Veterans Day

November 11th, 2010

On behalf of the Asbury Park Education Association, we would like to thank all our men and women who have served or are presently serving in the military. We especially want to extend our condolences to anyone who has had a family member or close friend who gave the supreme sacrifice of their lives during active duty. We have several members of our very own Association who have served in the military and we especially thank them and appreicate their service to our great country. And finally, let’s not forget the very students that we have educated in the Asbury Park School System who have enlisted in various branches of the military and are presently serving our country.

Please take the time out to reflect and thank these dedicated and selfless individuals for their service to our great country, the United States of America. God Bless.

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The Morning Bell by NEA

November 3rd, 2010

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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Special Needs
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.

School Finance
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.”

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. (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.” 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 ’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.'”

Facilities
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.”

School Finance

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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School Finance
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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Facilities
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.”

School Finance
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 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.”

School Finance
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.”

Election Day is Here

November 2nd, 2010

Good Morning,

Election Day is upon us. Please make every effort to get out and vote for the endorsed candidates. Polls are open from 6:00am to 8:00pm. If you are not sure where to go, contact your local municipality and they will be able to give you instructions. Endorsed candidates in Monmouth County are:

Legislative District 6 – Frank Pallone

Legislative District 12 – Rush Holt

Legislative District 4 – No Endorsement

In Monmouth County, just stay on the Democratic side for the candidates: Brophy, D’Amico, Venables.

Your vote does count so make sure you get to the polls right after school. This is an extremely important election.

October 27th, 2010

New Jersey Governor’s Inflammatory Rhetoric Viewed As Impediment To Education Reform.
Brent Staples writes in a column for the New York Times (10/25) that New Jersey Gov. (R) “has been bludgeoning the state’s teachers and their unions since he took office earlier this year” which “has raised his profile nationally” yet “has also made rational conversation on school reform nearly impossible.” Staples recounts former New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler’s view that “sabotaged” New Jersey’s Race to the Top grant application, adding that when it comes to education reform, “raises the right subjects – merit pay, tenure, evaluation – but nearly always in an inflammatory fashion.” Staples adds that even “if the school reform effort succeeds” in Newark, NJ, “the style will have made it that much harder to pull off.”

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In the Classroom
Virginia District Removes Textbooks Over Claim About Black Confederate Soldiers.
The Washington Post (10/24, Sieff) reports that Loudoun County, VA “school officials have decided to pull ‘Our Virginia’ from its fourth-grade classrooms because of its dubious claim about thousands of black soldiers fighting for the South during the Civil War.” According to the Post, “The publisher has said it will provide a sticker to cover the disputed sentence in ‘Our Virginia.’ The state Board of Education, which approved the book, said this week that the claim about African Americans fighting for the Confederacy falls outside ‘mainstream Civil War scholarship.'”

On the Job
Teacher Accountability Issue Analyzed.
Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (10/24), “Teacher evaluation is emerging as the central flash point in education policy debates” as “it combines two elements new to education professionals and the public – quantifiable measurement of performance, and stakes like firing or public exposure.” However, “the core problem in public education is not identifying effective teachers. It’s that our existing system does not produce effective teaching in sufficient scope, scale, regularity, or intensity.”

Building Of New Florida Teacher Evaluation System Seen As Key Reform Initiative.
Florida Commissioner of Education Eric J. Smith wrote in an op-ed for the Miami Herald (10/23), “Over the last several weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting different areas of the state to gather public input and hear from education stakeholders as part of the Florida State Board of Education’s ‘What’s Working in Effective Teaching and Leadership’ workshop series.” Smith added that building a new teacher “evaluation system will help us put even more…gifted educators in our classrooms and will mean increased support and professional development for teachers who have the talent and desire, but need a little extra help to reach their true potential. With our recent win in the federal Race to the Top competition we have the tools and resources to make this new system a reality.”

Law & Policy
DC Teachers Union Election To Play Key Role In Future Of Education Reform Effort.
The Washington Post (10/24, Turque) reports, “Much of the public discussion about education reform this fall was dominated by the widely anticipated resignation of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and presumptive Democratic mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray’s willingness to sustain the initiatives she launched” yet “the survival of Rhee’s agenda…will also be determined by those at the top of the” Washington Teachers’ Union. According to the Post, “George Parker, who signed the game-changing labor contract with Rhee that was approved by members in June, is running for reelection to a three-year term” as president yet “Parker faces challenges from three veteran teachers who say he gave away too much at the bargaining table, weakening job security and other protections. His opponents, Elizabeth Davis, Christopher Bergfalk and the union’s general vice president, Nathan Saunders, also favor abolishing or substantially revising Rhee’s signature measure, the IMPACT evaluation system, which can trigger dismissals for teachers with low scores.”

New York Mayor Applauds Colorado Education Reform Effort.
The Denver Post (10/22, Meyer) reported, “New York City has been held up as a pioneer in education reforms, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said Colorado’s efforts might be even more ambitious. ‘In some senses, you have done something that we would love to be able to do and haven’t gotten there yet,’ said Bloomberg, who was in Colorado to be the keynote speaker at the Denver Scholarship Foundation dinner Thursday.” The Post added, “Many of New York’s education reforms have taken root elsewhere, including in Denver, where the school district is co-locating schools within district buildings, embracing charter schools and going to a sophisticated rating system for each school.”

Safety & Security
New Jersey District Launches 6-12 Anti-Bullying Campaign.
The Jersey Journal (NJ) (10/25, Mestanza) reports on a ceremony inaugurating an anti-bullying campaign at Secaucus High School in Secaucus, New Jersey. “Several government officials attended the meeting, as well as former NBA player and New Jersey native Eric Williams. The goal of the campaign is to curb bullying by aggressively enforcing a zero-tolerance policy, said Secaucus High School Principal Robert Berckes. ‘If I hear of it, if a teacher senses it, it will be addressed right away,’ Berckes said. Berckes said nearly all of the bullying problems he encounters are traceable to Facebook, the ubiquitous social networking site, and other technologically-driven vehicles, such as instant messaging.”

Facilities
North Carolina Officials Tout Stimulus-Funded School Construction Projects.
The Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram (10/25) reports that NC 2 Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) and other officials “donned hard hats and gathered Friday at the construction site at Middlesex Elementary to tout how federal stimulus money is helping fund renovations at the school. ‘Education is the key to creating good jobs and long-term economic prosperity,'” Etheridge said. “Mark Strickland, special assistant for auxiliary services for the school district, said the construction project at Middlesex Elementary is his first experience with a USDA project. … Strickland said the previous 7,000-square-foot building at Middlesex Elementary was built in 1938. … Strickland said the building will be replaced with an approximately 37,000-square-foot building with 12 classrooms, a couple computer labs and a ‘brand new kitchen and cafeteria.'”

Pennsylvania School Board Urged To Focus On Construction For Local High School.
An editorial in the State College (PA) Centre Daily Times (10/25) notes, “In July 2008, the State College school board hired an Ohio-based firm to assess the district’s facilities and develop a new master plan that would identify and prioritize future construction needs.” However, a plan to implement construction projects at the elementary and high school level “have yet to materialize. … As the board reviews construction progress of facilities for its youngest residents, it’s time for them to focus on the current status of the high school plans and come up with a strategy to address the building’s disrepair. All indicators show that the building is cramped, outdated and in need of a major overhaul.” The piece concedes that some work on the high school has been done, but laments that voters halted “plans to spend more than $100 million.”

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School Finance
Iowa Community Pondering Future Of “Attendance Centers” Ahead Of Facilities Plan.
The Ames (IA) Tribune (10/25, Hanson) reports that local school board members in Ames, Iowa, “say moving forward with a districtwide facilities plan hinges on its decision about elementary grade-level attendance centers versus neighborhood schools.” At a recent meeting, “the board discussed its struggle to understand where StruXture Architects stands in the process of delivering a master facilities plan by the end of the calendar year. The board needs to ‘logically accept or reject attendance centers,’ and have the discussion as soon as possible,” one member said. “The decision is foundational, board members said, for determining the location for new and/or remodeled elementary schools in the district because grade centers group children by a narrow span of grade levels, such as kindergarten through grade two, rather than enrolling a broader range of grades.”

Oklahomans To Vote On State Ballot Measure Boosting K-12 Education Funding.
The Oklahoman (10/25, Rolland) reports, “If approved on Nov. 2, State Question 744 would mean a minimum of $830 million more in funding for the prekindergarten through 12th grade education system in Oklahoma.” The paper features a “breakdown of the facts” surrounding the ballot initiative, given the “millions on advertising” that stakeholders on both sides of the issue have been fielding. The Oklahoman explains that the measure “calls for public education funding in Oklahoma to be equal to the regional average spent per-student in six states surrounding Oklahoma. … If SQ 744 took effect this year, it would require an additional $832 million to reach the regional average, according to the” Center for Education Statistics. “That’s in a state budget that’s roughly $6.93 billion, with a common education appropriation of $2.4 billion.”

New Hampshire Legislator Calls For Revamped School Tax Policy.
In an op-ed for Seacoastonline.com (10/25), New Hampshire state rep. Nancy F. Stiles (R) writes, “Public education is a partnership between the state and local community,” stressing the need “to make sure that the quality of education a child receives is not an accident of geography.” Noting that state court rulings mandate that the state must provide children across the state an “adequate education,” Stiles states, “It will take passing a constitutional amendment to address the issue of donor towns unless the state-wide property tax is repealed and the cost of adequacy alone as defined in the current formula is covered with money in the Education Trust Fund.” She adds that property taxes for education “should stay in your community,” and that state support “should be focused on those communities that don’t have the tax base/median income to support adequacy.”

New Mexico Legislator Calls On Local District To Trim Budget By 1%.
The Silver City Sun News (10/25, Steele) reports, “State Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, told the Silver Consolidated District School Board on Thursday night it should look at trimming 1 percent – which is $1 million – from its school budget as a precautionary measure before the legislative session in January.” Morales stressed a $257 million state funding deficit along with offsetting Federal stimulus funding and declining enrollment. “At one time, the district had as many as 4,300 students, but at its most recent count – on the 40th day of school this year – the district had 3,041 students enrolled,” the Sun News added.

Also in the News
Celebrity Chefs Lending Helping Hand To New York City School Food Programs.
The New York Times (10/23, Dominus) reported, “After three decades of cooking in New York schools,” Larry Cowell, head chef at DeWitt Clinton High School, “might well be wary of the latest in a string of outsiders swooping in with suggestions about overhauling the frozen foods that feed thousands of students daily. … With school food an officially sexy subject, volunteering in the cafeteria may well become” a positive career step “for aspiring celebrity chefs, along with televised competitions and spots on local news.” The Times added, “The elegant cuisine already on offer at DeWitt Clinton – wheat berries were mixed in with the rice served that day – is in stark contrast with the typically institutional feel of the school itself, which saw fighting so severe this month that the police were called in and issued several notices of disorderly conduct to students.”

New York City Education Officials Postpone Release Of Teacher Ratings.
The AP (10/22) reports, “New York City agreed Thursday not to release job performance ratings for 12,000 teachers based on student test scores, with the teachers’ names attached, pending a court hearing next month.” The decision came after the teachers union went “to court seeking an injunction to block the release of the teacher ratings, which it argues are based on unproven methodology.” City education officials had planned to release the ratings this week, but have now “agreed not to release the data pending a Nov. 24 hearing.”

The Washington Post (10/22, Anderson) reports that the teachers union is concerned about the “disclosure of records that include the names of thousands of teachers.” But Natalie Ravitz, an education spokeswoman for the city, said, “We think the public has a right to the information.” And, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan released a statement saying, “I give New York credit for sharing this information with teachers so they can improve and get better. I also think that parents and community members have the right to know how their districts, schools, principals and teachers are doing.” Duncan added that “local communities” should each decide how to share that information, “but silence is not an option,” he said.

The Christian Science Monitor (10/21, Khadaroo) reported that in it’s filing, the teachers union said “that data reports did not qualify as something that needed to be released under the freedom-of-information laws.” In addition, “it argued that the data reports are often unreliable and if released would ’cause the public to form unsupported conclusions as to teacher quality’ and ‘irreparably harm the professional reputations of educators.'” According to a district spokesman, “the 12,000 teachers affected” by the release of the scores “have had the opportunity to access their 2009-10 reports with a password.” Moreover, the data already “have started to factor into personnel decisions” such as tenure.

Bloomberg News (10/22, Hechinger) notes that the “value-added” approach to determining teacher scores “attempts to determine whether pupils make larger or smaller gains than their previous test scores would have predicted.” Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said that “in theory, the ratings give teachers credit for their students’ improvement, regardless of each pupil’s starting point.” But she pointed out that it is difficult to accurately assess “the impact of individual teachers on students…in part because they often receive instruction from many teachers.”

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In the Classroom
Disputed Virginia History Textbook Was Not Reviewed By Historians.
The AP (10/22, Sampson) reports that after approving “a textbook that wrongly claims thousands of black troops fought for the Confederacy,” Virginia’s Department of Education “is now warning schools about the mistake.” The mistake “in the Civil War chapter of ‘Our Virginia: Past and Present'” was discovered by Carol Sheriff, “a history professor at the College of William and Mary” and parent of a fourth-grade student who had the book.

The Washington Post (10/22, Sieff) reports that Virginia “officials had no historian review the textbook ‘Our Virginia’ before it was distributed to fourth-graders last month.” The state Education Department “has long said that its textbooks are vetted by review committees ‘made up of content specialists, teachers and other qualified persons.’ But department spokesman Charles Pyle said Thursday that the review committee for ‘Our Virginia’ consisted entirely of three elementary school classroom teachers.” The textbook’s approval “has highlighted weaknesses in a vetting process that relies mainly on teachers who are paid $200 and given credit toward the renewal of their teaching licenses in exchange for serving on textbook review committees,” the Post adds.

Cooking Class Teaches Problem Solving, Teamwork.
The Joplin (MO) Globe (10/22, Pound) reports on students in Family and Consumer Science teacher Kim Hoover’s cooking class at Carthage Junior High School, many of whom “come into her classroom for the first time with little or no kitchen knowledge.” Hoover “has noticed a troubling trend” over the years that “fewer and fewer families…actually sit down to homemade family dinners.” In addition to learning their way around the kitchen, Hoover noted that students “learn to follow directions. They learn problem solving. They learn, when cooking in a group, to work as a team. They learn to use math skills, and they learn how to follow a budget. And, as they did one day last week, they learned how to make tacos using homemade tortillas.” The article includes the recipes the students have recently learned.

Nebraska Standardized Tests Scores Show Widening Achievement Gap.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (10/21, Dejka, Goodsell) reported, “Fewer than half the Hispanic, black and American Indian students in Nebraska can read proficiently,” while three of four white students demonstrated reading proficiency, “according to results of the statewide reading test released Thursday. … The test, taken by 147,000 public school students for the first time last spring, shows a wider gulf between racial and ethnic groups than in past years when districts administered their own reading assessments and reported their results to the state.” According to the World-Herald, “Reading scores for those groups were made public Thursday as part of the 2009-10 State of the Schools Report, an annual bundle of test scores and data compiled by the Nebraska Education Department on the state’s nearly 300,000 public school students.”

More Nebraska Schools Fail To Hit NCLB Benchmark. The AP (10/22, Beck) reports, “More public schools failed to meet federal improvement standards in the most recent school year than the year before, according to Nebraska’s annual report card on students’ academic progress released Thursday. The report from the 2009-2010 school year showed 61 of Nebraska’s 1,200 schools made the ‘needs improvement’ list as defined by” NCLB, “up from 52 schools the previous year.” Also, the “state report card showed 93 percent of students tested in grades 3-8 and 11 were proficient in math, up from 92 percent in the 2008-2009 year.”

Character Education Programs Ineffective, ED Study Finds.
Education Week (10/21, Sparks) reported, “Character education has grown in popularity among educators and parents alike, but the largest federal study of schoolwide programs to date has found that, for the most part, they don’t produce any improvements in student behavior or academic performance. The Institute of Education Sciences, [ED]’s research arm, gauged the effects of seven typical schoolwide programs from across the country” and “found that the schools taking part in the intervention significantly increased their use of character-development instruction and activities.” Education Week added, “However, the programs did not improve the use of schoolwide social-development strategies or teachers’ attitudes and their individual practices related to character building, such as modeling polite behavior or enlisting students in decision-making.”

On the Job
Audit Suggests Districts Rethink Spending Thousands To Train Educators In China.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/22, Schencker) reports that a legislative audit released this week suggests that “Utah school districts…rethink spending thousands of dollars to send educators to China each year, given current budget woes.” Utah paid $90,000 in 2009 to send “83 educators to China,” the audit said. The trips are intended “to help educators from districts with Chinese [language] programs.” The Tribune adds that most of the costs associated with the trips are paid for by “a Chinese government-affiliated organization,” school systems “or the state Office of Education typically pay registration fees ranging from $450 to $900 a person and airfare to certain US airports. And some districts pay per diem and/or US lodging expenses as well, according to the audit.”

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Law & Policy
Teachers’ Curriculum Choices Not Protected Under First Amendment, Court Rules.
Mark Walsh wrote in the Education Week (10/21) “School Law” blog that the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled on Thursday that “teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom.” The ruling “came in the case of an Ohio teacher whose contract was not renewed in 2002 after community controversy over reading selections she assigned to her high school English classes.” The court said in its opinion that the school board is ultimately responsible “for what goes on in the classroom, legitimately giving it a say over what teachers may (or may not) teach in the classroom.”

Special Needs
Oklahoma BOE Consults Attorney General On Districts’ Rejection Of Special Education Law.
The Tulsa (OK) World (10/22, Hoberock) reports that the Oklahoma BOE “on Thursday decided not to take action yet against districts that have said they will not comply with” the state’s new law that “requires public schools to fund private school scholarships for special education students.” The board “has consulted with” an attorney about how to respond and is seeking further consultation, according to board member Tim Gilpin. The AP (10/22) adds that on Thursday the board met and “approved a resolution noting it will need to continue discussions with the Attorney General’s office ‘before any action or decision.'” KOTV-TV (10/22, Wright) also covers the story.

Facilities
Virginia District Maximizing Facilities Amid Enrollment Boom.
The Washington Post (10/22, Goodman) reports that officials in the Arlington, VA school system are “trying to maximize” the use of school buildings “by increasing class sizes, adjusting transfer policies, and using temporary space.” Currently, “the school system is…at a 37-year high in enrollment,” and officials expect that by 2013, buildings “will be at capacity.” Still, “no new schools are planned for the next six years,” and renovations at one high school will “add only a few hundred seats.” The Post adds that “in preparation for this school year, the board voted to increase class sizes by one student in kindergarten through third grade and as well as in middle- and high-school grades.” And, “to gain classroom space” in middle and high schools, “computer labs were removed and laptops were put on carts.” Also, “trailer classrooms have been added.”

Also in the News

“Manifesto” Criticized For Unfairly Blaming Teachers For Education Failures.
Steven J. Klees, professor of international education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, writes in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun (10/22), “A group of 16 school superintendents, including Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso, recently published a ‘manifesto’ on ‘How to Fix Our Schools.'” Klees criticizes the manifesto for placing unfair blame on teachers for education failures, adding that teachers “need to be treated as professionals, with commensurate pay and considerable say over the means by which they are evaluated. … And we need superintendents with a much broader vision of education than offered in the ‘manifesto.'”

Oprah Connected Charity Helps Renovate South African School.
The AP (10/22) reports that “a charity affiliated with Oprah Winfrey has contributed at least $725,000 toward renovating a school in South Africa, where the group already has helped fund a primary school and Winfrey has built a lavish $40 million academy for girls.” The donation will help renovate “Vele High School in South Africa’s Limpopo province.” The school will have “16 classrooms and accommodate some 640 students when it is officially complete in January.” The AP notes that in South Africa, “schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid, which left a deep racial divide in the country’s education system. Quality schooling is still largely reserved for white or rich black students while pupils at the hundreds of schools in poor areas often suffer under badly trained teachers with little equipment.”

Obama Administration Launches Campaign To Combat School Bullying.
The Washington Post (10/26, Anderson) reports, “The Obama administration is launching a campaign to prevent anti-gay bullying and other harassment at school, advising educators that federal law protects students from many forms of discrimination.” According to the Post, Administration officials say a new advisory from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is “the federal government’s most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative.”

According to the New York Times (10/26, Dillon), Administration officials said the move “took on new urgency in recent weeks because of a string of high-profile cases in which students have committed suicide after enduring bullying by classmates. .. ‘I am writing to remind you that some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws,’ says the letter, signed by Russlynn H. Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights.” The Times adds that data collected by ED researchers last year indicated that “one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 felt that they were being bullied or harassed at school, Ms. Ali said in an interview.”

The AP (10/26, Armario) adds that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “sought to assure” bullying victims “that action will be taken.” Said Duncan, “To every student who feels threatened or harassed, for whatever reason, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you.'”

Bloomberg News (10/26, Young) adds, “The White House will convene a conference on bullying and harassment in schools early next year, [ED] said in a news release. In addition, [ED] will hold a series of workshops for school administrators around the country on antibullying measures.”

Duncan To Hold National Press Call On Bullying. The Bay City (MI) Times (10/26, Dodson) reports, “US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will hold a national press conference Tuesday announcing guidance to schools on handling bullying and discriminatory harassment. Joining Duncan will be White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali.” Said Duncan, “This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience -needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms.”

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In the Classroom
Teacher-Recruitment Town Hall Features Duncan, Danza.
The AP (10/26, Matheson) reports, “US Education Secretary Arne Duncan took his national teacher-recruitment campaign to a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on Monday with actor-turned-teacher Tony Danza, hoping to inspire a new generation of educators. Addressing hundreds of high school and college students at Temple University, Duncan stressed the need to replace an estimated 1 million teachers expected to retire in the next few years.” Duncan “also emphasized the need to diversify the nation’s teaching ranks, noting that about 45 percent of American students are nonwhite while only 14 percent of teachers are in that demographic.”

Obama, Duncan To Honor Oregon Teacher Of The Year.
The Salem (OR) Statesman Journal (10/25, Knowlton) reported, “Corvallis [OR] High School social sciences teacher Colleen Works was named Oregon’s teacher of the year today. She earns a $5,000 cash award and will attend the National Teacher of the Year forum in Washington, D.C. where she will meet President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.” The Statesman Journal added, “Works has taught a wide range of students during her career as an educator from special needs to TAG students going from the elementary level all the way through high school.”

Ohio District To Experiment With Online Learning During Snow Days.
The AP (10/25) reported, “When bad weather hits this winter, students in a rural western Ohio school district will hit their home computers as part of an experiment. With the Ohio Department of Education looking on, the Mississinawa Valley Schools in Darke County will try to replace days off for snow and other inclement weather with online learning.” According to the AP, “Mississinawa Superintendent Lisa Wendel tells The Columbus Dispatch the experience in online education will help students in college, where those classes are more common.”

Law & Policy
“Tea Party” Candidates Revive Efforts To Eliminate ED.
The Washington Times (10/26, Weber) reports, “Conservatives have talked wistfully for years about eliminating [ED], but a host of Republican ‘tea party’ candidates this election year are saying it’s time to move beyond talk and force Congress to vote.” According to the Times, “Senate candidate Rand Paul, in his Republican primary campaign in Kentucky, was among the first tea-party-backed candidates to revive the idea that the 30-year-old agency had failed students and that the states could do a better job” and Paul “has been joined by GOP Senate nominees Sharron Angle in Nevada, John Raese in West Virginia and Mike Lee in Utah, all of whom say they want to see the federal agency abolished.” According to the Post, former President George W. Bush’s “efforts to boost the federal role in education through [NCLB] seemed to put an end to the debate until this year, when tea party candidates rallied around the call to downsize government.”

NYTimes: Congress Should Boost Funding For Math, Science Education Programs.
The New York Times (10/26, 1.01M) editorializes that National Academies “warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors” and according “to a follow-up report published last month, the academies found that the United States ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science or engineering, while the World Economic Forum ranked this country 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction.” The Times adds that “Congress has an important role to play” in turning around these “grim” statistics. Congress should “expand funding for programs that support high-caliber math and science students in college in return for their commitment to teach in needy districts.”

Safety & Security
Study Finds School Buses Safe Without Seat Belts.
The AP (10/26, Johnson) reports on a three-year study on school bus safety conducted in Alabama that found “school buses are safe enough without seat belts and students in many cases ignore a requirement to wear them.” The study also found that “putting belts on most buses is expensive – about $11,000 to $15,000 per bus, and requires larger seats,” while “students don’t put on the belts and drivers complained they couldn’t see the children.” Further, the study concluded that “it would be more cost-effective to spend money making the process of loading students on and off the buses safer.”

Homicide Charges Considered In Los Angeles School Bus Crash.
The Los Angeles Times (10/26, Allen, Linthicum) reports, “Criminal homicide charges are being weighed in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed one person and injured nearly two dozen students aboard a school bus in Boyle Heights [Los Angeles] on Monday, authorities said. The driver of a black BMW ran a red light, knocked down a pedestrian and broadsided a school bus that was returning students to Roosevelt High School, according to Miguel Luevano, a California Highway Patrol spokesman.”

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Facilities
Local Officials Balk At Architect’s Estimate For New Illinois School.
The Benton (IL) Evening News (10/26, Sandefur) reports that a public meeting with an architect working on a project to consolidate a trio of schools in Royalton, Illinois, “left audience members speechless, reporting staggering construction costs. Committee Chair Allan Patton said the meeting was an eye-opening learning experience for all. ‘He presented the number of acres of land that would be required to have a new or remodeled school building and the number of acres for sports facilities, along with staff and student parking, plus a road for bus traffic,’ he said. ‘[The architect] said we need 35 acres to accommodate 500 students'” and that “‘a new school would cost $23 million for 100,000 square feet and $28 million for 120,000 square feet,’ he said. ‘That’s without the cost of the land.”

School Finance
Blogger Calls Advertisements On School Materials Act Of “Desperation.”
Jennifer Neff writes at Gather.com (10/26) about the “controversial” practice of “adding advertisements to school slips and even lockers” in Minnesota in order to bolster lagging school budgets, painting this as a sign of “desperation among school officials. It’d seem that fundraisers that normally work well would suffer more so due to the state of the economy leaving the schools with budgets that cannot be met.” She notes that “schools in several states already” have taken similar measures, but asks, “Is this normal or even in good taste? The answer here is likely a resounding no, but what’s a school to do? There’s money needed and no place for them to get it from. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and selling school property to ads seems about as desperate as things can get.”

Local Officials Balk At Architect’s Estimate For New Illinois School.
The Benton (IL) Evening News (10/26, Sandefur) reports that a public meeting with an architect working on a project to consolidate a trio of schools in Royalton, Illinois, “left audience members speechless, reporting staggering construction costs. Committee Chair Allan Patton said the meeting was an eye-opening learning experience for all. ‘He presented the number of acres of land that would be required to have a new or remodeled school building and the number of acres for sports facilities, along with staff and student parking, plus a road for bus traffic,’ he said. ‘[The architect] said we need 35 acres to accommodate 500 students'” and that “‘a new school would cost $23 million for 100,000 square feet and $28 million for 120,000 square feet,’ he said. ‘That’s without the cost of the land.”

in the News
NEA Launching Attack Ads Against Tea Party Candidates.
National Journal (10/26, Johnson) reports that the NEA “is closing out a $17 million ad campaign against tea party candidates who the union believes will hurt public schools, although the ads veer freely from education issues.” The piece notes that NEA “attack ads” have been launched against Washington State GOP Senate nominee Dino Rossi, “Ken Buck in Colorado, Rand Paul in Kentucky,” and “Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. The ad against Toomey compares him to Gordon Gekko, the ‘greed is good’ villain extraordinaire from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. The ad against Paul attacks him for saying drugs are not a ‘pressing issue.'” The piece quotes NEA political director Karen White saying that “NEA is targeting tea party candidates because the union believes that their calls for massive cuts in spending and government programs will harm the economy and public schools.”

The New York Daily News (10/26, McAuliff) adds, “ are not without their own outside support in this year’s elections, led by unions,” noting that NEA “rolled out a $2 million ad buy this morning, targeting several Republican candidates, among them Long Island Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop’s challenger, Randy Altschuler. … Bishop was leading the businessman by 12 points in the last Siena Poll, but many observers consider him vulnerable in the wretched climate for . The radio spot released by the NEA, though, is a good example of what are trying to do: make the races about specific opponents. In this case, the NEA hits Altschuler hard for his past business.”

Maine District Working To Attract High School Students From China.
The New York Times (10/27, A1, Goodnough) reports that the Kenneth Smith, superintendent of the Millinocket, Maine, school district, is in China this week “pitching Stearns High to school officials, parents and students in Beijing, Shanghai and two other cities.” Smith is trying to attract Chinese students to his district and “has hired a consultant to help him make connections in China, lobbied Millinocket’s elected officials and business owners to embrace the plan and even directed the school’s cafeteria workers to add Chinese food to the menu.” The Chinese students would pay “$27,000 a year in tuition, room and board.” The one set back to Millinocket’s plan, the Times adds, is that “foreign students can attend public high school in the United States for only a year.” Smith is urging “Maine’s Congressional delegation to seek a change, but in the meantime, he intends to recruit a handful of Chinese students to attend Stearns next year.”

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In the Classroom
Georgia High School Graduation Rate Reaches 80 Percent.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/27) reports that on Tuesday, state officials announced that “Georgia’s high school graduation rate rose 2 percentage points this year, bringing it to a record 80.8 percent.” Among minority students, African-Americans “had a graduation rate of 75.8 percent, up more than 23 percentage points from 2003 and from 74.1 percent in 2009,” and Hispanics “had a graduation rate of 77.6 percent, up more than 29 percentage points from 2003 and from 71 percent in 2009.” The Journal Constitution points out, however, that “some national education experts say the 17-point gain in” the state’s overall “graduation rate over seven years…is suspect because of a flawed system used to calculate it.” Next year, all states “will move to a new common system for calculating the graduation rates.”

The Atlanta Business Chronicle (10/26) reports that “all groups of students saw increases” and economically-disadvantaged “students raised their graduation rate to 76 percent in 2010, up more than 24 percentage points from 2003.” The Augusta (GA) Chronicle (10/26, Wermers) noted that Perdue set the goal of an 80 percent state high school graduation rate “by the time he left office.”

Maine District To Double Number Of Pre-K Classrooms.
The Portland (ME) Press Herald (10/27, Bouchard) reports that Portland, Maine, education “officials are developing a plan to greatly increase the number of pre-kindergarten classrooms for 4-year-olds in the city’s public schools. By next fall, Superintendent Jim Morse and others hope to double the number of pre-kindergarten classrooms to six and seek outside funding that may ensure all 4-year-olds in Portland have access to quality education.” The Press Herald adds, “The district has long had two Head Start pre-kindergarten classrooms, now at the Riverton and East End community schools and sponsored by PROP, a community social service agency.”

Study Finds Uncertainty Around National K-12 Engineering Standards.
eSchool News (10/27, Zwang) reports, “Some policy makers are looking at whether it makes sense to include engineering standards for K-12 education. But the ability to establish a national set of standards for K-12 engineering education might still be out of reach.” This is according to a new study, “Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?,” which was recently released by the National Academy of Sciences and found that “although the main ideas in K-12 engineering education are largely agreed upon, data based on rigorous research on engineering learning at the K-12 level are still not sufficient to develop learning progressions that could be reflected as standards.” According to the article, “educators are split on whether establishing K-12 engineering standards is a feasible option or not.” Some educators say that, because of the overlap with core subjects, “separate standards would not sufficiently measure achievement.” Others argue “it can be accomplished,” and detail their strategies.

Videoconferencing Technology Brings Shark Experts Into The Classroom.
Pennsylvania’s Delco News Network (10/26) reported, “Technology brought live sharks into Jennifer Iavarone’s class of sixth-graders at the Garnet Valley Middle School when they used video conferencing equipment to speak directly to an apprentice trainer at Mote Marina Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. for a program titled, Sharks!: Devouring the Myth.” The event was part of a larger initiative called SeaTrek, which “has a goal of bringing the ocean world to students through imaginative delivery of interactive science education programs and to foster understanding of marine life.” The article notes, “Use of video conference equipment is just one of the ways the Garnet Valley School District is increasing its involvement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) initiatives while still complimenting a solid foundation of reading, research, and critical thinking.”

On the Job
Arbitrator Says Minneapolis School District Unjustly Denied Raises To Teachers, Staff.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/27, Mitchell) reports that “the Minneapolis School District will have to pay out almost $17 million to teachers and support staff after a state arbitrator ruled that the employees were unjustly denied raises and merit pay for two years.” The district did not “pay salary schedule raises and merit pay to teachers” during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years due to “budget problems.” But the arbitrator “found that the decision was made without sufficient reason.” The Star Tribune adds that “In a separate ruling,” a different arbitrator “found that the district failed to provide raises to support staff after their contract expired in summer 2009.” The support staff members are due about “$2.8 million in back pay.”

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Law & Policy
Schools’ Failure To Properly Deal With Harassment Could Lead To Cut In Funding.
CNN (10/27, Cohen) reports that schools that “fail to properly deal with harassment” among students that is “based on gender, race or other issues, they risk being cited for contributing to a pattern of civil rights violations that could, in extreme cases, lead to a cut in federal funding, according to top officials.” The issue was a dressed in a letter from US education officials “sent Tuesday to thousands of schools, colleges, universities and school districts around the country that included examples of bullying and harassment cases that constituted violations of federal civil rights laws.”

Christina A. Samuels wrote in the Education Week (10/26) “Politics K-12” blog that “harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered students may be a form of gender stereotyping and therefore a federal offense,” according to the Department of Education. “Federal civil rights law also protects against harassment of religious groups ‘based on shared ethnic characteristics.'” Russlyn H. Ali, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, noted that “the guidance from the department is a reiteration of guidance that had come from the Bush administration in 2001 and 2006.”

Maureen Downey wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/26), “While I agree that bullying is a problem, do we need the White House to put it on its agenda?” According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the guidance aims “to both help education institutions build on their bullying prevention programs and to wake up ‘the schools that have their heads in the sand.'” He also explained, “If the federal government has to step in, it means that the problem was ignored for far too long.”

Survey Shows Half Of High School Students Admit To Bullying Peers. California’s Contra Costa Times (10/27, Butler) reports that a survey released Tuesday by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that “nearly half of high school students report that they have been bullied,” and “exactly half of respondents admitted they had bullied, teased or taunted someone in the past year.” The survey, “billed as the largest bullying survey of high school students,” included “43,321 high school students” in the US and “had a margin of error of less than 1 percentage point.”

New Jersey District Votes To Reverse Kindergarten Age Cutoff Decision.
New Jersey’s Daily Record (10/26, Roman) reported, “The Mount Olive [NJ] Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to return a revised July 1 kindergarten cutoff date to the original Oct. 1 policy, following months of complaints from parents angry about the fiscally motivated policy change.” According to the Daily Record, the original policy “was expected to affect about 60 children and save the district about $780,000 over the course of several years.”

Virginia Governor Orders Full Review Of Textbook Adoption Process.
The Washington Post (10/27, Helderman, Sieff) reports, “Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Tuesday that he has ordered a full review of the state’s textbook adoption process in the wake of a Washington Post report that a three-teacher state panel approved a fourth-grade history book that claims thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Professional historians have disputed the claim, which the author of ‘Our Virginia: Past and Present’ said she found using Internet resources written largely by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” The Post notes that the “Virginia Department of Education said last week that it would begin a comprehensive review of the textbook adoption process, focusing on committees that are charged with reviewing materials that deal with ‘sensitive periods in American history,’ said Charles Pyle, a department spokesman.”

School Finance
State-Owned Storage Business Expected To Bring Thousands Into Idaho Schools.
The AP (10/27) reports that schools in Boise, Idaho, “stand to benefit more from a storage business that the state bought than when it was under private ownership.” The state “paid $2.7 million to buy Affordable Self-Storage in the suburbs of Boise,” and according to Idaho’s Department of Land, the property “will contribute $20,087 annually to Boise schools — double the $10,040 in taxes that previously went to schools.” In addition, “$208,000 in earnings from the facility will be shared by schools across Idaho.”

Also in the News
Columnist Notes Success Of Some Charters, Says Unions Can Help Improve School Quality.
Columnist Julie Mack writes in the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette (10/26) that “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the new documentary by David Guggenheim that skewers American schools, has re-energerized the debate over the charter school movement, which the film implies is the silver bullet for school reform.” But, Mack says the film “neglects to mention” that “the charters profiled in [the film] are the exception,” and their successes are not found in the majority of charter schools, according to a 2009 Stanford University study. Mack also points out that “the three charters in the film that serve high-poverty students are successful because they go far beyond a traditional public school — and, not so incidentally, they spend much more, too.” Finally, Mack addresses unions, saying they can help “improve school quality: By enforcing better pay and benefits, they make it easier for regular public schools to recruit and retain the best instructors.”

October 20th, 2010

APEA Happy Hour at Langosta Lounge

On the Boardwalk, Asbury Park

Friday, Oct. 22, 2010
Happy Hour Gathering
3:00

Visit with old friends and make new ones!

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