each school, and parents and staff and community members can object if they feel that part or all of the school should be preserved, officials said.”
Some Connecticut Superintendents Take Raises As Schools Cut Staff.
WFSB-TV Hartford (10/29) reports that as Connecticut school districts “have been cutting jobs left and right,” some superintendents are taking raises. WFSB contacted school districts statewide and found that “more than two dozen superintendents took raises this school year.” In Hartford, for instance, schools have seen a consistent decline in staff, losing about 400 employees since 2007. Meanwhile, the schools superintendent has taken a raise each year.
Superintendent Declines Raise For Second Straight Year. The Hartford (CT) Courant (10/29) reports that Manchester, Connecticut, schools superintendent, Kathleen Ouellette, “will forgo a salary raise for the second year in a row.” Ouellette, who makes $155,366 annually, has “declined any raise in the current fiscal year and in fiscal year 2009-10. The board recently approved a contract for Ouellette through June 30, 2013, that includes a boost in vacation days from 25 to 30 and raises the number of sick days paid out at retirement from 60 to 65.”
Also in the News
Controversy Surrounds Cards Being Tested For Monitoring Students Activity.
The Boston Globe (10/28) reports that “civil libertarians are raising privacy concerns about a plan by Boston public schools to issue cards to students that could be used for a variety of services from riding the bus, to borrowing library books, to accessing meal programs.” State ACLU director Carol Rose “says school officials have no right to know where students go, or what they read.” But school officials say that the cards, which are being “issued to 530 students in grades 6 through 12…as part of a pilot program,” could help reduce absenteeism.
Ohio School Districts Pay State DOE Nearly $35,000 For Testing Mishaps.
The Newark (OH) Advocate (10/30) reported that in May, the Ohio Department of Education “began charging” school districts with standardized testing mishaps “a fee of $25 per student, per subject to help cover the expense of giving second, alternate tests.” So far throughout the state, “71 schools or school systems [have] paid almost $35,000 for mistakes that led to retesting,” with Cincinnati schools paying the largest fine of $11,500. The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (10/30, Richards) noted that “the Ohio Department of Education has long had the option of charging a fee but hadn’t done so until this year, prompted by budget concerns.” The AP (10/30) also covered the story.
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In the Classroom
Texas District Adjusts Homework Grading Policy After Increase In Failing Grades.
The Dallas Morning News (10/30, Unmuth) reported that at the beginning of this school year, the Irving school district “stopped counting homework toward grades.” Since that policy has been in place, “the number of high school students failing at least one class [has] increased by more than one-third,” from 3,412 students during the first six weeks of school last year to 4,597 this year. Irving is now adjusting the policy “by giving students the opportunity to increase their grade by submitting one portfolio of six samples that can include homework assignments.” The Dallas Morning News notes that “The district initially stopped counting homework because administrators felt it didn’t measure students’ actual learning as much as other assessments.”
District Sees Increased Minority Enrollment In Middle School Advanced Math.
North Carolina’s News & Observer (10/29, Hui) reported that the Wake County school system has reported “gains in minority enrollment in…middle school advanced math classes.” This year, “61.6 percent of black middle school students and 61.6 percent of Hispanic students who were identified as being ready to take pre-algebra or Algebra I were placed in those courses.” Still, more eligible white students are being placed in advanced math courses this year, at 75.5 percent. The News & Observer notes that previously, a report form the SAS Institute “had found a majority of qualified black and Hispanic students weren’t being placed into Algebra I in middle school,” thus possibly limiting “ability to take enough advanced math courses in high school.” At a school board meeting last week, Board Member John Tedesco pointed out that, despite the improvement, all students who are qualified should be placed in advance math courses, regardless of race.
Students Throughout California, Maine Participate In Mock Elections.
The Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel (10/30, Bonnett) reported that students in the Lodi Unified School District “participated in the 2010 MyVote California Student Mock Election” that took place last week. More than 105,000 students throughout California cast ballots for the event. “With 389 schools reporting statewide,” Democratic candidate Jerry Brown “took 49 percent of the vote,” followed by “Republican Meg Whitman with 22 percent of the vote.” Students also voted on Proposition 19, “the controversial ballot initiative to permit local governments to tax and regulate marijuana.”
MPBN-TV Bangor, Maine (10/28) reported that students in Maine also took part in a statewide mock voting event last Friday. “As part of the process, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap” hosted a “Rally and Tally” “event, in which students will [collect] the mock election results by phone and the Internet and report them throughout the afternoon and evening.” Students also made posters, learned how to conduct an interview, wrote “stump” speeches, and heard “directly from candidates” for the event.
Maryland Study Finds Low-Income Students Perform Better In Wealthy Schools.
Newsweek (10/31, Wu) reported on its website that the Century Foundation “tracked two groups of low-income children” in Montgomery County, Maryland schools: “those randomly assigned to higher-income schools and those not. The study, released last month, showed that between 2001 and 2007 the” children who attended schools in wealthy neighborhoods “cut their achievement gap by almost a third in reading and half in math — even though the lower-income schools had more funding.” The study’s author, Heather Schwartz, attributed the improved results to the school “environment: fewer disciplinary interruptions, more engaged students, and a stable set of teachers.”
More Public Schools Requiring Students To Wear Uniforms.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (10/31, Lankes) reported, “While once limited to private schools, more public schools such as” Early College International High School in Rochester, NY “are adopting uniforms as part of their program, hoping the consistent dress will help their students stay focused in class and in turn boost their academic performance.” The Democrat & Chronicle added, “The trend locally underscores something happening all over the country as administrators look for ways to focus their students’ attention on learning. The US department of Education reports that about one in five public schools required students to wear uniforms during the 2007-08 school year…up from 12 percent in 1999-2000.”
Law & Policy
Defense Spending Bill Includes School Provisions For Military Families.
Education Week (10/29, Samuels) reported that Congress plans to take up a defense spending bill that includes “a proposed $5 million voucher program for military families who have children with special education needs.” Eligible families would get $7,500 per school year beginning in the 2011-12 school year. The bill also includes a provision that would “direct the secretaries of defense and education to collaborate on issues such as expedited due process resolution for military families and creation of individualized education programs that are applicable across state lines.” Education Week points out that “military families say…current regulations don’t work well for parents and children who are constantly on the move,” as services that apply “in one district [often] can’t be implemented in another.”
FCC Expected To Require Schools Receiving E-Rate Funds To Teach Internet Responsibility.
PC Magazine (10/29, Albanesius) reported that the FCC plans to “circulate an order that would require schools that receive e-rate funding to adopt Internet safety policies.” According to the document, schools will have to “educate students how to act responsibly online.” PC Magazine noted that “the e-rate program is part of the government’s universal service fund, which is intended to provide telecom services to all Americans;” it “focuses on funds to schools and libraries.” The FCC has not said “when Chairman Julius Genachowski might formally announce this plan.” Reuters (10/30, Melvin) also covered the story.
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New Jersey Schools Find “More Creative” Ways To Raise Money.
The AP (11/1) reports that as state budget cuts chip at funding for “academic and extracurricular programs” in New Jersey public schools this year, “educators are getting more creative in looking for ways to fund projects they see as important to student education.” Last week, a school in Folsom auctioned off student-made scarecrows, “with part of the proceeds going to help support the school’s new positive-behavior program.” And, at William Davies Middle School in Hamilton Township, “about 40 people paid $10 each for a one-hour Zumba workout so music students at the school can travel to festivals.” Some teachers and schools are also looking at more traditional funding sources like grants and recycling programs.
Also in the News
Obama Highlighting Importance Of STEM Education.
Education Week (10/29, Robelen) reported, “Amid a struggling economy, a raft of foreign-policy headaches, and the tail end of a heated campaign season, President Barack Obama carved out time in his schedule this month to watch students in the State Dining Room demonstrate a solar-powered model car, a water-purification system, and a soccer-playing robot.” According to Education Week, the President says “those activities-part of what was dubbed the first annual White House science fair celebrating winners of STEM-focused student competitions-are just what the nation needs to prosper. … The science fair was the fifth White House event he has personally hosted over the past year or so focused on education in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Students In Utah District Must Pass Breathalyzer Test To Attend School Dances.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/31, Smart) reported on the Park City School District’s policy of requiring students to pass a breathalyzer test before being allowed into school dances. “The program, intended to keep school activities safe and send a message to teens, has been in place for about five years.” The Salt Lake Tribune notes that the ACLU has in some states “challenged the practice of ‘suspicionless’ tests as a violation of the Fourth Amendment ban on illegal searches.” But Utah ACLU Legal Director Darcy Goddard said that her group will likely not raise the issue unless a complaint is made. So far, she said, “nobody in Utah has complained to her agency.”
Teen Reading Habits Changing With The Increased Use Of High-Tech Devices.
The Washington Post (11/1, George) reports, “Recreational reading has changed for teens in an era of ebooks and laptops and hours spent online, but experts and media specialists say there are signs of promise in spite of busy lives and research findings that show traditional book reading is down.” According to the Post, research conducted by the University of Maryland’s Sandra Hofferth found that pleasure reading “dropped 23 percent in 2008, compared with 2003, from 65 minutes a week to 50 minutes a week – with the greatest falloff for those ages 12 to 14. Still, she says: ‘They could be reading on the cell phone, in games, on the Web, on the computer.'” Randi Adleberg, head of the high school English program at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County, adds that “if reading online and in game-playing are taken into account,” then “the digital age has probably increased reading.”
Leading the News
First Phase Of Newark School Reform Aims To Increase Parental Involvement.
The AP (11/2) reports that the first phase of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million reform effort in Newark Public Schools includes “an initiative to reach out to parents of schoolchildren to find out what’s working and what isn’t.” As part of the effort, “canvassers will knock on doors and make phone calls” in the next two months. The campaign aims to involve parents “in the educational process.”
New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (11/2, Rundquist) reports that Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) and Superintendent Clifford Janey kicked off the effort on Monday, along with “a host of other Newark leaders.” The Star-Ledger also notes that Mayor Booker has received $43 million of the $100 million in pledges needed to match Zuckerberg’s pledge. According to Booker, the canvassing phase of the campaign “will cost more than $1 million.”
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In the Classroom
Teachers In South Florida Put Focus On Civics With Election-Themed Lessons.
Florida’s Sun-Sentinel (11/1, Olmeda) reported on the election-related lessons and trainings taking place in schools throughout South Florida. The Broward School District through the nonpartisan Kids Voting Broward allowed students “to participate in an online mock election.” Some Broward teachers are discussing “the [voting] process and” showing “students how to access the online ballot, which the students can do from anywhere using the Virtual Counselor site.” Meanwhile, many teachers in Palm Beach County “will be spending Election Day at a Royal Palm Beach High School workshop with former Sen. Bob Graham.” According to Palm Beach County’s Teaching American History Project coordinator Ana Dowling, “the workshop…is part of an ongoing effort to do a better job of teaching civics.” She also pointed out that Florida’s new Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, “help teach students how to process all the information they receive” about the electoral process, “so they can recognize what’s important as citizens.”
First Grade Teacher Uses Pumpkins For Multi-Curricular Lessons.
The Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot (11/1, Wheaton) reported that Sue Allen, a first grade teacher at Townsend Elementary School in Vandercook Lake, Michigan, is teaching her students to count by having them gut pumpkins and number the seeds. The activity was one of several activities at various stations throughout the classroom. The students “also guessed the weight of their pumpkins, and then weighed them on a scale” and “measured the pumpkins’ circumference and height using a tape measure.” The Citizen Patriot adds that “At other stations the students also learned about the lifespan of a pumpkin, made books, and practiced their handwriting with a pumpkin poem.” Allen said that she has been teaching the pumpkin-centered lessons for about 13 or 13 years.
More New Jersey Students Earning Credits Through Dual-Enrollment Programs.
New Jersey’s Record and Herald News (11/1, Alex) reports, “More and more North Jersey high school students are earning college credits thanks to partnerships between their schools and local colleges and universities. So-called dual enrollment or Middle College programs are an increasingly popular complement to Advanced Placement classes and a way to keep students engaged through graduation.” As interest in these programs continues to grow, educators also see an opportunity for students to save money as the get a jump on their post-secondary education. The article describes some of the Middle College programs that area districts have adopted, including some with Fairleigh Dickinson University, Bergen Community College, Stevens Institute of Technology and Syracuse University. Some districts are also moving to expand online access to their courses.
Law & Policy
Pennsylvania District’s Zero Tolerance Policy Includes Profanity.
KDKA-TV Pittsburgh (11/2) reports that in an effort to turn “all of its campuses into…safe and conducive learning [environments],” the Wilkinsburg School District sent a letter to parents last week, asking them to help the district take “a proactive approach in stopping the recent increase in profanity toward teachers and staff.” Superintendent Archie Perrin, Jr., said, “We don’t want [to] spend time in school basically doing what should have already been done at home. … We’re not here to raise children, we’re not here to discipline students, we’re here to educate them.” Wilkinsburg has a “zero tolerance policy…in place so that profanity doesn’t escalate into other disruptive behaviors resulting in an unsafe learning environment.”
WPXI-TV Pittsburgh (11/2) quotes Perrin as saying, “Violence is violence. We view verbal abuse as a form of violence in order to rid the district of that.” Students who use profanity face punishment ranging “from a warning to expulsion.”
San Francisco School Officials Cracking Down On Out-Of District Students.
The AP (11/2) reports that in the past seven months, the San Francisco school district “has identified 200 students who do not live within the city’s limits and have kicked them out.” District officials are “offering amnesty until Nov. 20 for any other students who admit they do not belong in city schools.” Those students “will be allowed to finish the semester” and their parents will not have to pay “the $500 to $4,500 per student the district says it has spent rooting out offenders,” including “staff time and using private detectives to verify whether students live where they say they do.”
Supreme Court To Hear School Miranda Rights Case.
The Los Angeles Times (11/2, Savage) reports, “The Supreme Court said Monday it would explore the rights of schoolchildren who were questioned by the police, the second time in recent weeks it has delved into student issues.” According to the Times, “Last year, the North Carolina Supreme Court said that a” 13-year-old student suspected of burglary who was “being questioned by an officer at school was not in custody and therefore need not be warned of his rights. … His appeal, in [J.D.B.] vs. North Carolina, argued that the young man should have been told of his rights and given a chance to consult with a parent.”
The Education Week (11/1, Walsh) added that in 2005, the student at the center of the case identified as J.D.B. “was escorted to a school conference room, where he was interrogated by a Chapel Hill, N.C., juvenile crimes investigator in the presence of the school resource officer, an assistant principal, and a school administrative intern. J.D.B.’s parents were not contacted, and he was not given any warnings about his rights under the 1966 high court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, such as the right to remain silent or to have access to a lawyer.” According to Education Week, “Lawyers for the boy sought to suppress his confession in a juvenile-delinquency proceeding charging him with two counts each of breaking and entering and larceny, but they lost in lower courts and before the North Carolina Supreme Court.”
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Little Rock Air Force Base Increases Offer Of Land To School District.
The AP (11/1) reported, “Little Rock Air Force Base now is offering more land to the Pulaski County Special School District for future school construction.” In 2007, the Air Force “initially offered the district 20 acres near the base’s back gate.” Though the district “has not accepted the offer,” Air Force Col. Andy Coggins told Superintendent Charles Hopson last month that the offer still stands and “is being increased by 77 acres.” The AP added that school board President Bill Vasquez is ready “to get started on the project.”
California District Restores Full-Time Librarians.
The Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel (11/2, Kelly) reports that the Santa Cruz school board recently voted to “restored $132,494 for salaries of certificated librarians.” This school year, elementary school librarians’ hours were cut by 30 percent and middle school librarians hours were cut 20 percent. However, the school board’s decision will bring full-time librarians back to elementary and middle schools. The decision, said Supervisor Gary Bloom, came after “last month’s state budget did not contain the anticipated cuts to the class-size reduction program for kindergarten through third grade students.”
Also in the News
DC Holds Kennedy Center Event To Honor “Highly Effective” Teachers.
WRC-TV Washington, DC (11/2, Tetu) reports on “the first annual ‘Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers’ event” held at the Kennedy Center Monday night to honor “sixteen public school teachers who have been rated ‘highly effective’ under the school system’s new ratings.” DC mayor Adrian Fenty and Education Secretary Arne Duncan were among the officials who attended the gala. According to WRC, “proceeds from the event will go to the D.C. Public Education Fund, an independent non-profit group.” The AP (11/1) also covered the story.
Connecticut Panel Releases Recommendations On How To Close Achievement Gap.
The New Haven (CT) Register (11/1, Smith) reported that the “Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement last week released a long list of recommendations for how the state can begin to close the achievement gap between low-income students and the rest of the state. Gov. M. Jodi Rell [R] established the commission in March with a mission of looking at why Connecticut has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country.” The panel recommended that preschool be expanded “for low-income students” and that teacher evaluations “consider student performance and have real consequences.” In addition the panel said that the state should “develop a…school turnaround office to ‘aggressively intervene’ in the lowest achieving schools and reform how the state funds education, including having money ‘follow the child.'”
Report Says Elementary Students Can Easily Access High Sugar Drinks In Schools.
USA Today (11/2, Hellmich) reports, “About half of elementary school children in the USA could buy high-fat milk, sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks in school a la carte lines, snack bars, vending machines and stores during 2008-2009, a new study shows.” The University of Illinois-Chicago’s Lindsey Turner, the study’s lead author, and her “colleagues conducted a national survey of hundreds of elementary schools over three years” and found that only “16 percent of elementary students in public schools in 2008-2009 could purchase” only healthy beverages, including low-fat milk and beverages comprised of 100% fruit juice.
Health Day News (11/1, Doheny) noted that that the report appears “to contradict a report released in March by the American Beverage Association (ABA), a trade group, reporting that 99 percent of school districts with beverage distribution contracts were in compliance with the voluntary guidelines.” US News and World Report (11/1, Shute) also covered the story.
NEA in the News
Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Announces New Executive Director.
Wisconsin’s Journal Sentinel (11/2, Richards) reports, that the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association announced Monday that Stan Johnson, “a former president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council,” will be its new executive Director. Johnson served six years as president of WEAC, “the state’s largest teachers union.” After leaving the post in 2007, he “he did some consulting work for the National Education Association’s Minority Leadership Training Program and the National Council of Education Support Professionals.”
Leading the News
Florida Voters Reject Measure Loosening Class-Size Requirements.
The St. Petersburg Times (11/3, Bowers, Matus) reports that Florida voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have “put some flexibility into the class-size amendment they approved eight years ago.” State Sen. Don Gaetz (R), “a former Okaloosa County superintendent and a leading supporter of” the class size amendment, said that the issue failed mainly because backers did not have as much money to spend as their opponents did. Meanwhile, he acknowledged, “The teachers union worked very hard in this campaign. They raised a lot of money.” Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, noted that “having the cash to communicate with voters is especially important on constitutional measures,” because, she said, “voters find them so confusing.”
The Miami Herald (11/3, McGrory, Teproff) reports that the defeat of Amendment 8 “was a victory for parent and teacher groups,” which argued that “loosening the regulations…could mean less state funding for education.” The Miami Herald notes that class size “requirements apply only to core subject areas like math, science, social studies and language arts, and vary based on grade level.” School Districts not in compliance “face millions in penalties.”
The Orlando Sentinel (11/3, Postal) notes, “The coalition that fought against Amendment 8 included the Florida Education Association, the state teachers’ union, which pushed for adding the original class-size amendment to the state constitution.” It adds that school districts, aiming to “free up money for smaller classes,” have “cut electives, combined classes, shifted student schedules, and packed students into elective courses.”
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In the Classroom
High School Students To Build Reusable Rockets Through NASA Program.
The Huntsville (AL) Times (11/3, Newcomb) reports, “When Bob Jones High School placed third in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge last May, the adventure was not over. As a top team, Bob Jones was invited to apply for the chance to build a bigger rocket.” The high school rocket team “is now one of 19 teams from 10 states taking part in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative,” and “will work all year to design and build a reusable rocket that can be launched to a mile high, carrying a payload, and then recover it from the water.” The students will also have “to meet the kind of requirements any engineering company must meet on a project: a request for proposal, a preliminary design review, a critical design review, reports, video conferences and a flight readiness review.” They will also have “to develop an educational outreach project, a website and operate within a budget.”
Forty Percent Of Arkansas Schools Failed To Meet Achievement Requirements For Two Years.
The AP (11/2) reported that roughly “40 percent of Arkansas 1,075 public schools have failed for at least two years to meet minimum student achievement requirements.” According to state data, 420 schools in the state reported too few students passing Benchmark and End-of-Course tests measuring proficiency. Those schools “face having to offer tutoring, changing curriculum, hiring specialists and possibly replacing faculty.”
Strategies Offered For Developing Successful Co-Teaching Partnerships.
High school special education co-teacher Cossondra George wrote in an op-ed for Teacher Magazine (11/2), “Imagine each hour of the day you bounce from classroom to classroom-from algebra to history to science to social studies. … As the special education half of the co-teaching model, this is often your life. However, with a little extra planning on your part, as well as that of the ‘real’ teacher, the partnership can be meaningful for both of you, as well as the students.” George goes on to offer a number of recommendations to enhance the regular teacher/co-teacher partnership. George added, “For both teachers, keep in mind this is a living, growing, changing partnership. … Success is about finding a balance you are both confident and comfortable with day to day.”
“Adamsville” Is First School-Based Mini Community Program In San Antonio.
The San Antonio Express News (11/2, Lloyd) reported that Adams Elementary School in the Harlandale Independent School District has a pretend city called Adamsville that was created “to teach students leadership and financial skills and” possibly “could nudge them toward careers in politics, banking, or other businesses.” In the MicroSociety, students can act as business executives and community leaders. The Express News notes that “the MicroSociety program has been in schools across the country,” but Adamsville is the first “mini-community program in San Antonio.” According to Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “the program will cost about $30,000 the first year,” and was launched with support from the city’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
On the Job
Task Force Determines Top 25 Websites For Teaching, Learning.
The Chicago Tribune (11/3, Cullotta) reports, “Heather Moorefield-Lang, the education and social-sciences librarian at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., and a former middle school librarian, is aware of the frustration both parents and educators experience when students limit their research efforts to Google and Wikipedia, when a wealth of online tools are at their fingertips, many free of charge.” Moorefield-Lang was “a member of the American Association of School Librarians’ task force assigned to study the best educational Websites for kindergarten through 12th grade. The group has posted this year’s Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning on the American Library Association’s site.” The sites were chosen “based on credibility, ease of use, interactivity and affordability.” The article lists some of Moorefield-Lang’s favorite resources.
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Law & Policy
Oklahoma Voters Reject Measure To Match Per-Pupil Funding To Surrounding States.
KJRH-TV Tulsa (11/3, Russell) reports that Oklahoma voters on Tuesday “flatly rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have required education spending match per-pupil spending in surrounding states.” Supporters of the measure say the state trails its neighbors “in per-pupil spending,” and argue that there is “a direct correlation between education and economic competition with the other states.” But, opponents “argued successfully that the measure” did not specify were the money would come from or how it would be spent. KJRH points out that the proposal “was sparked by the Oklahoma Education Association.”
The Oklahoman (11/2, Rolland) reported that Gov. Brad Henry, who opposed the measure, “struck a conciliatory tone Tuesday night,” saying, “Now that the campaign is over and the dust is settled, we can all put aside our differences. … Both sides of the issue care deeply about our state and the quality of our education and the future of our young people.” The Oklahoman noted that “state Question 744 was put on the ballot by 238,000 voter signatures in October 2008, through a petition drive led by the Oklahoma Education Association.” The AP reports that the proposal “was expected to cost nearly $2 billion over the next three years.” Oklahoma’s Shawnee News-Star (11/3, McCormick) also covers the story.
Election Results Could Have Major Impact On Education Policy.
Education Week (11/2, Klein, Cavanagh) reported that the results of Tuesday’s “midterm elections-which are expected to reflect voters’ frustration with the protracted economic downturn and wariness in many quarters about the role of government-could have major implications for the direction of federal education policy, the implementation of key state K-12 initiatives, and education spending at all levels.” According to Education Week, “At the congressional level, most analysts expect that Republicans will win enough seats to gain a majority in the US House of Representatives…and significantly bolster their margins in the Senate. … The election is also expected to produce major political turnover at the state level, where much school policy is decided.”
Safety & Security
Elementary School Principal Notes Positive Changes After All-Day Anti-Bullying Seminar.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/3, Staples) reports that when “the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter” last week clarifying the legal responsibilities of public school officials to prevent” bullying, Manning Oaks Elementary School Principal Sharon Reinig decided that her school could “really make a difference…and build awareness.” Manning Oaks recently “a daylong seminar led by bullying expert Mike Dreiblatt for students, parents and faculty in the surrounding area.” Since the seminar, Reinig said she’s seen “positive results…including more students reporting incidences” and students hanging posters around the school, encouraging others to report incidents.
Tennessee Districts Launch Initiatives To Combat Bullying.
Tennessee’s Commercial Appeal (11/2, Melvin) reports that an “An anti-bullying rally was held recently at the” Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, “where gay parents and students from around the city spoke about the emotional and physical toll bullying takes.” The Commercial Appeal added, “Both Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools have anti-bullying policies, which include training for teachers and educating students. … Kingsbury High School started a gay-straight alliance for students last year, the first in the Memphis area” and “other city school principals are considering forming similar student groups, according to district spokeswoman Heather Danielson.”
Tough Economic Times Hamper STEM Initiatives.
The Kansas City Star (11/3, Robertson) reports, “Five years ago, alarms sounded over America’s rapidly falling stature in STEM education.” But after a wave of new programs and initiatives formed in response to the news, “signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students’ needs continue to grow.” The economic recession and budget cutbacks “mean hard times in particular for schools trying to keep up with the urgent need for stronger STEM programs.” In detailing some of the issues, the Star profiles an educator leading an area FIRST Robotics team, which entailed “scrambling for sponsors in a corporate world that has less money to give, and finding mentors from work forces that are strapped.” Also, “the rapid growth in Project Lead the Way engineering programs is hitting a wall” in terms of funding, despite student interest.
Grand Rapids Public Schools See $6.3 Million Funds Balance Increase.
The Grand Rapids Press (11/3, Reinstadle) reports that a recent audit found that the Grand Rapids public school district’s “fund balance improved from $9.7 million to $15.6 million over the fiscal year that ended June 30.” Schools CFO Lisa Freiburger attributed the gains to “$6.3 million in one-time revenue sources during the 2009-2010 school year,” including “$2.6 million in federal stimulus money and $1.7 million in accrued Medicaid reimbursement.”
Grand Rapids Public Schools, Teachers Work Against Grant Deadline To Negotiate Contract. The Grand Rapids Press (11/3, Reinstadler) reports, “Snarled negotiations over changes to teachers union contracts could jeopardize $25 million in grants intended to help turn around five failing Grand Rapids Public Schools.” The two sides must come to an agreement in time for the district to submit to the Michigan Department of Education its final plans for transforming several low-performing schools by Nov. 16. The Grand Rapids Education Association’s main concerns are “provisions requiring teachers to work additional hours, implementation of a merit pay system, and teacher evaluations.”
Voters Approve San Antonio District’s Largest Ever Bond Issue.
The San Antonio Express News (11/3, Kastner) reports that according to preliminary results, “voters in the San Antonio Independent School District overwhelmingly approved a $515 million bond issue Tuesday — the district’s largest ever.” The bond will pay for renovations at 22 schools and “upgraded playgrounds, technology, [and] security” at several other schools, as well as “facilities for career and vocational education.” In addition, the bond “will allow the district to launch the first phase of its long-range facilities plan, which includes closing five schools” and moving students from those schools “to newly updated facilities once renovations and additions are completed.” The Express News adds that one of the most controversial provisions in the measure is a seven percent increase in funding for Alamo Stadium.
Also in the News
New Teacher Licensing Systems Require Candidates To Demonstrate Skills.
The AP (11/3, Williams) reports that a new teacher “licensing system is being tested in 19 states that includes filming student teachers in their classroom and evaluating the video, also candidates must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and present it effectively.” According to the AP, “Most states only require that would-be teachers pass their class work and a written test. Supporters of the new system say the Teacher Performance Assessment program is a significant improvement, while others are a little more cautious in their praise, warning that it’s not guaranteed it will lead to more successful teachers.”
Students In Australia Hope Welcome Messages Will Lead To Oprah Visit.
Australia’s Messenger News (11/3, Harris) reports that in December, Oprah Winfrey will be filming her television show in Sydney and Far North Queensland, Australia. Five schools in Adelaide “are working on their messages to welcome Oprah to Australia and convince her to include a stop in Adelaide on her trip.” One school is creating “a book of Australian animals for Oprah, using only tissue paper and gum leaves.” Third and fourth grade students at Allenby Gardens Primary School are developing “a list of their recommendations for the top five places for Oprah to visit, featuring Allenby Gardens Primary at number one, in an attempt to lure her.” Students at several of the schools are also creating artwork to send “in a welcome pack to be delivered to Oprah on the day she arrives along with video greetings, cards, gifts and notes from people all over Australia.”