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Yearly Archives: 2010

October 20, 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!

Utah District Launches “Drink Pink” Campaign To Boost Students’ Calcium Consumption.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/14, Winters) reports that Utah’s Jordan school district has launched a “Drink Pink” campaign encouraging middle and high school girls “to ditch the soda and pick up something pink — strawberry milk.” The effort is aimed at boosting “girls’ consumption of calcium,” so “every girl in seventh through 12th grades will receive a free bottle of strawberry milk during lunch one day this week.” The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that “on average, girls age 12 to 19 consume only 60 percent of their daily calcium needs,” while “boys consume 83 percent.” Patrice Isabella, the nutrition coordinator for the Utah Department of Health’s physical activity, nutrition and obesity program, said that she would rather “see kids drinking milk without the sugary strawberry or chocolate flavors,” but she added, “If strawberry milk is replacing soda, then I’m all for it.” Isabella also praised Jordan’s “Drink Prink” campaign, calling it “clever” and “catchy.”

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In the Classroom
Nature Publishing Group Launches Social Networking Website For Science Education.
Maggie Shiels writes in the BBC News (10/14) “dot.Maggie” blog that “it seems to be an almost accepted truth that science and maths education in the US is in danger of going the way of the dodo.” In Silicon Valley, she adds, the issue has long been discussed as the technology sector is “worried about where [its] next workforce is going to come from.” Shiels points out that in an effort to help “elevate science,” the Nature Publishing Group, which produces Scientific American and Nature magazines, “has launched Scitable, a social network for science research and education.” The website is a platform in which “teachers, researchers, and students [can] share and contribute content as well as connect with peers and browse and search articles. Users can also set up online classrooms, reach out to experts, build a personal scientific network and get involved in online discussions.”

Industrial Technology Students Restore Vintage Cars.
The Grand Forks (ND) Herald (10/13, Bailey) reported that advanced industrial technology students at Clearbrook-Gonvick (Minn.) School “restore vintage cars that are raffled off to raise money for the Industrial Technology Department.” Last month, the students earned nearly $26,000 for the department by raffling off a refurbished 1969 Mustang. “Expenses, which included purchase of the car and the shop materials used to restore it, were about $20,000 said Ross Faldet, Clearbrook-Gonvick School industrial technology teacher.” Faldet noted that “the restoration provided a good hands-on learning experience for the students. ‘In terms of the automotive skills, it gives them exposure to the variety of skills. They get mechanical skills as they rebuild the engine, the transmission, the rear differential, the steering and suspension and brakes,’” he said.

On the Job
Kansas City Schools Gives Teachers 1 Percent Pay Raise For Class Time Increase.
The Kansas City Star (10/14) reports, “The Kansas City school board approved a 1 percent salary increase Wednesday for the district’s teachers because their workday has grown by 15 minutes.” The pay increase is “retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year, which started in July,” and “will cost the school district about $850,000, which officials plan to pull from the district’s reserve funds.” The time and pay increases were previously negotiated by district officials and the teachers union. The lengthened school day is “part of Superintendent John Covington’s transformation plan,” the Kansas City Star notes.

Presumptive DC Mayor Names Interim Schools Chancellor, Vows To Continue Reforms.
The Washington Post (10/14, Craig, Turque) reports that presumptive DC mayor Vincent C. Gray “promised Wednesday to move ahead with the District’s aggressive school reform agenda even as he allowed its most visible leader, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, to exit the stage. In a carefully choreographed news conference, Rhee embraced” Gray “and offered an enthusiastic endorsement of her replacement, Kaya Henderson, a longtime friend and ally.” The Post adds that Henderson’s “selection was praised by education professionals, including Michael Casserly” who is quoted saying that in Henderson, Gray has “someone he can work with, someone who has been in the trenches of the reforms that Rhee has pursued who is well-liked and smart.”

The New York Times (10/14, Dillon) reports, “With Michelle Rhee’s decision to resign Wednesday as the Washington schools chancellor, the movement to shake up the nation’s public schools is losing perhaps its most visible leader. But changes were sweeping through the halls of public education before Ms. Rhee took over the leadership of the Washington schools three years ago.” Thus, according to the Times, Rhee’s “departure seemed unlikely to slow that momentum, experts said.”

The AP (10/14, Gresko) adds, “Education observers suggested that the fast pace of change and Rhee’s abrupt personality might have contributed to her downfall, though not everyone agreed. Others stressed the importance of getting stakeholders to back sweeping change.” Outgoing DC Mayor Adrian Fenty “on Wednesday rejected suggestions that the pace of reform should have been slower, and the idea that if it had been, both he and Rhee would have been able to continue their work in a second term.”

Bloomberg News (10/14, Moroney, Young), Education Week (10/13, Cavanagh, Zehr) and Ta-Nehisi Coates in a blog for the Atlantic (10/13) also covered the story.

Law & Policy
Indiana Districts In Court Battle With State Over Education Funding Formula.
The AP (10/14) reports that Indiana “is asking a judge to throw out a constitutional challenge to the way” the state “distributes education funding. Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher told Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steve Nation during a hearing Wednesday in Noblesville that schools are state entities and lack legal standing to sue the state.” According to the AP, three districts “sued the state in February, claiming the school funding formula unfairly penalizes growing districts.”

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School Finance
Michigan Districts Face “Ballooning” Pension Costs.
The Grand Rapids (MI) Press (10/14, Reinstadler) reports that for Michigan Districts, “ballooning pension costs — paid by a surcharge on district payrolls — will top 20 percent for the first time this school year, the state has announced.” That is an increase “from 19.41 percent this year and 16.47 the year before.” The state “stands to get about $316 million in EduJob funds if lawmakers can iron out concerns Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) raised this week about distribution formulas.” But “most of the money, about $246 million,” will be used “to restore state aid to a base rate of $7,316 per student — eliminating last year’s $154 per student cut. The remaining $66 million could boost revenue to most schools by between $23 and $46 a student.”

Also in the News
Initiative Aims To Counter “Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations.”
Education Week (10/12, Sparks) reported though “the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ has become an education catchphrase, scholars and advocates are just beginning to explore whether it is possible to prevent such expectations from taking root by making teachers and students aware of their beliefs about students.” This year, the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education “launched a program in Bridgeport, Conn.; Greene County, Ga.; San Francisco” and Newark, N.J. “to bring students and teachers together for lessons on cognitive development, instructional strategies, and lesson planning, with the students then modeling the instruction in a classroom for the teachers. The joint professional development course is intended to teach students to think critically about how they learn and are taught, while at the same time countering what the alliance’s chief executive officer, Yvette Jackson, called a ‘focus on weakness.’”

Georgia District, Planned Parenthood Deny Rumored Link.
The Augusta (GA) Chronicle (10/14, Wermers) reports that Georgia’s Richmond County School System “will hold a news conference this morning to address what it says is ‘false and dishonest information being circulated’ that the district has a partnership with Planned Parenthood.” Some school board members have complained that they have been flooded in the past weeks “by e-mails, and even some certified letters, accusing them of working with Planned Parenthood on a teen pregnancy prevention program,” but “Planned Parenthood issued a statement Wednesday afternoon also denying any ‘working relationship’ with the school system.”

WRDW-TV Augusta (10/14, Begam) reports that “the rumors come at a time when the board is under scrutiny by Susan Swanson, the woman who tried to put her Aspire Abstinence pilot program in schools.” The programs “would teach students about character building and abstinence.” But, while Swanson says she has received district approval to move ahead with the pilot, school board members say otherwise. “After the program went under further reviews, the district realized the program needed certified teachers which [Sawnson] didn’t have.”

NEA in the News
Survey Shows Most Wake County Teachers Support Diverse Schools.
WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, NC (10/14) reports that “In early September, an independent firm surveyed 501 NEA members in Wake County” to find out their views on “the school system and the job the school board is currently doing.” Seventy-two percent “of teachers surveyed said they felt public schools in Wake County are on the wrong track and 81 percent had a negative or very negative general impression of the school board.” Moreover, the majority of teachers either “disagreed or strongly disagreed with the board’s decision to end the socio-economic diversity policy,” with most “diverse schools are the better choice for academic and social success.” The Wake North Carolina Association of Educators and the NEA together created the survey questions.

Teachers In Spokane, Washington Speak Out Against Administrators’ Salary Boost.
Washington’s Spokesman-Review (10/13, Turner) reported that members of the Spokane Education Association on Wednesday “packed the [Spokane school system's] board of directors meeting to express disappointment the elected school board members approved raises for 104 school principals and administrators while 1,700 of the union’s 3,000 members – those who work with students – saw a pay cut.” Association President Jenny Rose expressed the overwhelming sentiment of the crowd, “The morale of hard-working employees in this school district is dismal. … People are feeling over worked with district mandates, over used, and not being recognized for the job they are doing.” The Spokesman-Review added that most principals and administrators “received pay increases of 3 percent or more this summer according to district records obtained by The Spokesman-Review that compare 2009-10 salary schedules to 2010-11.” According to district officials, the increase “stemmed from a bargaining agreement with the district’s principals union for an additional reward for years of service.”

Van Roekel, Weingarten, Duncan Announce Plans For Education Summit.
The Washington Post (10/15, Anderson) reports that on Thursday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and AFT President Randi Weingarten announced plans for an “education summit early next year” focused “on labor-management collaboration.” The summit “will include superintendents, school board members and labor leaders.” The AP (10/15) reports that according to Duncan, “the gathering will promote school reform by highlighting examples of ‘progressive’ teachers contracts across the US.”

Alyson Klein wrote in the Education Week “Politics K-12″ blog that “the event…will be called the National Education Reform Conference on Labor Management Collaboration,” and “will showcase examples of collective bargaining agreements that show that unions and districts can collaborate on education redesign.” The Christian Science Monitor (10/15, Khadaroo) also covers the story.

Duncan Says Florida District Is National Model For Collaborative Education Reform. The St. Petersburg Times (10/15, Marshall, Catalanello) reports that in Florida on Thursday, Duncan citied Hillsborough County schools as an example of the possibilities of education reform. “I think there is so much the country can learn from what’s happening here,” said Duncan during a visit to the Rampello Downtown Partnership School. The Times says that “Hillsborough has sought common ground” between teachers and administrators “on tenure, toughening standards on awarding it but supporting teachers with peer evaluators and mentors.” And the National Education Association is backing the district’s efforts. The St Petersburg Times quotes Van Roekel, who visited the Rampello School along with Duncan, as saying, “All the people who are in (education) are part of the ‘problem.’ … And they have to be part of the solution.”

Van Roekel Encourages Dialogue About Shared Responsibility Of Improving Schools. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote in The Hill (10/14) “Congress Blog” that “playing the blame game has become the new sport among education reformers.” Instead, he calls for “constructive dialogue” and collaboration between educators and administrators. Van Roekel points to Hillsborough County, Florida, where district officials and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association are working together to “overhaul how teachers are trained, evaluated and compensated.” The district “designed a system that will look at many indicators of student achievement, not just test scores, and consider all of them in the evaluation of teachers.” He adds that “many of NEA’s local affiliates” nationwide “have agreed to significant changes in the ways that teachers are evaluated and compensated.” Van Roekel concludes, “It’s past time to stop pointing fingers about who should be responsible for improving our public schools. It’s time to begin a dialogue about how to share in that responsibility.”

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In the Classroom
Chicago Academy Offers New Perspective On Manufacturing Education.
The New York Times /Chicago News Cooperative (10/15, A21A, Knight) reports on the Austin Polytechnical Academy, “the city’s first and only career academy dedicated to occupations in high-skill manufacturing.” The academy hopes “to redefine” CTE and thereby “revive the city’s manufacturing industry by educating the next generation of advanced manufacturers – in effect, students who enter the workforce as hybrids of machinist and engineer.” The school’s “diverse curriculum is designed to prepare” students for both college and workforce opportunities that do not require a four-year degree. It includes both a strong liberal arts curriculum, as well as a requirement that students earn “two nationally recognized manufacturing credentials” before graduation. Officials said changing the staff’s perspective on CTE and manufacturing was key to the school’s success.  The Chicago News Cooperative will follow three of this spring’s graduates, part of the school’s first class, arguing that “where the seniors end up in 2011 is an early test of the school’s model for training.”

Some Experts Say Truancy Prevention Efforts Should Begin In Elementary School.
Education Week (10/14, Sparks) reported that more studies are being released suggesting “that the start of elementary school is the critical time to prevent truancy — particularly as those programs become more academic.” The organizations Attendance Counts and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for instance, cite statistics showing that “an average of one in 10 students younger than grade 3 nationwide is considered chronically absent, defined as missing 10 percent or more of school.” For poor students, “the problem is particularly acute,” according to the Casey Foundation. Hedy N. Chang of Attendance Counts “said high kindergarten absences are the norm nationwide, but tend to get less attention from educators and policymakers than secondary school truancy.” Chang argued that even kindergarten absences can have lasting effects on academics, explaining, “Kindergarten as an academic resource is a relatively new experience. … Parents may think of their own experience, but kindergartners today are learning to read,” she said.

Study Shows Achievement Gains At Economically Integrated Schools.
The Washington Post (10/15, McCrummen, Birnbaum) reports, “Low-income students in Montgomery County [MD} performed better when they attended affluent elementary schools instead of ones with higher concentrations of poverty, according to a new" Century Foundation "study that suggests economic integration is a powerful but neglected school-reform tool." The study "addresses the potential impact of policies that mix income levels across several schools or an entire district. And it suggests that such policies could be more effective than directing extra resources at higher-poverty schools."

Study Says Pre-K Effect Diminishes After Second Grade.
The Tennessean /Daily News Journal (10/14) reports, "Pre-kindergarten has a significant effect on children in the early years of elementary school, but that the effect diminishes during and after second grade, according to a report released today by the Comptroller's Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA). Similar to the results of previous studies, this analysis of test scores reported from the 2008-2009 school year showed that pre-K participation was associated with small but reliable improvements in student performance in kindergarten and first grade, primarily among economically disadvantaged students." The Tennessean adds that "similar to findings in earlier reports, despite an early academic advantage, pre-K program participants did not perform measurably better beyond the second grade."

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Law & Policy
Number Of Civil Rights Complaints To Education Department On The Rise.
The AP (10/13, Armario) reported that ED's "Office for Civil Rights received nearly 7,000 complaints this fiscal year, an 11 percent increase and the largest jump in at least 10 years, according to data provided by the department. The increase comes as the office proceeds with 54 compliance reviews in districts and institutions of higher education nationwide, including cases involving disparate discipline rates and treatment of students with disabilities." According to the AP, "Russlynn Ali, director of the Office for Civil Rights, said the reason for the increase in complaints is unclear, but believes students, parents and administrators have more faith that officials will take action."

Michigan Lawmakers Must Rework Distribution Plan For "EduJobs" Funds.
Michigan's Jackson Citizen-Patriot (10/14, Wheaton) reported that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) this week "vetoed a plan to distribute $316 million in federal 'EduJobs' cash" because, she said, "it violated guidelines provided by the US Education Department, which could demand districts return the money." Under the federal guidelines, states must "distribute the money based on the number of students qualifying for Title 1 services...or using the state's primary funding formula." But in Michigan, "lawmakers allocated $65.8 million through the primary funding formula" and "spread the rest around through a one-time boost to the per-student state aid grant, covering previous cuts."

The Grand Rapids Press (10/14, Murray) reported that "the Legislature hasn't decided yet how to rework the formula for distributing the money. But there have been talks in Lansing that the change will provide a greater share of the funding to lower-spending school districts." Kevin Oxley, Superintendent of the Jackson County Intermediate School District, said "it appears the Legislature might wait until newly elected legislators take office next year before approving a new formula."

New Jersey Districts Develop Teacher Evaluation Criteria To Comply With State Mandate.
New Jersey's Independent Press (10/14, Ness) reported that "School officials face a New Jersey-mandated deadline of Oct. 15 which requires all school districts to post their teacher evaluation criteria on their websites, and provide the numbers of teachers who did not meet those performance standards." But, because "there is no standard for teacher evaluations across the state...districts are left with trying to fit its data into the program's guidelines." The Independent Press provides details on the evaluation criteria some districts have set up to comply with the mandate.

Attorney Says Noncompliance Is Fastest Route To Hearing On Oklahoma Special Education Law.
KOTV-TV Tulsa (10/15, Wright) reports that "a legal battle looms" for several Tulsa-area school districts that have chosen not to comply with state legislation that "requires public schools to provide scholarship money so special needs students can attend private school." Douglas Mann, a lawyer representing "many Tulsa County districts, says non-compliance is the quickest way to get 3393 in front of a judge." Attorney Bill Wilkinson, who also represents school districts across the state, called HB3393 "a stupid piece of legislation" and a "terrible mistake," but said that choosing not to comply with it "is a very slippery slope." He said "the districts could have filed what's called a 'Petition For Declaratory Judgment,'" which "would have allowed a district judge to rule on whether or not 3393 is constitutional." KOTV adds that Wilkinson is "strongly advising" the districts he represents to maintain compliance with the law. Ed Week (10/14, Zehr) also covered the story.

School Finance

Tennessee District Closes Schools Amid Budget Dispute With County Officials.
Tennessee's Daily Herald (10/15) reports that the Maury County, Tennessee, school board has closed schools "until further notice because a budget has not been approved. The Maury County School Board voted unanimously Thursday to not lower its budget request to the amount allocated by the Maury County Commission." Moreover, Maury county schools have no "state funding because it missed Tennessee's Oct. 1 deadline to submit a budget." The Daily Herald adds that schools could resume Tuesday if the commission "increases its allocation Monday."

In a separate story, Tennessee's Daily Herald (10/15) reports that "Maury County school employees will get a check Friday, but whether they will be paid at the end of the month remains to be determined." The district will receive a $4 million intergovernmental loan to pay teachers, but "the dispute at the center of a budget standoff between the county commission and school board remains unresolved."

School Districts Say County Lost Money In "High-Stakes Gamble" On Lehman Brothers.
The AP (10/14) reports that "a dozen San Mateo County [CA] school districts have filed a claim accusing county officials of mismanaging funds invested in Lehman Brothers, costing the schools $20 million.” The districts argue that “the county should not have kept its money in Lehman Brothers when the company’s credit rating and stock price began to fall. The claim accuses county officials of engaging in a ‘high-stakes gamble,’ saying they wrongly assumed someone would rescue the firm.” The AP notes that “the claim – filed last month – is a possible precursor to a lawsuit.”

White House Hosts Science Fair.
The AP (10/19, Superville) reports that the White House hosted a science fair on Monday, and that President Obama “spent nearly an hour viewing 11 science projects on display in the State Dining Room, ranging from cancer therapies to solar-power cars, water purification systems and robotic wheelchairs.” Stressing the importance of STEM education, President Obama called the students’ research “a testament to the potential that awaits when we inspire young people to take part in the scientific enterprise.” The President said, “You know, when you win first place at a science fair, nobody’s rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head.” He added, “But in many ways, our future depends on what happens in those contests, what happens when a young person is engaged in conducting an experiment or writing a piece of software or solving a hard math problem or designing a new gadget.”

The USA Today (10/18, Jackson) “The Oval” blog reports the President “indulged his inner geek today, praising all the winners of the inaugural White House Science Fair,” and during the event “singled out a young self-taught chemist who is working on a new drug to attack cancer cells.” Obama said, “If that doesn’t make you feel good about America and the possibilities of our young people when they apply themselves to science and math, I don’t know what will.” The President “also seized on the Science Fair event to promote his education program, noting that the United States is slipping behind global competitors in math and science scores.”

In its report on the science fair, CNN (10/19, Cohen) describes some of the technology shown off by the visiting students. One team found that using gel in helmets provided better protection than foam. And “Antonio Hernandez and Diego Vazquez of Cesar Chavez High School in the Phoenix, Arizona, area told Obama how their team worked with physical therapists to develop a chair that disabled students can use to receive physical therapy while at school. The chair moves manually, heats and vibrates, and was built from scratch over six months with aluminum donated by companies, they explained.” The President said, “They didn’t have money, but they did have a desire to work together, to help a friend and build something that had never been done before. … That’s not just the power of science. That’s the promise of America.”

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In the Classroom
Georgia Bureau Of Investigation Probes Atlanta Public Schools For Cheating.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/19, Rankin) reports that agents from Georgia’s Bureau of Investigation (GBI) “began paying visits to Atlanta public schools and questioning teachers Monday afternoon as part of an ongoing state investigation into allegations of test tampering.” GBI spokesman John Bankhead said that teachers at least 15 schools being investigated “are not targets for criminal charges as long as they are truthful with agents.” However, “if anyone is found to have lied to state agents or investigators, that could lead to criminal charges. Under state law, lying to investigators is a felony that can be punished with a $1,000 fine and up to five years in prison,” The Journal Constitution adds.

WXIA-TV Atlanta (10/19, King) reports that the GBI probe comes two months after Atlanta Public Schools’ own investigation into the matter. “Perdue essentially accused the system of whitewashing its own investigation,” which “many staffers refused to cooperate with.” GPB-TV Atlanta (10/19, Capelouto) reports that Gov. Sonny Perdue (D) signed an executive order last week to get GBI agents on the ground.,” according to Bankhead.

On the Job
DC Schools’ Early Dinner Program Aims To Fight Childhood Hunger.
The Washington Post (10/19, Turque) reports, “D.C. public schools have started serving an early dinner to an estimated 10,000 students, many of whom are now receiving three meals a day from the system as it expand efforts to curb childhood hunger and poor nutrition. … Officials describe the dinner initiative as having three goals: hedging against childhood hunger, reducing alarming rates of obesity and drawing more students to after-school programs, where extra academic help is available.” According to the Post, the early dinner program “is also part of a broader effort, mandated by recent D.C. Council legislation, to upgrade the quality and nutritional value of school food with fresh, locally grown ingredients.”

Law & Policy
Court Says Illinois Law Requiring Moment Of Silence In Schools Is Constitutional.
The AP (10/18) reported that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that “the Illinois law requiring a moment of silence in public schools is constitutional because it doesn’t specify prayer.” The ruling settled a lawsuit brought by an atheist radio talk show host whose daughter is a high school student in Chicago. “In filing the lawsuit, Sherman said the law indicated an ‘intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools.’” But, in a 2-1 decision, the panel majority said “that legislators who supported the bill said the moment of reflection had a secular and practical purpose in settling down students at the start of the school day.”

Mark Walsh wrote in the Education Week (10/18) “School Law” blog that “the law has been on the books in various forms since 1969, but in 2007, over the veto of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois legislature amended it to tell school districts they ‘shall observe’ instead of ‘may observe’ the daily period.” Last year, “a federal district court in Chicago struck down the law.” Illinois’ Vernon Hills Review (10/18, Wachter) also covered the story.

Middle School Principals In Des Moines Creating Expectations For Grade Promotion.
The AP (10/19) reports that “middle school principals in Des Moines are developing a proposal that would create a list of expectations middle school students need to meet so they can advance to the next grade.” Currently, students are advanced “to the next grade no matter their academic performance.” The proposed expectations are aimed at reducing dropouts and increasing graduation rates. Des Moines Education Association President Melissa Spencer said that “the effort to enact a policy started about two years when teachers noticed more ninth-graders were struggling with high school because they weren’t prepared.” The proposed policy includes expectations for “standardized test scores, class grades, attendance and class progress.” If a student does not meet the requirements, “a grade placement committee…will determine if [he or she] can be promoted.”

Congress Adjourns Without Passing Child Nutrition Bill.
Education Week (10/18, Samuels) reported, “Congress adjourned for the November elections without reauthorizing the federal law that controls the nation’s school meals program” yet “school nutrition and anti-hunger advocates say that delay could be a blessing in disguise.” According to Education Week, “Two competing versions of the Child Nutrition Act were introduced in the US Senate and the House of Representatives, but the Senate version is further along.” However, some advocates “don’t want to pass the Senate measure unchanged because the 10-year bill would offset its proposed spending increases in part by cutting $2.2 billion from food stamps.”

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Special Needs
Special Education Is Top Priority For Interim DC Chancellor.
The Washington Times (10/19, Simmons) reports, “Michelle A. Rhee may be on her way out as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, but the fights she waged over the city’s education policies are likely to linger long after she is gone.” Rhee’s successor Kaya Henderson said in an interview Friday that “special education reform is one of her top priorities.” Henderson is in favor of “keeping students in the D.C. Public Schools system and trimming spending.” She also “has in the past supported Ms. Rhee’s approach to special education,” including a proposal announced over the summer for “a new voucher program for special-needs students whose parents opt out of the public system and enroll their children in private schools.”

Safety & Security
Chicago Police Expanding Gang Prevention School Outreach Program.
The Chicago Sun-Times (10/18, Guy) reports that Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis said that officers “are expanding a high school outreach program to prevent gang violence after the initial program appears to be making inroads.” Police say that as a result of the “program, which started March 8 in [Area 1] high schools,” some students have sought “to get tattoos removed and to leave their gangs.” Moreover, Weis said that “the high schools in Area 1 had no students murdered in gang violence from March through June, compared with five murders in that same time period of 2009.” This year, the program is being implemented in Area 2 schools.

School Finance
Some Minnesota Districts Sell Ads On Lockers.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (10/19, Draper) reports that the Centennial School Board will decide on Nov. 1 “whether it will allow…ads on up to 10 percent of the available surfaces in all of the district’s seven schools. That includes lockers, walls, and floors.” The ads could bring nearly $200,000 in additional revenue for the district. “Centennial — with $3.6 million in cuts this year and more likely on the way next year — is just the latest school district looking at the ads as an alternative way to generate some cash.” Already, St. Francis schools have approved such ads, which “will start going up on lockers there this week.” Through an agreement with the company School Media, St. Francis schools could earn up to $200,000 a year. The Star-Tribune adds that “some school officials say they have found either support or a lack of concern among their parents,” while “others say such advertising crosses the boundaries of what schools should allow.”

Also in the News
Twelve Georgia Districts Participating In State Data System Pilot Program.
Maureen Downey wrote in a blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (10/18), “After many years of delays in the long-awaited state student data system, a basic system allowing a teacher to see at a glance a student’s performance on state assessments, attendance and enrollment stats over the last four years is now a reality in Georgia.” According to Downey, 12 districts are testing the system, which “is easy, quick and a boon to teachers and principals, according to” Hall County educators. Downey adds that most “Georgia schools will be on the new data system by early in the new year, with districts being added every week.”

Obama To Sign Order For White House Hispanic Initiative.
Mary Ann Zehr wrote in a blog for Education Week (10/18), “President Obama is expected to sign an executive order tomorrow that will establish a presidential advisory commission on Hispanic education and a federal interagency working group on improving Hispanic education and the lives of Latinos.” Over the past 18 months, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has visited more than 90 communities to gather information and ideas on how the education and lives of Latinos could be improved.” Next, it will “identify nine communities that it can partner with to support President Obama’s goal to ensure that the United States is the top nation in the world in college completion by 2020.”

NEA in the News

Kansas National Education Association, District Nearing Completion For Teacher Contract.
The Dodge City (KS) Daily Globe (10/19, Reagan) reports that “negotiators for USD 443 and the Kansas National Education Association are getting closer to a teachers contract for 2010-11.” Talks are currently focused “on finalizing a salary schedule, defining some positions and smoothing out some of the language in the contract.” One “issue is supplemental positions, which” officials say “need to be better defined.” However, negotiators have already overcome one of the greatest hurdles when “USD 443 removed the Board of Education’s proposal to define a teacher’s work day, which would have required teachers to be at school half an hour before and after the each school day.” In a compromise, the KNEA removed its request for more personal leave days.

Florida District Strikes Down Promised Raises For Teachers.
The Miami Herald (10/18, Figueroa) reported that “hours after a protest by hundreds of” teachers in Broward County, Florida, “demanding pay raises they were promised in their contracts, the School Board voted” unanimously “against giving them any more money.” Superintendent Jim Notter had argued against the raises, saying the “would require roughly $36 million that the district cannot afford,” considering its $140 million deficit. However, according to Broward teachers Union President Pat Santeramo, Notter has “refused to seriously weigh recommendations put forth by the BTU to cut costs and free up money for the raises.” Santeramo vowed that BTU would “continue the fight” next year.

Georgia District Wins $1 Million For Scholarships From Broad Foundation.
The AP (10/20) reports that Gwinnett County Public Schools, “Georgia’s largest school system has won the” 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The award is given each year by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation “to urban districts that show the most gains in student performance and closing minority achievement gaps.” Gwinnet’s student population “is 28 percent black and 25 percent Hispanic, with about half of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. But last year in reading and math, Gwinnett County schools outperformed all other Georgia districts serving students with similar family incomes.”

Education Week (10/19, Robelen) reported that the Broad Foundation will give “the 161,000-student district, led since 1996 by J. Alvin Wilbanks…$1 million in college-scholarship money for students graduating in 2011.” It will also give four finalists – “the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district in North Carolina, the Montgomery County, Md., public schools, and the Socorro and Ysleta districts in Texas” — $250,000 for scholarships.

WXIA-TV Atlanta (10/20) notes that “Last year, Gwinnett County was a finalist for the award” and was able to give $20,000 scholarships to 12 graduating seniors. The district “will soon be announcing how high school seniors can apply for” this year’s scholarships. The Atlanta Business Chronicle (10/20, Couret) also covers the story.

In the Atlanta Journal Constitution “Get Schooled” blog, Maureen Downey praises the Gwinnet school district’s leadership, saying, “From an outside point of view, Gwinnett is well run, efficient and responsive.” She notes that when she needs “photos of top students or a statement, Gwinnett is the first to respond.” Downey adds that a former DOE official told her last week that Gwinnet Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks had “assembled a leadership team that was sharp, responsive and together.”

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In the Classroom
Textbook Claims “Thousands” Of Black Americans Fought For South In Civil War.
The Washington Post (10/20, Sieff) reports that “a textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War — a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause of the conflict.” Joy Masoff, author of the textbook, “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” has said that “she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” But, the overwhelming majority of scholars call “these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history.” Education officials in Virginia said that “they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage.”

Report Finds Disparities In Teacher Quality In Texas Districts.
Texas’ American-Statesman (10/19, Heinauer) reported that a study commissioned by the Association of Texas Professional Educators finds that “in Texas, students do better with better teachers, particularly in the middle and high school grades.” The American-Statesman added, “In the largely low-income Manor school district, the study found that about 48 percent of high school teachers had less than three years of experience, 19 percent of teachers weren’t certified to teach their assigned subjects and 22 percent of teachers left each year. … By comparison, in the Eanes school district, 19 miles to the west, fewer than 12 percent of high school teachers were novices, fewer than 14 percent weren’t certified to teach their assigned subjects and about 10 percent left each year, the report said”

On the Job
Schools In Virginia, Maine To Receive Funding For Teacher Recruitment, Development.
The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (10/19, Jones) reported that public schools in Richmond, Virginia, “will receive $6 million to $7 million through a five-year federal grant to recruit and develop exceptional teachers and principals for schools that are difficult to staff.” Through the grant provided by the US Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund, “teachers are expected to be eligible for as much as $7,500 per year in additional compensation if they go through a rigorous training and certification process.” The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards was awarded the $27 million grant “for eight schools in Richmond and 15 in rural Maine.”

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Law & Policy
Educators Suing Arizona Superintendent, BOE Over Ban On Mexican-American Studies.
CNN (10/20, Martinez, Gutierrez) reports that “eleven Tucson, Arizona, educators sued the state board of education and superintendent this week for what the teachers consider an “anti-Hispanic” ban looming on Mexican-American studies.” State Superintendent of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne defended the new law, which “authorizes the superintendent to stop any ethnic studies classes that ‘promote the overthrow of the United States government … promote resentment toward a race or class of people … (or) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals.’” Horne seeks to ban Mexican-American studies from schools in the state. In the lawsuit, “The 11 educators in Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Department are asking a federal judge to stay the new schools law,” saying “it violates free speech, equal protection and due process.”

Group Urges Salt Lake School District To Add Gender Identity To Anti-Discrimination Policy.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/20, Winters) reports that “on Tuesday, the Salt Lake Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) called on the” Salt Lake City School District “Board of Education to include gender identity and gender expression in the district’s anti-discrimination policy.” Board members have recently “considered adding gender identity” to the policy, “but an attorney advised against it and research indicated that sexual orientation is more commonly covered.” Kathy Godwin, president of the PFLAG chapter, said that “including gender identity and expression would protect students who aren’t gay or aren’t comfortable coming out as gay, but who are harassed for expressing their gender in ways outside social norms.”

US Supreme Court To Hear Case Concerning Police Questionings At Schools.
Education Week (10/19, Walsh) reported, “The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether authorities seeking to question students at school about possible sexual abuse at home require a warrant or parental consent. … The sex-abuse case from Oregon, accepted Oct. 12, has important implications for schools as well as for police and child-protection investigators because educators typically cooperate with such warrantless interviews, and many investigators view schools as a natural and reassuring place to question children suspected of being abused by a family member.” Also, according to Education Week, the high court “heard arguments about the potential liability for manufacturers over the side effects of childhood vaccines, in a case being watched closely by those who suspect a link between vaccines and autism.”

Special Needs
Tulsa Public Schools To Ignore Oklahoma’s Special Education Scholarship Law.
KOKI-TV Tulsa (10/20) reports that the Tulsa Public School District (TPS) on Monday “became the sixth Tulsa-area district to vote to ignore a new state law granting private school scholarships to special education students.” The school board decided not to process any scholarship applications Under HB 3393 received after Oct. 18. The six applications submitted before that date will be processed. TPS and the other five districts ignoring the law “are all represented by” Attorney Doug Mann, who “advised the districts not to comply with the law, hoping somebody would sue the district so they could get the matter in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Mann believes the court will rule that the law is unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, TPS “say the district is in the process of seeking a legal opinion from the Oklahoma Attorney General on whether HB3393 is constitutional, but the attorney general’s opinion is not legally binding,” KOKI adds.

KOTV-TV Tulsa (10/20, Wright) reports that while TPS “stands by its special education programs, saying they are excellent,” district officials are still working “to further develop” the department. The district is forming a special education task force “made up of administrators, teachers, parents, and education experts” that “will study successful special education programs around the nation.”

Safety & Security

Texas State Troopers To Ride In School Buses To Enforce Road Safety Laws.
The Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (10/19, Welch) reported that Texas state troopers will be “riding with students at various locations around the state as a part of National School Bus Safety Week,” state Department of Public Safety “trooper Lonny Haschel said. Troopers will watch for motorists who don’t obey the buses’ flashing lights when stopped, according to a DPS release.” Troopers “will work in pairs, with one…trailing the bus in a patrol car, Haschel said.”

School Finance
Blogger Calls Philanthropic School Funding “Perverted.”
Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post (10/19) “The Answer Sheet” blog about the “the perverted way schools are funded in 2010,” with “very wealthy people…donating big private money to their own pet projects.” For example, Strauss points to “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public schools, given with the provision that Zuckerberg, apparently an education reform expert, play a big role in determining success.” According to Strauss, none of the philanthropists’ projects are “grounded in any research.” Bill Gates invested millions in small schools, but in an annual letter for his foundation last year, he said, “Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way.” Now, Gates is investing in teacher assessment systems, which according to Strauss, are another waste of money, as several studies have shown them to be “unreliable and unfair.”

Illinois District Considers Charging For Kindergarten.
WLS-TV Chicago, IL (10/19) reported on its Website that Wilmette (IL) Public Schools District 39 “is considering several options to plug a projected $5 million deficit this year” including “charging for kindergarten. Wilmette School District 39 may ask parents to pay $5,000 a year for their young children. … Budget cuts, new user fees and a tax increase are also being considered.”

NEA in the News
Van Roekel Discusses NEA’s Focus On Boosting Student Achievement.
Jay Mathews wrote in the Washington Post (10/19) “Class Struggle” blog that he interviewed NEA President Dennis Van Roekel recently. According to Mathews, “The interview reveals [Van Roekel's] desire to focus his union efforts on raising achievement for low-income children, what he thinks about the trashing that unions and [American Federation of Teachers President Randi] Weingarten got in” the new documentary “Waiting for Superman,” and other issues.

More Students With Special Needs Going To College.
The AP (10/18) reports that now more than ever, “students with Down syndrome, autism, and other conditions that can result in intellectual disabilities are leaving high school more academically prepared…and ready” to attend college. “Eight years ago, disability advocates were able to find only four programs on university campuses that allowed students with intellectual disabilities to experience college life with extra help from mentors and tutors.” But “last year, there were more than 250 spread across more than three dozen states and two Canadian provinces, said Debra Hart, head of Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.” According to the AP, this growth can be attributed to “an increasing demand for higher education for these students and…new federal funds for such programs.”

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In the Classroom
Elementary Students Learn About Wetlands Through Series Of Lagoon Trips.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (10/18, Horn) reports that “about 30 fourth-graders from” Escondido Central Elementary School in California “spent a day earlier this month walking some of the six miles of trails that surround the 1,000-acre” San Elijo Lagoon while “learning about the food chain. Their first trip to San Elijo was last year as third-graders, when they learned about wetlands. They’ll return one more time next year to discover water resources and watersheds.” The trips are part of a program called “Our Living Watershed: Teaching Scientific Literacy in the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve,” which “began last year, created by the San Elijo Conservancy and funded by a grant from Qualcomm” for students in “third to fifth grade.” The Union-Tribune notes that “more than 750 students per year from Escondido’s Lincoln and Central elementary schools will take field trips to the San Elijo Lagoon” for the program.

Athletes At High School In Texas Help Teach Reading Lessons To Younger Students.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram (10/18, Engelland) reports that “athletes from Fossil Ridge High School” in Fort Worth, Texas, “are doing their part to encourage young students to read.” Each month, “more than 20 athletes go to an elementary school in the Fossil Ridge feeder pattern to read to students and help with lessons.” The high school students attend these sessions “on their own time before first period.” The Star-Telegram also notes that “this fall, the club has started honoring elementary students at athletic events, featuring a different campus each time.” Brandy Abbott, an English teacher at Fossil Ridge who sponsors the reading club said that “some 50 athletes are involved in the club. … ‘It’s so encouraging to see our students sacrifice their own time to help younger kids,’” said Abbott.

On the Job
Students Lead Parent-Teacher Conferences At Some Schools In Washington State.
The Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic (10/18, Janovich) reports that Eisenhower High School hosts student-led parent-teacher conferences, which “school officials say…helps students take responsibility for their education and encourages parent involvement.” In these conferences, “students walk their parents or guardians through a checklist” that includes “topics like attendance, graduation requirements, academic assessment, family access and state standardized exam results, as well as the student’s six-year plan.” The Herald-Republic notes that “the practice of holding student-led conferences has been gaining momentum at high schools and middle schools around the Yakima Valley since the late 1990s.” And some area districts “hold their student-led conferences twice a year, fall and spring.”

Tennessee District’s Initiative Held Up As Model Of Teacher Improvement Program That Works.
Emily Hanford, a reporter for American RadioWorks, the national documentary unit of American Public Media, writes in the Los Angeles Times (10/18, Hanford), “Teachers are at the center of the great debate over how to fix American education. We’re told the bad ones need to be fired; the good ones, rewarded.” According to Hanford, however, “most teachers are in the middle – not terrible, but they could be better.” As such, “the question of how to help teachers in the middle must be part of the debate.”

After searching “for teacher improvement programs that work,” Hanford says that “the best example I found is the Benwood Initiative in Chattanooga, Tennessee.” The initiative began with Chattanooga’s Benwood Foundation and “local education leaders” pairing “less effective teachers” with teaching “superstars.” Hanford notes, “One distinctive feature of the system is that teachers spend time in their colleagues’ classrooms, watching each other teach.”

Law & Policy
Hawaii Voters To Decide On Whether BOE Members Will Be Appointed Or Elected.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (10/17, Vorsino) reported that voters in Hawaii “are being asked whether to switch from an elected Board of Education to one appointed by the governor at a time of immense reform efforts for public schools.” The vote will be the “third time in four decades that the question has been put on the ballot, this time prompted by the angst and anger over teacher furloughs last year that left Hawaii students with the shortest instructional calendar in the nation.” Approval of the switch “would bring Hawaii in line with most other states in the way statewide school board members are chosen,” the Star Bulletin added.

Georgia’s Race To The Top Plans Include Programs For Children From Birth To Age Five.
The Macon (GA) Telegraph (10.18, Duncan) reports that “half of Georgia’s Race to the Top grant will be used toward statewide programming, including initiatives to benefit children from birth to age 5.” The state’s Department of Early Care and Learning “will partner with the state Department of Human Resources and the state Department of Education to focus on this age group.” The funding for Georgia’s youngest students will be spent on creating uniform Pre-K through third grade assessments and “an initiative to prepare children from birth to age 8 to be able to read at grade level by third grade.” But state officials have not yet decided “what proportion of the funding will go to infants and toddlers.”

Indiana District Officials End Bible Classes At Elementary School.
The AP (10/18) reports that officials from Fairfield Community Schools in northern Indiana “voted [unanimously] to end an elementary school Bible class Thursday after their lawyer told them they were bound to lose a lawsuit over its constitutionality.” The ACLU of Indiana “sued the district in South Bend federal court Oct. 5 on behalf of a New Paris Elementary School first-grader and his mother,” claiming the child “was left unsupervised in the hallway when his mother opted him out of the weekly…Bible class.” Tim Shelly, the district’s attorney, said, “The law is quite clear: Religious instruction for elementary school students on school grounds during the school day is not constitutionally permitted.” The district also “could be forced to pay $100,000 to $800,000 when it inevitably lost,” according to Shelly. The AP notes that the vote drew “boos from a crowd of students, parents, and community members who had shown up to speak in support of the program.”

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Safety & Security
Asian Students At South Philadelphia High School See Slow Changes In School Violence.
CNN (10/18, Hoye) reports that “after being attacked as a freshman and witnessing other attacks on Asian students” at South Philadelphia High School, Wei Chen “founded the Chinese Student Association to help new Chinese students — many who recently immigrated to the country — adjust to life at” the school. “He also kept track of the incidents of violence against Asian students.” Last year, Asian students at the school held rallies during school hours to take a stand against the bullying. “The boycott helped trigger nationwide attention to the violence against Asian students at South Philly High,” and “a federal investigation was launched following a formal civil rights complaint filed by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund.” After the investigation, “he Justice Department…instructed the school system to improve the treatment of Asian students.” CNN adds that “today, the perception among students and their families is that things are slowly changing.”

Facilities
New Orleans In Early Stage Of School Construction Boom.
Education Week (10/15) reported that “a generation of brand-new school buildings is rising” throughout New Orleans. The city “is in the early stages of a construction spree to both build and renovate dozens of schools, and recently got news” that it will receive “more than $1.8 billion” form FEMA “to cover storm-related damages to schools.” Ramsey Green, the director of operations for New Orleans’ Recovery School District, said that “even before [Katrina]…New Orleans was in dire need of overhauling its many aging school buildings, which had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect.” But even though “the massive construction initiative and the settlement with FEMA are welcome news in the city, some observers argue that state and local officials” are not including stakeholders in the decision making process when it comes to school construction. Green, however, maintains “that RSD officials meet with community members “every single day” to get input on the construction program, and that there will be more-formal opportunities for feedback over time, especially as a master facilities plan developed for the school construction effort is updated.”

Florida District Takes Proactive Measures To Address Persistent Mold In Schools.
To Florida’s Sun-Sentinel (10/16, Freeman, Marie-Balona) reports that after mold was found at Northmore Elementary in West Palm Beach, Florida, last year, “problems were fixed quickly, but the case was far from an isolated incident across the Palm Beach County School District, records show.” A review by the Sun Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel found “thousands of cases involving moldy classrooms, health-related complaints from teachers and students, and responses and actions by school officials.” And even though “the school district has received national recognition for a pro-active measures in addressing mold issues, some problems persist.” Still, according to Joseph Sanches, Palm Beach schools’ facilities management chief, “a proactive approach to building maintenance – such as using environmentally friendly materials and cleaning chemicals, and proper cooling procedures – has reduced the potential for problems and the number of incidents.”

Also in the News
Report Says US Struggles To Attract Top College Graduates To Teaching Profession.
Education Week (10/15) reported that “countries with the best-performing school systems largely recruit teachers from the top third of high school and college graduates, while the United States has difficulty attracting its top students to the profession,” according to a new report by the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The report’s authors say “salary is keeping some top graduates away. A starting teacher in New York City makes about $45,000, while a starting lawyer makes $160,000. Nationally, starting teacher salaries average $39,000, and go up to an average maximum of $67,000.” In other countries such as Singapore, however, “starting salaries…are more competitive, and teachers can receive retention bonuses of $10,000 to $36,000 every three to five years, the report says.”

Connecticut Education Commission To Announce Suggestions For Closing Achievement Gap.
The AP (10/18) reports that the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement “is set to release recommendations on how to close the achievement gap between low-income Connecticut students and their peers.” According to the commission, “the state’s poorest students are” on average “about three grade levels behind their peers in reading and math.” It will “announce recommendations on how to close the gaps at an event Tuesday at the state Capitol in Hartford.”

NEA in the News
Most Wake County Teachers Oppose Ending School Assignments Based Socioeconomics.
WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC (10/18) reports that “a survey by the National Education Association found that a majority of Wake County teachers oppose ending a student assignment policy based, in part, on achieving socioeconomic diversity in schools.” Survey results showed that 81 percent of “respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with ending the diversity policy while agreeing that the policy has had a positive impact on students’ academic achievement.” Meanwhile, 47 percent of respondents “identified the student assignment policy as the biggest problem facing Wake County schools, while 19 percent named funding cuts and 12 percent listed class size.”

Kansas Students’ Reading, Math Scores Improved “Drastically” Over Decade.
The Kansas City Star (10/12, Bormann, Sullinger) reported that state test results released Tuesday by the Kansas Board of Education show that “reading and math scores have improved drastically in the last decade.” Moreover, the test results “showed scores continued to improve even as proficiency standards increased.” However, the scores also showed that “many students need more help. Of the 1,380 public schools that took the state assessment test in the spring, 81 percent of the schools made adequate yearly progress, compared with about 87 percent last year.” State officials attribute the drop to an increase in performance targets from five to eight percent.

Free Online Financial Literacy Module Targets High School Students.
The San Francisco Chronicle (10/12) on “a new interactive online module” aimed at teaching high school students financial literacy skills. “Burning Money” the free module “created by the financial literacy group FoolProof” is made up of “45- to 60-minute lessons…designed for high school teachers to use in computer labs.” Already more than “1,000 high schools across the country are using FoolProof.”

New York State Poised To Ease Schools’ Extra Help Requirements.
The New York Times (10/13, Otterman) reports, “The New York State Board of Regents is set to excuse school districts from a requirement to provide extra help to all students who fail the state’s standardized exams, a number that grew by hundreds of thousands after the state made the exams tougher to pass this year. The vote by the board, which is scheduled for early next week, would cover more than 125,000 students in New York City alone.” The Times adds that “some city elected officials and advocates expressed concern that schools would use the leniency as an excuse not to provide help to children who need it.”

Denver’s Advanced Kindergarten Program In High Demand.
Education Week /Education News Colorado (10/12, McCrimmon) reported, “The Denver Public Schools’ advanced-kindergarten program, now in its seventh year, draws families who want a faster academic pace for their children, and it helps retain some who might otherwise choose private schools or other districts. Enrollment in the program has nearly doubled since its inception in 2004, when 111 children started in classes at four city schools.” According to Education Week, “This year, 200 students are in advanced-kindergarten classrooms in eight schools throughout the district” and “48 children are on waiting lists, 46 of whom hoped to win spots at the Polaris Program at Ebert, Denver’s sought-after elementary school for gifted students.”

On the Job
DC Schools Chancellor To Announce Resignation.
The Washington Post (10/13, Craig, Turque) reports, “D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will announce Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of this month, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but that also became a central issue in an election that sent her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, to defeat.” According to the Post, “Rhee survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement” yet she “will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest to improve teaching, close the worst schools and infuse a culture of excellence in a system that has been one of the nation’s least effective at educating students.”

The AP (10/13, Jones) reports, “D.C. schools head Michelle Rhee, whose decision to fire many teachers helped bounce the mayor who appointed her out of office, will announce her resignation on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the situation said. The decision was mutually made by Rhee and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the presumptive next mayor, said the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement wasn’t scheduled until a morning news conference.”

The New York Times (10/13, Urbina, Wheaton) adds that a “city official said Kaya Henderson, the deputy chancellor, would be the interim chancellor. Replacing Ms. Rhee, who is Korean-American, with Ms. Henderson, who is black, is expected to ease racial tensions.” According to the Times, Washington Teachers’ Union chief George Parker said Rhee’s departure “would help end ‘divisiveness.’” The Wall Street Journal (10/13, Banchero), the Washington Times (10/13, Sands) and MSNBC (10/13, Iovino) and the Washington Post (10/13, Turque) also cover the story.

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Law & Policy
Psychologists To Aid USDA School Lunch Program.
The Chicago Tribune (10/13, Marchione) reports, “The US Department of Agriculture announced what it called a major new initiative Tuesday, giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology to improve kids’ use of the federal school lunch program and fight childhood obesity.” According to the Tribune, “Some tricks already judged a success by” Cornell University “researchers: Keep ice cream in freezers without glass display tops so the treats are out of sight.” Another successful tactic is to move “salad bars next to the checkout registers, where students linger to pay, giving them more time to ponder a salad.”

Special Needs
Former Special Needs Student Returns To Classroom As Teacher’s Aide.
South Carolina’s Independent-Mail (10/13, Carey) profiles Mary Brown, a volunteer at Powdersville Elementary School who has Down syndrome. “Brown was a student under Barbara Masaki, the special-needs instructor at Powdersville,” when Brown was an elementary student. “Now, Brown has returned to Masaki’s classroom to volunteer with the class of nine autistic or Down syndrome children.” As a teacher’s aide, Brown is not paid, but she “works like the two full-time paid teacher’s aides,” who “help Masaki with the classroom teaching everything from potty training to table manners to play time to desk work.”

School Finance
Georgia Supreme Court Hears School Districts’ Charter School Funding Suit.
The AP (10/13, Turner) reports, “The first-ever challenge to Georgia’s charter school law went before the state’s highest court Tuesday, with seven public school districts hoping to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.” Lawyers for the school systems argue that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission “is illegal because it is creating an independent school system prohibited by the state constitution.” Funding for the charter schools, they say “is actually local dollars that belong to the public school systems, not the state.”

The Journal-Constitution (10/13, Dodd) reports that if the court rules in favor of the school districts, “more than 6,000 children…could lose their [charter] schools.” The school districts that brought the case are asking the Georgia Supreme Court “to overturn a Fulton County Superior Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and its ability to approve and fund charter schools, including those rejected by local districts. The Fulton decision ruled that commission charter schools are special schools and are entitled to be funded by the commission.” The Atlanta Business Chronicle (10/13, Williams) reports that “school systems in the city of Atlanta, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Henry, Bulloch and Candler counties, and the consolidated district of Griffin-Spalding” brought the lawsuit.

Kansas Paper Urges State To Rethink Ending Funding For Newspaper, Yearbook Classes.
The Winfield (KS) Daily Courier (10/13) editorializes, “High school newspapers and yearbooks help prepare young people to work in the growing, increasingly complex field of communications.” The Daily Courier adds, “These opportunities for hands-on training in communications are especially important for small school districts.” The classification of high school newspaper and yearbook classes as CTE courses has changed at the state level, meaning districts could be responsible for as much as $700,000 for the programs in a few years. “High school newspaper classes offer students opportunities to publish on paper, online, by blogging and using social media – all steps that take them into the future of communications, where jobs are waiting,” the Daily Courier argues. “The state department of education and the state board of education should rethink their decision to end funding for newspaper and yearbook classes as [CTE] training.”

Also in the News
Pennsylvania District Settles Laptop Spying Cases For $610,000.
CNN (10/13, Bonus) reports that Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District on Monday settled “several lawsuits involving privacy concerns in a laptop computer distribution program.” In two of the cases, “students who were given laptop computers through the district” found out later that school administrators were able to “take photographs and screenshots by remotely accessing the webcam on the laptop.” A spokesman for the Lower Merion School District said that “a substantial number of webcam photographs were recovered,” but noted that “the district would only remotely access a laptop if it was reported to be lost, stolen or missing.” In the settlement, one student was awarded $175,000, another student was given $10,000, and their attorney got $425,000. USA Today (10/12, Stanglin) and WAPI-FM Birmingham, Alabama (10/13) also covered the story.

Computerworld (10/13, Vijayan) reports that “the district provided laptops to about 1,800 of its high school students, but did not inform them about the embedded tracking software, which could be used to remotely activate Webcams on the laptops.” After a student “filed a lawsuit against the school district accusing it of spying on him in his home,” investigators “found that school-issued laptops had taken more than 30,000 photographs, using the activated tracking software.” The FBI conducted its own investigation into the matter, after which the US Department of Justice “said it would not file criminal charges against the school district because there was no evidence of criminal intent in its actions.”

PC Magazine (10/12, Albanesius) reported that after the investigations, “the school district…apologized and admitted that it should have informed students and parents about the software. An updated school policy now requires the district to get a student’s permission before activating the monitoring software.”

NEA in the News
Van Roekel Says School Reform Should Be Nonpartisan Effort.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel writes in an opinion piece for The Hill (10/13) that “John Feehery’s op-ed in The Hill (“Education as a Wedge Issue,” Oct. 4) begins with the incorrect statement that the National Education Association was involved in the recent D.C. mayoral election.” He points out, however, that “educators in D.C. public schools belong to a different union, and NEA was not involved in the election in any way.” Van Roekel calls Feehery’s statement a “sloppy disregard for facts” and notes other faulty claims presented in the op-ed, “including Mr. Feehery’s suggestion the failed No Child Left Behind law has done anything to improve student achievement.” Van Reokel asserts that “contrary to his claims, NEA members across the nation are working to transform public schools, collaborating with district management and communities” to reach student achievement goals. He concludes, “Transforming public schools is not and should not be a partisan issue.”

Van Roekel To Appear At Education Forum In Florida With Arne Duncan. The Tampa Tribune (10/12) reported that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “will appear at a forum Thursday in Tampa with the heads of the nation’s two major teachers unions and Hillsborough educators. The forum, according to Duncan’s office, will highlight the collaboration and labor agreement that’s at the heart of a historic teacher improvement initiative funded in part with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” According to the Tribune, Duncan will be joined at the forum by Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.”

Two Texas Districts Use Tracking Devices To Monitor Students.
The AP (10/11) reported, “Two school districts in the Houston area have begun monitoring students’ whereabouts on campus by issuing them identification badges with radio frequency identification technology – the same technology used to track cattle.” According to school officials, the ID badges “improve security and increase attendance rates, a figure that’s important because some school funding is tied to attendance.” The Spring school district has been able to “recover $194,000 in state funding since December 2008″ by locating students with the badges.

The Houston Chronicle (10/11, Radcliffe) reported that “some parents and privacy advocates question whether the technology could have unintended consequences,” such as hackers figuring out “a way to track students after they leave school.” Some also say that “identity theft and stalking could become serious concerns.” Meanwhile, the Spring and Santa Fe districts tout the benefits of the tracking devices. “In case of a fire, administrators would be able to see if any students are trapped inside a building. If a student disappears, they’ll know exactly when they left campus.”

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In the Classroom
Agriculture Education Gaining Popularity In Some Minnesota Schools.
Minnesota’s Star-Tribune (10/12, Carew) reports that “agriculture education in [Minneapolis-area] high schools has gained popularity recently, popping up in unlikely metro schools.” This growth of interest, according to educators, is “because they’ve expanded the focus of their programs to include topics such as natural resources, agriculture economics and food science.” Becky Meyer, director of the charter Academy for Sciences and Agriculture (AFSA), said that the interest is also “being driven by jobs” at “non-farming agriculture businesses.”

Four-Year Medical Programs Aimed At Giving High Schoolers A Leg Up On Careers.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (10/12, McGlone) reports on “a growing number of high school students enrolled in four-year medical programs aimed at giving teens a leg up on the competition as they explore a career in healthcare.” At participating area schools, “courses often include medically focused chemistry, biology and anatomy, as well as a senior-year medical internship or certification course. Some classes can earn students college credit and nominal pay.” The Union-Tribune adds, “The Regional Allied Health and Science Initiative – a local schools partnership and a primary source of funding for the medical programs countywide – is working to get pathway graduates preferential enrollment at community colleges,” and with some success. “Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District officials said they may offer preferred enrollment beginning next fall.”

Louisiana District To Drop Laptop Initiative, Expand Literacy Program.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (10/12, Bronston) reports, “When Jefferson Parish [Louisiana] school officials rolled out a laptop computer program in two middle schools three years ago and five other schools a year later, they had high hopes that it would help boost standardized test scores” but while “test scores have risen since then, officials say the higher numbers have little to do with the laptop program. As result, the Jefferson Parish School Board last week voted to do away with the One-to-One Laptop Project at the end of the 2010-2011 school year and put the money, about $3 million, toward a more proven initiative — Fast ForWord, a computer-based literacy program for struggling readers.”

On the Job
Teachers Participate In Weightless Flights of Discovery Program.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/12, Schencker) reports that about 30 teachers from Utah and other states “participated in the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program” on Monday. The teachers “spent about two hours skyrocketing up and down in a specially modified airplane to experience weightlessness.” They also “performed experiments, flipped, floated and spun in a padded, chairless part of the cabin in hope of inspiring their students to become the nation’s next scientists and engineers.” The purpose of the program “is to excite students about science and engineering,” said Anthony Spehar, vice president in missile systems for Northrop Grumman. The industry, he said, will need many scientists and engineers for the future. “If we can get people interested in math and science in junior high and have them take AP math and science courses in high school, we can produce the technical talent we need in this country,” Spehar added.

Texas Education Officials Search For Ways To Identify Most Effective Teachers.
The Dallas Morning News (10/12, Meyers) reports that now, since the federal government is offering millions of dollars to reward “the nation’s best teachers, school districts are searching for ways to identify them.” Texas has gotten “$53.5 million in federal grants to reward teachers partly for boosting their students’ scores.” The Texas Education Agency “has developed a new testing system and a database that will make it easier to crunch numbers.” And in Dallas, 22 middle school teachers “are participating in a two-year program intended to blend test-driven analysis with classroom assessments.” Called Measures of Effective Teaching, the program has “received funding in six cities from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

California Reviewing Student Data System.
Education Week (10/11, Aarons) reported, “The California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS” is being designed “to allow a comprehensive look at student data across California that can be used to create targeted efforts to improve student achievement.” Education Week adds, however, that “shortly after CALPADS was launched a year ago,” districts “found technical roadblocks in the IBM-built system that hampered their efforts to enter data.” In February, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell “ordered a halt to any changes to the system while it underwent a ‘top to bottom’ review.”

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Law & Policy
Some Districts Have Year-Round Conduct Policies For Extracurricular Activities.
USA Today (10/12, Bruno) reports, “student athletes and those involved in other extracurricular activities in states including New Jersey, South Carolina and Indiana are signing codes of conduct that hold them accountable for their behavior regardless of whether school is in session.” Oby Lyles, spokesman for South Carolina’s largest school district in Greenville County, explained, “Participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege.” As such, some school officials reason that the “privilege can be revoked when students who wear a school’s uniform or represent a school don’t follow rules of conduct at school and in the community.” USA Today describes some of the year-round policies in effect in school systems nationwide.

Special Needs
More Oklahoma Districts Choose Not to Comply With Special Education Law.
KJRH-TV Tulsa (10/12) reports that on Monday, Oklahoma’s Bixby and Union school districts “voted not to follow the requirements of house bill 3393,” which “forces Oklahoma school districts to give scholarships to special needs students whose parents wish to enroll them in private schools.” The two districts now join the Jenks and Broken Arrow school systems in refusing to comply with the law, which they say goes against the state constitution. KJRH adds that “Tulsa Public Schools will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the same issue.”

School Finance
South Carolina Education Department Awarded $3.9 Million For Special Education Training.
The AP (10/11) reported that the US Department of Education has awarded the South Carolina Education Department a five-year, “$3.9 million federal grant to improve achievement among students with disabilities.” With the money, the state can “expand training for teachers who work with students with special needs. The training program will include the use of coaches and mentors for special education teachers, financial assistance for local training programs and setting up model schools.”

Also in the News
Gates Foundation Online Learning Grants Expected To Expand To K-12 Programs.
PC Magazine (10/11, Hachman) reported, “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday announced a $20 million grant program to improve college graduation rates via technology, which will probably be oriented around online education and learning programs.” Bill gates says that the focus will expand to K-12 programs next year. Called the Next-Generation Learning Challenges, the gates program will award $20 million in “grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000.”

Ian Quillen wrote in the Education Week (10/11) “Digital Education” blog that “the Next Generation Learning Challenges program is releasing its first in a series of requests to solicit funding proposals for technology initiatives, with the first round focused specifically on postsecondary education.” Applicants “will be judged on whether their proposals address increasing the use of blended learning models, student engagement, open courseware, and learning analytics.”

In a separate post, Ian Quillen wrote in the Education Week “Digital Education” blog that “subsequent waves of funding for K-12 and higher ed could push the total grants awarded up to around $80 million, Gates suggested.” Gates is quoted as saying, “‘Sometime next year, we’ll have a set [of grants] that focuses on K-12 education. … But there’s not a black and white dividing line between those’ K-12 and postsecondary categories.”

Studies Link Social, Emotional Skills To Academics.
McClatchy Newspapers (10/10, Rubin) reported, “In 2004, Illinois became the first state in the nation to require all school districts to teach social and emotional skills as part of their curriculum and daily school life. That means students are expected to meet certain benchmarks, such as recognizing and managing feelings, building empathy and making responsible decisions.” Roger Weissberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago, says that “new evidence shows a strong link between interpersonal skills and academics.” He “and his colleagues recently completed an analysis of 300 scientific studies and reached two important conclusions: Students enrolled in such programs scored at least 10 percentage points higher on achievement tests than peers who weren’t. At the same time, discipline problems were cut in half.”

NEA in the News
Teachers Protest Pay Cuts In Michigan District.
The Detroit Free Press (10/12, Walsh-Sarnecki) reports that teachers in West Bloomfield Public Schools are protesting “the pay cuts the district is asking for to help offset a $1.7-million budget deficit.” The district is asking teachers “to go back to last year’s salary level and take a 10% cut on top of that. … Then the district is proposing the teachers’ salaries freeze there.” West Bloomfield Education Association President Kim Pilarski is quoted as saying, “For the first time in over 30 years, we haven’t got a contract and are picketing.” The association’s counter proposal includes “cuts worth $2.8 million,” but the district rejected that because it proposed “staff reductions” that “were already included in the 2010-2011 budget,” according to one school official. The Detroit Free Press notes, “If the district imposes a contract, the teachers could consider a strike.”

Superintendents Call For Reforms Regarding Teacher Hiring, Learning Options, And Charters.
New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein, DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and 14 other school district leaders throughout the US, wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post (10/10) titled, that “as educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us.” They assert that the education reforms they have initiated and those specified under the federal Race to the Top program “are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.” They point to “teacher hiring and retention,” flexible learning options, and charter schools as issues that must be addressed, and conclude, “Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory.”

Blogger Refutes “Misinformation” Contained In Superintendents’ Manifesto. Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post (10/9) “the Answer Sheet” blog, “There are so many things wrong with the new “school reform manifesto” signed by 16 school district chiefs…that it is hard to know where to start.” She pointed out, “The document says kids are just sitting around waiting for adults to do something, without noting that adults have been pushing eight years for test-centric reform favored by many of these superintendents with disastrous results.” The document also contains “misinformation,” Strauss added, noting a passage that that says, “the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is…the quality of their teacher.” According to Strauss, however, “research actually shows that the home life of students is the single biggest determinant of school achievement. School chiefs can ignore it all they want, but that doesn’t change the facts.”

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In the Classroom
Tardiness Declines After School Implements Dance Sessions At Start Of Each Day.
USA Today (10/11, Hellmich) reports that Conlee Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico uses the Nintendo Wii video game Just Dance “at the start of every school day.” Each morning, “The dance activity is broadcast into classrooms that have TV monitors.” When the ritual began last year, teachers noticed that “tardiness went down.” The daily morning dance activities were inspired by “researchers at New Mexico State University who are investigating the use of active video games as part of an obesity-prevention project funded by the US Department of Agriculture.” The first part of the study focused on game-play “at a laundromat in Hawaii, an after-school program in Connecticut and a low-income community program in Delaware.” For the next part, researchers will test “whether doing an active video game before math and spelling tests improves performance.”

New York Education Officials Were Warned About Problems With Standardized Tests.
The New York Times (10/11, A1, Medina) reports, “When New York State made its standardized English and math tests tougher to pass this year…it said it was relying on a new analysis showing that the tests had become too easy and that score inflation was rampant.” But increasing amounts of evidence over the years has shown that the older tests, “which have formed the basis of almost every school reform effort of the past decade, had serious flaws.” The sharp rise and fall of the state’s “passing rates resulted from the effect of policies, decisions and missed red flags that stretched back more than 10 years,” according to the Times. In that time, experts warned state education officials about the flaws, but the warnings went unheeded. The Times details the actions that led to the state changing its testing system, highlighting the trends in passing rates over the years.

Anti-Bullying Program Teaches Students To Respect Each Others’ Differences.
The Dallas Morning News (10/11, Weiss) reports that the Richardson Independent School District has begun a new anti-bullying program called R time that “has shown remarkable ability to cut down the kid-on-kid oppression that can lead to bullying and violence, school officials say.” Unlike most other anti-bullying programs, R time “spends almost no time specifically addressing bullying or what to do about it.” The program “happens once a week in every classroom in a participating elementary school.” Teachers “randomly [pair] the students, ensuring that kids don’t always link up with friends.” The students are given a topic to discuss with each other, following the “R time rules: Caring at all times, listening, good manners, don’t interrupt, show respect.”

Debate Centers On Whether To Specifically Address Anti-Gay Bullying In Schools. The AP (10/10, Crary) reported that “a spate of teen suicides linked to anti-gay harassment is prompting school officials nationwide to rethink their efforts against bullying — and in the process, risk entanglement in a bitter ideological debate.” The disagreement is between gay rights advocates who “insist that any effective anti-bullying program must include specific components addressing harassment of gay youth.” Meanwhile, “religious conservatives condemn that approach as an unnecessary and manipulative tactic to sway young people’s views of homosexuality.” The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, “one of the largest in the nation…strives to serve schools ranging from progressive to conservative.” Olweus’ “community-by-community approach…enables schools to tailor the program as they see fit in regard to anti-gay bullying.” Meanwhile, New York City schools’ Respect for All Initiative “makes specific mention of sexual orientation in its anti-bullying training for teachers and its materials for students.”

Educator Says Classroom Discipline Is Key Factor In Eliminating Achievement Gap.
Jane Lonnquist, a museum educator in Minnesota, writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (10/11) describes her experience working “in two Minneapolis middle schools, both serving 95 percent minority students, 80 percent or more receiving free or reduced school lunch.” The first was a KIPP charter school, where teachers devoted considerable time at the beginning of the year establishing discipline in the classroom. In the second school, which had been reopened “after being closed in 2007 for low performance,” Lonnquist says, “students still seemed to control the culture.” Lonnquist concludes that to tackle the challenges faced by schools and teachers, “we need the urgency to say not one minute can be wasted in helping disadvantaged kids close the gap in their academic achievement. We also need the honesty to say that there is no learning without order in the classroom.”

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On the Job
Agreement Aims To Protect Boston Teachers From Subjective Actions By Principals.
The Baltimore Sun (10/9, Green) reported, “The tentative contract agreement between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city school district strives to protect educators from” potential “subjective actions by principals, who have been given greater leeway in decisions about their schools during the tenure of schools CEO Andrés Alonso.” Principals have “power over teacher assignments and evaluations,” and the union wants teachers to have “more control over their working conditions and the opportunity to earn hefty pay increases.” The tentative contract “includes stipulations about principal behavior, and requires administrators to participate in training on the new contract and on how to evaluate teachers.” Teachers will vote on the contract this week.

Bloomberg Proposes Stricter Standards For Awarding Teacher Tenure.
The AP (10/11, Matthews) reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “announced on national television last week that he would overhaul the way city teachers are granted tenure, linking their advancement to improving student test scores.” The AP notes that states have varying “tenure rules for K-12 teachers…with some operating more like universities and others that offer no stronger protection than job security laws that prevent people from being fired without cause.” In New York City, teachers earn tenure after three years on the job. Afterward, “tenure they cannot be fired without an administrative hearing.” Bloomberg announced the “tenure crackdown” during “a 15-minute MSNBC segment” at the end of September. He said that “principals must start denying tenure unless their students have made two years of progress on state tests.”

New Jersey District to Post Teacher Evaluations Online.
New Jersey.com (10/10, Zimmer) reported that “West Milford will join other school districts throughout the state in posting teacher evaluations online this month.” The district will not post teachers’ names with the evaluations, only “the number of teachers evaluated and the number of teachers that are not effectively teaching – based on standards set by the school district itself.” According to New Jersey.com, the information can “provide local stakeholders with an idea of the standards individual districts set for their faculty” and could be used to compare West Milford schools with other districts. “However, such comparisons aren’t likely to be accurate, due to varying methods of evaluation through the state.”

Law & Policy
North Carolina Schools Must Explain Reasons For Suspension Stipulations, Court Rules.
The New York Times (10/9, Eckholm) reported that the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a ruling last week saying “that schools must provide strong reasons for denying alternative schooling or tutoring to students after they are suspended for misbehavior.” In the case, “two girls who were suspended for five months in 2008 after a brief fistfight at their high school in Beaufort County that involved no weapons or injuries.” While “the suit did not question the district’s right to suspend” the girls, it did object to the district “denying them access to the county’s alternative school for troubled students or help with study at home.” According to legal experts, “the decision, in a case that had drawn national attention from civil rights groups, children’s advocates and school leaders,” will likely “be cited as a precedent as other states confront similar issues.”

Massachusetts District To Close Schools For Muslim Holiday To Promote Equality.
The Boston Globe (10/10, Parker) reported that starting next year, students in Cambridge, Massachusetts public schools “will either close for Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, depending on which holiday falls within the school year. If both fall within the school calendar, the district will close for only one of the days.” Cambridge School Committee member Marc McGovern said that the move is an attempt to treat Christian, Jewish, and Muslim holidays equally. “The issue that sort of came up was should we celebrate any religious holidays, but there was not the will to take away Good Friday or one of the Jewish holidays. … So I said, if that is the case, I think we have an obligation to celebrate one of the Muslim holidays, as well,” said McGovern.

WHDH-TV Boston (10/11) reports that “The dialogue surrounding this decision began a few years ago after Muslim students said they were forced to choose between academics and religious obligations.” According to school officials, the “move is the first of its kind in Massachusetts.” AP (10/10) and NECN-TV Newton, Massachusetts (10/11, Yount) also covered the story.

Also in the News
Study Shows Strong High School Curriculum Helps Boost Students’ Chances Of Graduating College.
Education Week (10/8, Gewertz) reported that ACT’s “Mind the Gaps” study shows that “taking a strong core curriculum in high school and meeting benchmark scores in all four subjects of the ACT college-entrance exam enhance students’ chances of enrolling in college, persisting there for a second year, earning good grades, and obtaining a two- or four-year degree.” Researchers “found that even with college-readiness levels two to four times higher among white and wealthier students than among their less advantaged peers, gaps in college going and college success were narrowed substantially by building a broader base of college readiness among high school students.” Cynthia B. Schmeiser, president of ACT’s education division presented the findings last week, saying, “Ensuring kids are prepared for college by the time they leave high school is the single most important thing we can do to improve college-completion rates.”

NEA in the News
Michigan Education Association President Says “Heroes” In Schools “Worth Celebrating.”
Iris K. Salters, president of the Michigan Education Association, wrote in the Detroit Free Press (10/10, A29) that the film “Waiting for Superman” provides “an incomplete snapshot of areas” in the public education system that need improvement. She adds that the film fails to properly address “some of the core issues facing public schools throughout the country and, in particular, in Michigan.” It also fails to look at the research being done on “how to improve struggling schools,” or “the good things that are happening in our state’s public schools.” Salters asserted that despite factors such as poverty, homelessness, lack of parental involvement, and the school budget crisis, teachers “have worked hard to deliver a quality education.” She concluded, “We’re not waiting for a superhero to save the day — there are real heroes in our schools every day working to ensure every Michigan child succeeds. And that’s worth celebrating.”

Runoff Election Likely To Determine Representation For School Secretaries In Missouri District.
Missouri’s News-Leader (10/9, Riley) reported that last week, the Springfield National Education Association won an election to “determine which [school employee group] would represent secretaries.” But, since “two contested votes weren’t counted,” the SNEA and the Springfield Office Professionals “have 10 business days to officially challenge the results.” SNEA President Ray Smith “said the group’s slim victory and the two uncounted votes make a runoff election likely.”

Report Says Effects Of Recession Likely To Impact School Districts For Years.
Sean Cavanagh wrote in the Education Week (10/7) “State EdWatch” blog that a new report by the Center for Public Education says that “school districts around the country are laying off teachers, cutting instructional programs, and eliminating student activities as they absorb the lingering effects of ‘The Great Recession.’” And, it says, it may take “up to a decade…for district budgets to recover to their pre-recession levels,” as the budgets will likely be impacted by “lagging home prices, poor state budgets, and reduced federal stimulus funding, which is expected to run out by 2011.” In addition, districts “are complying with the ‘underfunded mandates’ of the Individuals with Disabilities Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as with their own states’ academic requirements,” which has further impact on their budgets, study authors say.

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In the Classroom
LAUSD, Gay Advocates Launch Campaign To Combat Bullying.
California’s Contra Costa Times (10/8, Llanos) reports that “in the wake of a recent string of gay teen suicides across the country, Los Angeles Unified officials joined forces with gay-rights advocates Thursday to announce a targeted effort to combat bullying of homosexual youth at local schools.” The district and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network “will launch an information campaign this month that will include handing out…’Safe School Kits’” in schools. The kits “include stickers that teachers, counselors and administrators can place in their offices or classrooms, which label that space as a ‘safe’ zone” for students. In addition, teachers and administrators will receive resources “that they can connect students to, and tip sheets on how best to counsel students.”

KABC-TV (10/7, McBride) explained that the Safe Schools Kits will help teachers and administrators “create a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students. The kit provides reading information on how young people can deal with on-campus bullying, cyber bullying, coming out, and homophobia.”

Researcher Seeks To Link Academic Performance, Cell Phone Rewards.
The AP (10/8) reports, “Selected Oklahoma City Public Schools students will receive free cell phones and minutes as part of a Harvard University economist’s research into academic motivation.” For the study, “1,500 local middle-school students” would “receive the phones Friday.” Over a nine-month period, “the students will receive free phones and can earn minutes in exchange for academic success.” The AP notes that “Harvard economist Roland Fryer has conducted similar experiments in a handful of other urban school systems, using money instead of phones as the incentive.”

Playtime Viewed As Critical To Kindergarten Readiness.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/8, Rujumba) reports, “In preschool, academic readiness for kindergarten often is measured in terms of how well a youngster can grasp basic concepts like counting and identifying shapes, letters and colors” yet “how a child handles play time is another important marker, educators contend.” The Post-Gazette adds, “Many see finding ways to enhance success in preschool as a major battle in the fight to reduce the dropout rate and boost academic achievement at all grade levels. Speaking in New Mexico last week, President Barack Obama stressed that idea as he explained his school reform agenda.”

Two-Year Kindergarten Programs Growing In Popularity In California District.
KXTV-TV Sacramento, CA (10/8, Larsen) reports, “Two-year kindergarten programs are growing in popularity among Sacramento schools and parents. Sacramento City Unified School District began Early-Kinder programs at four elementary schools this year.” According to KXTV, “Parents who want to give their kids more time in the classroom and an extra edge academically are choosing the two-year kinder track, particularly if their child is young for their class.”

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On the Job
Los Angeles Mayor Vows To Press On With Teacher Layoff Policy Overhaul.
The AP (10/8, Hoag) reports that Los Angeles Unified School District’s “sweeping overhaul of seniority-based teacher layoffs and other reforms…will continue despite teachers union opposition, city and school officials said Thursday.” The United Teachers Los Angeles said Wednesday that “it would challenge” the proposal, “saying it had been left out of negotiations.” Said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday, “There’s not an anti-union bone in my body. I’ll continue to reach out to them, I want to work with them. … But with or without them, we’re moving ahead.” UTLA has also said that it wants to “meet with the school board and the ACLU to review the terms of the proposed settlement and voice its objections.”

Law & Policy
Education Department To Issue School Discipline Guidance With “Disparate-Impact Analysis.”
Education Week (10/7, Zehr) reported that federal officials “plan to use ‘disparate-impact analysis’ in enforcing school discipline cases” in an effort to emphasize “that addressing racial disparities in school discipline is a high priority.” Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the US Department of Justice, pointed out at a conference recently that “students of color are receiving different and harsher disciplinary punishments than whites for the same or similar infractions, and they are disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance policies — a fact that only serves to exacerbate already deeply entrenched disparities in many communities.” It was announced at the conference that the Education Department’s office for civil rights “will release guidance this winter on school discipline that will include an analysis of disparate impact.”

Schundler Says New Jersey Governor Feared Appearance Of Giving In To Teachers Union.
The New York Times (10/8, Pena) reports that former New Jersey education commissioner Bret D. Schundler on Thursday “told a State Senate hearing” that “before rejecting a compromise with teachers that would have” helped the state win a federal Race to the Top grant, Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) “main objection was that it would appear that he had given in to the teachers’ union.” At the “hearing investigating the loss of the federal grant,” Schundler also told lawmakers “that in his conversation with the governor, in May, he had explained that it was the union that had given ground, and that the administration had won nearly everything it wanted.” But Christie, “who had battled the union all year,” was more concerned with how the compromise “would be perceived,” he noted. Meanwhile, Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak said that the governor “had rejected the plan because it ‘fell far short of the education reforms the governor has long endorsed.’”

Special Needs

Two Oklahoma Districts Refuse To Pay Private School Fees For Special Needs Students.
KOTV-TV Tulsa (10/8, Wright) reports that “The controversy continues over the rights of special needs students” in Oklahoma, as the Jenks and Broken Arrow refuse to comply with “a new law providing public funding for special needs kids who want to attend private school.” Under the law, “parents of special needs students who think they’re children would fare better at a private school are now supposed to be allowed to send them to one” – at the local public school district’s expense. The Jenks and Broken Arrow school districts, however, say the “law violates the State Constitution.” Lisa Muller, Jenks Assistant Superintendent, told KOTV, “We do not disagree with parent’s individual right to choose a private school for their children if they believe that’s the better option, but our concern is just taking those public funds with them.” She added, “I would expect that this will be decided eventually by the courts.”

KTUL-TV Tulsa (10/8) reports that if the Broken Arrow school district “followed the law they could lose a decent chunk of change. Special needs kids in Broken Arrow make up 14% of the total student population, that’s a couple of thousand dollars per student of state funding.” It adds that “according to the Oklahoma Constitution, public funding cannot go to private schools directly or indirectly.” The Jenks (OK) Journal (10/7) also covered the story.

Facilities
US Green Building Council Launches Center For Green Schools.
Greener World Media (10/8) reports on the US Green Building Council’s new Center for Green Schools that was launched last week. Council President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi said the Center “is engaging educators in creating sustainable learning environments for their students and applying solid research to inform leadership — from school boards to college presidents — about the benefits of healthy, high-performing schools.” Through its Green Schools Program, the Building Council seeks to make sure that every student “has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation,” he added.

Also in the News
Recovery School District Is Louisiana’s Most Improved In 2009-10, State Data Show.
WGNO-TV New Orleans (10/8) reports that Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) “was the state’s most improved district in 2009-2010, according to preliminary District Performance Scores (DPS) released by the State Department of Education” Thursday. The district’s growth in School Performance Scores (SPS) “was twice that of the state. The state’s average SPS increased by 3.1 percentage points,” while the recovery school District’s was 6.6 points. The accomplishment is remarkable, especially since “The RSD took over the lowest performing schools in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and five years after the storm the RSD continues to enroll children who haven’t been to school consistently since Katrina,” WGNO notes. Still, Superintendent Paul Vallas acknowledged, “There is clearly much more work to do in the RSD to bring scores up, particularly in our high schools.”

“Race To Nowhere” Film Highlights Student Stress.
The Washington Post (10/8, George) reports that the documentary “Race to Nowhere” has become “a growing grass-roots phenomenon in the achievement-minded Washington area and beyond.” According to the Post, the film “has raised difficult questions about how to raise well-adjusted children at a time when schools seem test-obsessed, advanced classes are the norm and parents worry that their sons and daughters will not go as far in life as they have. … The film is attracting notice from New York to California, where mom-turned-filmmaker, Vicki Abeles, a 48-year-old lawyer, launched the documentary project as she set out to understand the stresses her children, now ages 16, 14 and 11, were experiencing.”

Maryland High School Graduation Rate Climbing.
The Baltimore Sun (10/7, Bowie, Green) reports, “More Maryland high school students are graduating and fewer are dropping out than two years ago, defying critics of the state’s graduation testing requirement who feared the tougher standards would drive kids to leave school or fail.” The change in particularly marked in Baltimore, where “at 4 percent, the city’s dropout rate is now half what it was three years ago, a swift decline that won praise from education experts.” Ccritics “feared thousands of students might either become discouraged they would never pass the four end-of-course tests and drop out of high school or that students would stay and fail to get a diploma in the spring of their senior year,” but officials argue “the High School Assessments have only raised the standards for students and enabled more to get a diploma.”

More Maryland Students Opt For Alternative Assessments. The Washington Post (10/7, Birnbaum) reports, “Maryland’s high school testing requirements were designed to increase rigor and the value of the state’s diplomas, but only a tiny fraction of seniors this year failed to graduate because of their exam results, and an increasing number of students are using alternative assessments because they have difficulty passing the regular tests.” Data from the State Department of Education indicates that “0.06 percent of seniors failed to receive their diplomas because of the tests and 8.6 percent of the senior class graduated only after completing the alternative projects, an increase of 2.3 percentage points from 2009.” Further, “some students received waivers exempting them from the requirements altogether.” State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said “the use of alternative assessments [is] growing because there are more recent immigrants and those learning English in the state.”

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In the Classroom
Media Company Creates Curriculum For Digital Citizenship.
NPR (10/6) reported, “In the wake of a Rutgers University student’s suicide, researchers who study youth and the Internet say schools need to do a better job of teaching kids the basics of digital citizenship.” John Pelfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society says that legislation “to make the penalties in cyberbullying cases harsher” by itself will not “change bad behavior.” He recommends more mentoring and education. To that end, Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Commonsense Media, “a nonprofit that provides information about movies, video games and technology for children, has written a curriculum to help schools teach digital citizenship. It focuses on how to teach youth to think critically about the Internet and make ethical decisions about its use.” According to Steyer, schools are behind when it comes to teaching online ethics. “I think that the technological revolution has in some cases outpaced schools’ ability to keep track of it,” he said.

Chinese Government Aid Boosts Mandarin-Language Instruction In US.
Education Week (10/5, Robelen) reported, “With China’s growing power and influence on the global stage, efforts are burgeoning to promote teaching the official Chinese language in US schools” and “one key player taking an increased role is the Chinese government itself. Just this year, the Office of Chinese Language Council International-or Hanban, an affiliate of China’s Ministry of Education-committed millions of dollars to help launch several ventures with US schools.” According to Education Week, “As school districts grapple with tough financial straits, the money from China for the most part appears to be getting a welcome reception in local schools and communities.”

On the Job
United Teachers Los Angeles Bemoans Exclusion From Layoff Negotiations.
The Los Angeles Times (9/7, Blume, Song) reports that leaders of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) yesterday “angrily denounced” an agreement between the Los Angeles BOE and the ACLU “that would result in sweeping changes to teacher seniority protections.” Though the UTLA “was a defendant in [a] lawsuit” filed by the ACLU “over layoff procedures that effectively decimated the staffs of three schools serving low-income minority students,” the teachers union “was not involved in the negotiations that led to Tuesday’s resolution.” Regarding the tentative agreement, UTLA President A.J. Duffy said, “The policy is disturbing and it’s disturbing because we weren’t involved in the process. .. We should have been consulted and we weren’t. There is a growing pattern within the district and the board majority to leave teachers out of the discussion and the debate.”

The AP (9/7, Hoag) reports that while the agreement “is being hailed as a landmark that could pave the way for changes in urban districts across the nation,” the UTLA has “serious concerns.” One major concern is that “the agreement would leave low-performing schools with a higher concentration of less experienced teachers.” The UTLA said that “the settlement does nothing to solve ongoing staffing problems at hard-to-staff schools.”

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Law & Policy
Diversity Proponents Hail North Carolina District’s Scrapping Of Community Schools Plan.
North Carolina’s News & Observer (10/7, Hui) reports that “supporters of Wake County’s discarded socioeconomic diversity policy are hailing the school board’s decision” Tuesday “to halt work on a new community schools plan,” which aims to “divide the county into 16 community assignment zones.” State NAACP President Rev. William Barber, one of the more vocal opponents of the community schools plan, released a statement saying, “We believe yesterday’s vote to stop the student assignment process is a step in the right direction.” Also, the Leaders of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, “a group that supported the old diversity policy, said…they were encouraged by Tuesday’s vote.” The News & Observer notes, however, that “the latest vote still leaves in place the policy change approved by the board in May that dropped the use of socioeconomic diversity in the student assignment policy.”

The AP (10/6) reported, “A member of the Wake County school board says she still supports community-based schools, despite her vote to ditch a student assignment plan meant to replace one based on diversity.” Vice chair Debra Goldman said Wednesday that she voted to drop the assignment plan because the one “being developed by a committee doesn’t adhere to the board’s own policy, including the part that guarantees a base assignment close to a student’s home.”

Former North Carolina Education Official Says District’s Progress Comes Despite School Assignments. J.B. Buxton, former deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, wrote in an opinion piece for the Charlotte (NC) Observer (10/6), “The Wake County school board’s draft student assignment maps” appear to “give us more high-poverty and racially segregated schools, fewer magnet seats in downtown schools and the continued need for significant busing. This is the Charlotte story.” According to Buxton, the idea that “recent progress in student performance in Charlotte proves that achieving balance in student assignment doesn’t matter” is “cynical” and “wrong.” He asserts that “progress has resulted from actions taken to address challenges created in part by the assignment plan. It has also meant higher levels of local spending in Charlotte than in Wake” in order to get “levels of performance that Wake has had for years.”

About 30 Wisconsin School Districts Drop Indian Names For Mascots.
USA Today (10/7, Keen) reports that a Wisconsin law that began taking effect in May, “allows school district residents to lodge complaints against race-based names.” After a complaint is filed, the state Department of Public Instruction “holds a hearing” and “districts can argue that a name isn’t discriminatory if they have a tribe’s approval.” Since the law has been in effect, says Barbara Munson, chair of a Wisconsin Indian Education Association task force on mascots and logos, “about 30 school districts use Indian names and about 30 dropped them voluntarily.” The decision has not been easy for some. The Kewaunee School Board, for instance, “intended to fight” a complaint filed against its mascot. Eventually, the school board “changed its mind…and decided to voluntarily drop the name.” According to Munson, resistance on the issue “is a failure of mainstream American culture to deal with stereotyping.”

Florida Ballot Initiative Proposes Raising Class Size Limit.
The AP (10/6, Armario, Kaczor) reported, “Florida’s class-size requirements would be loosened under a measure on next month’s ballot.” According to the AP, “This year, each core curriculum classroom must have no more than 18 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade; 22 in fourth through eighth grade; and 25 in high school. Amendment 8 would raise the cap to 21 in pre-kindergarten through third grade; to 27 in fourth through eighth grade; and to 30 in high school.”

Salt Lake City School District May Be First In Utah To Ban Anti-Gay Discrimination.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/6, Winters) reported that Salt Lake City School Board on Wednesday “weighed an amendment that would add sexual orientation to the list of characteristics, such as race and religion, that would be illegal to use to target someone for harassment.” If adopted, the amendment would make Salt Lake City public schools the first district in Utah “to ban discrimination” specifically “against gay students and employees.” But Will Carlson, “an openly gay candidate for school board,” argued that “the change doesn’t go far enough,” and “should also include gender identity so that transgender students and employees are protected.” While some board members “supported the proposal as written,” others said they are opposed “to expanding the district’s policy to include another ‘protected class.’” Still, the Tribune notes, “it appeared likely” on Tuesday that “the measure can secure a four-vote majority to pass.”

Many New Jersey Superintendents Oppose Governor’s Teacher Merit-Pay Plan.
New Jersey’s Record and Herald News (10/6, Kim) reported that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) “recently announced his plan to set up a new system that would attack [teacher] tenure and involve merit-based pay.” The system would end “salary increases and raises based on a teacher’s seniority.” While “many local education administrators agree there’s a need to improve the public school system, they say Christie’s proposal…may be an overly simple formula for achieving success in the classroom.” Englewood Superintendent Richard Segall pointed out, for instance, “Kids arrive in a school at very different points throughout the school year. Sometimes they make phenomenal progress because of one or two teachers.” But he added that it is difficult, if at all possible, to “draw the difference.” Superintendents of other districts said that “merit-based pay is out of the question” due to cost and lack of evidence linking it to student performance.

Special Needs
Most Americans Do Not Understand Learning Disabilities, Poll Finds.
USA Today (10/7, Klinck) reports, “Despite an increased understanding that kids learn differently, a majority of Americans still do not completely understand what conditions are related to learning disabilities,” finds a new poll conducted by the Tremaine Foundation. According to USA Today, the Tremaine Foundation’s “report says that 79% of parents and 80% of non-parents incorrectly associate mental retardation with a learning disorder. … These misconceptions may lead to shortcomings in addressing learning disabilities in schools.”

Education Week (10/6, Samuels) adds that “despite a general perception among” poll “respondents that they have heard a lot about learning disabilities and understand the nature of learning differences, many were also willing to chalk learning disabilities up to laziness or the home environment. Many people also linked learning disabilities to other disorders, such as blindness or deafness.”

Agreement Would Limit Number Of Los Angeles Teachers Laid Off Based On Seniority.
The Los Angeles Times (10/6, Song, et al.) reports that on Tuesday, the Los Angeles BOE approved an agreement that “would cap the number of” teachers laid off based solely on seniority. In addition, the agreement “would spare up to 45 struggling schools from layoffs. Many of those schools have disruptive turnover rates among teachers.” The changes are aimed at making sure “layoffs based on seniority” are “distributed evenly among district schools” so that “no school [loses] a disproportionate number of instructors.”

The AP (10/ Dillon) reports that the new agreement comes after the ACLU in February “sued the state, which cut education funding to close its massive budget deficit, and” the Los Angeles Unified School District, “which it accused of violating the rights of inner-city students to a quality education as spelled out in the state constitution.” KABC-TV Los Angeles (10/5, Ravindhran) also covered the story.

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In the Classroom
Organizations Partner To Make Google Apps Available In New York Classrooms.
PC World (10/5, Perez) reported that the New York Institute of Technology is partnering with “the New York State Teacher Centers and associated Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, the New York State teacher unions and New York State professional organizations” to make Google Apps “available to teachers and more than 3.1 million” K-12 students in New York public and private schools. The apps includes “e-mail, instant messaging, calendar and office productivity applications like word processing.” PC Magazine (10/5, Horn) reported that “Google Apps will allow students to collaborate on projects and engage with students and teachers at any time.”

Information Week (10/6, Claburn) notes that “Oregon became the first state to make Google Apps Education Edition available statewide” in April. Iowa, Colorado, and Maryland also make Google Apps an option in schools. The Wall Street Journal (10/6, Efrati) and the Washington Post (10/5, Rao) “Tech Crunch” blog also covered the story.

Teaching Social, Emotional Skills Could Improve Overall Learning.
The Chicago Tribune (10/6, Rubin) reports, “In 2004, Illinois became the first state in the nation to require all school districts to teach social and emotional skills as part of their curriculum and daily school life.” As part of their studies, “students are expected to meet certain benchmarks, such as recognizing and managing feelings, building empathy and making responsible decisions.” According to experts such as University of Illinois, Chicago, psychology professor Roger Weissberg, “the touchy-feely stuff doesn’t have to come at the expense of intellect. New evidence shows a strong link between interpersonal skills and academics.” Weissberg said, “Some teachers may be skeptical about (Social and Emotional Learning) at first, but they are won over when their students learn more, are more engaged and better problem solvers.” The Tribune describes how social and emotional learning is employed in the classroom, such as in the case of a science lab.

Indiana Education Officials Asking Parents To Pledge School Involvement.
The AP (10/5) reported that the Indiana “Department of Education is touting a new ‘parents pledge’ it hopes will increase parent involvement in schools. … Parents who take the pledge commit to having their child read every day, complete homework assignments, graduate from high school and treat classmates and teachers with respect.” According to the AP, “Parents commit to encouraging their children to ‘dream big’ and to monitoring their child’s academic growth.” WXIN-TV Indianapolis, IN (10/5) also covered this story on its Website.

On the Job
Survey Shows Most Pittsburgh Teachers Like Workplace, Want More Instructional Autonomy.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (10/6, Weigand) reports that according to a survey by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers in Pittsburgh “want more say in how they teach, more time in the classroom and better mentoring.” The survey of educators, conducted in April and May, included more than 2,150 participants, mostly teachers.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette (10/5, Chute) reported that the survey released Tuesday also shows “that 78 percent of the district’s educators agree that their school is a good place to work and learn. The California-based New Teacher Center conducted the anonymous survey to which 85 percent of the district’s teachers responded.” KDKA-TV Pittsburgh (10/6) also covers the story.

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Law & Policy
New California Law To Raise Kindergarten Eligibility Age.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (10/5, Persinger) reports that California officials expect the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, now signed into law, “to reduce the current 460,000 kindergarten students each year by 120,000 children once it is fully phased in. … Under the law, the [kindergarten] eligibility date will move up by one month each year until 2014, when only children who turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 will be allowed to enroll.” According to the Union-Tribune, “Supporters of the law say the youngest kindergartners lack the physical, emotional and even intellectual maturity to deal with today’s kindergarten, which focuses more on academics than finger painting.”

Utah Leaders Consider Move To All-Day Kindergarten.
The Deseret Morning News (UT) (10/6, Farmer) reports that Utah “is considering if and how to fund optional extended-day kindergarten throughout Utah. On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Brenda Hales, associate superintendent from the State Office of Education, about a pilot program in its fourth year that is currently serving more than 8,000 students.” According to the Morning News, “Representatives from higher education as well as the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce have recommended that the governor and Legislature implement universal extended-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs statewide.”

Virginia District Considers Full-Day Kindergarten. The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (10/6, Hulette) reports that the Chesapeake (VA) School Board “is considering an all-day schedule for all its kindergartens. Advocates argued it would be a tremendous benefit for financially strapped parents who work all day and have trouble paying for day care.” According to the Virginian-Pilot, “If Chesapeake made the switch, it would join not only Hampton and Norfolk, but also Suffolk and Portsmouth” among Virginia district “offering only full-day kindergarten.”

Laid Off Tenured Teachers Must Be Given “Foot In The Door” For District Jobs.
The Huffington Post (10/6) reports that Federal Judge James Coar “has ruled that the layoffs of hundreds of Chicago Public Schools teachers must be rescinded, and that provisions must be made for their possible rehiring.” Over the summer more than “1,300 teachers were laid off. … At issue in this court case were the 749 of those fired who were fully tenured staff.” Under Coar’s order, the laid off tenured teachers must “be given a ‘foot in the door’ to apply for future openings at the district.”

WGN-TV Chicago (10/5) reported that Chicago Public Schools “has 30 days to work with the” teachers’ union “to set up a system to help tenured teachers pursue current job openings. The union plans to seek back pay and reinstatement from the Illinois Labor Relations Board.” WBEX-FM Chicago (10/5, Clauss) also covered the story.

Judge Rules New York District’s Teacher Housing Proximity Rule “Unenforceable.”
The Buffalo (NY) News (10/6, Baldwin) reports that according to New York State Supreme Court Justice Justice Ralph A. Boniello III, the Niagara Falls School Board’s “effort to make sure that all of its employees live within the school district is ‘reasonable,’ but its implementation is so flawed that the policy is ‘unenforceable, incomplete … arbitrary and capricious.’” Last year, “the School Board fired seven employees…under its strict policy of local residence.” Boniello ordered that two of the teachers be reinstated “with full back pay and benefits retroactive” from the day of their firing.

School Finance
Los Angeles Public Schools Faces $268 Million Shortfall Next Year.
The AP (10/6) reports that Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines “says the district faces a $268 million budget deficit for the next academic year that could affect up to 3,300 jobs.” In a statement on Tuesday, Cortines proposed “partially covering the shortfall by using $103 million in federal jobs funding and reducing expenses by $5 million at central headquarters and district offices.” He also said that “the district will discuss several options with unions to avoid layoffs.”

Proposal Would Make Head Start Funding Competitive.
Education Week (10/5, Samuels) reported, “In one of the biggest changes to Head Start in its 45-year history, the US Department of Health and Human Services has announced proposed rules that would force low-performing programs to compete for their federal funding.” According to Education Week, “About 1,600 Head Start grantees around the country run programs for low-income preschool children,” and at “least a quarter of the grantees being evaluated in any given year-those falling below a certain performance threshold-would be required under the new rule to ‘recompete’ for their grants against other interested entities in the community.”

Also in the News
President Obama Convenes First White House Community College Summit.
The AP (10/6, Superville) reports that President Obama “said Tuesday he wants to see community colleges produce an additional 5 million graduates by 2020, arguing the schools are crucial to America’s future competitiveness. Obama made his comments in the East Room as he convened his first White House summit on community colleges.” According to the AP, “The daylong exercise at the White House included representatives from some of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges, along with officials from business, philanthropy and government.”

San Francisco Giving Kindergartners College “Seed Money.”
The AP (10/6) reports, “Kindergartners at 18 public schools in San Francisco are getting a gift from the city” – up to $100 “each in seed money for their college educations.” On Monday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and city Treasurer Jose Cisneros announced “the taxpayer-financed savings plan” that they say may be “the first of its kind for a US city. …The city has budgeted $257,000 to set up initial savings accounts for about 1,200 children, or one-quarter of its kindergartners.”

College Promise Scholarship Expands In Detroit Public Schools.
The Detroit News (10/6, Williams) reports that the Detroit College Promise scholarship program is being expanded in Detroit Public Schools. “The nonprofit organization, modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise, initially offered the program to Cody High School’s graduating class of 2009.” It included “five additional high schools” for the class of 2010, and next year, 500 of the 1,700 students who signed up for the program this year are expected “to follow through with the application process.” In 2009, the scholarships ranged from $500 to $2,000. “The scholarship program also assists students and parents in finding additional grant money for their education.”

Report Highlights Negative Impact Of Foreclosures On Student Performance.
Crain’s New York Business (10/5, Fung) reports that a report released Monday by New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy and NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy “highlights the increasingly negative impact…that foreclosures are having on New York City school children.” The report covering the 2006-07 school year shows that “there were 18,525 school children from grades K-12 in homes facing foreclosure, up 59% from the 2003-2004 academic year.” About “100 schools in the city…had 5 percent or more of their student body experiencing a foreclosure.” And, schools with the highest “concentration of children living in a home heading into foreclosure” had “reading and math test scores” much lower than other schools. In the coming months, the second part of the study will be released, focusing on “the 2008-2009 academic year and…whether foreclosures force students to move to lower-performing schools.”

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In the Classroom
Middle School Music Class Enrollment Increases Under New Texas Law.
The Dallas Morning News (10/5, Fox) reports that “a state law that recently took effect requires that middle school students log at least one fine arts credit in grades six through eight.” As a result of the new law, band classes throughout North Texas are experiencing an enrollment boom. To keep up with the demand, “some school districts [are asking] businesses and parents to donate new or used musical instruments and” are seeking grants. While “Most schools with active band programs try to provide large instruments, such as percussion instruments and bass violins,” lower-income schools “often don’t have enough instruments to go around, and many students can’t afford the rental fees.” The Morning News notes, however, that “while the new law does create a need for new instruments, many fine arts officials say it has opened an important and neglected door for middle school arts education.”

NASA-Sponsored Program Exposes Students To STEM Careers.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting (10/4, Brown) reported the West Virginia Aerospace and Engineering Scholars (WVAES) program, “a new NASA sponsored program at Fairmont State University, is helping some high school students in WV explore future careers as scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” and could “help keep talented students in the state.” The program, which is open to all high school juniors, includes an online course and focuses on space exploration. Dr. Anthony Gilberti of Fairmont State explained, “We are utilizing NASA missions and the experiences that an astronaut might look at and we have taken those and we have placed those into a curriculum of study where students learn about space activities, launches, aerospace in flight and living environments in space.” Gilberti noted “the West Virginia scholars program is modeled after a similar one in Virginia.”

Tennessee County Opens First Fully Integrated STEM Academy.
The Tennessean (10/4, Stevens) reported on “the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System’s new STEM Academy, a specialized school within Kenwood High School,” which according to officials “is the first of its kind in the United States.” Lead administrator Christi Fordham explained, “Some other schools in the country integrate science and math instruction, but this is the first one we know about that pulls together all four, plus we keep the 46 academy students together for English and Social Studies classes.” The Tennessean noted, “The academy’s goal is to identify and attract students who have an intense interest and aptitude in math, science and engineering and then prepare them with a challenging, integrated curriculum to move into a rigorous college program and a STEM oriented career.” Kenwood High was selected “because of its central location and capacity to house the entire program.”

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On the Job
Wisconsin Teachers Learn Rocket Science At Orbitec Workshop.
The Wisconsin State Journal (10/4, Newman) reported, “A dozen teachers from the Madison area and around the state learned about nose cones, payloads and igniters as they built rockets and then fired them high into the sky above Orbital Technologies Corp. (Orbitec) on Saturday,” which “hosted a daylong workshop in rocket science” for the educators. “The workshop was funded by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of a nationwide effort to promote science, technology, engineering and math. Orbitec systems engineer Todd Treichel, who led the workshop, said he would like to see teachers pass the message along to students that such fields are not ‘grueling or painful’ but can be fun. Students who are interested in computer games might like computer simulations of rocket launches, for example, he said.”

Report Calls For Greater Developmental Science Training For Teachers.
Education Week (10/5, Sawchuk) reports, “Education programs should more explicitly train teacher candidates in the rudiments of developmental science, and need policy support from states and the federal government to do so, asserts a report released this morning by a panel convened by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. … The paper contends that a greater emphasis on developmental science in the course of teacher preparation is especially warranted given that research appears to point toward instruction rooted in that field as one way of boosting academic achievement.” According to Education Week. “The report outlines a number of avenues through which policymakers could strengthen the pre-service focus on developmental science, including through individual programs’ requirements and assessments; the national-accreditation process; state licensing and accreditation regimes; and federal programs and policy governing teacher-preparation and school-turnaround initiatives.”

Law & Policy
Supreme Court Declines To Hear Appeal Against Ban On Religious Music In Schools.
Mark Walsh wrote in the Education Week (10/4) “School Law” blog, “On the first day of its new term, the US Supreme Court today declined without comment to hear the appeal of a parent who challenged a New Jersey school district’s restrictions on religious music at holiday performances in its schools.” The South Orange-Maplewood School District allows “secular holiday selections such as ‘Winter Wonderland’…and ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’” for its winter concerts, but “religious selections such as ‘Joy to the World’…and ‘Silent Night’ are not allowed.” Last November, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled “that the district’s policy was not hostile to religion in violation of the First Amendment, nor did it violate the rights of student to receive information and ideas.” Walsh noted that “the justices’ refusal without comment to hear the parent’s appeal is not a ruling on the merits of the case.”

Safety & Security
Networks Available To Help Bullied Gay Teens.
The AP (10/5, Italie) reports that advocates for gay teenagers say that recent suicides of “teens who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying point to the need for even more widespread help” for these students. The AP points out some existing programs aimed at helping gay teens. They include Gay-Straight Alliances (GLSEN) in about 4,000 schools nationwide. “Another nonprofit focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, the Trevor Project, operates a free, confidential hotline (866 4-U-Trevor) for counseling and suicide prevention around the clock.” Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, told the AP, “The single most important line of defense for young people in crisis is a network of visibly supportive adults, in their own community, in school, at home. … We’re talking about a very big country, and far too few young people have access to those supports.”

School Finance

Union Buy-In Varies Among Teacher Incentive Fund Grant Winners.
Education Week (10/4, Zehr) reported, “Four urban school districts that have won some of the largest shares of the $442 million in grants handed out last month through the federal Teacher Incentive Fund have varying levels of buy-in from their local teachers’ unions, which could affect how their plans for performance-based teacher compensation play out. … Started in 2006 under President George W. Bush, the Teacher Incentive Fund’s purpose is to support efforts to create performance-based teacher and principal pay systems in high-needs schools.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “has…been a strong supporter of the fund” and during his tenure as Chicago schools chief, Duncan “oversaw Chicago’s iteration of the program, called the Teacher Advancement Program.”

Utah State Superintendent Puts Positive Spin On Low Per-Pupil Spending.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/4, Schencker) reported that “some state education leaders want the public – and lawmakers” – in Utah want to transform the way the state’s per-pupil education spending is viewed by the public. Said state Superintendent Larry Shumway, “Utah has the most efficient school system in the country. … We’re getting our job done in Utah with 22 percent less than any other state.” Utah currently spends less per student on education than any other state or DC. Despite that Shumway noted, “Utah students tend to score at or above national averages on a number of academic measures.” But, a report by the Utah Foundation released this week shows that while that is true when “com­pared with the nation as a whole,” when “compared with only states with similar ethnic makeups, parental education levels and poverty rates, Utah students most often rank last on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

Also in the News
More Minorities In STEM Could Help US Remain Competitive, Report Finds.
The Huffington Post (10/5) reports, “One way to ensure that the US remains competitive in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is by increasing the level of minorities who pursue postsecondary education in these fields.” This is according to a report, “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads,” from the National Academies, which “calls for schools at the elementary, secondary and undergraduate level to encourage the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM studies.” The Post notes, “Although drastic changes must be made throughout all tiers of the education system in order to achieve parity in STEM fields, Science Magazine reports that it may be worthwhile to focus efforts on the undergraduate level.”

New Orleans Superintendent Helps Design Education System For Haiti.
Louisiana’s Times-Picayune (10/ Chang) reported that New Orleans schools Superintendent Paul Vallas recently spent time in Haiti to help the quake-hit nation “design a public education system.” He has “made seven or eight trips to Haiti — using vacation time or unpaid leave — since he began his unpaid job there in February.” The Times-Picayune added that “as a leading architect of the $4.2 billion education plan presented to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission in August, Vallas was not so much remaking a school system as creating one from scratch,” since most schools in Haiti are private. The plan is to make education free or nearly free for all students. “Most schools are likely to remain private, but they would receive subsidies in exchange for reducing tuition, implementing a national curriculum and improving their facilities.”

Course Enrollment Among Illinois High School Students At Record High.
The Chicago Tribune (10/4, Malone) reports that the number of Illinois high school students enrolling in college courses is at an all-time high this year. High schools throughout the state “are ramping up the number of dual-credit classes as a way to challenge teens and give them a taste of college.” These classes are offered “at a discount, or even for free, and potentially shave a semester’s worth of tuition.” Between 2004 and 2008, “the number of dual-credit classes offered by community colleges grew 71 percent” in Illinois, the Tribune adds. Data from the state’s Community College Board show that “English 101 was by far the most popular community college dual-credit course, with more than 9,000 students enrolled.”

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In the Classroom
Utah Schools Could Implement International Model Math By 2014.
The Salt Lake Tribune (10/3, Schencker) reported that on Friday, Utah’s Board of Education voted to merge some math classes, so that “instead of taking a full year of algebra, algebra II and geometry, students would take classes that progressively integrate all those concepts.” Switching to the new method, called the international model of math instruction, “is part of the state’s adoption of the Common Core, new academic standards being embraced by a number of states.” The international model is currently being “used in most other countries, including those that perform well in math,” according to Brenda Hales, state associate superintendent. Hales also said that the change is likely to take effect in Utah beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

Program Brings Professional Musicians Into Public School Classrooms.
The Sacramento Bee (10/ 1, B1, Ortiz) reported, “Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute has partnered with the Sacramento Philharmonic and the Vocal and Instrumental Teaching Artists Academy to bring music instruction to 18 schools in the Sacramento region this year.” The program called Link Up is operating nationwide to “bring teachers and professional musicians into third- through fifth-grade classrooms around the region.” Throughout the school year, students in the “Sacramento City Unified, San Juan Unified, Twin Rivers” districts “will have a chance to interact with the orchestra, in a program that concludes with two concerts in May.”

On the Job
Teachers In Virginia District Lobby School Board For Pay Increases After Two-Year Freeze.
The Washington Post (10/3, Sieff) reported that teachers in Fairfax County, Virginia, “are lobbying the School Board to spend anticipated federal funds on pay raises instead of hiring hundreds of new instructors.” Over the past two years, teachers in the district have had their salaries frozen and some have even “been hit by non-salary pay cuts.” The Post notes, “Raises for existing teachers – while permitted by the jobs bill approved in August – would do little to advance the goal of creating or saving teaching positions.” And, some board members “have expressed doubts about using one-time federal funds for an ongoing expense such as a permanent pay raise for the county’s 14,000 teachers.”

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Law & Policy
Federal Government, Boston Schools Settle English Learner Probe.
The AP (10/2, Contreras) reported, “Federal officials and the Boston Public Schools have reached an agreement over allegations that the school district violated federal law by not providing English instruction to students with a limited grasp of the language, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday. Under the agreement, Boston Public Schools agreed to assess the English proficiency of an estimated 7,000 students who were not previously tested in how well they understand, speak, read and write English.” According to the AP, “In a statement Friday, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and [ED]‘s Office for Civil Rights said that since 2003, Boston Public Schools had failed to properly identify and adequately serve thousands of English language learners under federal law.”

The Boston Globe (10/2, Vaznis) added that “Boston schools did not admit to any wrongdoing in signing the agreement, which aims to remedy the problems without going to court. But the Justice Department reserves the right to bring legal action against the school district if it fails to implement the agreement and will conduct a comprehensive review this fall of all the district’s programs for English-language learners.”

Education Week (10/1, Zehr) added that the “44-page agreement requires that, starting this school year, all of Boston’s 135 schools provide services to English-language learners, even if the schools don’t have large numbers of such students, something that wasn’t happening before. It also includes a mandate that the district offer ‘compensatory services’ to students who previously had been deemed as ‘opting out’ of language services that they were entitled to receive under federal law.”

Proposed Power-Sharing Plan For Newark Public Schools Creates Controversy.
Education Week (10/1, Gewertz) reported that “the power-sharing arrangement proposed” for Newark public schools by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker (D), and Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has led to “a tangle of blowback and counterpunches as skeptics contend their plan would violate state law.” It is unclear “how much power Mr. Booker…would have over the schools,” but Christie told reporters last week “the mayor would be ‘the lead person on my behalf’ in the school system, working with the governor to choose a new superintendent and remold education practice.” Still, “the prospect that the mayor could wield decision-making power” over a district that has “been under state control for 15 years” is a concern for “education law experts, who maintain that state law would prohibit such a power shift.” Meanwhile, some activists that support Newark regaining “control of its own schools question whether the Booker-Christie plan represents an extension of state control.”

South Dakota Effort Seeks To Boost Academic Progress Among Native American Students.
The AP (10/3, Brokaw) reported that South Dakota’s state Education Department “is collaborating with teachers, school administrators and others to take a new approach to improving academic achievement and graduation rates among American Indian students.” Indian Education Advisory Council has been tasked with developing “five-year goals and plans to improve American Indian students’ performance.” For instance, one “draft goal calls for closing the achievement and graduation gaps between Indian and non-Indian students in the next five years.” The Council “will set realistic details such as how much that gap can be narrowed each year and what methods are used to do that.” According to LuAnn Werdel, director of Indian education for the state Education Department, council members “have years of experience working in rural and urban areas and in schools administrated by the state, tribes and the federal government.”

School Finance
Indiana Paid Schools $94 Million In 2009 For “Ghost” Students.
The AP (10/ 3) reported that Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is pushing a school funding “formula that would let education money follow each student.” Since 1981, the state has provided “schools with funding for students who leave at a declining rate for three additional years.” This means that districts receive money for students who are no longer in the classroom. In 2009, “Indiana sent $94 million to schools…to support 16,315 “ghost” students who were no longer enrolled.” Critics of the current formula “say the money should go toward districts with increasing enrollment.” But state Sen. Earline Rogers (D) defended the formula, arguing that “districts need the money to pay expenses that continue even if enrollment drops.”

Texas Districts Set To Receive HHS Grants For Pregnancy Prevention.
Texas’ Star-Telegram (10/3, Cadwallader) reported that last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced “that it will give out more than 100 grants worth a total of $155 million nationwide for two types of teen pregnancy-prevention programs: those that will replicate approaches proven to be effective and those that will test innovative strategies.” Texas’ Arlington school district is set to receive one of the grants, worth $996,000 in the first year and up to $5 million over five years, “to help steer students away from risky behaviors.” Arlington “is among seven Texas education institutions and organizations to share $7.6 million” from HHS. The district has designed a program that “will provide counselors and tutors who can work with students in their homes and at alternative education sites as well as help with transportation, life-skills training and contacting social service agencies.”

Columnist Says Lack Of Classroom Spending Is Most Harmful To Education.
Elizabeth Hovde wrote in a column for The Oregonian (10/2) that the “teaching profession sees high turnover in the first five years, but so do other industries. … Though some of us might think Oregon spends enough on a per pupil basis (count me in that category), the amount of money reaching classrooms isn’t enough.” According to Hovde, until more resources are dedicated to the classroom, “large class sizes and shorter school years jeopardize the academic results we want for Oregon students and diminish the ability of even the state’s best teachers to succeed” and “no amount of professional development and no number of teacher retention efforts seem likely to change that.”

Also in the News
Suicides Put Spotlight On School Bullying Issue.
The New York Times (10/4, McKinley) reports, “The case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a sexual encounter with another man was broadcast online, has shocked many. But his death is just one of several suicides in recent weeks by young gay teenagers who had been harassed by classmates, both in person and online.” According to the Times, “The deaths have set off an impassioned – and sometimes angry – response from gay activists and caught the attention of federal officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who on Friday called the suicides ‘unnecessary tragedies’ brought on by ‘the trauma of being bullied.’”

NEA in the News
Jones Says Clark County Teachers Would Be Consulted On New School Policy Ideas.
The Las Vegas Sun (10/2, Ramirez) reported that Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones, “who has been offered the job of school superintendent, said the teachers union in the Clark County School District has nothing to fear from a tough teacher-effectiveness law passed recently in” Colorado. Jones told the Las Vegas Sun that “any ‘new ideas’ in Clark County would evolve in collaboration with teachers and others.” The Sun points out, however that a Colorado bill making it “easier to fire poorly performing teachers” was passed in May, despite the teachers union’s objections. The law goes into effect in 2014. Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo said that “the Colorado law ‘sounds like a work in progress.’” And, regarding future reforms in the district, Murillo added, “I want to make sure whatever school reform is passed that it is done in a fair and equitable way.”

More Districts Adopting Singapore Math.
The New York Times (10/1, Hu) reports that Franklin Lakes, NJ “is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math…amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.” Singapore math “supporters say it seems to address one of the difficulties in teaching math: all children learn differently. In contrast to the most common math programs in the United States, Singapore math devotes more time to fewer topics, to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards and bar charts.”

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In the Classroom
Virginia High School Graduation Rates Increase.
The Washington Post (10/1, Sieff) reports, “More than 85 percent of Virginia high school seniors received diplomas on time in 2010 – marking a two point increase in the state’s overall graduation rate, as well as a three point improvement among black and hispanic students. State education officials said the numbers, which were released Thursday, represented a step toward closing the longstanding achievement gap between white and minority students.” According to the Post, the on-time graduation rate across Virginia “was 78.9 percent for black students, and 76 percent for Hispanics” and “just under 89 percent” for white students.

New York City School Ratings Plunge.
The New York Times (10/1, Otterman, Gebeloff) reports, “The number of New York City public schools earning an A on the city’s A-to-F school report cards has plunged, according to results released on Thursday, as schools began to feel the impact of the state’s decision to make its standardized English and math exams tougher to pass. For the 2009-10 academic year, only 25 percent of city elementary and middle schools received A’s, down from 84 percent the previous year, when many more students excelled under the easier standards.” According to the Times, charter schools “over all received lower grades than traditional schools.”

Campaign Credited For Detroit Public Schools’ Higher-Than-Expected Student Count.
The Detroit Free Press (9/30, Dawsey, Walsh-Sarnecki) reported that Detroit public schools on Wednesday encouraged high attendance among students on Wednesday by holding pizza parties and prize giveaways “for the statewide student head count that determines funding.” Based on “unofficial counts,” Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said that “the district met its budgeted student count of 77,314 and enrollment is declining at a slower rate than in the past.” The Detroit Free Press noted that Michigan districts “may still get state funds for enrolled students who missed count day. A student who was absent has 10 days to return without an excuse, or 30 days to return to school with an excuse.”

The Detroit News (9/30, Lewis) reported that the preliminary student count on Wednesday was “better than projected enrollment of 76,000 but well below last year’s number, 84,000.” Bobb is quoted as saying, “I’m cautiously optimistic. .. We had a loss of 7,000 students, but at one time we were losing 10,000 students a year, so that’s a lot less millions of dollars that we’re losing.” The high number of students Bobb attributed to “‘a very aggressive marketing plan’ and a more rigorous curriculum than last year.” Detroit Public Schools gets “$7,600 per student in state funding,” the Detroit News noted.

Lack Of Qualified STEM Teachers May Hamper US Economy.
WOWK-TV Huntington, WV (9/30, Earle) reported, “Poor science and mathematics skills could block people from getting a job. That is according to the Rising Above Gathering Storm review. Released at a congressional briefing scientific and educational experts claimed despite five years of federal funding, the nation’s education outlook in science and mathematics is still bleak.” The story noted, “Experts suggested if students matched educational systems like Finland’s for example, the U.S economy could grow by upwards of 16 percent. But a lack of qualified professionals has forced technological job seekers elsewhere.”

On the Job
Some Teachers In Nevada District Forced To Choose Between Pay Cut, Return To Retirement.
The Las Vegas Sun (9/30, Ramirez) reported that some of the 129 retired teachers employed by the Clark County School District had to decide yesterday “whether to take big pay cuts to stay in the” critical labor shortage program “or return to retirement.” The program “allows retired teachers and other staff to return to work in special education, mathematics and other subjects where they are needed.” But, “Under state rules, 60 teachers can collect” both pension payments and a salary “this school year, meaning 69 face reduced pay or a return to retirement.” According to Clark County Education Association vice President Rob Benson, retired staffers have “an outsize influence on how schools are evaluated under the federal law and that an exodus would hurt schools.”

Law & Policy
Michigan Lawmakers Approve Per-Pupil Funding Increase For School Districts.
WLNS-TV Lansing, Michigan (9/30, Maki) reported that Michigan lawmakers approved a bill on Wednesday that would give school districts about $154 more per pupil by adding “about $300 million in stimulus funds into Michigan’s school budget.” According to WLNS, “most are pleased with the money,” but “some say schools should be cautious with the funds, because it’s only around this fiscal year. .. The bill still needs approval from Governor Jennifer Granholm.”

Schwarzenegger Signs Bill Requiring Fresh Water In School Food Service Areas.
The AP (10/1) reports that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Thursday signed a bill requiring “that water be available in public schools’ food service areas by next July.” The bill does note, however, provide “funding for school administrators to purchase equipment or do water tests and does not apply to private or charter schools.” But, schools may “opt out if they can’t afford to provide free drinking water or have health and safety concerns.”

Rep. Honda Introduces Bill To Create Office Of STEM Education.
The Hill (10/1, Nagesh) reports, “Calling the country ‘woefully inequipped’ to teach students about science and math, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would create an office to oversee federal efforts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.” The bill drafted by Honda, a former science educator himself, “would create an Office of STEM in the Department of Education at the assistant-secretary level in charge of coordinating all federal efforts to boost STEM education. It would also establish a voluntary consortium where states can collaborate to develop common standards for STEM in K-12 education. Finally, there will be a repository where educators can research the latest innovations in STEM. Honda said this bill is a precursor to comprehensive legislation he plans to introduce early next year that will provide a blueprint for improving STEM education nationwide.”

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School Finance
Massachusetts District To Sell Ads On Classroom Supplies.
The Boston Globe (10/1, Abel) reports that business ads “could soon be appearing on permission slips, class calendars, and school notices sent home with Peabody elementary school students after a unanimous School Committee vote this week.” The Peabody school district, “like nearly every other district in Massachusetts, has coped with cuts in state aid and escalating costs for everything from contractual obligations to instructional supplies.” District officials are aiming for initial earnings of up to $24,000. “They expect advertisers to pay $300 to run ads on some 10,000 sheets of paper in one elementary school.” Businesses can also advertise at “all elementary schools in the district” for $2,000. The Boston Globe notes that before turning to ad sales, Peabody “hiked fees for buses and sports” and laid off teachers and staff.

Montgomery County, Maryland, Seeks Grant For “High-Tech High.”
The Washington Post (9/30, Ujifusa) reported, “Montgomery County school officials say they hope to hear soon about a federal grant that would create a ‘high-tech high’ for the 2011-12 school year. The $3.2 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the US Department of Education would lead to combining Wheaton and Thomas Edison high schools in Silver Spring, enlarging [CTE] programs that have a waiting list, eliminating underenrolled classes,” and creating the Montgomery County High Tech High School, “a full four-year high school [CTE] program option and introducing more high-tech instruction.” However, the Post notes, “The Board of Education did not discuss or vote on the grant before an application was submitted in April, and some Thomas Edison High School of Technology parents expressed surprise and anger that community input wasn’t sought.”

Alabama Schools Awarded Grants For Robotics Education.
The Huntsville (AL) Times (10/1, Bonvillian) reports on “40 schools from North Alabama who were awarded grant money from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Pathfinder Chapter.” The grants will help the schools “purchase robot kits, computers and other items that give students an opportunity to learn and to participate in robotics competitions.” The Times notes, “Pathfinder also awarded $5,000 grants to the Alabama Council for Technology in Education, the Alabama First Lego League and SciQuest. The ACTE grant will help pay for its annual technology fair, which is held each spring at the Von Braun Center.”

Also in the News
Program Allows High School Students To Assign Punishment To Youth Offenders.
WDIV-TV Detroit (9/30) reported that Detroit Public Schools is implementing the Safe Schools Project, under which “youth offenders between the ages of 11 and 16, who have no prior juvenile court record, commit specified minor misdemeanors, and are willing to admit responsibility are put before a jury of students at two Detroit high schools.” Teen jurors will question the offenders and “recommend an appropriate punishment that does not involve any form of detention” such as community service, restitution, or an apology. By participating, “youth offenders…would avoid a juvenile record.”

Walt Disney Company Joins First Lady’s Campaign To Combat Childhood Obesity.
AFP (10/1) reports, “The Walt Disney Company on Thursday threw its weight behind a campaign championed by US First Lady Michelle Obama to push back child obesity. The ‘Magic of Healthy Living’ campaign will feature public service announcements by Michelle Obama, teen idol Nick Jonas, TV star Brenda Song and other celebrities, all seeking ‘to inspire kids’ to lead healthy lives and help their parents to instill good habits in them, Disney said in a statement.” According to AFP, “The Disney initiative is part of the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign launched by the US first lady in January this year to push back the epidemic of US childhood obesity within a generation.”

George W. Bush Institute Launches Initiative To Recruit, Train Principals.
The AP (9/30) reports that on Wednesday, former first lady Laura Bush announced the George W. Bush Institute’s first initiative focused on improving “the performance of school principals.” The institute is establishing the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL), which “will consist of school districts, universities and foundations offering educational programs to current and future school leaders,” with the goal of certifying “at least half the nation’s public school principals by 2020.” Already, “organizations in six cities are participating.”

Education Week (9/29, Aarons) reports that the initiative “also looks to broaden the talent pool for the profession by tapping into organizations such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools to recruit a different set of school leaders.” Roughly 200 “aspiring principals will take part in the programs” in the first year, “with plans to build up from there, said James W. Guthrie, a senior fellow and director of education policy studies for the institute.”

The Dallas Morning News (9/30, Stahl) reports that the Dallas Independent School District is participating in AREL. A “spokesman said that the district is particularly hopeful the Bush initiative will develop job candidates for local secondary schools.” The Dallas morning News adds that Bush and Dallas schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa “stressed that the new effort should not be interpreted as a threat to educators who want to become principals through traditional channels. But they said they will actively search for job candidates with business, military and sports backgrounds.”

McClatchy (9/29, Ayala) reported that “the models used in the alliance will vary across the nation but must include certain elements, such as mentoring. Guthrie said school districts also will be encouraged to give more authority to principals so they can truly be leaders.”

“Irresistible Forces” Driving Change In Public Schools, Bush Institute Official Says. James W. Guthrie, the director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute, writes in the Christian Science Monitor (9/29), “The recently released documentary, ‘Waiting For Superman,’ paints a discouraging future for America’s schools” and “suggests that only a ‘superman’ can bring about public-school change.” But Guthrie asserts that “superman has already arrived…as a set of irresistible forces that is driving education reform as never before.” He lists the “forces” as “a growing understanding of what works…increasing public pressure, and” the need to make “hard choices in the face of fiscal crisis.” Guthrie provides insight into how each of the forces are driving education reform in America and concludes, “I have never seen such a favorable alignment of forces on reform’s side. … The results will be good for students, good for teachers, and very good indeed for America.”

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In the Classroom
Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent Seeks To Shorten Summer Break.
KFOR-TV Oklahoma City (9/30, Carter) reports that Oklahoma city Superintendent Karl Springer this week said that he wants to see the school year extended. “It makes no sense to me to have 12 weeks off in the summer,” said Carter. Instead, he proposed a 6-7 week-long summer break, with “more time off throughout the year.” But, according to Dr. Bill Pink, an education expert at the University of Central Oklahoma, “extending the school year could cost the district more money.” Pink, who favors a longer school year, also said that “teachers would need more training so the extra time is more productive.”

Virginia Launches Pilot Replacing Textbooks With iPads.
Virginia’s Daily Press (9/30, Shalash) reports that students in two classes at Menchville High and An Achievable Dream High schools in Newport News, Virginia, will use “iPads loaded with a digital curriculum created by Pearson,” instead of textbooks. The switch is part of a statewide “pilot program launched” on Wednesday called “Beyond Textbooks.” With the iPads, “students will be able to customize lesson text by writing in the margins, bookmarking and highlighting in the digital books.” In the coming weeks, “teachers will be trained how to use the devices…and students will begin using the content in late October through mid-November.” The 40 digital devices worth $499 each “were paid for through a grant from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Productivity Investment Fund,” the Daily Press adds.

Students Explore Caves To Learn About Geology.
The St. Petersburg Times (9/30, Ritchie) reports that as part of a unit on geology, Gulf Coast Academy science teacher Melissa Raulerson’s seventh-grade class visited the Dames Caves in Lecanto, Florida. The group was “divided into four groups to explore the area’s four caves.” In addition to “exploring, the students were invited (but not required) to take a couple of tests to determine if they were capable of more advanced caving.” The Academy’s curriculum director, Joseph Gatti, also attended the trip and explained to the students “that caves are natural drainage systems carved out of limestone over tens of thousands of years.”

Academically Troubled School In Florida May Extend School Day. The St. Petersburg Times (9/30, Catalanello) reports that the “academically troubled Gibbs High School” could become Pinellas County’s first school “to use extended hours to help raise student performance.” This week, Principal Kevin Gordon notified parents that the school is considering adding 35 minutes to each day as early as next week. The school district is currently in negotiations with teachers to pay them for the extra time. “The district’s lead negotiator on Wednesday offered a $1,000 supplement to teachers at Gibbs.” Union officials are considering the district’s proposal, but are concerned that the proposed schedule does not include enough planning time for teachers.

Middle School Students Develop Nutrition, Exercise Curriculum For Elementary Students.
The Quay County (NM) Sun (9/30, Anglin) reports eighth grade students in Tucumcari are developing exercise and nutrition curriculum to present to third grade students. The effort is organized through the New Mexico University Cooperate Extension Service’s Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) program. ICAN educator Alice “Johnson said she often hears from parents who notice a change in their child’s awareness of food” after students complete the program.

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On the Job
Baltimore Teachers Could Earn More, Faster Under Tentative Agreement.
The Baltimore Sun (9/30, Green, Bowie) reports that the Baltimore school districts new tentative agreement with teachers would allow the most “effective and ambitious” teachers “to move quickly through the ranks and earn up to $100,000 a year, as well as give teachers more input on working conditions in their schools.” In addition, the contract “dictates that by its third year…80 percent of teachers in a school could help set working conditions not outlined in the general contract, such as a longer work day or more planning time.” The Baltimore Sun notes that the agreement’s “pay-structure overhauls are among the most radical in the nation.” In addition to “an automatic 2 percent pay increase in the first year of the contract,” teachers would receive “a one-time $1,500 stipend for signing the contract, paid for with money from the federal jobs bill passed recently by Congress.”

New Program Allows Principals In Nevada District To Use iPads To Evaluate Teachers.
The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal (9/30, Perea) reports, “If you walk down the hallway or into a classroom of a Lyon County School, you’re liable to encounter the principal with an Apple iPad in his hand,” which, as a part of a new district program, “allows principals to evaluate teachers and give them immediate feedback on what he observed while visiting their classrooms.” According to the Gazette-Journal, “Lyon County School District policy requires principals to spend at least an hour a day in classrooms to observe and evaluate teachers, and according to Scott Lommori, the District’s Director of Testing & Educational Technology, the new iPad program allows them to fill out the evaluation form and upload information immediately, giving the teacher immediate feedback into what they are doing right or wrong.”

Law & Policy
Districts Struggle To Integrate Schools Following Supreme Court Ruling.
USA Today (9/30, Biskupic) reports that following a 2007 US Supreme Court ruling striking down a school integration program in the Louisville, KY district, elementary schools “in white neighborhoods…are whiter now, and those in the black neighborhoods are blacker.” Now, under “a new student-assignment plan that’s tied to household income and dependent on increased cross-town busing, elementary schools” in Louisville “slowly are being integrated in a different way. … Its situation reflects the new landscape for school integration” which has prompted districts to “decide whether to continue to make integration a priority or return to neighborhood schools, whose enrollments often reflect communities’ racial divide.”

Safety & Security
Classroom Science Kit Makers Seek Exemption From Consumer Product Safety Testing.
The AP (9/30, Kerr) reports that the future of classroom science kits is uncertain as the Consumer Product Safety Commission “writes guidelines on what makes a product a “children’s product” – and consequently which products would have to undergo more stringent safety testing.” The purpose of the document is “to help sort out which products have to be tested under legislation passed by Congress over two years ago that requires rigorous safety checks for…potential dangers.” But “science kit makers argue [that] paper clips, rulers and other items in the kits aren’t harmful to children…and shouldn’t have to be tested because they are everyday items found in homes and schools that don’t have to be tested if bought separately at retail.” Moreover, testing such items “would force them to refocus and market kits to older children instead of the 12-and-under crowd the law targets.”

School Finance
DC Schools May Face Another Budget Shortfall.
The Washington Post (9/30, Turque) reports, “The D.C. public school system, which laid off more than 200 teachers last October to close what Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said was a budget gap, is facing potential new financial problems in the fiscal year that begins Friday because of a projected $30 million in overspending on special education.” According to the Post, “Despite last year’s layoffs,” DC Mayor Adrian Fenty’s “administration has carefully shielded its education budgets from the ax that has fallen on city agencies as the District’s economy has deteriorated. … But the city’s continued financial problems, driven by declining tax revenue, could place the education budget at greater risk, despite its status as a top priority of the mayor and council.”

Also in the News
Libraries Going High-Tech To Meet Demands Of Tech-Savvy Patrons.
The AP (9/30, Nuss) reports, “Libraries are tweeting, texting and launching smart-phone apps as they try to keep up with” increasingly tech savvy patrons and “they seem to be pulling it off. … The latest national data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services show that library visits and circulation climbed nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2008. Since then, experts say, technology has continued to drive in-person visits, circulation and usage.”‘

New Jersey Governor Announces K-12 Education Reform Plans.
The New York Times (9/29, A22, Hu) reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday said that “ineffective teachers” should not have tenure, asserting that “tenure should be granted and maintained for those who show they know how to teach.” Moreover, Christie said that teachers should not get pay increases “for completion of a certain number of years of service, or for earning a master’s or other graduate degree, unless the teacher can show that their students’ performance improved.”

The AP (9/29) reports that Christie does, however, want “to create ‘master teacher’ and ‘master principal’ designations to give more responsibilities — and more pay — to effective teachers and administrators.”

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/29) reports that also included in the reforms Christie announced on Tuesday are plans for “completing a statewide data system that tracks student achievement, forming of a teacher evaluation task force…and allowing alternate route certification for principals.” New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian pointed out that the governor’s “suggested reliance on student test scores to determine a teacher’s worth has been proven scientifically ineffective.” Said Keshishian, “What he proposes — an over-reliance on student test scores to make critical decisions from compensation to employment — is fatally flawed.”

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/29) reports that Christie will hold a town hall on Thursday to outline “his agenda for transforming New Jersey’s education bureaucracy.” The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (9/28, Malwitz) reported that on Tuesday, Christie spoke to an “audience of about 200 people” about his plans “to reform public education in” New Jersey. “His main point of attack was against the concept of tenure, which” he said “has its place at the college level,” but not in K-12 classrooms.

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In the Classroom
Baltimore District, Union Reach Agreement On Pay System That Rewards Teacher Effectiveness.
The Baltimore Sun (9/29, Bowie, Green) reports that a tentative agreement recently reached between the “Baltimore school district and its teachers union…would end the longtime practice of linking pay to years of employment and place the city at the forefront of a national reform effort.” The new “pay system…would reward skills and effectiveness.” It could also “be easily married to the state’s new laws and regulations that require 50 percent of teacher evaluations to be based on student achievement.” More details on the agreement will be released today.

Students Report Food Allergy-Related Bullying In Survey.
Jeannine Stein wrote in the Los Angeles Times (9/28) “Booster Shots” blog that a new study published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found “that about one-quarter of” the 353 children with food allergies “surveyed said they were bullied because of their food allergies.” And, “among those who had been bullied, about 44% said that the food they were allergic to had been waved in their face.” Still, “none of the participants reported having an allergic reaction as a result of being bullied.” While most of the students said “the bullies were classmates…about 18 participants said a teacher or other school staff member had done the teasing.”

On the Job
Some Rural Districts Seeking To Hire More Home-Grown Teachers.
The AP (9/29, Zagier) reports, “Faced with chronic teacher shortages and unable to compete with the higher salaries and greater social opportunities found in big cities and suburban districts, a growing number of rural school systems are turning to familiar faces to teach their students. They know teachers with rural backgrounds are more likely to stick around and not leave after a year or two.” According to the AP, rural districts can count on teachers with rural backgrounds to be “more in touch with their students’ home lives, whether their parents are Indiana farmers, Mississippi factory workers or Northern California grape pickers.”

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Law & Policy
Court Says Teaching Interns In California Were Illegally Classified As “Highly Qualified.”
The AP (9/29) reports that the 9th US Circuit Court “has ruled that California illegally classified interns as ‘highly qualified’ teachers and assigned them to schools in low-income and minority areas.” The court found that the “Bush administration policy adopted by a California commission” does not comply with “the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires teachers to have full state certification to teach core subjects.”

The San Francisco Chronicle (9/29, Egelko) reports that the decision “was a victory for impoverished families in Richmond, Hayward and Los Angeles who filed suit in 2007.” The families “claimed their schools were saddled with disproportionate numbers of untrained interns because of federal and state regulations that flouted federal law.” While “the ruling doesn’t require school districts to fire interns or bar them from teaching core subjects,” it does require “districts in California — and potentially other states — to change their assignment policies so that the least-prepared teachers are not routinely placed in the neediest schools, said John Affeldt, a lawyer for the families.”

District May Ban Negative School-Related Comments By Teachers On Social Media Sites.
WFTS-TV Tampa (9/28) reported that the Manatee school board “is considering new rules that would ban teachers from posting negative comments or photos about the district on social networking sites like Facebook.” WFTS added that “the issue arose after a middle school teacher posted that he hated his students and job on Facebook.”

Florida’s Herald Tribune (9/28, O’Donnell) reported that “on Friday, leaders of the Manatee Education Association joined critics warning school officials that the rules are too restrictive.” Opponents of the plan say that “limiting teachers’ use of social networking websites…could be unconstitutional.” Said MEA business official Bruce Proud, “We have concerns about teachers’ privacy and rights to free speech. … The policy language seems to restrict employees’ ability to speak publicly.”

Some Districts Use Software Instead Of Teachers For Foreign Language Instruction.
Meredith Orban wrote in a blog for FOX News (9/28) that Randolph, New Jersey “is one of several districts in the state cutting elementary foreign language teachers due to budget cuts.” Though using Rosetta Stone software has allowed the district to save on language instructor personnel costs, not “everyone agrees though that a computer program is a suitable alternative to a living, breathing teacher. Brett Lovejoy, Executive Director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign languages points out that language learning is a ‘highly intensive interactive process’ and says the presence of a live teacher is very important.”

School Finance
Obama’s Call For Longer School Year Faces Daunting Budget Realities.
The AP (9/29, Matthews) reports, “President Barack Obama’s call for a longer school day and year for America’s kids echoes a similar call he made a year ago to little effect, illustrating just how deeply entrenched the traditional school calendar is and how little power the federal government has to change it. Education reformers have long called for US kids to log more time in the classroom so they can catch up with their peers elsewhere in the world,” yet extending the school year “could cost cash-strapped state governments and local school districts billions of dollars, strip teachers of a time-honored perk of their profession, and irk officials in states that already bridle at federal intrusion into their traditional control over education.”

The Denver Post (9/28, Meyer) reported, “President Barack Obama on Monday called for longer school years and longer school days, a concept education reformers have pushed for decades only to be rebuffed because of a lack of funding. … In Colorado, where rural schools are already moving to four-day school weeks to save money, and future big education cuts are a certainty, the notion of paying more for a longer school year or day is a tough sell.” According to the Post, Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, is quoted saying despite the calls for an extended school day, the question is “are people willing to raise taxes” to implement longer school days.

Strauss: Sidwell Eschews Obama Administration Emphasis On Standardized Tests. Valerie Strauss wrote in a blog for the Washington Post (9/28), “There is some irony behind President Obama’s comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn’t dream of adopting.” According to Strauss, “At Sidwell, a Quaker school, teachers don’t spend days drilling kids to pass standardized tests, and they aren’t evaluated by student test scores. .. The irony is that Obama’s own education policies give standardized testing a central place in public education, though he chose a school for his children that wouldn’t see that as a sound way to run an academic program.”

Also in the News
Laura Bush Expected To Unveil Public School Reform Program.
The Dallas Morning News (9/29, Stahl) reports, “Former first lady Laura Bush is expected to unveil a public school reform program today that will be the first large-scale policy initiative of the George W. Bush Institute at” Southern Methodist University. According to the Morning News, “The plan involves a new collaboration of educators, nonprofits and businesses aimed at improving the performance of public school students by altering the role of principals. … The idea is to develop a fast track into schools for experienced or promising leaders who don’t necessarily have training as educators – such as retired military personnel.”

Students Praise Actor’s First Year As Teacher.
The AP (9/29, Matheson) reports, “When former sitcom star Tony Danza began teaching English at a Philadelphia high school, no one really knew what to expect. Not even Tony Danza.” Danza taught one 90-minute class at Northeast High School last year, where he dealt “with cheating and violence,” met “with parents of obstinate students, and” tried “to balance discipline with empathy — all while teaching ‘Of Mice and Men’ and other books to teens with varying academic abilities.” In addition, he “helped coach Northeast’s football team, organized a student variety show, sang the national anthem at a Phillies game, and participated in a citywide clean-up and a poetry slam.” Danza’s students have “largely praised him, citing everything from his lessons…to his caring attitude and positive outlook on life,” the AP adds.

NEA in the News
After Impasse, Utah District Agrees To Salary Increases For School Employees.
The Salt Lake Tribune (9/29) reports that the Jordan Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to increase pay for “teachers and other school employees,” months after coming to an impasse on contract negotiations with the Jordan Education Association (JEA). The district made its decision “After meeting with a state-appointed hearing officer. … JEA, which formally approved the deal on Monday, agreed to forfeit the raises next year – unless the Legislature kicks in the needed funds.” The Salt Lake Tribune quotes JEA President Jennifer Boehme as saying, “It’s incredible for teachers to have steps and lanes this year. … We are the first school district in the state to have taken the negotiations process to a [state] hearing. We feel like it was a positive step for us.”

Facebook Founder To Donate $100 Million To New Jersey District.
The New York Times (9/23, A27, Perez-Pena) reports that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will donate $100 million to Newark, New Jersey public schools. “In conjunction with the huge gift,” Gov. Chris Christie (R) has agreed to “cede some control of the state-run system to Mayor Cory A. Booker…officials said” yesterday. While Zuckerberg “has no particular connection to Newark,” he met Booker at a conference this summer “and began a continuing conversation about the mayor’s plans for the city, according to people familiar with their relationship.” Booker, the Times adds, “has been traveling the country…proselytizing and raising money for Newark.”

The North Jersey Media Group (9/23, Margolin, Giambusso) reports that under Booker’s authority, the Newark “school system will embark on a massive program of educational change long opposed by the state teachers union. It will include an expansion of charter schools, new achievement standards and methods for judging which schools and teachers are effective,” according to sources.

The AP (9/23) reports that Mayor Booker, Gov. Christie, and Zuckerberg plan “to announce the donation Friday” on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The AP also notes that Newark is searching for a new superintendent as “Christie opted last month not to rehire” the District’s current leader.

AFP (9/22) notes that the $100 million gift “would be by far the largest publicly known gift by Zuckerberg, whose fortune was estimated last year by Forbes magazine at two billion dollars.” The announcement expected Friday also “would come a week ahead of the October 1st release of ‘The Social Network’ film, a Hollywood take on the birth of Facebook that casts a harsh light on its founder.”

The Wall Street Journal (9/23, Martinez, Fowler), the New York Magazine (9/22, Duboff) “Daily Intel” blog, and Mashable (9/23, Robinson) also cover this story.

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In the Classroom
Number Of Homeless Students In Oregon On The Rise, State Report Says.
Oregon’s Register Guard (9/23, Williams) reports that the Oregon Department of Education released a report Wednesday saying that “more than 19,000 students were homeless at some point during the” 2009-10 school “year, a 5.5 percent increase from the previous year.” Oregon’s Statesman Journal (9/22, Knowlton) reported that “Oregon counted 19,040 homeless students around the state, which is the highest recorded since the count began seven years ago.”

KPTV Beaverton, Oregon (9/23) reports that in the seven years Oregon has been taking count, “the number of students who don’t have a permanent place to sleep at night has increased 134 percent.” KTVZ-TV Bend, Oregon (9/23) adds, “This year’s data shows changes in district counts which may indicate movement by homeless families away from urban core areas, to suburban districts where transitional housing and social services are becoming more available.”

The Portland Tribune (9/22) noted that the “Beaverton School District had the highest number of homeless students, 1,580, about 4 percent of its total enrollment.” State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo is quoted as saying, “Our homeless students face enormous challenges. … It is imperative our schools help address their basic needs so they may attend school consistently.”

Computer Program Helps Students Overcome Difficulty Reading.
Canada’s Vancouver Sun (9/21, Steffenhagen) reported, “A computer program designed for children who struggle with language and literacy has had such a profound effect in Surrey [British Columbia] schools that the people involved say they’ve been moved to tears.” According to the Sun, the Fast ForWord program “is not strictly about reading, even though literacy is the goal. Rather, it is designed to change the way students process the smallest units of sound, which are so tiny that they occur within milliseconds and can’t be reproduced by the human voice.”

Maryland Students Craft Pinwheels For Peace.
The Baltimore Sun (9/23, Burris) reports that on Tuesday, students at Forest Ridge Elementary School in Laurel, MD participated in “Pinwheels for Peace, a worldwide project where children craft images and messages about peace then fold their papers into twirly objects and plant them in the ground as part of International Day of Peace. … According to the project website, Florida-based Pinwheels for Peace was started in 2005 by art instructors” in a Florida school who “urged their students to convey feelings about the world and their own lives.” Pinwheels for Peace “coincides with the International Day of Peace, which the United Nations established in 1981 as a global call for cease-fire and nonviolence, according to its website.”

Students At California High School Celebrate International Day Of Peace. California’s Mercury News (9/22) reported that students at Logan High School in Union City, CA “have been making signs, painting a mural and decorating T-shirts to promote” the International Day of Peace. According to the Mercury News, “During the school’s two lunch periods, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., students will gather on the football field to organize themselves into ‘peace messages,’” said district spokesman Rick La Plante. The Mercury News added, “In past years, students held similar gatherings in which they spelled out the word ‘peace’ during one lunch period and formed a human peace sign during the second.”

Students In Florida County “Stand Up for Peace.” WFOR-TV Miami (9/23, Loren) reports that on Wednesday, “Stand Up for Peace Across Broward Day was celebrated by students” in Broward County, FL “as part of, ‘Choose Peace-Stop Violence Week.’ The movement featured peace marches, creating a human peace symbols, and decorating the schools with pinwheels for peace were among the ways students came together to fight youth violence which has plagued Broward county over the last year.”

On the Job
Florida Superintendent Says State “Turnaround Schools” Model Flawed.
The St. Petersburg Times (9/23, Marshall) reports that Middleton High School in Tampa, Florida, “gained a reprieve this week after the state Board of Education granted it another year to show progress under a turnaround plan.” Without the reprieve, “the school could have faced closure or takeover by a charter or outside management firm.” According to Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, Florida’s differentiated accountability program calls for failing schools to be unfairly “listed right along with improving schools on a state watch-list” and Elia “said she asked the Board of Education to consider tweaking the program so that improving schools don’t get wrongly labeled.”

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Law & Policy
School Policies Keeping Parents With Felonies From Chaperoning Events Questioned.
The AP (9/23, Tucker) reports on the plight of Wendy Cross, a parent who “wants to chaperone field trips and” supervise “activities at her children’s school in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” but is not allowed to do so because she has a felony record for bad checks written “a decade ago.” School districts throughout the US “increasingly use background checks to weed out volunteers with criminal pasts.” Some observers, however, question whether “parents with records — especially for offenses not connected to children” should “be automatically barred from volunteering” at schools. The Grand Rapids school system may consider revising its policy, but it is “wary of carving out too many exceptions,” said spokesman John Helmholdt.

Texas BOE To Vote On Resolution Against “Pro-Islamic, Anti-Christian” History Books.
The New York Times (9/23, McKinley) reports that on Friday, the Texas Board of Education will vote on “a resolution that would send a blunt message to textbook publishers: Do not present a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian version of history if you want to sell books in one of the nation’s largest markets.” Board Chairman Gail Lowe said the resolution seeks “to ensure there is balanced treatment of divergent groups. … In the past, the textbooks have had some bias against Christianity,” Lowe added. Board Member Randy Rives wrote and submitted the resolution, which “says the board would ‘look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups.’”

Florida BOE Moves Forward With Plan To Remove Sugary Drinks From Schools.
Fox News (9/22) reported that the Florida Board of Education voted Tuesday to move forward with “a plan that will remove all sugary drinks in schools, including soda and flavored milk.” Under the plan, “high school students would be allowed diet sodas and other low-calorie drinks,” but “younger children” would only be allowed “water, 100 percent juice, and plain, low-fat milk.” The Orlando Sentinel (9/22, Balona) noted that if given final approval, Florida would be “the first state in the nation to ban chocolate milk in public schools.”

Senate Bill Exposes Rift Within Expanded Learning Community.
Education Week (9/22, Deily) reported that a “spending bill that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee in late July would increase the allotment for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to nearly $1.3 billion, up $100 million from its current level.” Currently, the program covers “after-school, before-school, and summer learning programs.” However, “new provisions in the fiscal 2011 bill” reflect values of the Obama administration, “which has embraced the concept of experimenting with extending the school day and year.” According to Education Week, the bill “has exposed a division” within the expanded learning community among “groups that provide enrichment activities outside school as well as those that work within schools with nontraditional school days.”

School Finance
Texas Districts Affected By Hurricane Ike Want State To Help Pay Insurance Premiums.
The AP (9/22) reported that some Texas school districts that suffered “extensive property damage caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008 have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket and want the state to help pay for it.” In Galveston County, for instance, “premiums increased by 40 percent” after Ike to $1.8 million this year. In addition, “the district has spent about $42 million on Ike recovery.” According to State Rep. Craig Eiland (D), Texas “should incorporate higher insurance premiums for school districts along the Gulf Coast when calculating school funding.”

Duncan Expects Texas To Eventually Get Share Of Federal Teacher Jobs Aid.
The Dallas Morning News (9/23, Gillman) reports that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “predicted Wednesday that Texas eventually will get its $830 million share of federal aid to help school districts avert layoffs. … Texas has been blocked from its share of a $10 billion emergency school funding package because” Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) “Democratic critics in Congress recently enacted a special, Texas-only provision requiring him to promise to keep state school funding level through 2013 to qualify.” ED “rejected Texas’ request for the funds two weeks ago, saying it could not grant a waiver under the rules Congress imposed” and Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman for Duncan, “said Texas will have until September 2012 to reapply, and the funds won’t be spent elsewhere before then.”

Also in the News
Duncan: Gray Will Continue DC School Reform.
The Washington Post (9/23, Anderson, Turque) reports, “Presumptive [DC] mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray, facing the most keenly anticipated personnel decision of his administration-in-waiting, is scheduled to sit down with Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee on Thursday for a conversation that is expected to address how long Rhee will remain on the job.” According to the Post, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “said that he was ‘a big fan’ of Rhee’s and hoped that she would stay because urban education often suffers because of rapid turnover in school leadership. … But Duncan, who appeared with Fenty at a couple of high-profile Education Department events in the final days of the primary campaign, predicted that Gray would be a strong force for education reform in any event.”

NEA in the News
Florida Supreme Court To Hear Case Against Amendment Loosening Class-Size Limits.
The AP (9/22) reported that on October 6, the Florida Supreme Court will “hear arguments on a proposed state constitutional amendment that would loosen class size limits.” The AP adds that “the Florida Education Association…wants the high court to block votes on Amendment 8 from being counted as it’s too late to take it off the ballot,” but critics say the existing class size rules are “too expensive and too rigid.”

Education Department Awards $442 Million In Teacher Incentive Fund Grants.
The AP (9/24) reports that the Education Department “is giving school districts and nonprofit organizations from across the country $442 million to create merit pay programs for teachers and principals. The Teacher Incentive Fund is aimed at attracting and rewarding quality educators and encouraging them to work in the country’s highest need schools.”

The Denver Post (9/23, Meyer) reports, “The money is also available to encourage teachers to choose to work in hard-to-serve schools and teach difficult-to-staff subjects, like special education or math.”

Ron Matus wrote in the St. Petersburg Times (9/23) “The Gradebook” blog that “the Pinellas and Hillsborough school districts are among 62 entities nationwide to swat down a Teacher Incentive Fund grant this year, the US Department of Education just announced.” Hillsborough “will get $10 million. Pinellas will get $7.2 million.”

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (9/24, Hui) reports, “The Wake County school system has won a $1.8 million federal grant that will allow it to continue a pilot program offering teacher merit pay at a high-poverty North Raleigh school.” According to the News & Observer, “Wake is among 62 recipients that will share part of a $500 million Teacher Incentive Fund pot.”

The Chicago Tribune (9/24, Malone) reports, “Chicago Public Schools will expand its effort to link an educator’s compensation to student achievement with a $35.9 million federal grant that will allow the district to reward principals, teachers and classroom aides in schools dogged by poverty, officials announced Thursday. The investment will target 25 city schools – and an estimated 1,125 teachers who work in them – where educators who improve student performance would be eligible to receive bonuses.” The Dallas Morning News (9/24, Hacker), the Austin American Statesman (9/24, Taboada), the Houston Chronicle (9/24, Mellon), the Seattle Times (9/24, Shaw) and the Detroit Free Press (9/24, Walsh-Sarnecki) also cover this story.

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In the Classroom
More Than Half Of All Kentucky Schools Meet AYP.
Kentucky’s Ledger & Times (9/24, Berry) reports that more than half of all public schools in Kentucky “met 100 percent of their [AYP] goals for 2009-2010.” In all, 640 schools met the goal “but 511 schools fell short.” Meanwhile, results from the Kentucky Core Content Test “showed increases in the percentage of students scoring at the highest performance levels in nearly every elementary and middle school grade level. But average high school scores fell slightly in all subject areas, except writing.” WLEX-TV Lexington (9/23) and WFPL-FM (9/23, McVeigh) also covered the story.

Report Shows Most Kentucky High School Graduates Not Career-Ready. Kentucky’s Courier Journal (9/23, Konz) reported that the Kentucky Department of Education released a report on Thursday which said that only “34 percent of the 40,528 students who graduated from public high schools across the state in 2010 were ready for college or jobs.” Student readiness was determined by looking at “the number of students meeting benchmarks on the ACT college-entrance exams…and the number of graduates receiving certificates stating they are ready for careers.” The courier Journal notes that “this is the first year the state has released college and career readiness results.”

Students In Utah Tour Solar Education Park.
The Salt Lake Tribune (9/24, Winters) reports that this week, “more than 400 Utah County students learned how the sun can turn on electric lights, heat a shower, and purify water during their tour of the new Solar Educational Park” in American Fork. Students “got to touch solar panels, watch giant mechanical “trackers” shift with the sun and see Great Salt Lake water condense inside a solar cone to become drinkable.” TRA-Mage Inc. created the park and “this is the first year that Utah Solar Energy Association has offered tours for K-12 students.”

New Jersey Physical Education Teacher Gets Approval To Teach Skateboarding.
ESPN (9/24, Higgins) reports that Bill Ewe, a physical education teacher at Kingsway Middle School in Swedesboro, NJ, has won district approval of a proposal to add skateboarding to the P.E. curriculum. According to ESPN, his skateboarding class “emphasizes balance, agility, coordination, self-esteem and perseverance over trying to become the next pro. … As some schools wave good-bye to dodgeball, they’ve welcomed other sports such as rock climbing and skateboarding.”

Report Says Poor Science Education Jeopardizes US Economy.
USA Today (9/24, Vergano) reports, “Stagnant scientific education imperils US economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures. Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and Congress members of both parties, the report,” titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” is an update of “a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.” USA quoted former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine, the head of the panel that produced the report, saying that the report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following.”

Study Shows Transient Nature Of Foster Care Impairs Learning. USA Today (9/24, King) reports, “Preliminary data from a 10-year study released Thursday, looking at how California foster kids stack up against their at-risk peers, suggests that academic challenges posed by poverty, disability and language barriers are compounded when those children also have to shuffle from school to school because they have no permanent family. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, shows that foster children consistently scored lower in state English and math tests, even when factors such as income, race and learning disabilities were taken into account.” According to USA Today, “The data was released at a Capitol Hill news conference by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Fostering Media Connections, which are hoping to spotlight the issue in Congress.”

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Law & Policy
Congress Considers Guidelines For How Schools Should Handle Concussions.
The Washington Post (9/24, Wagner) reports, “In a Thursday hearing of the House Education and Labor committee, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) outlined” a bill “introduced this week” that would set “minimum guidelines for how school districts should handle student-athletes recovering from concussions.” During the hearing, the panel “heard from, among others, medical experts, a former NFL player and a high school senior recovering from a concussion – all who applauded the bill as a needed step.” According to the Post, “Nine states, including Virginia, have passed laws that have addressed concussions.” Education Week (9/23, Samuels) also covered the story.

Special Needs
Auditors Recommend Integration Of Special Needs Students In San Francisco Schools.
The San Francisco Chronicle (9/23, Tucker) reported that an audit of the special education program in San Francisco public schools found that “the $122 million” the district spends “on its 6,300 special education students fails to consistently address the needs of those children.” Auditors said that “many special education students are clustered in schools designated for specific disabilities” and recommended that those students “be in regular classrooms with all other students.” Auditors also noted that schools are “disproportionately diagnosing disabilities based on race,” the Chronicle adds.

California’s Bay Citizen (9/23, Bundy) reported that the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative of Massachusetts “reviewed policies, procedures, training manuals, state records, job descriptions and other documents” for the audit. In addition, auditors “visited eight schools and interviewed more than 100 parents and education professionals.”

School Finance
Newark Mayor Seeks Matching Donations For $100 Million Education Fund.
CNN (9/24, Sahba, Gross) reports that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey, public schools “would be the largest known charitable donation by Zuckerberg, who Forbes magazine says is the 35th richest person in the United States with an estimated net worth of nearly $7 billion.” A source close to the matter told CNN that “Zuckerberg’s donation will be the first installment from a foundation financed by Zuckerberg and focused on bettering education.”

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/24, Margolin) reports that “according to an official familiar with the plan, the $100 million will be put as stock into a new foundation Zuckerberg is creating. The stock would be liquidated to send money to Newark as needed.” The official added that “this setup would give the Facebook founder the ability to stop the flow of money if he believes it has not been spent according to the gift of grant.” Wall Street Journal (9/24, Martinez) adds that Mayor Booker is seeking out other donors to match the $100 million donation.

Bloomberg News (9/24, Dopp, Staley) notes that Newark public schools, “with about 39,000 students, has been under state control since 1995.” The district was chosen by Zuckerberg “because of the persuasive powers of Mayor Cory Booker,” who co-founded Excellent Education for Everyone, according to Excellent Education for Everyone executive Derrell Bradford. PC Magazine (9/23, Horn) notes that “the $100 million is the largest gift that the troubled school system has ever received.”

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/24, Giambusso) reports in a separate story that “political and community leaders” in Newark reacted to the news of Zuckerberg’s donation “with a combination of cautious optimism and outrage.” While many said “the arrangement could be the spark that ignites true reform in the chronically failing district,” some “cast the announcement as a classic backroom deal that skirts the will of the voters.

NYTimes “Hopeful” About Education Reform Effort In Newark. New York Times (9/24, A28) editorializes that the announcement of Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark public schools “is good news.” However, “it will take a lot more than money to improve student performance in that city’s troubled system, which has continued to perform dismally since being taken over by the state 15 years ago.” The Times points out that Gov. Chris Christie (R) “is getting credit for allowing the deal to go forward,” yet “he attacked the public school budget with a meat ax soon after coming into office, turning back the clock on hard-won financing reforms that were intended to give poor cities like Newark a fairer shake.” It concludes, nevertheless, that “the reform effort shaping up in Newark gives us reason to be hopeful.”

AP (9/24, Mulvhill, Henry), the New York Daily News (9/23, Shahid), and the Forbes (9/23, Whelan) “Health Dollars” blog also covered the story.

Texas Sues US Education Department Over $830 Million In Aid.
The AP (9/23, Castro) reports, “Texas officials filed a lawsuit Thursday” against the US Education Department, “seeking to overturn the federal agency’s rejection of the state’s application for more than $830 million in aid that has been tied up in political wrangling. A state-specific provision inserted into a federal law” by Rep. Lloyd Doggett requires that Gov. Rick Perry “promise Texas will maintain certain education spending levels through 2013 in order to get the funds,” a requirement that Perry “has called…unconstitutional because the Texas Constitution prohibits him from committing future state spending.” The Dallas Morning News (9/24, Gillman) also covers the story.

Missouri Schools Lost Out On $21 Million In Casino Revenues, Auditor Says.
The AP (9/24, Lieb) reports that according to State Auditor Susan Montee, “Missouri could be spending an additional $21 million on public schools if lawmakers had followed the wishes of voters when distributing new casino revenues.” A “2008 ballot measure that raised casino taxes” specified for “the new money to be placed in a separate fund and distributed to schools on top of their normal funding.” In 2009, state lawmakers removed “the requirement to treat additional casino revenues as new money for schools.” Montee said that “as a result…legislators are using new casino revenues to offset school spending reductions from other revenue sources during the current 2011 budget year.” KCTV Kansas City (9/24), KOAM-TV Joplin (9/24), and KSPR-TV (9/23, Bosch) also covered the story.

Also in the News
Think Tank Rolls Out Text-Tutoring Program For South African Students.
The AP (9/23, Snyman) reported that South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a think tank, has “lined up volunteers to tutor on a popular mobile phone platform after a nationwide teachers’ strike left students unprepared for final exams.” The text-tutoring program called Dr Math allows students to “download study materials from Mxit as well as exchange messages with tutors.” Laurie Butgereit, “who is overseeing the tutoring effort” said she would like more volunteers in addition to the 100 that have already “been screened and registered.” Said Butgereit, “Dr. Math is currently helping 12,000 learners on MXit, but we could be helping so many more if we had additional volunteer tutors.”

Language A Point Of Contention In South African Education. The AP (9/24, Bryson) reports that the case of a 16-year-old in “who believes she was kicked out of class for speaking her first language at school…is demonstrating how volatile the issue of language in education remains in South Africa.” The South African government is investigating the incident in which the child said she spoke Xhosa in a business class and was ordered to either “speak English ‘or get the hell out of’” class. The AP notes that Xhosa “is one of the country’s 11 official languages along with English and Afrikaans. However, those languages of South Africa’s colonizers still rule in the classroom and elsewhere.”

NEA in the News
US Lawmaker Announces NEA-Supported Equity and Excellence Commission.
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) writes in California’s Mercury News (9/24) that he recently “attended the American premiere of Waiting for Superman, the new film…that rightly addresses the crisis in our nation’s public education system.” He points to “a 2009 study by the McKinsey & Company consulting firm” which shows that had the US “improved achievement, our 2008 GDP would have increased by $1.3 trillion to 2.3 trillion.” According to Honda, “One of the most powerful lessons to come out of Superman is the need for policymakers to challenge this status quo that’s failing all of our students.” He adds, “To this end, I created the Equity and Excellence Commission, a process supported by the National Education Association…among others, in order to ensure equity for each child.”

Downsizing Gives Rhode Island Opportunity To Improve Teacher Quality.
The Providence (RI) Journal (9/27, Jordan) reports that hiring in Rhode Island school districts has been down for the past several years as districts grapple with budgetary issues. The state is also seeing its student population decline. “Rhode Island and the entire Northeast will continue to lose student population over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which estimates the number of Rhode Island high school graduates will drop another 7 percent by 2020.” In the case of Rhode Island, however, “a slightly older teaching force” means that a large number of retirements are looming. It is also short on teachers of STEM subjects and special education. These combined factors, experts say, make it “the perfect time for Rhode Island to step up efforts to improve teacher quality.”

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In the Classroom
District Officials Look To Low Income School For Ways To Boost Student Achievement.
Kentucky’s Courier-Journal (9/26, Kenning) reported that school officials are examining Portland Elementary School, which “sits in one of Louisville’s poorest neighborhoods” to see if the school “has found a winning formula” for student achievement. “Test scores released [last] week show Portland posted some of the biggest academic gains among Jefferson County elementary schools, and it has met federal goals for the last several years.” With only 260 students, Portland Elementary has “highly individualized teaching, smaller classes, an environmental emphasis, behavior coaching, refined academics and a range of social-service efforts to counteract poverty’s powerful undertow,” the Courier Journal added.

Federal Authorities Investigate Cheating In Atlanta Public Schools.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (9/26, Judd, Rankin) reported that “federal authorities are investigating whether Atlanta Public Schools committed fraud by illicitly boosting scores on” the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). So far, federal authorities have not issued any “subpoenas or other requests for information.” Still, the investigation underscores “the degree to which the cheating scandal challenges the integrity of the district’s claims of steady academic improvement during the past decade.” Schools “could face criminal charges” if they “are found to have earned extra grants through inflated scores.” Also, “The US attorney’s office…could ask a judge to order the school district to reimburse the federal government.” Each year, Atlanta schools receive nearly $360,000 in bonus grants based on student achievement.

Television Show Is Inspiration For Baltimore School’s Fashion Class.
The Baltimore Sun (9/25, Burris) reports that sixth-graders at Severna Park (MD) Middle School are “participating in Project Runway, an interdisciplinary class that borrows its name from the designer fashion series on Lifetime. Most of the students say they’ve watched the show, and they relish taking part in Anne Arundel County public schools’ version, which allows them to learn firsthand about the fashion industry.” According to the Sun, “The course is in part a revamped version of traditional sewing programs with an interdisciplinary approach that covers practically every area of the garment industry.”

Homeless Students Hit Hard By School Closures, Studies Find.
Education Week (9/24, Sparks) reported, “Nationwide, the push to shutter low-performing or financially unsustainable schools is starting to conflict with the even sharper rise in homeless students, some research is beginning to suggest. The latest of those studies, released last week by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness in New York City, zeroes in on New York City” schools, finding that school “closings often disproportionately affected schools attended by homeless students and that those students, arguably among the system’s most vulnerable, received little support for making the transition to a new school.” Also, according to Education Week, “The report also found homeless students transferring from a school were at greater risk of ending up in another low-performing school.”

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Law & Policy
Kentucky District Takes On Costly Student Assignment System To Maintain Diversity.
The Boston Globe (9/26, Barnes) reported that education officials in Louisville, Kentucky “have steadfastly…tried to maintain integrated classrooms despite the” Supreme Court’s 2007 “command that officials not consider race when assigning children to schools.” The district hired consultants and lawyers, examined census data, redrew boundaries, and offered new school choices. Ultimately, officials created a system that “integrates schools based on socioeconomic factors rather than on race alone,” which “has proven to be more complex and costly than the previous system,” according to the Boston Globe. Still, School Superintendent Sheldon Berman “said he is convinced that a school system cannot be successful for all children without diverse classrooms” and that “if Louisville’s plan is more costly and complex…it is because of a flawed and doctrinaire court decision that ignored the consequences.”

Massachusetts Schools Struggle To Comply With State Sports Regulations.
The Boston Herald (9/26, Fargen) reports, “Financially strapped” Massachusetts “high schools are grappling with a blizzard of sports safety regulations and litigation at a time when many don’t have money for new teachers, let alone CPR training and athletic trainers, school officials say.” According to the Herald, “Of the 218,000 Bay State high-schoolers who play sports each year, only one or two are paralyzed or killed in a practice or game in any given year. But when accidents happen, some parents look to courthouses for answers.”

New Jersey Lawmakers Move To Include Dating Violence In School Curriculum.
The AP (9/26) reported that earlier this month, a New Jersey Assembly panel approved legislation that included a provision to include “age-appropriate dating violence education into…middle and high school curriculums.” In addition, the legislation “would…require that faculty and staff be trained to recognize and handle dating violence among students. And the state Department of Education would have to establish a task force to develop a policy to prevent and address dating violence at schools.”

Texas BOE Adopts Resolution To Limit References To Islam In Textbooks.
The AP (9/25, Castro) reported that the Texas Board of Education on Friday “adopted a resolution…that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks.” The one-page resolution is nonbinding, so “future boards that will choose the state’s next generation of social studies texts will not be bound by” it. Said David Anderson, the general counsel for the Texas Education Agency, “This is an expression of the board’s opinion, so it does not have an effect on any particular textbook.”

Facilities
New Jersey Lawmakers Forward Solar Panel Requirement For New School Construction.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/26, Mastrull) reported that “New Jersey legislators are pushing a bill that would prohibit the commissioner of education from approving construction of any new school unless plans include solar panels.” The legislation was approved by the Assembly Education Committee earlier this month and “would apply to schools built by a school district or by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.” If approved, the move is expected to save districts money on energy and give them the opportunity “to make money by selling the power harnessed from the summer sun that’s not needed when classrooms are empty and the lights are off.”

School Finance
Facebook Founder Reveals More About $100 Million Donation To Newark Schools.
Bloomberg (9/26, Dopp) reported that according to Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, “Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to” the city’s “struggling school district won’t be used to fund private-school vouchers and may result in some school closings.” At a press conference on Saturday, Booker said, “Everything’s on the table.” The AP also points out that Zuckerberg “said he chose Newark” for the $100 million donation “based on the ‘leadership’ of Christie and Booker. He said he researched education and looked at other cities” before making the decision.

The AP (9/26, Mulvhill) reported that the $100 million will come in the form of Facebook stock, which Zuckerberg said he will give “over the next five years through his new Startup: Education foundation.” The mayor has “pledged to raise an additional $150 million for the effort.” New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/26) noted that Jennifer Holleran, “a 20-year educator and former director of New Leaders for New Schools, has been chosen to lead Start Up: Education.”

The Christian Science Monitor (9/24, Khadaroo) reported that on his blog Friday, Zuckerberg wrote, “School districts need more autonomy and clearer leadership so they can be managed more like startups than like government bureaucracies. … Like any startup, the key to making this work is finding great leaders and the right market that’s ready for change.” On Friday, he and Mayor Booker “responded to skeptics’ comments that he was making the donation to burnish his image. Zuckerberg had actually considered making the donation anonymously or at another time, they said, but he agreed to go forward because Booker didn’t want delays or additional questions raised by an anonymous gift.”

Texas Schools Turning To Bus Ads Amid Budget Shortfalls.
The Dallas Morning News (9/27, Weiss) reports, “These days, with every district counting every penny, getting free cash from ads on buses is suddenly popular. Dallas County Schools, the bus agency, has sold eight school districts on the idea.” According to the Morning News, “Only 60 of about 1,000 large buses in the Dallas County Schools fleet have ads. But the bus agency hopes that number will grow dramatically over the next couple of years, bringing in $1.1 million that will be split with the participating school districts.”

Also in the News

New Technology Pushes Evolution In Online Learning.
In an article headlined “Online education evolves as advances in techology make major impact,” the Washington Post (9/27, Overly) reports that according to Ron Packard, CEO of online education company K12, “the evolution of Web technologies such as streaming video, social networking and interactive gaming have made for a more collaborative and classroom-like experience online.” This type of view is spreading. Blackboard, for example, “has begun to explore ways to build upon, and monetize, technology that makes interactions via the Web more human.” The company recently “spent $116 million in July to acquire Wimba and Ellmuniate, two companies that apply synchronous learning technologies such as online audio, video and digital whiteboards to distance-learning classes.” However, “some experts have questioned whether the technology is mature enough to be effective.”

Milloy: DC Schools Chancellor Should Acknowledge Her Shortcomings.
Courtland Milloy writes in a column for the Washington Post (9/27), “Listening to D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, I noticed a familiar refrain” as Rhee “readily accepts credit for success while always attributing failure to the shortcomings of others.” According to Milloy, “As D.C. Council chairman,” presumptive DC Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray “often tried to get Rhee to reflect on how her approach to school reform was being perceived in different parts of the city” and though “Rhee never answered” and “she reveled in her disrespect for Gray,” his “request can no longer be ignored with impunity: Schools chancellor, critique thyself.” Milloy goes on to criticize Rhee for focusing on school reform in DC’s upscale neighborhoods, adding, “If you thought her priority was supposed to be educating poor black children, you were wrong.”

President Obama Advocates Teacher Training, Longer School Year.
The Los Angeles Times (9/28, Nichols) reports that on Monday, President Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “Today Show” that “incompetent teachers must be identified and weeded out.” Said the President, “We’ve got to be able to identify teachers who are doing well [and] teachers who are not doing well. We’ve got to give them the support and the training to do well.” He added, “And, ultimately, if some teachers aren’t doing a good job, they’ve got to go.” The Times also noted that “Obama’s view of unions” is positive, yet “tempered.” Obama is quoted as saying, “I’m a strong supporter of the notion that a union can protect its members and help be part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem.” But, he added, “What is also true is that sometimes that means they are resistant to change when things aren’t working.”

The AP (9/28) reports that President Obama “issued a tough-love message to students and teachers on Monday: Their year in the classroom should be longer, and poorly performing teachers should get out.” Currently, most schools throughout the nation offer about “180 instruction days per year.” In comparison, nations with the highest student achievement offer “an average of 197 days for lower grades and 196 days for upper grades.” Said Obama, “That month makes a difference. … It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer.”

Newsweek (9/27, Wingert) reported that Obama acknowledged that “one of the big barriers to extending the school year is money, because it costs more in terms of salaries and overhead, but added that he thought it would be ‘money well spent.’” The Wall Street Journal (9/28, Favole) also covers the story.

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In the Classroom
Schools In Iowa See Positive Results From Volunteer-Based Reading Program.
WHO-TV Des Moines (9/28) reports on the “Everybody Wins Iowa” program which began in Des Moines Public Schools in 2002 to help students in the state “improve their reading and literacy skills.” According to newly released statistics, “84 percent of students in the program improved or maintained test scores during the Spring 2010 Analytical Reading Inventory Test.” In addition, “forty-five-percent of students improved their Iowa Test of Basic Skills reading test scores and 63 percent of students in the program improved or maintained their daily attendance.” The program does not require extra funding for schools and relies on volunteers to help students. “More than 400 children in 13 Des Moines Public Schools are participating in the program.”

Teacher Uses Google Apps To Create Collaborative Classroom.
KUSA-TV Denver (9/28, Garcia) reports that Everitt Middle School technology teacher Alison Saylor ‘is using Google Apps for Education to create a virtual domain for her students.” The platform lets students “use word processors, spread sheets, and graphic tools to create projects which are done entirely online.” According to Saylor, one of the best features “is the feedback. Students can go online, view another student’s project and offer comments right there on the web page.” This, Saylor said, “creates an environment of complete classroom collaboration.” Said Saylor, “They do care more about what their peers think than what I think. … But they need to know to go out and be good workers, how to collaborate with other people. You don’t go to work in isolation.” KUSA noted that Google Apps for Education “is free and it contains no ads.”

Denver Public Schools To Expand Suicide Curriculum To Sixth, Ninth Grades By 2015. KDVR-TV Denver (9/27, Jose) reported that sixth and ninth graders in Denver Public schools “will be required to take the ‘Signs of Suicide’ curriculum” in 2015. Currently, “the program is offered in 18 Denver public schools,” but officials plan “to expand it” to all Denver schools in five years. KDVR notes that the curriculum was launched in response to statistics that show “suicide is the second leading killer of high school students in Colorado.”

Massachusetts High School’s Turnaround Viewed As National Model.
The New York Times (9/28, Dillon) reports, “A decade ago, Brockton [MA] High School was a case study in failure,” yet following a “schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects” organized by “Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers,” the school’s turnaround has attracted national attention. According to the Times, “In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts” and the “gains continued. … What makes Brockton High’s story surprising is that, with 4,100 students, it is an exception to what has become received wisdom in many educational circles – that small is almost always better.”

On the Job
Duncan Announces Nationwide Teacher Recruitment Campaign.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (9/27, Hupp) reported that on Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan “launched a national effort to recruit teachers, especially to “high-need” schools in rural and urban areas.” Elizabeth Chuck wrote in the MSNBC.com (9/27) “Field Notes” blog that Duncan announced on Monday that the nation’s “classrooms will face a severe shortage of teachers within the next decade as more baby boomers retire.” The website Teach.gov is part of a new nationwide campaign “to recruit a million new teachers over the next five years. The greatest emphasis will be on finding math, science and special education teachers, as well as men of color.” As part of the Education Department’s effort “to retain and recruit quality teachers,” it “will be offering a variety of incentives, including education grants…and what Duncan called ‘income-based repayment’ — a guarantee that after 10 years of teaching, all college debt will be forgiven.”

Bloomberg Overhauling New York City Teacher Tenure.
Bloomberg (9/28, Stanley) reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is overhauling “how tenure is awarded in city schools and institute a system that grants job security based on performance.” Under the new system that begins this year, “teachers will be rated on a four-tier system, with those rated “effective” and “highly effective” eligible for tenure after three years.” Currently, teachers are granted tenure “at the discretion of principals and school superintendents.”

NBC New York (9/28, Minton) reports that under the new system, teachers who are “rated in the bottom two groups will be denied or delayed tenure.” According to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, “new data technology makes the system workable and fair.” The New York Daily News (9/28, Lisberh, Kolodner) notes that the tenure “reform steps were part of an education plan that also calls for doubling the number of City University of New York graduates by 2020.”

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Law & Policy
Federal Appeals Court Reverses Its Ruling On Alternative Teacher Certification.
Mark Walsh wrote in a blog for Education Week (9/27) that on Monday, a “panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit…reversed itself…and struck down a federal regulation that permits teachers working towards alternative certification to be considered ‘highly qualified’ under [NCLB] even if they are merely making ‘satisfactory progress’ towards certification.” According to Walsh, “A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, had ruled in July 2009 against a group of California activists who argued the federal regulation permitted a disproportionate number of teaching ‘interns’ to teach in California schools with large proportions of minority and low-income students.” On Monday, “however, the panel reversed itself and held that the plaintiffs…did have legal standing to challenge the federal interpretation” and the court “panel went on to rule that the Education Department’s 2004 regulations interpreting the ‘highly qualified teacher’ provisions of NCLB go too far in relaxing the definition.”

Special Needs
Special Ed Funding Fix Among Package Of Bills Signed By California Governor.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (9/28, Gardner) reports that on Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) “signed three bills generated in San Diego County, including one” which was “sponsored by San Diego County school authorities and carried by Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego,” which “clears up a technical glitch from last year’s budget that threatened to force local districts to cumulatively repay $17 million used for special education programs. The oversight forced districts to scramble, staring at raiding reserves or cutting spending.” According to the Union-Tribune, “If left unfixed, the glitch would have required the Department of Education to collect $70 million in special education funds that had already been distributed to schools statewide.”

School Finance
Donation To Newark, New Jersey, Schools May Be Worth More Than $100 Million.
Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the New York Times (9/28, B1) “Dealbook” column that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey public schools has “attracted $40 million in matching gifts so far by Monday from the likes of William A. Ackman, the hedge fund manager, and John Doerr, the venture capitalist.” Sorkin explains how Zuckerberg’s donation, made in the form of Facebook shares, will generate dollars for the school district. According to “people involved in the donation process…the Facebook shares pledged will be worth $100 million based on the company’s own internal valuation, not the value assigned by the secondary market.” Sorkin says that Zuckerberg’s valuation is likely “much lower than that of the secondary market,” which means “the donation might ultimately be worth even more than his initial pledge once the foundation seeks to sell those shares.”

Louisa Kroll wrote in the Forbes (9/27) “Bounty Hunter” blog that “The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, and the world’s richest venture capitalist, John Doerr, have joined Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in pledging millions to the Newark school system.” Noting both men’s contributions to education, Kroll points out that “education is a popular cause with billionaires. In fact, 73 of the Forbes 400 members are involved in education in some way, whether giving money to their alma maters or starting charter schools.”

Also in the News
Gates Foundation Awards Grants Focused On College Graduation.
The AP (9/28, Blankinship) reports, “For many years, diversity in higher education has been measured by how many low-income students and students of color enroll in college” yet the “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to make a dramatic change in that definition, by focusing instead on college graduation rates. The foundation, along with the National League of Cities, announced Monday that New York City; San Francisco; Mesa, Ariz.; and Riverside, Calif., will each receive $3 million over the next three years for work designed to boost college graduation.”

The San Francisco Chronicle (9/27, Tucker) added that the Gates Foundation grant to San Francisco “will be used to, among other things, expand access to preschool and allow more students to earn college credit at work, city officials said. … The partnership will focus on several goals, including increasing the number of students who take college prep classes and pass the California High School Exit Examination and a separate test showing college readiness.”

The East Valley Tribune (AZ) (9/28, Groff) adds that the Gates Foundation grant to Mesa, AZ will aid the city in its quest to “double the number of low-income youths who get a college degree within a decade. … The effort is headed by the city, Mesa Community College and the Mesa Unified School District.”

Audit Finds Numerous Deficiencies In DC Head Start Program.
The Washington Post (9/28, Turque) reports, “A ‘limited scope’ review, conducted by” the US Department of Health and Human Services’ “inspector general, found that the $13 million” DC Head Start “program, which is projected this year to serve nearly 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds in the District, could not account for more than $300,000 in administrative and training expenses between 2007 and 2009. The program also was consistently late during that period in submitting required financial status reports to the federal government.” However, according to the Post, “D.C. schools spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said that stronger controls have been put in place since the period when HHS investigators were active, which was between June and August of 2009.”

Obama Announces New STEM Education Initiative.
The AP (9/17) reports that in line with efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math education, President Obama “announced Thursday a nonprofit organization called Change the Equation.” According to the AP, the new initiative is “designed to bring successful, privately funded programs to 100 schools and communities that are most in need. … Former astronaut Sally Ride and current and former executives from Intel, Xerox, Time Warner Cable and Eastman Kodak founded the nonprofit organization.”

CNN (9/16) added that Change the Equation “has $5 million in funding for its first year of operation, according to information provided by the White House.” According to CNN, “The goals of Change the Equation are to improve teaching in STEM subjects, inspire student learning in those subjects and achieve a national commitment to improve education in them, according to the White House. … ‘The cost of inaction is immeasurable,’ Obama said, citing the lost participation of children who never get encouraged or exposed to education in STEM subjects.”

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In the Classroom
Fewer Denver Schools Performing Poorly In Latest Rankings.
The Denver Post (9/16, Meyer) reported, “The number of poorly performing Denver schools has been cut by half since 2008, according to Denver Public Schools’ ranking system being released today. The district’s School Performance Framework ranks schools each year based on data points that consider everything from student attendance to parental involvement, but is weighted most heavily on how students improve academically from year to year.” According to the Post. “In schools with the highest rankings, principals and teachers enrolled in the district’s professional compensation system will earn bonuses” while low-rated schools “will get more interventions and could face turnaround strategies, which include closure.” KUSA-TV Denver (9/16, Wolf, Garcia) and KDVR-TV Denver, CO (9/16, Posey) also covered this story.

Duncan Applauds Education Progress In North Carolina District.
WFAE-FM Charlotte (9/16, Miller) reported on its Website that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “praised Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools…for its efforts to turnaround struggling schools by luring experienced teachers and principals to them. Duncan spent the morning at Sterling Elementary in South Charlotte speaking with parents, teachers, and principals.” According to WFAE, “Since 2008, the district has used financial incentives to attract top-quality principals to struggling schools and given them the autonomy to select staff and teachers.”

WBTV-TV Charlotte (9/16, Russell) added that Duncan “likes the fact CMS superintendent Peter Gorman shook things up. He got rid of some ineffective principals and replaced them with effective principals and good teachers. As a result test scores have increased at some CMS schools.”

Law & Policy
Race To The Top Winners Acknowledge Difficulty Of Implementation.
Education Week (9/16, Klein) reported that “12 Race to the Top grant winners sent delegations to the U.S. Department of Education this week to tweak their budgets for the federal grants, get answers to their questions-and celebrate.” State Officials generally agreed, however, that implementing programs “isn’t going to be easy.” Education Week points out, for instance, that “at least six of the winning states will have new governors after the November election, and the District of Columbia will have a new mayor.” Moreover, most states are “still coping with the economic downturn.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Delegation, “I want our department to support your work and not to direct it. .. We’re committed to establishing a very different relationship with states .. starting with Race to the Top.”

California BOE Votes To Create An Online Teacher Performance Database.
The Los Angeles Times (9/16, Watanabe) reports that the California “Board of Education took up the controversial issue of teacher evaluations Wednesday, unanimously voting to create an online database to share information about local, state and national efforts to measure educators’ effectiveness. The board also asked the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Fresno school districts to propose specific ways the state can support local efforts to create more meaningful evaluation tools, including the value-added method of using students’ test scores to rate teacher performance.” The Times notes that the “California Teachers Assn. and the Los Angeles teachers union have opposed use of the value-added method, saying that students’ test scores do not accurately reflect a teacher’s effectiveness.”

Texas Lawmakers Call For Overhaul Of School Funding System.
The Houston Chronicle (9/17, Scharrer) reports, “Texas needs to scrap its school funding system and start all over, Senate Education Chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said Thursday, as other members of a special school finance committee agreed that the existing system is hopelessly broken. … According to committee members and experts, the system has vast inequities of more than $1,000 per student and is built on adjustments for low-income students, rural school districts, small districts, medium districts and other factors that are nearly 30 years old with little reflection of real costs.”

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Safety & Security
Two Schools In California Evacuated After Gas Smells Reported.
The San Mateo (CA) County Times (9/17, Rosenburg, Gonzales) reports that in response to “reports of a possible natural gas leak on campus,” students at Portola Elementary School in the San Bruno Park School District “were evacuated [Thursday] morning.” The gas company and firefighters “conducted tests at the campus and found no immediate evidence any gas had leaked.”

KTVU-TV Oakland, California (9/16) reported, “One week after a massive natural gas fireball devastated a San Bruno neighborhood, two Bay Area schools were evacuated after strange odors were detected but later determined to be harmless, officials said.” In addition to Portola Elementary School, San Francisco’s Galileo Academy of Science and Technology was also “after authorities received a report” from “a staff member who smelled natural gas” at the school. The evacuations occurred about four hours apart. Gas company officials checked each campus and “determined there was no leak or other danger to” either.

KNTV-TV San Jose, California (9/16, Preuitt) noted that according to San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge, a natural gas explosion that occurred in San Bruno last week “has led to ‘a moderate increase in calls’ of people reporting the smell of gas.”

Connecticut District Removes Resource Officers From Three Schools After Taser Incident.
WVIT-TV Hartford, Connecticut (9/16) reported that at a meeting this week the Middletown Board of Education decided “to permanently remove officers from…three schools” following an incident in which “School Resource Officers tasered a student accused of stealing a beef patty earlier this month.” Police said the “17-year-old student stole a Jamaican beef patty from the cafeteria. .. One school resource officer got into an altercation with the student and another office came to help and shot the student with a Taser.” The police say the “response had nothing to do with the student allegedly stealing lunch, but because he was fighting.” Still, parents and students who spoke at the board meeting argued that the response was too severe.

WTNH-TV (9/16) added, “The mayor says the Board of Education and the Police Department are trying to work out an agreement to get the officers back in schools.” The Middletown Press (9/16) also covered the story.

School Finance
BP’s Rejection Of Alabama’s $148 Million Claim For Lost Revenue Leads To Education Cuts.
The AP (9/16, Johnson) reported that BP has, for now, rejected Alabama’s “$148 million claim for tax revenue lost by the massive oil spill.” Consequently, Gov. Bob Riley (R) “cut funding sharply for schools for the rest of September.” The two-percent cut is not expected to “affect salaries, but it can put a hole in the budget for supplies and repairs,” the AP notes. According to Riley, a lawsuit filed by Alabama Attorney General Troy King is to blame for “the cuts to the education budget,” as BP officials cited the lawsuit as “part of the reason for their decision not to begin making payments on” Alabama’s claim. But, Riley said, “BP can’t escape blame either. As the admitted responsible party, the company should live up to its commitments, even though the lawsuit stands in the way,” he pointed out.

WAFF-TV Huntsville, AL (9/16) reported that Riley’s two-percent budget cut is “on top of the 7.5 percent cut that schools have been working with since the start of fiscal year 2010.” A spokesman for BP said in a statement that “the situation with the state’s claim and the attorney general’s lawsuit is very complex so they have not been able to come to a resolution at this time. But he says the company is willing to continue discussions with the governor and state representatives on this issue.” Alabama’s Times-Journal (9/17, Harrison) reports on how the state funding cuts are affecting local districts.

Memphis Officials Working On Installment Plan To Distribute $57 Million To Schools.
Tennessee’s Commercial Appeal (9/17, Maki) reports that on Thursday, “Memphis Mayor A C Wharton (D) and Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash put the rancorous legal dispute over school funding in the background” by appearing together during a news conference “to say they are a team” and that they signed an agreement that “calls for stricter city enforcement of truancy and child neglect laws, to ensure kids are in school.” Said Cash, “We have far more common purposes and common ground than areas where we disagree.” He also said that “the council had fully funded the school system.” Both officials “said they’re hammering out details of an installment plan that would allow the city to pay the school system up to $57.4 million over a period of years,” money “the council cut…from its annual contribution to city schools in 2008.”

Evaluation Notes Superintendent’s Strong Vision For Memphis Public Schools. MyEyeWitness.com (9/17) reports, “Memphis City School Board Members want Dr. Kriner Cash to continue leading the district for four more years.” His most recent evaluation shows improvement from last year “in 22 of the 25 categories.” Moreover, Cash “received excellent marks in ‘Providing Strategic Direction And A Vision To The District.’”

Also in the News

Detroit Public Schools, Johns Hopkins Partnership Targets Dropout Rate.
The AP (9/16) reported that Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is partnering with two schools in the Detroit public school district “and other agencies to boost student achievement and poor graduation rates.” The “Diplomas Now” initiative aims to encourage students to stay in school, “while highlighting the importance of attending college.”

The Detroit Free Press (9/17, Dawsey) reports that “at Bow and Emerson elementary schools, Diplomas Now will use researched indicators to predict which students will not graduate high school without intervention.” Partnering “agencies will provide in-class tutoring, mentoring and after-school programming.”

The Detroit News (9/16, Schultz) noted that Diplomas Now “a partnership with City Year, Communities In Schools and Johns Hopkins University’s Talent Development that provides early intervention for some of the nation’s most challenged middle and high schools.” The program is also currently being “used in schools in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Antonio and Los Angeles.”

DC Schools Chancellor Calls Fenty Loss “Devastating.”
The Washington Post (9/17, Turque) reports that DC schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee “moved her departure” from the school system “closer to certainty Wednesday night with comments to an A-list audience [in DC] after the red-carpet premiere of ‘Waiting for ‘Superman,” the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement. At a panel discussion that followed the film,” Rhee said that DC Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray’s “Democratic primary victory over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Tuesday” is “devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.”

Strauss: Rhee’s Comments Crossed The Line. In a blog for the Washington Post (9/16), Valerie Strauss criticizes DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee for using “the occasion of the D.C. premiere of the ‘Waiting for Superman’ documentary — which portrays her as the educational Joan of Arc — to blast D.C. voters yet again for daring to reject her style of school reform. … Disagreeing with the vote is one thing; accusing voters of doing something stupid is something else.”

NEA in the News
Florida Education Association Challenges Effort To Loosen Class Size Limits.
The AP (9/16) reported that “as expected, the Florida Supreme Court has received a challenge to a ballot proposal that would loosen Florida’s class size limits.” Last week, Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis “rejected arguments by the” Florida Education Association (FEA) “that the title and ballot summary of the proposed state constitutional amendment are misleading and unclear.” According to the AP, “the 1st District Court of Appeal on Thursday expedited the case by sending it directly to the justices without issuing a ruling of its own.”

Future Of DC School Reform Uncertain After Mayor Looses Re-Election Bid.
Many news outlets have reported on the link between DC’s Democratic primary for mayor and education reform. The majority have noted specifically that the education reforms implemented under DC Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) by schools chief Michelle Rhee are, in part, to blame for Fenty’s loss to Vincent Gray, chairman of the DC Council. The AP (9/16, Gresko) reports that Fenty’s choice of Michelle Rhee for schools chancellor “helped bounce him out of office.” On Tuesday, Fenty lost the Democratic primary to Gray, and “residents repeatedly said personality and schools influenced their votes.” The teachers union also “mobilized against Fenty,” the AP adds. Rhee, meanwhile, “acknowledged in a statement education’s place in the election. She said both Fenty and Gray had embraced reforms and said important groundwork has been laid for progress.”

The Washington Post (9/16, Turque) reports that on Wednesday, Rhee “offered little sign that she wanted to work for his apparent successor” and asserted that “it was ‘not necessarily the case’ that it was in the best interests of D.C. schoolchildren for her to stay in her job through the end of the school year.” However, “some of Gray’s council allies are seeking to delay Rhee’s departure,” according to the Post.

NPR (9/15, Greenblatt) noted on its website that Rhee “drew national attention for her efforts to change tenure rules and hold teachers more accountable for student performance,” NPR points out that early efforts to reform schools during his tenure “appeared to be Fenty’s signature achievement.” But there was “considerable political pushback” after Rhee, “with Fenty’s backing…closed dozens of schools and fired hundreds of teachers.”

The Christian Science Monitor (9/15, Khadaroo) reported that even if Rhee does leave the school system, her “departure wouldn’t necessarily mean a reversal of her policies,” the Monitor added. “Some of her initiatives, such as dramatic action to improve the worst-performing schools, overlap with requirements tied to the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition, which recently awarded the city a four-year, $75 million grant.”

ABC News (9/15, Wolf), the Washington Times (9/16, Wetzstein), Time (9/15, Rotehrham), the Financial Times (9/16, Luce), the Politico (9/15) “Ben Smith” blog, the Education Week (9/15) “District Dossier” blog, and WJLA-TV DC (9/16) also covered the story. The Huffington Post (9/16) features an interview with the headline, “Michelle Rhee, Chancellor Of DC Public Schools, Discusses Future In The Wake Of Fenty Defeat.”

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In the Classroom
Online Classes Help Florida District Meet Class-Size Restrictions.
The St. Petersburg Times (9/16, Solochek) reports that in an effort to accommodate all students while still complying with Florida’s class-size restrictions, the Pasco County school district in offering on-campus courses students can take through Pasco eSchool. Online classes are taught by district-certified teachers. “Unlike last year, when Florida schools could exceed voter-mandated student-teacher ratios so long as they met the cap as a schoolwide average, this year the rules count classroom by classroom.” In high school, classes can be no larger than 25 students. “To accommodate the extras, schools have split classes, hired more teachers, changed schedules” in addition to offering online classes.

School Administrators Presented With Options For Meeting Class-Size Goals. WFTV Orlando (9/16) reports that in Orange County, Florida, school administrators now have “a list of options…available” to comply with state class-size restrictions. Among those options are “adding an extra period in middle and high schools,” increasing virtual school enrollment, and “having kids take classes at community colleges.”

Study Says Nearly 80 Percent Of Trash In Minnesota Schools Is Recyclable.
Minnesota’s Star-Tribune (9/16, Von Sternberg) reports that schools throughout Minnesota produce about “500,000 pounds of trash” daily, “most of which could be recycled,” according to a study “released Wednesday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.” Schools currently roughly “two-thirds of the waste generated,” but “the study found that 78 percent could be.”

KMSP-TV Minneapolis (9/16) reports that the purpose of the study was “to get a complete picture of the total waste generated at schools.” Researchers sorted and analyzed “all waste, including garbage, recycling and organics, generated at…participating schools in Hennepin County over a two-day period.” County officials “said the sample schools exhibit average characteristics, but are a bit unique in that each has implemented an organics recycling program to” make compost of organic products. WCCO-TV Minneapolis (9/16) notes, “The study found food waste was at the top of the list at 23.9 percent. Recyclable paper was a close second at 23.5 percent.”

Ninety-Eight Percent of Virginia Schools Meet State Testing Benchmarks.
The AP (9/15, Sampson) reports that “98 percent of Virginia’s public schools are fully accredited after meeting state standardized-testing benchmarks,” according to the state Department of Education. State education officials also said that “119 of Virginia’s 132 public school divisions are fully accredited.”

Virginia District Misses Accreditation Requirements By One School. Virginia’s Daily Press (9/16, Shalash) reports that for the third consecutive year, Virginia’s Hampton public school district “fell short” of meeting accreditation requirements “by just one school.” And that school, Cary Elementary, “missed the mark by 0.19 percent in third-grade reading.” Cary “was one of 15 schools statewide accredited with warning Four were denied accreditation,” the daily Press notes, adding that “accreditation is a reflection of how well students learn state-required” Standards of Learning (SOLs). The Daily Press provides a breakdown of how local districts performed on the SOLs.

Law & Policy
Ohio Health Department Requires Whooping Cough Vaccine For Seventh Graders.
WTOV-TV Steubenville, Ohio (9/15) reports that Ohio schools have “a new plan…to ensure students are vaccinated against” whooping cough. Called Seventh Grade Vaccine Initiative, the plan includes a mandate from the Ohio Department of Health that “all seventh graders receive the Tdap vaccine.” WTOV adds, “Students could be kept out of school without the vaccine, and two or more related cases is considered an outbreak.”

US Senate Looses Unifying Education Policy Voice In Delaware Primary.
Education Week (9/15, Klein, Samuels) reported that Sen. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) GOP senatorial primary loss “will remove from Congress a longtime member with…a reputation for helping bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats on thorny aspects of K-12 policy.” Castle, “the author of the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” and sponsored of the legislation [that] created the Institute of Education Sciences,” lost his bid “on Tuesday to Christine O’Donnell, a tea party-backed marketing and media consultant.” Noting that “major education legislation has traditionally been bipartisan,” Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr. said, “I don’t think there’s a major piece of K-12 legislation in the last 18 years that doesn’t show his fingerprints.” Finn added that “the odds of that actually happening” in the future are “dwindling.”

Chicago Mayor Criticizes Race To The Top.
The Chicago Sun-Times (9/15, Spielman) reported that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley “on Wednesday blasted a federal education bureaucracy run by former Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan for excluding Chicago from the presentation that culminated in Illinois being shut out from $400 million” in Race to the Top funds. According to the Sun-Times, “After cutting the ribbon at a new elementary school in West Rogers Park, Chicago’s lame-duck mayor ridiculed all the ‘political slogans’ that have ballyhooed federal education programs under the last two presidents. … Daley said the outcome of the Race to the Top sweepstake might have been different for Illinois, if only ‘those who had worked in the vineyards’ in Chicago had been part of the pitch for federal funding.”

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Facilities
Coca-Cola Company To Fund New Fitness Centers In Eight California Schools.
The Fresno (CA) Business Journal (9/15) reported Dunlap Elementary School in Fresno County, California “was one of eight in [the state] to receive a brand new fitness center thanks to a donation by the Coca-Cola company.” The fitness centers “valued at $100,000 each.” Schools were chosen for the prize “from among 2,000 that participated in the Governor’s Fitness Challenge last year to boost the amount of physical activity that students, parents and teachers engage in.”

The Central Valley Business Times (9/15) reported that “three schools in the Central Valley will be getting fitness centers” from “the Coca-Cola Company through the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.” The Business Times adds that the winning schools “exhibited exceptional effort in rising to the California Governor’s Challenge of engaging in physical activity 30-60 minutes a day, at least three days a week for four weeks during the previous school year.” KPSP-TV (9/16) also covers the story.

Solar Pavilions To Provide 100 Percent Of Power Needs To Schools In Tucson, Phoenix.
New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/15, Gruen) reported that the New Jersey-based NRG Energy company and Arizona-based Kennedy partners “are building 12 large solar pavilions on schools in Tucson and Phoenix that will provide 100 percent of the schools’ power needs.” The program “is one part of a 30 megawatt plan that Kennedy is managing for solar generation at schools around Arizona.” The Arizona Republic (9/14, Randazzo) reported that NRG Energy “will invest $100 million or more in solar projects for Arizona schools, allowing districts to cut their utility bills without paying anything up front for their power systems.”

School Finance
To Cut Costs, Alabama District Decides Not To Renew Lawn Care Contracts.
The AP (9/15) reported that the Tuscaloosa County (AL) Board of Education has “decided to save money by not renewing the contracts with [its] lawn care providers” and hire “two full-time lawn care employees to cut grass at the schools,” said Gary Mims, head of maintenance for the Tuscaloosa County School System. According to the AP, “Pat Conner, the chief school financial officer for the system, said…in fiscal year 2009 the system paid one of the three contractors $193,347.61 to cut grass for a year at system properties in one area of the county. The two employees that the system hired full-time to do the same work that all three contractors did, are paid annual salaries of $19,000 and $20,000, Conner said.”

NEA in the News
United Education Association President Praises Teacher Contract Negotiators.
The Indiana (PA) Gazette (9/16, Zimmerman) reports that Pennsylvania’s United school district has approved a contract with the United Education Association (UEA) that “will provide the UEA’s 98 teachers with an average yearly salary increase of 2.7 to 2.8 percent.” The agreement also increases payment on emergency room visits from $40 to $50. UEA President Nick Gresh is quoted as saying, “Both teams can be proud of the spirit of cooperation that was shown,” said Norma Carpenter, one of the board’s negotiators. “It was a pleasure working with the district’s negotiations team.”

New Energy Guidelines Issued For Schools In Springfield, Missouri.
Missouri’s News-Leader (9/15, Riley) reported that Springfield (MO) Public Schools has “new guidelines for energy conservation” that district officials say will reduce utility bills. “Under the guidelines, [thermostats] will be set at 66-70 degrees in cool weather and 72-76 degrees in warm weather during the school day.” That has been a point of contention between teachers and the district. Springfield National Education Association President Ray Smith told the News-Leader, “These are working conditions we’re talking about. … The thermostat issue is a little touchy because they’re assuming everything works the way it should. That’s a big assumption.” The new guidelines also “encourage” the removal of “refrigerators and coffee pots” from classrooms and offices.

Jobs Bill To Help Utah District Provide Step, Lane Increases.
The Salt Lake Tribune (9/16, Winters) reports that with help from the federal jobs bill, Utah’s Jordan school district plans to give teachers “their pay raises this year.” Under a tentative agreement reached with the Jordan Education Association “for teachers’ contracts for the 2010-11 school year,” the district “will cover ‘step’ increases for years on the job and ‘lane’ jumps for advanced degrees and education credits.” The pay increases all hinge on the state legislature distributing to districts federal funding intended to save teacher jobs. The Salt Lake Tribune notes, “Teacher salaries in Jordan range from $28,000 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree to $62,000 for educators with advanced degrees and many years on the job.”

Video Games Central To Instruction At New York’s Quest To Learn School.
In a series of articles on the increase in online education in the US, The New York Times Magazine (9/19, Corbett) reported on the Quest to Learn, a New York City school “organized specifically around the idea that digital games are central to the lives of today’s children and also increasingly, as their speed and capability grow, powerful tools for intellectual exploration.” The school is one of only a few “demonstration sites” approved by “New York City’s schools chancellor, Joel Klein…for innovative technology-based instructional methods and is part of a larger effort on the city’s part to create and experiment with new models for schools.” The school is in “its second year, with about 145 sixth and seventh graders,” and district officials want to “add a grade level each year until it is a 6th-through-12th-grade school.”

Role Of Technology In The Classroom Analyzed. Jaron Lanier, a partner architect at Microsoft Research, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times Magazine (9/19), “It’s a romantic notion, the magic of teaching, but magic always has a dark side. … So we face a quandary: How do we use the technologies of computation, statistics and networking to shed light – without killing the magic?” Lanier added, “Roughly speaking, there are two ways to use computers in the classroom. You can have them measure and represent the students and the teachers, or you can have the class build a virtual spaceship.” Lanier calls for more “spaceships, please.”

Future Of Online Learning Analyzed. Carlo Rotella wrote in a news analysis for the New York Times (9/19) that ED “supports online learning, notably in its National Education Technology Plan, to be released this month. Other countries are digitizing their curricula on a national scale. Proponents of online learning warn that we’re falling behind, but skeptics should be asking: Is the instruction good enough?” Rotella added, “For better or for worse, imagine a near future in which your avatar can attend high school in a Second Life-like environment, your body no longer required to sit quietly in a row and your mind no longer obliged to settle for what the local district can offer.”

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In the Classroom
Iowa District Offers Middle Schoolers High School Credit For Some Courses.
The Des Moines Register (9/18, Dooley) reported on two initiatives implemented “by the Des Moines school district to increase rigor in middle school classrooms to better prepare students for success in high school and curb dropouts.” This year, “middle schools started offering advanced classes in which students can earn high school credits” and, along with high schools, they started “a pre-Advanced Placement program that increases the difficulty of course work for students in sixth through 10th grades and makes it more relevant to their lives.” Middle schoolers can earn high school credit for subjects such as government and earth science, in addition to “accelerated literacy and algebra classes” offered in the past four years “to seventh- and eighth-graders.” The Des Moines Register noted that “This is the first time middle schools are offering high school level classes to all students, regardless of their grades.”

“History Makers” Speak In Schools Throughout US.
The Salt Lake Tribune (9/18, Winters) reported that last week, students at Jackson Elementary in Salt Lake City met two civil rights leaders as part of “a nonprofit project called HistoryMakers,” which “celebrated its 10th anniversary Friday by dispatching 200 ‘history makers’ to speak in schools in more than 30 states.” Rev. France Davis “walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand voting rights for African-Americans” and “helped to make King’s birthday a Utah state holiday.” Davis encouraged students “to learn to read and write.” And Emma Houston, who has worked for the Girl Scouts and “Salt Lake County’s elderly,” encouraged students “to think about the possibilities for their lives and write them down after the assembly.”

Some Schools In Central Ohio Base Grades Solely On Students’ Understanding Of Material.
The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (9/19, Boss) reported, “Grades are supposed to reflect how much a student knows,” but according to experts, “today’s grades typically” take into account factors that “have nothing to do with whether a student understands the material,” such as extra credit assignments, whether the work was submitted on time, or whether a student received extra help. Now, many schools in central Ohio “are re-examining such things as report cards and grading practices.” For instance, some elementary schools have “have created standards-based report cards that measure students’ performance on academic goals.” And, at least one high school in northeastern Ohio issues report cards “based solely on [students'] knowledge of the material,” with skills “such as behavior, attitude and effort, are reported separately.” Meanwhile, several districts “have adopted a new instructional approach that relies more on students’ understanding the material than on earning points to get the A.”

On the Job
Metro Detroit School Districts Opt For Skilled Teachers Over Savings.
The Detroit Free Press (9/19, Walsh-Sarnecki) reported, “Metro Detroit school districts are not expected to save as much money as anticipated when the state offered incentives for experienced teachers to retire early” as “many districts chose to hire based on experience rather than offer jobs to new college graduates, who would be paid at the bottom of the salary scale.” According to the Free Press, “When the state convinced 17,000 teachers to take early retirement during the summer, it was widely assumed that those teachers would be replaced by entry-level ones to save money and help ease school financial woes. But only two of the 15 large school districts polled by the Free Press did so.”

South Carolina State University Holds Earth, Space Science Workshop For Teachers.
South Carolina’s Times and Democrat (9/20) reports on a three-day “earth and space science workshop for high-school teachers” held recently by “South Carolina State University, in collaboration with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.” The purpose of the workshop is “to accustom teachers…to the field.” Participants “must be certified teachers of grades seven through 12 in South Carolina and must also teach in a related focus field.” Upon completion, “each participant received a $250 stipend and 20 recertification hours,” the Times & Democrat notes, adding that the workshop is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Appropriate Boundaries For Teacher/Student Contact Not Always Specified.
The Winston-Salem (NC) Journal (9/19, Young) reported, “Teacher-student sexual misconduct is a hot topic in Winston-Salem because of recent allegations against teachers, and law-enforcement complaints that the public-school system hasn’t properly handled them.” But while “everyone agrees that teachers and students shouldn’t be in sexual relationships,” the boundaries between what is appropriate contact between teachers and students are not always clear. For instance, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district “strongly discourages teachers from using social media or the Internet to communicate with students, although it does not forbid such contact categorically.” And the question of whether it is ever ok for a teacher to touch a student also does not have a clear-cut answer. But Katie Cornetto, an attorney with the North Carolina Board of Education, says that the answer is “No,” though she notes that the state would not likely ever make that a rule.

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Law & Policy
Kentucky District Struggles To Maintain Diversity Following Supreme Court Ruling.
The Washington Post (9/20, Barnes) reports, “It has been a long three years for school officials since” the US Supreme Court “for the first time took away the simplest and most efficient way to integrate classrooms: making decisions based upon a student’s race.” According to the Post, school officials in Louisville, Kentucky “have steadfastly – or stubbornly…tried to maintain integrated classrooms despite the court’s command that officials not consider race when assigning children to schools.” The Post adds that the Louisville district’s new diversity plan, “which integrates schools based on socioeconomic factors rather than on race alone, has proven to be more complex and costly than the previous system.”

Delaware Adopts Tougher Testing Standards.
Delaware’s News Journal (9/18, Dobo) reported, “The Delaware Department of Education adopted more rigorous exam pass rates that could decrease the number of students who pass state tests, a move that education leaders say will provide a more meaningful picture of student achievement. In a unanimous vote, the state’s Board of Education approved the rates, part of the state’s move this school year to an online test that will measure student progress throughout the year, rather than just a few days of testing in the spring.” According to the News Journal, “The attempt to make the state test more rigorous comes after national reports showed that Delaware, like many states, had a state assessment that showed a more promising picture of student achievement than what’s reported on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

School Finance
School Districts In Oregon Expecting To Increase Retirement System Contributions.
Oregon’s Register-Guard (9/19) reported that as “local public agencies are preparing to sharply increase the amount of money they have to contribute to PERS — the Public Employee Retirement System,” school systems “are bracing for some of the biggest rate increases into” the retirement program. According to its chief financial officer Susan Fahey, the Eugene district “expects an increase of 5.8 percentage points,” which “would push…percentage of total payroll paid into PERS — to 24.6 percent.” And each “percentage-point increase costs the district approximately $1 million a year, she said.” Meanwhile, the Springfield school system expects to add “another $3 million to $3.5 million a year” in PERS payments due to “an increase of between 6 and 8 percentage points in its 11 percent PERS rate in the 2011-12 fiscal year.”

Also in the News
Obama Administration Backing “Promise Neighborhoods” Initiative.
The AP (9/20) reports, “The Obama administration thinks that theory is right: If children don’t have a safe place to live and study, or if they come to school with an empty stomach, the belief is, they can’t learn. Taking a page from the successful Harlem Children’s Zone project, the administration requested $210 million from the 2011 budget to help blighted neighborhoods provide family, community and school supports, with the hope it will boost student achievement.” According to the AP, “More than 300 communities…have applied to become a ‘Promise Neighborhood.’”

DC Schools Chancellor Reflects On Tenure.
Education Week (9/17, Aarons) reported in an interview following the loss of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic mayoral primary, schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee “wouldn’t say if she would work for Mr. Fenty’s likely successor, a man she campaigned against. But, looking back on her tenure so far, she said some of the most significant changes in Washington’s public schools lie in the kinds of things that don’t make conflict-driven headlines.” According to Education Week, “Under Ms. Rhee, who had no previous experience running a school system, test scores have improved, an enrollment decline has slowed, and a long-dysfunctional bureaucracy has instituted modern, data-driven processes.”

Rhee Clarifies Use Of The Word “Devastating” Regarding DC Mayoral Primary. DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee wrote in a letter to the Washington Post (9/17), “This week I used the word ‘devastating’ to describe the potential effects of the D.C. mayoral election [ front page, Sept. 17]. I want to be very clear: In using this word I was not criticizing D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray.” According to Rhee, if the election “results were to be read as a repudiation of reform, that indeed would be devastating for D.C. children, for the city and for children throughout the country who are so dependent on successful school reform efforts.”

NEA in the News
New Jersey Lawmakers Continue Probe Into “Infamous” Race To The Top Application.
The New Jersey Spotlight (9/20, Mooney) reports on the ongoing discussion among New Jersey lawmakers about the state’s “infamous Race to the Top application.” This week, “the Senate’s oversight committee…will dig into what went wrong with the state’s failed application for $400 million in federal funds.” They will review “several early drafts of the application, dozens of emails from in and outside Trenton and a new state-by-state analysis of competing bids.” The New Jersey Spotlight adds that included in the documents up for review is an “extensive mark-up of a draft of the application” by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). State education officials initially noted their “general agreement with much of” the document, but only days later, Gov. Chris Christie (R) “pulled the plug on the deal, largely due to” a concession on seniority in teacher layoffs that Christie “said he would not accept.”

Florida Districts Working On Budget Plans For Share Of Race To The Top Funds.
The Naples (FL) Daily News (9/20, Albers) reports that 65 Florida districts have 90 days to submit plans for spending their share of a roughly $750 million Race to the Top grant being awarded to the state. “The blueprint for carrying out Race to the Top reforms must include at least a conceptual plan for overhauling how teachers are evaluated so that student performance is a factor.” The Collier County Education Association said that “it will take compromise to ensure Collier County comes up with an appropriate plan.” Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Crist (I) last week “appointed 22 members to Florida’s Task Force on Educational Excellence.” The task force will develop “strategies related to merit pay for teachers; teacher certification and performance evaluation; measuring student learning gains; compensation and benefits; and teacher recruitment, retention and improvement, among other duties.”

Study Says Schools In New England Among Most Segregated.
NENC-TV Boston (9/21, Yount) reports that according to a study by researchers at Northeastern University, “New England public schools are among the most racially segregated in the nation.” Researchers “found that in some cases, Latinos might make up as much as 80 percent of a given school.”

The AP (9/20) reported that researchers examined 100 “large metropolitan area schools” and ranked schools in Springfield, Massachusetts “second behind Los Angeles for the most segregated for Latino students, while the Boston area ranked fourth in the same category.” Springfield was ranked “ninth and Boston was 28th” for “segregation of black students.”

The Boston Globe (9/20, Vaznis) reported that according to the authors of the report, “metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest dominated the rankings for the most segregated schools — the repercussions of segregated housing patterns and centuries-old practices of school districts run mostly by individual cities and towns, rather than by counties.” To bring down segregation in schools, the authors make several recommendations in the report, “which will be posted on diversitydata.org.” For instance, they “call on state and local leaders to build more affordable housing in the suburbs and reinvest in depressed city neighborhoods to create more demographically diverse communities.” Massachusetts’ Republican (9/21, Flynn) also covers the story.

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In the Classroom
Enrollment In Mexican-American Studies Classes Doubles In Tucson High Schools.
Education Week (9/21, Zerh) reports that while “Arizona’s legislature and top education official” try “to shut down ethnic-studies courses in the Tucson Unified School District, students…at Tucson High Magnet School are flocking to the courses this school year.” According to district officials, “enrollment in Mexican-American studies in Tucson Unified’s 14 high schools has nearly doubled since last school year.” Students interviewed have various reasons fro wanting to take the course. Some said that the controversy surrounding the classes made them curious. Others wanted “to learn more about social justice generally or Mexican-American culture and history specifically.” Education week notes that Tucson High Magnet School offers “Native-American literature and an African-American literature” courses in addition to Mexican-American ethnic studies.

Arizona District Offers Discovery Education Streaming Plus.
The Arizona Republic (9/20, Faller) reported that “all of the students in the Scottsdale Unified School District have access to Discovery Education Streaming Plus as part of their curriculum this year.” The program offers online access to “more than 9,000 full-length videos, with content from PBS, NASA, BBC America, the Library of Congress, Scholastic and several other publishers.” Scottsdale’s “subscription… costs about $3,000 per school,” which “was paid for by the district’s capital override, passed in 2007, from which the district allotted $4.7 million per year for seven years for technology.”

Program Gives Financial Reward To Students For Passing AP Tests.
The Dallas Morning News (9/21, Hobbs) reports, “A program that has financially rewarded some Dallas students for passing” Advanced Placement exams “has been expanded to all 32 of the district’s high schools. The expansion is made possible by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation and continued support from the O’Donnell Foundation and the school district.” According to the Morning News, “Students receive $100 from one of the foundations for each score of 3 or higher on a five-point scale.”

On the Job
New Jersey Superintendents Not Planning “Hiring Spree” With Money For Teacher Jobs.
New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/21) reports that on Monday, New Jersey districts “learned how much they would get from $268 million in new federal funding to save education jobs.” Even with the new infusion of funds, “several superintendents said they did not expect to go on a hiring spree,” since the money “is not guaranteed to be there again next year.” Schools have until September 2010 to use the money. Some district officials “said they were hampered by the timing of the aid, delivered after the start of the school year.”

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Law & Policy
FCC Expected To OK Overhaul Of School Internet Subsidy.
The New York Times (9/21, Wyatt) reports, “The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve an overhaul of the $2.25 billion E-Rate program, which subsidizes Internet service for schools and public libraries, to give schools more options for faster Internet service, allow for community Internet service and to begin pilot programs for digital textbooks. The proposed E-Rate order would allow schools and libraries to use federal funds to lease unused local communication lines – known as dark fiber – to connect to the Internet, a potentially faster and lower-cost connection than currently offered through many local telecommunications companies.” The Times adds that the FCC “also is expected to approve a pilot program that supports off-campus wireless Internet connections for use with mobile learning devices.”

Cecilia Kang also covered this story in a blog for the Washington Post (9/20), noting that the E-Rate “program has doled out more than $22 billion since it was launched in 1998, helping to bring Internet connections to nearly all classrooms in America. But the connections have been slow and costly, and the Government Accountabilty Office said last year the FCC hadn’t set clear goals for E-Rate.”

California Bill Would Require That Schools Provide Free Fresh Water In Eating Areas.
The AP (9/21) reports that California State Sen. Sen. Mark Leno “has proposed Senate Bill 1413,” which would require that all public schools in the state offer students free fresh water in “eating areas.” The bill has already “passed the Assembly and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature.” According to the California Food Policy Advocates., “more than 40 percent of school districts that responded to an online survey said their students had no access to free drinking water where their meals are served.”

KTLA-TV Los Angeles (9/20) reported that “the bill does not provide funding…and most districts say they can’t cover the cost.” David Binkle, deputy director of food services for Los Angeles Public schools said he thinks fresh water in school cafeterias is “a good idea, but he’s worried about the cost — up to 5 cents for a cup, plus any equipment or testing that might be needed.” KTLA notes that “many schools provide vending machines with bottled water. But advocates feel families on a tight budget should not have to pay for water.” The Los Angeles Times (9/20) “Daily Dish” blog also covered the story.

NAACP Poised To Challenge New Student Assignment Policy In North Carolina District.
North Carolina’s News & Observer (9/21, Hui) reports, “National NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous will be in Raleigh on Saturday for what’s being billed as a major announcement on legal action against the Wake County school system for its new student assignment policy.” North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said that “a team of lawyers was convened from the N.C. Justice Center, the NAACP, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Legal Aid of North Carolina” to prepare “for legal action against the school system.” The News & Observer notes that the Wake County “school board majority that took office Dec. 1 eliminated the long-standing policy of balancing enrollments to try to avoid having overly high concentrations of poor children at individual schools.”

Special Needs

Advocates Weigh Impact Of Common Standards Movement On Special Education.
Education Week (9/20, Samuels) reported, “Special education advocates are greeting the burgeoning common academic standards movement with a mixture of optimism and caution.” So far, details have not been provided as to “how the new curricula should be taught to a student population with a range of physical and cognitive needs.” Some special education advocates see the void in that area as an opportunity to add their voices “in the policy discussions as the standards movement starts to shift from adoption to the more challenging process of implementation.” Others, meanwhile, “are more wary. Some special educators see the standards-based movement as a recipe for failure for some students.”

Facilities
Parents Stake Out Chicago School Building To Protest Planned Demolition.
The Chicago Tribune (9/21, Cancino) reports that about 30 parents have been staking out a “school field house to stop its demolition, hoping to persuade Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to convert the dilapidated structure into a library.” Monday was the sixth day of the stake out for which “parents have taken turns sleeping at the elementary school and have been bringing each other warm food. They said Monday that they will not leave the building until they are promised the building will not be demolished.” District officials, meanwhile, “have been trying to talk with the parents and persuade them to leave the building.”

WBBM-TV Chicago (9/20, Puccinelli) reported that according to the district, “the single-story field house on the grounds of Whittier Elementary School…is structurally unsound and will be demolished for a soccer field.” On Friday, “police came to the school…and tried to remove the protesters forcibly,” which led to “a six-hour standoff. … The standoff ended when police left, after school let out for the day, and scores of parents and children rushed the building and joined the parents who were already inside.” CPS Superintendent Ron Huberman has said he “would meet with [parents] before any plan for demolition went ahead.”

Also in the News
Schools Offer Baby Carrots In Vending Machines.
The Middletown (OH) Journal (9/21, Schwartzberg) reports that Mason High School in Ohio has installed “an all-carrot vending machine” as “part of a national campaign to get consumers to ‘Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.’” Syracuse, New York is the other “test market” for “the first-ever marketing campaign for baby carrots,” The Middletown Journal adds. Mason High’s vending machine was provided by Bolthouse Farms in California, which is covering the machine’s “operating costs, and the high school gets to keep the profits from the machine, according to…the district’s spokeswoman.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer (9/20, Kranz) reported, “Mason and a Syracuse high school are the only schools in the country to pilot the machines, which will remain for two months.” Students at those schools can purchase 3 oz. bag of carrots for fifty cents. Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms, the company spearheading the campaign, told the Enquirer, “Our absolute intent would be to expand it to more schools. … We’re all grappling with the same thing, how to help kids have healthier diets, especially during snack time.” The Newark (OH) Advocate (9/20) also covered the story.

Study Shows Teacher Bonuses Did Not Boost Student Achievement In Tennessee Schools.
The AP (9/22) reports that a three-year study “conducted in the metropolitan Nashville school system by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives” found that student performance did not increase when teachers were offered “big bonuses.” The teachers could earn “bonuses of up to $15,000 a year for improved test scores.” But, researchers said, third through fifth graders whose math teachers were offered the bonuses “registered the same gains on standardized exams as those whose [math] teachers were” not offered the bonuses. The AP adds that half of the 300 teachers who “started out in the study…were eligible for the bonuses.” Each year, about 40 teachers got bonuses.

The Washington Post (9/23, Anderson) reports that the studies authors and “other experts described [it] as the first scientifically rigorous review of merit pay in the United States.” The Post adds that “there were no additional variables in the experiment: no professional development, mentoring or other elements meant to affect test scores.” USA Today (9/23, Connell) notes, “The study was conducted from 2006 to 2009 in partnership with the nonprofit RAND Corporation. A local industrialist and Vanderbilt benefactor, Orrin Ingram, put up the nearly $1.3 million in bonuses.”

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In the Classroom
Schools Blend Virtual, Classroom Teaching.
Education Week (9/22, Ash) reported that at the Chicago Virtual Charter School, “which is operated in partnership with K12 Inc., a Herndon, Va.-based e-learning company, each student spends two hours and 15 minutes in a classroom one day a week and spends the rest of the school week working virtually from home. … Blended, or hybrid, learning has caught the eye of many looking into the potential of online learning, especially after the release of a meta-analysis and review of online-learning research by the US Department of Education in May 2009.” According to Education Week, the report “authors found that ‘instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage’ than either purely online or entirely face-to-face instruction.”

Paddling Becomes Subject Of Controversy In Little Rock.
KATV-TV Little Rock (9/22) reports that Arkansas districts last year “used the paddle nearly 35,000 times” overall. Family Action Council spokesman Jerry Cox said paddling in schools “can be a valuable tool as long as it’s used properly.” But last week, “two violations of corporal punishment” were reported. In one case, “a 13 yr. old boy was allegedly slapped across the face by a teacher’s aide and” in another, “a girl was allegedly hit several times with a paddle in front of her classmates.” Anne Lindsay, an education professor at the University of Arkansas — Little Rock, argued that paddling “should never be used” as a form of punishment in schools. “Exposure to any kind of aggression or violence has a negative effect on their development,” she said.

On the Job
Publisher Says Education Reform Hindered By Gridlocked Political System.
Alan Gottlieb, publisher of Education News Colorado, wrote in the Huffington Post (9/21) that the upcoming documentary “Waiting for Superman” serves as “an effective vehicle for its powerful message, even if it paints in black and white issues that are decidedly gray.” In the debate over education reform, Gottlieb said, “both sides are right. You can’t fix poverty without fixing schools but you can’t fix schools without fixing poverty either.” He added that the nation’s “political system [is] so seized up that…no one can muster much will to do anything on a large scale about either interlocked challenge. And so we slide downhill. No movie alone can fix that,” Gottlieb concluded.

Law & Policy
Maryland BOE Approves Environmental Education Requirement For All Students.
The Baltimore Sun (9/22, Bowie) reports that on Tuesday, “the Maryland State Board of Education voted…to make environmental education a part of every student’s education.” Instead of creating new courses, the regulation requires that environmental education “be added into existing courses, such as biology.” The Baltimore Sun adds that the BOE “put off making [environmental education] a graduation requirement.” That regulation would have made Maryland “the first state in the nation to have an environmental graduation requirement, according to the” Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “which had advocated for making environmental studies a part of the curriculum.”

Nevada Academic Council Adopts New Math, Reading Standards.
The Las Vegas Sun (9/22, Ryan) reports that On Tuesday, Nevada’s Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools adopted new math and reading standards that would go into effect in 2011. The more stringent standards require that students “show more critical thinking of what they have read” and that high school students take “statistics, basic calculus, and higher level algebra.” The Las Vegas Sun adds that the state Board of Education, “which has already given preliminary approval,” will decide in December whether to give the standards final approval.

Schwarzenegger Urged To Sign Bill Restricting Use Of Pesticides On School Campuses.
California’s Contra Costa Times (9/22, Harrington) reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is being urged by “local officials, parents and environmentalists…to sign a bill that would help protect children from being exposed to dangerous pesticides on school campuses.” Senate Bill 1157 “would require schools to adopt pest-management programs focusing on the least-hazardous practices to rid campuses of insects and other pests by 2014.” In 2009, a survey of school districts showed that “42 percent of those responding were using broadcast spraying pesticides,” which “is one of the highest-risk practices for exposing children and staff to” toxins, according to school trustee and California Parent Teacher Association Vice President Linda Mayo. Schwarzenegger has until September 30 to act on the bill.

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Safety & Security
Crime Ring Charged With Stealing, Selling Computers From Detroit Public Schools.
The Detroit Free Press (9/22, Dawsey, Shelton) reports that on Tuesday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Detroit Public Schools (DPS) “announced felony charges against” 10 men “allegedly involved in a crime ring that stole and sold more than $158,000 in laptop computers” from DPS last year. “The ring was involved in the theft of about 104 DPS laptops that were stolen last school year and sold on eBay, Craigslist and to friends.” Thanks to tracking devices inside the computers, officials were able to track “stolen DPS computers in seven other states, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.” The Free Press adds.

The AP (9/22, Williams) reports that “A Michigan State football player is among 10 men charged in the theft of” the computers. The nineteen year-old has been suspended, the university said. ESPN (9/22, Rittenberg) reports on its website that “Sims is accused of receiving and concealing stolen property, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”

The Detroit News (9/21, Guthrie, et al.) also reported that “Sims was suspended from team-related activities [Tuesday], the school said in a statement.” Six of the other men charged are “former Detroit Public Schools students,” and three of those charged “were considered the ringleaders, having allegedly broken into the four schools and taken the computers.” According to the Detroit News, DPS “recovered 71 laptops worth $71,000 and cash totaling $17,212″ this summer.

MLive.com (9/22, Foley) reports that in all, the individuals charged “allegedly stole, received or concealed $158,000 in technology from the district.” The laptops were “sold online between 2009 and 2010,” according to Worthy.

Michigan Radio (9/21, Cwiek) quoted Worthy as saying, “There’s an expectation that we’re going to continue to purchase this technology for our students but we’re also going to continue to be very vigilant to make sure that equipment remains in the classroom and in the schools.”

Facilities
North Carolina District Officials Anticipate Need For 34 New Schools By 2020.
North Carolina’s News & Observer (9/22, Hui) reports that school administrators in Wake County, North Carolina, say that the district “needs at least 34 new schools by 2020 or risk being 39,500 seats short of what’s needed for all the new students coming.” Even with slowed growth caused by the recession, “Wake is still projected to reach 200,000 students by the end of the decade,” up from about 143,235 this school year. The News & Observer adds, “Administrators avoided giving specific dollar figures today but $1 billion would be a conservative figure based on current construction costs.”

School Finance
Even With Federal Funding, Florida District Faces Obstacles To Hiring Teachers.
The Miami Herald (9/21, Teproff) reported that Broward County (FL) Public Schools Superintendent Jim Notter said that although the district “has millions of dollars to help meet class size requirements and shore up programming,” it is still facing obstacles to getting teachers in the classroom. Before hiring teachers, the district must “meet with the Broward Teachers Union.” Aside from that, many teachers may be “shifting positions,” finding “teachers for specialty subjects including chemistry can be difficult, and the money is only good for one year, which may deter teachers from accepting positions.” In order to meet the state’s class size mandate, Broward needs “an additional 460 teachers,” The Miami Herald noted.

Officials In Virginia District Consider Rejecting Federal Teacher Jobs Aid.
The Washington Post (9/22, Sieff) reports that officials in Prince William County, VA “are balking at accepting $17 million in federal school funds, claiming that an Obama administration initiative to save teaching jobs encourages irresponsible spending. The $10 billion federal program…has met with obstacles in several places across the country” as numerous “state and local officials have found it difficult to add teaching positions in time for the current school year because the money has just started to flow.” Prince William “officials are debating whether to reject the grant outright rather than allow the fast-growing school district to hire 180 teachers with funding due to expire after only one year.”

Also in the News
Distressed Communities To Plan “Promise Neighborhoods.”
The AP (9/22, Armario) reports, “Organizers in distressed communities from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., will soon begin plans to create what the US Department of Education envisions as ‘Promise Neighborhoods,’ where children and families receive support services that boost a student’s chance of being successful in school. Twenty-one applicants for the program to transform communities and student outcomes were named on Tuesday.” The AP notes that “the program is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides comprehensive support for families from pregnancy through birth, education through college and career.”

Investigation Finds Test Cheating, Irregularities At Ten Ontario Schools.
Canada’s CBC News (9/22) reports that the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) has found “incidences of cheating and irregularities in standardized testing” at 10 schools in Ontario, Canada. Margeurite Jackson, CEO of the agency said that “some teachers peeked at the tests before they were supposed to and gave students the questions ahead of time.” CBC News notes that since 2001, the first year the tests were administered, “teachers, principals and one school superintendent have all been suspended…for what the agency has deemed to be irregularities or cheating.”

Canada’s National Post (9/21, Greenberg, Cook) reported that the EQAO “did not release specifics about the infractions,” as the investigation is still ongoing in at least one school. But EQAO spokesman Phil Serruya did say that “the infractions involve a range of rule-breaking by teacher…such as teachers giving instruction after the test began, cases of photocopies of past years’ tests used for practice, examples of students not completing a session in one continuous sitting, and cases where students were given access to dictionaries.” The Toronto Star (9/21, Brown, Taylor) noted that “about 500 students were involved in the investigations.”

Some German Schools Admit Dogs In Effort To Boost Student Achievement.
AFP (9/22) reports that since the late 1990s, some German schools have used dogs to help boost student achievement. Currently, about 120 schools in Germany welcome dogs, special education teacher Lydia Agsten estimates. Actual figures are not available, she said, because the practice “was not officially recognized in the German educational system.” While some parents and teachers with experience on the matter say that dogs in classrooms are effective, some experts “say there is no clear link between canine presence and better grades.”

Where: Trinity and the Pope
649 Mattison Ave., Asbury Park

When: Friday –September 24, 2010

Cost: $5.00 – Includes Happy Hour Food and 1 Drink Ticket

(Tickets purchased at the door will be $10.00)

Tickets will be distributed at Trinity and the Pope until 4:30pm.

To purchase your ticket, please see:

APMS – Lynn Librizzi
Bradley – Maureen Casey
TMS – Regina Jagoo
Barack – Annette Rios
APHS – Mia Jones- Cazeau
Alt. MS/HS – Don Cleaves
BOE – Gena Proctor
Maint. – John Kostecki
ITC – Mike Amadruto
Annex – Melanie Pelosi

For more information visit our website:www.asburyparkea.net

To: Executive Committee

County Presidents

Local Presidents

All Staff

All NJEA Consultants

From: Barbara Keshishian, President

Vince Giordano, Executive Director

By now you have likely heard that earlier today Governor Christie unveiled a list of proposed pension and benefits changes that he wants the Legislature to consider this fall. Details of the proposals are still very sketchy and so far no legislation has been proposed or introduced. While the details are critical, it is clear that this is a serious attack on the pensions and benefits of public employees, including NJEA members. We are not waiting for actual legislation to begin organizing against this attack on our members.

NJEA is gathering more information about the proposals, and is consulting with attorneys regarding possible legal action should the state attempt to make any illegal changes to the pensions or benefits of our members. That process is ongoing.

While pursuing every legal avenue available to protect our members’ interests, we will also mount a concerted organizing and political campaign. It is critical to note that all of the governor’s proposals require legislative approval. So far, reaction from legislative leaders has been unenthusiastic, but we are not relying on that. Our campaign against these damaging proposals will be a full-court press by NJEA and its members.

NJEA has already released a statement today condemning the governor’s proposals.

We will keep you informed as additional information becomes available.

Education Department Rejects Texas’ $830 Million School Funding Request.
The AP (9/10, Castro) reports that “the US Department of Education has rejected Texas’ application for $830 million in federal money for schools and asked the state to resubmit its request without conditions.” Texas’ initial application included “a line…that said Texas’ constitution and laws supersede any assurances made by the governor in the application.” Officials in the state said the line was added because they believed the funding requirement that Texas “ensure schools will be funded at a certain level for the next three years” was not in line wit the state constitution.

Texas’ American Statesman (9/10, Alexander) reports that on Thursday Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) Chief of Staff Ray Sullivan said “that the state is keeping its options open, including potential legal action, to ensure that money will eventually come to Texas schools.” The American Statesman notes that “Texas is the only state whose governor must assure that state education spending will hold steady for the next three years. The other states must provide that assurance for only one year.”

Editorial Director Mike Norman wrote in Texas’ Star-Telegram (9/9) that the dispute between the Texas Education Agency and the US Education Department “can’t be very amusing for people who are trying to run Texas schools and need to know how much money they’ll have this year.” Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott on Friday sent the state’s “application for $830 million to Duncan,” agreeing to “two of the three conditions. The part about the level of state education spending through 2013 would have to wait, he wrote, until the Legislature completes a state budget covering that period.” But the Education Department “wants Scott to say when Texas will submit another application meeting all of Doggett’s requirements.” Norman adds, “If Texas has to wait for the Legislature to write the 2012-13 state budget, that will be late May, about the time the school year ends. How’s that going to save teacher jobs?”

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In the Classroom
Most New York City Public School Students Show Up For One-Day School Week.
The New York Daily News (9/9, Einhorn, et al.) reported that about 77 percent of students in New York City Public Schools showed up for school “on the first day of classes” Wednesday with the rest “snubbing the unusual single-day school week.” Still, “some schools were actually turning children away” due to overcrowding. Despite the rough start to the school year, Mayor Bloomberg (I) and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein “insisted…during their annual tour of schools, that deep budget cuts won’t lower standards.”

Report: Most Principals Unsatisfied With Social Networking Policies.
Ian Quillen wrote in a blog for Education Week (9/9), “A report issued Thursday finds that while principals believe social networking can enhance their students’ educational experience,” most principals “are unsatisfied with their school or district’s social-networking policies. The report, issued collaboratively by educator-focused social-networking site edWeb.net, education technology consultants IESD, data providers MCH Strategic Data, and research firm MMS Education, combines feedback from an online survey sent to a cross section of educators nationwide in the fall of 2009, followed by an online discussion with 12 principals who use social networking professionally.”

iRobot Bringing Robotics To 20 Massachusetts Schools In 20 Weeks.
Mass High Tech (9/9, Lang) reports, “To celebrate its 20-year anniversary, Bedford-based iRobot Corp. has launched an initiative to introduce Massachusetts K-12 students to robotics and engage them more broadly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with the goal of inspiring more STEM-related career pursuits.” Through the company’s “20 in 20″ initiative, “a team iRobot employees [will] visit 20 schools over 20 weeks. The program is part of the company’s SPARK (Starter Programs for the Advancement of Robotics Knowledge) initiative, which is aimed at helping elementary, middle and high school students and teachers connect more with STEM subjects.”

On the Job
Some New Jersey Districts Using “In-House” Professional Development To Save Money.
New Jersey’s Press of Atlantic City (9/9, D’Amico) reported that “with budget cuts, districts are” some New Jersey school districts are turning to in-house teacher training. Teachers in the state “must get 100 hours of district-approved professional development every five years, and this year also marks the first year of a new cycle.” And “schools are looking for innovative and inexpensive ways” to provide that training. The Press of Atlantic City points out that the New Jersey Education Association “provides training both during its annual convention in Atlantic City and to local districts at the local union’s request.” This year, the NJEA has been “getting more requests…for assistance in setting up in-school professional learning communities,” according to spokesman Steve Baker.

Florida District Revises Employee Disciplinary Plan To Support Due Process.
The Miami Herald (9/9, Teproff) reported that Florida’s Broward County school district has revised its employee disciplinary plan to require that investigations into teacher conduct “be completed within 60 days” and that employees “be given a written explanation of the allegations against them.” The changes were “prompted by concerns from the community that employees weren’t given the chance to defend themselves if accused of a crime.” Parents, “district staff” and other community members helped come “up with the new rules.”

Teacher-Developed Evaluation Systems Touted As Solution For Merit-Pay.
Scott Bess, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Goodwill Education Initiatives, Inc., which operates the Indianapolis Metropolitan High School and The Excel Center, writes in the Indianapolis Star (9/11) “Our Schools” blog that “teachers justifiably want to make sure their raises are not dependent on which students get assigned to their classrooms.” He asserts that when teachers develop evaluation systems “with the understanding that student outcomes are part of the criteria,” the product “is a system understood by all staff members and focused on student achievement.” Bess concludes, “Merit pay will work when mutual trust exists between teachers and administration and high expectations exist for” both educators and students.

Law & Policy
Georgia District Takes Families To Court Over Falsified Residency Documents.
The AP (9/9) reported that officials in Georgia’s Lee County school district “are taking some families to court, saying they provided false information on residency forms.” The crack down on “parents believed to have falsified residency documents” was prompted by “tighter budget constraints because of the economic downturn,” officials say.

The Albany (GA) Herald (9/9, Fowler) reported that on Wednesday, Lee County Magistrate Jim Thurman heard the cases of two families who “were taken to court because school system officials charge they broke Georgia Code 16-10-20, which prohibits an individual from knowingly making false statements to a political subdivision, such as a school district.” Said Lee County Superintendent Lawrence Walters, “We take our responsibility to citizens of the community to ensure the students who attend Lee County schools reside in Lee County.” Meanwhile, Lee County schools Attendance Officer Lisa Bailey noted that “verifying residency has grown from an occasional task for her to a daily one.”

WALB-TV Albany, Georgia (9/9, Emert) reported that “several parents” were arrested Wednesday then sent to court, and at least three were “handcuffed and shackled.” According to WALB, “school officials don’t understand why parents are going to great lengths to register their students illegally.” Bailey said that parents have “cut and pasted” to create false documents to prove residency. If convicted, parents “could be sentenced to one to five years in jail and a $1,000 fine.”

California Districts Face Lawsuit Over School Fees.
The New York Times (9/10, Dillon) reports, “Public schools across the nation, many facing budget shortfalls, have been charging students fees to use textbooks or to take required tests or courses. Now,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California “is suing California over those proliferating fees, arguing that the state has failed to protect the right to a free public education.” The suit, “names 35 school districts across California that list on their Web sites the fees their schools charge for courses including art, home economics and music, for Advanced Placement tests and for materials including gym uniforms.”

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School Finance
Georgia To Pay For PSATs With Race To The Top Funds.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/10, Badertscher) reports, “As a cost-cutting measure,” Georgia “lawmakers voted earlier this year to eliminate funding for several free tests — including the PSAT — for all but lower income students. But on Thursday, the state Board of Education voted to commit about $1.1 million Race to the Top funding this year so the PSAT — a practice version of the SAT college entrance exam — can be given to all students at no cost in October.”

San Francisco Districts Participate In “Coin Rush” Fundraiser.
Andrew Ross wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle (9/9, D1) “Bottom Line” column, “In another sign of the economic times, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with local businesses, banks and the two cities’ school districts in a three-week campaign cheerfully called ‘The Coin Rush!’” Coin collection boxes will be placed in “public schools in San Francisco and South San Francisco, and Walgreens stores in both cities” to raise money for the schools. First National Bank of Northern California will manage “the collection account, and armored cars provided by San Leandro’s Dunbar Armored Inc. will be securing the collection boxes’ take.” Chris Armentrout of the San Francisco Unified School District said, “There’s a bittersweet aspect, certainly. … But it’s a creative way to raise funds, in addition to our other efforts. Let’s leave no stone unturned.”

Also in the News
Florida Virtual School Educator Named National Online Teacher Of The Year.
The AP (9/10) reports that Florida Virtual School teacher Teresa Dove, from North Tazewell, Virginia, “on Wednesday received the first National Online Teacher of the Year Award.” The award was presented by the Southern Regional Education Board and International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Teaching No Longer A Recession-Proof Job.
CNN Money (9/10, Luhby) reports that “teaching is no longer the stable career it once was” as the faltering economy “and accompanying state fiscal woes…are decimating the industry.” According to CNN, “An estimated 135,000 teachers will be out of work this school year” and “a recent $10 billion injection to education from Congress is” not “expected to help that much. … The hiring of new teachers has slowed dramatically and fewer veteran educators are staying in the field for their entire careers, said Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality at the National Education Association.”

NEA in the News
Teachers Union In Massachusetts District To Give Back Portion Of Pay Increase.
The Boston Globe (9/10, Seltz) reports teachers in Milton, MA “have agreed to give back a portion of their pay hike this school year to prevent future layoffs and program cuts. The renegotiated contract — which was approved 290 to 5 by” the Milton Educators Association “and 5 to 1 by the School Committee Wednesday — will save the Milton school system about $200,000 this year, school officials said.” According to the Globe, “Unions across the state have made similar or bigger sacrifices in response to their communities’ financial problems.”

Editor’s Note
In yesterday’s briefing, a headline should have read, “Wind Farm Gives School Districts In Indiana Opportunity To Make Money Selling Electricity,” not Iowa. We regret the error.

Less Criticism Precedes Obama Back-To-School Speech This Year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/10, Graham) reported that on Tuesday, President Obama “will give his back-to-school speech at Philadelphia’s prestigious Masterman School.” Philadelphia Public Schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman “said she didn’t know why the White House had chosen Philadelphia,” but speculated the decision may have had to do with the school district’s achievement gains this year. The Philadelphia Inquirer added, “For the first time, more than half the district’s students are performing at grade level in reading and math and more than half the 265 city schools met state standards.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (9/11, Weigand) reported that “nearly every school district that responded to the Tribune-Review will show President Obama’s back-to-school speech to some or all of its students.” All of the districts will allow parents to “exclude their child from the speech by sending a letter to the school.” Jeffrey Zollars, curriculum director for the Moon Area school district, told the Tribune-Review, “Regardless of whether he’s Republican or Democrat he’s still the president of the United States trying to encourage students to stay in school and value education.”

Texas’ American Statesman (9/13, Taboada) reports, “Last year, there was an uproar when Obama decided to address schoolchildren across the US via the Web.” Some Texas districts, facing “threats from parents that they would keep their children home from school the day of the speech…did not allow students to watch the speech live.” This year, most “school officials across the region said they…are leaving the decision up to campus leaders or teachers.”

North Carolina’s News & Observer (9/11, Hui) reported that the President’s back-to-school speech is generating less controversy in North Carolina’s Triangle region as well. Last year, some parents were concerned that the speech would be “a political talk,” but after it “turned out to be a pep talk about staying in school, calls for schools to forgo showing this year’s speech have subsided.” Most “Triangle school officials said it will be up to individual school principals to decide whether to air the speech.”

Texas’ Star-Telegram (9/10, Cadwallader) describes how districts throughout the state of Texas “are handling the speech.” The North Carolina Advertiser (9/11, Schmelkin), Virginia’s Daily Press (9/11, Vaugn), and the Houston Chronicle (9/10, Mellon) also covered the story.

President’s Message Called “A Valuable Lesson.” The Aiken (SC) Standard (9/12) editorialized, “American students hearing from their president is a valuable teaching lesson. And it doesn’t matter what the parents’ political affiliation is.” It asserts, “The bottom line is a respect for the highest office in the land,” adding that “every sensible parent knows full well that when President Obama addresses students, it will be a positive message of encouragement.” All US citizens should not only hear “what our elected leaders have to say,” they should “absorb it, discuss it, even debate it. But we should certainly be given the opportunity to hear it,” the Aiken Standard concludes.

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In the Classroom
Elementary Students In Texas District Produce TV Newscasts.
The AP (9/11, Jinkins) reported, “Each of the Grapevine-Colleyville [TX] district’s 11 elementary schools offers a student-produced morning news telecast at least a few days a week. Fifth-graders fill the roles of anchors, reporters, editors, photographers and technicians, replacing old-style faculty announcements with style and energy.” According to the AP, “Classroom announcements, meeting notices, football ticket prices and birthday shout-outs are given equal time with science words of the day, wise quotations and character tips on good manners.”

On the Job
DC School Officials Detail Two New Teacher Bonus Programs.
The Washington Post (9/12, Birnbaum) reported that on Friday, DC public school officials explained “how teachers can qualify for [two] performance-based pay increases.” Both “are targeted toward teachers who receive the best evaluations.” Teachers “ranked highly effective” could receive one-time bonuses of up to $25,000. “Those ranked highly effective for two years in a row could see their base pay rise by as much as $26,000 a year.” The bonuses will be funded through private donations. But, by 2013, “D.C.’s government will shoulder the burden.”

South Carolina District’s New Health And Wellness Plan Focuses On Teachers.
WIS-TV Columbia, South Carolina (9/12, Johnson) reported on the Charleston County School District’s (CCSD) new health and wellness plan that “promotes five areas of health for its teachers and other employees. Those areas include physical health and nutrition, social emotional health, family friendly policies, employee role models, health and wellness partners.” District officials hope that by focusing on teachers, the message will be “passed on to students.” CSD “is currently looking for medical professionals to partner with various schools.”

Law & Policy
Flow Of Federal Teachers Jobs Aid Hits Some Roadblocks.
Education Week (9/10, Klein) reported, “Federal money from the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund is headed to state coffers — but not without what appear to be some initial implementation wrinkles and controversies.” Texas, for instance “had its application for $830 million in school jobs money rejected by the US Department of Education…after state officials balked at a provision in the federal law that requires Texas to make additional assurances about how its schools will be funded for the next three years.” Education Week also noted that charter schools “have a tough time tapping into the fund.”

Potential Long-Term Benefit Seen In Delay Of Federal Teacher Jobs Aid. Texas’ American-Statesman (9/12) editorialized, “Very soon states will be receiving big checks from the federal government’s Education Jobs Fund Program that aims to help public schools keep educators on the payroll during tough economic times” and though Texas will not receive funds this year, “if it’s a matter of timing and the money is available next year, it might be worth the wait.” While it may seem “unfair that Texas” is the only state that “must ensure that state education spending will not shrink as a percentage of total state spending for the next three years,” the American Statesman concludes, “Texas schools might fare better if the money is withheld until after the Legislature passes a budget by summer 2011″ because they “would get federal dollars on top of state aid.”

Louisiana Education Chief To Recommend Local Control For Some New Orleans Schools.
Louisiana’s Times-Picayune (9/12, Chang) reported though Louisiana “Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek stands by his earlier statements that he will maintain the status quo and keep most New Orleans public schools under state control for now,” Pastorek’s “long-anticipated recommendation, to be released Tuesday, will set the stage for some schools to be governed by a local board in the near future, rather than spending another five years in the Recovery School District.” According to the Times-Picayune, “Nearly everyone involved in the debate agrees that the schools should eventually return to local control. But because there is little consensus on when and how that should happen, Pastorek’s recommendation is expected to spark hours of heated dialogue at Tuesday’s” state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education “meeting in Baton Rouge and the public hearing to be held in New Orleans in the coming weeks.”

Facilities
Los Angeles Green-Themed School To Open Today.
The AP (9/13) reports on the Los Angeles Unified School Districts’ “new green themed school” whose “$75 million campus was laden with toxic soil.” The district “spent $4 million to clean up the site of the new Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Studies, which is set to open” today. Once “contaminated with carcinogenic solvents that leaked from 17 underground storage tanks discovered during construction,” school officials say the site has been approved “by state toxic control authorities and is ready to receive its 675 elementary students.” But, the California Communities Against Toxics group says that “the district is not going far enough to prevent possible soil vapor intrusion into classrooms.” The group is calling for LAUSD to survey the entire campus and “monitor the air in the school.”

The USA Today (9/11) “Greenhouse” blog reported that “school district officials…have pledged to check vapor monitors and groundwater wells.” Greenwire (9/10, Schor) also covered the story.

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School Finance
Study Says Increased Spending Has Not Improved Test Scores In Pennsylvania Districts.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (9/13, Weigand) reports that a recent study by the 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education found that “spending more on education has not improved students’ test scores in Pennsylvania.” According to the research funded by the National Science Foundation, “test scores in 50 districts spending the least money per student were ‘nearly identical’ to — and in some cases, better than — those in the 50 districts spending the most.” According to F. Joseph Merlino, president of 21st Century Partnership, the new study calls into question results of “a 2007 state study that determined $4.57 billion more for education would ensure that all students meet state academic standards.”

ACLU Lawsuit Claims Some California Districts Charge For Supplies That Should Be Free.
The Los Angeles Times (9/11, Song) reported that on Friday, the ACLU “filed a lawsuit against the state of California…for allowing school districts to charge students for books, uniforms, classes and other basic supplies.” The ACLU argues “that more than 30 districts require students and their families to pay for basic supplies that are supposed to be provided at no cost.” Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger (R) was named as a defendant, along with several school districts, including Long Beach, Beverly Hills, and Burbank. The Times adds that the lawsuit “was brought on behalf of two Orange County high school students…and their families.”

The AP (9/11, Adelman) reports that at a press conference, Mark Rosenbaum, chief council of the ACLU of Southern California, said, “There does not exist in California a true system of free public schools. … Instead what we have are pay-to-learn schools.” Meanwhile, Matt Connelly, a spokesman for the governor, “said the administration will ‘carefully review the lawsuit to see if the fees in question violate California’s constitutional guarantee to a free K-12 education.’”

California’s Union Tribune (9/11, Magee) reported that “an ACLU investigation found some 50 districts that list student fees on their websites.” The San Diego Unified School District was excluded from the lawsuit. The ACLU sent a letter to San Diego Unified last week explaining the decision. It said, “In light of your efforts to correct this problem within San Diego Unified School District, the complaint does not currently cite any examples from (the district).” The Voice of San Diego (9/11) also covered the story.

NEA in the News
Policy Advisor Calls Challenge To Innovation A “Critical” First Step In Education Reform.
Don Tapscott, an advisor to government and business leaders, wrote in the Huffington Post (9/10) that “there is no industry more ripe for change than education.” This change, he says, could be made in “the way that the administrators who run the system engage all their various constituents.” Tapscott pointed out that the NEA Foundation and the US Department of Education “have issued an open invitation to public school K-12 educators nationwide to identify their most pressing classroom problems, and then brainstorm possible solutions online with their colleagues.” This effort, called the Challenge to Innovation (C2i), Tapscott likens to crowdsourcing. Educators have until Oct. 19 to post their classroom problems online. Teachers will then “review, vote for, and comment on the ideas posted. The five highest ranked will be awarded $1,000 for their school.” Tapscott said that Challenge to Innovation is “a critical baby step towards a new modus operandi for education.”

Veteran Teachers In Nevada Contribute Ideas For Education Reform.
The Las Vegas Sun (9/12, Ramirez) reported, “Last week, four teachers with more than a century of classroom experience…gathered in a room,” spending “nearly two hours talking about how to fix Clark County’s troubled schools. … The four teachers were brought together by the Clark County Education Association, the union that represents most of the district’s 18,000 teachers” and they “proposed real-world solutions” including “getting rid of the state proficiency examination, the requirement for a high school diploma,” and dumping “standardized evaluations of student performance.”

More Students In Several States Took, Passed AP Exams Last Year.
Several news outlets are reporting on the increasing number of students nationwide who are taking AP tests. Moreover, many sources report that in their states, more students are also passing the tests. The AP (9/13) reported that “Alabama had the biggest percentage increase of any state in the number of high school students passing” P tests, according to state leaders. “The national average went up 8.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, but Alabama’s rate rose 17.7 percent.”

Minnesota’s Star-Tribune (9/14, Lonetree) reports that Minnesota has for the past five years seen “increases in both the number of students taking Advanced Placement tests and the number achieving scores worthy of college credit.” Moreover, according to the state department of Education, in the 2009-10 school year, “test performance and participation were up significantly, too, for black students.” Last year, the number of students taking the test rose 7.6 percent and the passing rate increased by “8 percent for all students.” Meanwhile, there was “a 20.3 percent increase among black students taking the exams” and a 28.3 percent pass rate increase for black students.

The Salt Lake Tribune (9/14, Schencker) reports that in Utah, “5 percent more kids took AP exams last school year than the year before, and the state’s passage rate grew by nearly 2 percent to about 67 percent.” And while “Latinos, Utah’s largest minority group, continued to be underrepresented among test takers,” they did show “significant improvement. For example, about 21.5 percent more Mexican American students took AP tests last year than the year before and passed nearly 10 percent more tests.” The Salt Lake Tribune adds that nearly “all of Utah’s minority groups showed growth this year in both participation and the number of exams passed.”

Kentucky’s Herald-Leader (9/13) reported that “this year, Kentucky students took more than 31,700 AP tests, compared to 16,564 in 2005.” And, twice as many “non-white public school students in Kentucky” took the tests last year than five years ago. The Herald-Leader adds, “The number of AP test scores of three or higher has increased by 94 percent in the past five years.”

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In the Classroom
President To Encourage Students To “Dream Big.”
The AP (9/14, Superville) reports on the message of President Obama’s speech to students that will be broadcast live in schools throughout the nation. “Nobody gets to write your destiny but you,” the President will tell students. The White House released the speech ahead on Monday “so people could read the president’s remarks beforehand and judge the contents for themselves.”

The Washington Post (9/14, Anderson) adds that in the speech “the president exhorts the students: ‘Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing – absolutely nothing – is beyond your reach. So long as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.’” Obama will also “address school violence.”

CNN (9/14) reports that in the speech “delivered at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Obama “will call on students to meet their responsibilities for school by showing up on time, paying attention in class, doing their homework, studying for exams and staying out of trouble, according to the text.”

Colorado District Encourages Students To Eat By Providing Free Meals, Breakfast In Class.
USA Today (9/14, Moore) reports that even though “the number of hungry children in the US is rising, fewer than half of the kids who could be eating a free or low-cost breakfast at school are getting one.” In Pueblo, Colorado, however, “school officials offer free breakfast to all children regardless of income, so no one is embarrassed to be eating it.” And in most Pueblo schools, “breakfast is served right in the classrooms.” USA Today adds that “76 percent of Pueblo’s needy kids eat school breakfast,” a rate higher than any state and most large cities. Now other states and advocacy groups are urging lawmakers to implement similar programs nationwide.

Future City Competition Helps Middle Schoolers Meet SOL, STEM Requirements.
The Suffolk (VA) News-Herald (9/14, Roche) reports on the 19th annual Future City Competition, a program for middle schoolers sponsored by the Engineers Week Foundation which this year “focuses on the impact that engineers have on the healthcare industry by having students create a product or system that supports healthy living and wellness programs. Students will begin by writing a research essay that describes their concept. They also must write a ‘city narrative’ outlining the key features of an imaginary city that incorporates their healthcare ideas.” The students will create virtual versions of their Future City concepts using SimCity 4 Deluxe, and will also “build a physical model using recycled materials.” The article notes, “The competition can be used to help meet Standards of Learning and STEM requirements.”

On the Job
Study Finds Racial Disparity In School Suspensions.
The New York Times (9/14, Dillon) reports, “In many of the nation’s middle schools, black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to a new study” by the Southern Poverty Law Center “which also found that black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.” The study, titled “Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis,” also found that school officials “suspended Hispanic and American Indian middle school students at higher rates than white students, though not at such disproportionate rates as for black children. … The study analyzed four decades of US Education Department data on suspensions, with a special focus on figures from 2002 and 2006, that were drawn from 9,220 of the nation’s 16,000 public middle schools.”

Law & Policy
Illinois First State To Mandate Bilingual Education Option For Preschoolers.
The Chicago Tribune (9/14, Malone) reports, “As the school year begins, Illinois becomes the first state to mandate that public schools with preschool programs offer a bilingual education to 3- and 4-year-olds who don’t speak English. Under the new regulations, school officials must determine whether students speak another language at home and measure how well they speak and understand English.” The Tribune adds that Illinois “districts are hurrying to comply with the requirements that come without additional funding, even as they brace for another year of dwindling reserves and funding delays.”

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School Finance
Utah Approved To Receive $101 Million In Federal Teacher Jobs Funding.
The Salt Lake Tribune (9/14, Schencker) reports, “Utah has been approved to receive $101 million in federal money for schools, [ED] announced Monday. … State legislative leaders have asked Utah school districts to hold off on spending the money until it’s formally approved by lawmakers and because they’re still seeking more information from the US Secretary of Education about how the money may be used.” The funding “is part of a $10 billion education fund meant to bolster education jobs in the 2010-11 school year.”

California District Suspends Middle, High School Extracurricular Activities.
KNSD-TV San Diego (9/14, Devine) reports that California’s Vista Unified School District has suspended all middle and high school extracurricular activities “because the district is no longer paying stipends to the coaches.” Under state law, “parents cannot directly pay for students to play, so to speak: They can’t pay for uniforms, equipment, coaches or transportation, and can’t financially sustain after-school extracurricular activities.” Vista Unified’s decision “comes in the wake of a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union” which claims that “California’s cash-strapped school districts have been charging student fees that violate the state constitutional guarantee to a free public education.”

Also in the News
More Graduating High School Students Taking SAT.
The New York Times (9/14, A16, Steinberg) reports, “The number of graduating high school students who took the SAT climbed to 1.55 million last spring, a record figure that represents an increase of 1.2 percent, or nearly 18,000, over 2009,” according to the College Board, which “emphasized the impact of a rigorous high school curriculum on student performance.” At the same time, however, “the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a critic of the SAT, noted a decline in overall scores since 2006, when the federal No Child Left Behind testing mandates went into effect.” The center also noted that, while Asian-Americans showed a 36-point gain, black, Puerto Rican and white students all saw declines.

College Board Reports Little Change In SAT Scores For Class Of 2010. The AP (9/14, Gorski) reports, “Average scores on the SAT college entrance exam held steady this year as a record number of students and more minorities than ever took the test, according to a report released Monday.” According to the AP, “The high school class of 2010 earned a combined score of 1509 on the three sections of the exam, identical to last year’s results. The average writing score dropped one point, math scores edged up one point, and reading results didn’t budge.”

USA Today (9/14, Marklein) adds, “Asian students continue to post the greatest average increases among racial and ethnic groups, and blacks score the lowest. Average scores for students from wealthy families were among the highest of all.” According to USA Today, “The report also highlights a gap in average scores between students who completed a core academic curriculum, and who took honors or college-level coursework, and those who didn’t.”

Education Stakeholders In Ontario Criticize “Waiting for Superman,” US Reform Efforts.
The Toronto Star (9/13, Brown) reported that parents and school officials in Ontario “lashed out over comparisons with the US education system on Sunday, criticizing a controversial documentary about America’s failing schools and questioning why” US Education Secretary Arne Duncan was invited to speak at “Ontario’s first ‘education summit’” this week in Toronto. Catherine Fife, president of the Ontario Public School Boards Association, criticized the “punitive” nature “of the reforms [Duncan] is proposing.” Said Fife, “I met an Ohio educator at a conference recently whose school lost out on $1.2 million in funding because they wouldn’t fire the principal for not raising test scores enough in his first two years.” Both Fife and Annie Kidder, of People for Education, an advocacy group, said that the documentary “Waiting for Superman” faults “schools for an academic achievement gap that reflects a much wider poverty gap in the US that has neither a public health system nor such robust social services.”

Bill Gates Promotes Documentary Film On US Schools. Under the headline, “Harvard Dropout Bill Gates Pitches ‘Superman’ Movie on Awful U.S Schools,” Bloomberg News (9/14) reports that Microsoft founder Bill gates is promoting “Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary on the sorry state of US public schools.” Bloomberg News quotes Guggenheim as saying, “The erosion of education has been going on for a long time. Incremental changes no longer can do it. We have to make fundamental changes.” According to Gates, “even if major changes were made today, it would take years to see the results. ‘It takes two to three years to put a new approach into place…and then it’s at least a decade before you have substantial benefits from improvements you make now,” he said.

Pennsylvania Schools On Track To Meet AYP Goals By 2014.
Pennsylvania’s Patriot News (9/15, Murphy) reports in a story with the headline, “Pennsylvania students show progress toward meeting No Child Left Behind Act’s 100 percent proficiency goal,” that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) announced on Tuesday that “about three-quarters of Pennsylvania students who took the state exams last year scored proficient or better…on state reading and math tests.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (9/15, Chute) reports that “82 percent of the state’s schools this year met” AYP. Moreover, in the past eight years the number of students scoring in the top category of the test has increased while the number of students scoring “in the bottom category” has dropped “from about 22 percent in 2002 to about 11 percent in 2010.” This year, Pennsylvania “exceeded the academic targets for students in all grades tested in math and reading,” with 76.3 percent proficiency in math and 72 percent proficiency in reading. “Next year, the targets call for 67 percent of students to be on grade level in math and 72 percent in reading,” the Post-Gazette adds. In 2014, the AYP target will be for all students to be proficient in math and reading. The Bucks County (PA) Courier Times (9/15) also covers the story.

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In the Classroom
Number Of Massachusetts Schools, Districts Not Meeting AYP Increases From Last Year.
The AP (9/15) reports that according to Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, “32 percent of school districts and 57 percent of schools” have not reached NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress goals “for two or more years in a row.” Last year, “28 percent of districts and 54 percent of schools were identified as in need of improvement” for failing to meet the standard.

James Vaznis wrote in the Boston Globe (9/14) “Metro Desk” blog that while state standardized test “scores were up in nearly every grade level tested in English and math, the increases were not large enough to satisfy the scoring benchmark set under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.” To encourage improvement and high achievement for schools, state officials on Tuesday “unveiled 187 ‘Commendation Schools,’ a new program to recognize schools making strides in boosting the academic achievement of their students and success in closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds,” Vaznis also noted.

Texas Board Of Education To Consider Restricting Mention Of Islam In Textbooks.
The Dallas Morning News (9/15, Castillo) reports that the Texas Board of Education is looking into “the issue of what students should learn about Islam.” It is considering whether to issue “a resolution next week that would warn publishers not to push a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian viewpoint in world history textbooks.” The idea came from members who were concerned about possible “bias against Christians in new social studies books. Some contend that ‘Middle Easterners’ are increasingly buying into companies that publish textbooks.” A draft of the proposed resolution “cites examples in past world history books…that devoted far more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than to Christian beliefs and practices” and examples of books “that dwelled on the Christian Crusaders massacre of Muslims in Jerusalem in 1099, while censoring Muslim massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268.”

Obama Delivers Second Annual Back-To-School Address.
The Washington Post (9/15, Anderson) reports, “With an acknowledgment that he had slacked off in school himself on occasion, President Obama exhorted the nation’s students Tuesday to show ‘discipline and drive’ to help their country compete in the global economy. Obama delivered his second annual back-to-school speech from” the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, “an elite, selective public school…that contrasts sharply with the turnaround-success stories his administration is seeking to promote.” According to the Post, “The 19-minute address steered clear of politics, yet touched on some themes that are on voters’ minds in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.”

The AP (9/15, Superville) adds that in his speech to the nation’s students, the President “urged them to ignore bullies and treat each other with kindness and respect, saying part of the beauty of life ‘lies in its diversity.’ … After the White House announced last year’s speech, some parents threatened to pull their kids from class during Obama’s remarks,” citing concerns the President would inject political themes into his address. However according to the AP, “A similar outcry has been missing this year.” The Washington Times (9/15, Rowland) also covers the story.

On the Job
Nonrenewal Of Contracts Seen By Some Baltimore Filipino Teachers As Act Of Discrimination.
The Baltimore Sun (9/15, Green) reports that ‎at a Baltimore County school board meeting on Tuesday, Filipino teachers were accompanied by teachers union representatives as the teachers shared with board members “emotional stories about not having their contracts renewed this school year and being denied due process in fighting for their jobs.” Some of the teachers said “they felt discriminated against.” According to Rogie Legaspi, president of the Filipino Educators of Maryland, “some teachers who did not have their contracts renewed had been evaluated as satisfactory.” Baltimore schools chief Andrés Alonso said that “he took the allegations very seriously” and that “if there has been a violation of process, there will have to be consequences. If not, the appeals process has to run its course.”

Poll Shows Most Americans Favor Teacher Merit Pay.
Teacher Magazine (9/14, Toporek) reported that according to a survey conducted recently by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup, “more than 70 percent of Americans believe that teachers should be paid based on the merits of their work rather than on a standard-scale basis.” Yet only 19 percent of those surveyed said teachers’ salaries “should be ‘very closely tied’ to [their students'] achievements,” compared to 25 percent who said the same in 2000. Moreover, 60 percent of respondents “said evaluations should primarily be used to help teachers improve their craft, while only 26 percent think evaluations should be primarily used to ‘document ineffectiveness that could lead to dismissal.’”

Law & Policy
New Jersey Law Allowing Students To Attend Schools Outside District Applauded.
In a blog for New Jersey’s Star-Ledger (9/14), George Berkin applauds Gov. Chris Christie (R) “and state lawmakers for passing legislation that will allow some students to attend public schools outside the district in which they reside.” According to Berkin, the new law “takes a step in the right direction because it” allows parents “of children who live in a town with bad schools” to “have a chance at sending their children to a better school of their choosing. … Disciplined and focused children who reside in urban areas should be rewarded for their effort by a chance to attend a better school.”

Advisory Panel To Offer Obama Ideas On How To Improve STEM Education.
Erik Robelen wrote in a blog for Education Week (9/14) that Eric Lander, co-chairman of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, “yesterday provided a sneak preview of a forthcoming report that will recommend to President Obama a series of new federal steps to advance education in the STEM disciplines. They include developing a ‘master teacher corps’ that recognizes and rewards strong teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math; supporting the creation of more STEM-focused schools; and providing increased opportunities to inspire in students a passion for those subject areas.”

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Safety & Security
Oklahoma District Cancels Classes After Water Source Tests Positive For E. Coli.
KOCO-TV Oklahoma City (9/15) reports that classes will not be held at schools in Oklahoma’s Boone-Apache school district “and the town is under a boil water order after a well tested positive for E. coli.” Michael Kimball wrote in the Oklahoman (9/14) “Going Green” blog that according to Apache Mayor Becky Skinner, “authorities do not think the contamination is serious, but are closing schools out of an abundance of caution.” Officials have not yet announced whether “schools will reopen Thursday.” KSWO-TV Lawton, Oklahoma (9/15) reports that “the problem was uncovered during routine testing and no one has reported getting sick.” News On 6 Tulsa (9/15) also covers the story.

School Finance
San Diego School Board Votes Against Ads On School Campuses, Websites.
The AP (9/15‎) reports that on Tuesday, the San Diego school board voted 4-1 not to “allow ads in hallways, cafeterias, libraries and other places on campus after showing interest in the idea several months ago to help ease the pain of budget cuts.” Richard Barrera, the only member in favor of the plan, “said he would consider the idea only if advertisers were screened for their support for public education and other causes and if students could have a say.” According to the AP, the proposal for San Diego schools “was modeled on other school districts that have embraced corporate sponsors in the last two years, including districts that cover Miami and Orlando in Florida and Santa Rosa and Chula Vista in California.”

The Voice of San Diego (9/15, Alpert) reports that district officials “had proposed starting up the advertising program early next year.” The plan would have begun “with ads on the school district website, which staff estimated could reap more than $100,000 annually.” Meanwhile, adds on school websites “were slated to bring in $10,000 or more for each school. Under the plan, ads could also crop up on publications such as newsletters or yearbooks.”

KGTV San Diego (9/15) reports that Board member John Lee Evans said that ads on the district’s website would open “a Pandora’s box for a really small amount of return.” Another board member noted that the district has more “money at stake in November ballot measures. By comparison, a district-sponsored proposition for a parcel tax would raise $50 million.” KNSD-TV San Diego (9/15) also covers the story.

Also in the News
High-Poverty Texas School Receives “Exemplary” Rating.
The Dallas Morning News (9/15, Unmuth) reports, “High-poverty schools face an uphill battle in achieving an ‘exemplary’ state rating by meeting the 90 percent passing standard required without the generous aid of loopholes. But at Irving’s [TX] John Haley Elementary, children exceeded that TAKS score bar for 2010.” Haley Elementary principal Robyn Bowling says many factors have contributed to the school’s success, including having a “fifth-grade teacher dedicated only to teaching science, an active parent education program offered for the past five years in Spanish and English, and small group help.”

Denzel Washington, Boys & Girls Clubs Launch Dropout Intervention Initiative.
USA Today (9/15, Healy) reports, “For 18 years,” actor Denzel Washington “has been national spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America” and on Wednesday, Washington will “help launch a new national program, called Be Great: Graduate, to identify kids who are at risk of dropping out of school and give them the help they need to stay and finish.” Washington is quoted saying in a statement, “We want to help every Boys & Girls Club member advance to the next grade level every year and graduate from high school on time, prepared with the attitude, knowledge and confidence to succeed and achieve.”

NEA in the News
State, National NEA Representatives Attend Teachers Rally In Loudoun County, Virginia.
Leesburg (VA) Today (9/15, Bahr) reports that Virginia’s Loudoun Education Association (LEA) this week is kicking off “a work-to-rule initiative…in response to three years of salary freezes and the implementation of two unpaid furlough days this year.” Last week, the Loudoun County school board voted “to deny a $4.6 million funding request intended to eliminate [the] two furlough days.” Regarding the vote, LEA President Sandy Sullivan said at a rally Monday night, “They’re saying only do the bare minimum. Is that the approach that we want people to take in their job? In any job?” Leesburg Today notes that Virginia Education Association and National Education Association representatives attended the rally.

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