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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.'”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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