Headlines, 2/21/2013

Repairing the rungs on the ladder (The Economist)

“MERITOCRACY” tends to be spoken of approvingly these days. Its ascendancy is seen as a measure of progress. In the dark ages, the dumb scions of the aristocracy inherited their seats on cabinets and on the boards of great companies. These days, people succeed through brains and hard work.

Report: To close achievement gap, fund schools by need, not ZIP code

Washington (CNN) – Changing the way schools are funded would help to close the achievement gap between students who live in affluent neighborhoods and those in high poverty areas, according to a report released Tuesday by a congressionally-mandated education committee.

N.H. House Votes to Repeal School Choice Tax Credit

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted, 188 to 151, to repeal the Education Tax Credit that took effect less than two months ago. The law grants an 85% tax credit to businesses that donate to scholarship organizations, which give the money to students going to a private school, an out-of-district public school, or home school.

Schools in crisis, reforms not working, U.S. federal panel declares

(Reuters) – A federal commission on Tuesday said the U.S. education system had “thoroughly stacked the odds” against impoverished students and warned that an aggressive reform agenda embraced by both Democrats and Republicans had not done enough to improve public schools.

Federal Commission Urges Bold Steps to Boost Education Equity (EdWeek)

A  federally appointed education-equity commission is proposing a five-pronged agenda for states and the federal government to help the 22 percent of children living in poverty and eliminate what the commission calls a “staggering” achievement gap.

Walker’s voucher plan angers public school backers (AP)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to expand the private school voucher program statewide, while not allowing public school spending to increase, drew a raft of angry responses Monday from those who fear his budget leaves public school students behind.

Update: Reuters Reporter Rebuts Critics of Charter Story (Alexander Russo)

On Monday, I posted a handful of responses to Stephanie Simon’s charter school story from charter school advocates (see Charter Advocates Denounce Reuters Reporting).

Report: U.S. should focus on equity in education (The Answer Sheet)

When Barack Obama was elected president four years ago, many people in the education world had hoped he would pick as his education secretary Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor who was the head of his first education transition team and who is an expert on educational equity. Pushed by pro-school choice forces to pass over her, Obama selected Arne Duncan, who has presided over a school reform agenda with standardized test-based accountability as its focus.

The Equity and Excellence Commission Report Doesn’t Advance Systemic Reform (Dropout Nation)

Blinkered response to a clarion call for justice. -jk There is plenty to be said about the report released today by the Obama administration’s Equity and Excellence Commission on providing all children with high-quality education. The good news for school reformers focused on helping American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children is that the report doesn’t gloss over the struggles they face. More importantly, the report’s recommendations that the Obama Administration do more to require state education agencies (many of which are bound by the same treaties Indian tribes have with state governments) to allow them to launch their own schools and play stronger roles in education governance, is also commendable.

Kansas Senate OKs move to bar courts from school finance rulings (Kansas City Star)

The legislative branch can prohibit the judicial branch from checking and balancing? -jk  Facing a court judgment that could force the state to put millions more into schools, the Kansas Senate on Wednesday took steps to stop judges from ordering the Legislature to spend more money on education.

BOULDER, CO (February 20, 2013) –  “Report cards” that grade states on their education policies assign rankings that vary tremendously, depending on the political ideology of the grader, according to a new review released today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). As a result, every state has been assigned a “D” or “F” by at least one of these report cards in the past few years, and almost every state can claim an “A” or “B” grade from another report card.

Bruno: Why I May Not Keep My Teaching Position (Paul Bruno)

As you may or may not recall, last summer my family moved from the Bay Area to Southern California and I was fortunate enough to find a new job teaching science in a district middle school that I began in August. It turns out, however, that that job may be short-lived.

Charter Schools’ Discipline Policies Face Scrutiny (EdWeek)

As the number of charter schools continues to grow, one facet of their autonomy—the ability to set and enforce independent disciplinary standards—has raised difficult questions about whether those schools are pushing out students who pose behavior or academic challenges and how their policies affect regular public schools.

If students designed their own school…it would look like this (The Answer Sheet)

“It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.” That’s the opening line in a video called “If students designed their own schools,” about The Independent Project, a high school semester designed and implemented entirely by students.

Are Some Charter Schools Becoming Parasitic? (Anthony Cody)

Are some charter schools functioning in a parasitic way in relationship to the school systems that host them? This is the provocative analysis offered this week by Bruce Baker at his School Finance 101 blog.

Thompson: The Anti-Testing Backlash Reaches a Crescendo (John Thompson)

Kathleen Porter-McGee’s Fordham Flypaper post (The Four Biggest Myths of the Anti-Testing Movement) is right on one thing: the backlash against bubble-in accountability has reached a crescendo.

Senate Education Committee supports scrapping Indiana school A-F grades

INDIANAPOLIS — A legislative committee has backed repealing the A-F grading scale for Indiana’s schools and having the state Board of Education develop a new system for tracking school improvement.

Wana Duhart: Our Schools are a Reflection of Our Communities

When we witness school-aged youth shooting and killing schoolmates, it is a reflection of the widespread use and acceptance of violent means to resolve conflicts in big cities and small towns, and by people of all ages. It’s also evidence that the grownups have yet to figure out how to communicate with our youth, so that we are both aware and responsive to the complexities of their needs, fears, and insecurities.

Testing at a Crossroads? (EdWeek)

Last month, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle made headlines by collectively refusing to administer the Measure of Academic Progress exam, a computerized adaptive test that many districts use to gauge students’ progress over the course of the year.

Testing, Testing (Edushyster)

The memo came last week. The latest district directive clearly laid out the course of literacy “instruction” for the next three weeks. We will immediately put our reading series on hold and use sample items from the MCAS, the Massachusetts high-stakes test, to better prepare the students who will soon be taking them. Students will read the passages independently, annotate the text, and answer the questions.

Florida Contemplates ‘Backup’ Tests for Common Core (EdWeek)

One of the most visible cheerleaders for the common standards and assessments says that his state needs a contingency plan in case the tests are not ready.

Ed-Tech Companies Use Mergers, Acquisitions to Grow in 2012 (EdWeek)

There were 48 mergers and acquisitions of education-focused technology companies in 2012, a slight dip from the previous year but still evidence of those businesses’ conviction that they can strengthen their position in the market through strategic growth, a recent report says.

Federal Grant Prospect Reignites Kindergarten-Assessment Debate (EdWeek)

A federal grant program in the works to help states jump-start kindergarten-entry assessments is renewing debate among early-childhood educators about the benefits and pitfalls of evaluating young children.

Sal Khan on his famous online academy (The Answer Sheet)

If you listen to folks such as Bill Gates and Al Gore and Carlos Slim Helu talk about Salman Khan, it would be understandable if you thought that the founder of the online Khan Academy is an education miracle worker.

Common Core Puts Teachers to the (Standardized) Test (EdWeek)

I’m two weeks away from the ISAT—the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.  The very mention of standardized testing can raise a teacher’s blood pressure and make her break pencils in two.

Walker Announces Education Funding Plan for Wisconsin

As part of his effort to improve the quality of education in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker announced that $475.6 million will be invested in the state’s public school system and additional education opportunities for Wisconsin students. The proposals, which are a part of the upcoming budget plan, will focus education reform efforts in the coming year on accountability, student performance and teacher training.

Textbooks – and Their Publishers – Are Evolving

Textbooks as games? Textbooks that create a digital database of student progress? Or just text modules to mix and match? Michelle R. Davis, writing in Education Week, describes how the top three publishers are planning to bring their catalogs into the future.

Some charter school stories

Now that Sen. Dan Patrick has filed his school choice bill, I thought this would be a good time to review some recent stories about charter schools. There were a couple of interesting stories relating to charter schools in the DMN the weekend before last. This story is about four charter school applications that contained identical language in each.

Reducing School Tests Draws Support in Hearing

More than 100 witnesses signed up to testify before the House Public Education Committee Tuesday in a hearing on student testing and graduation requirements expected to go into the evening.

Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore (Motoko Rich, NYT)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On a recent afternoon, the third graders in Sharon Patelsky’s class reviewed words like “acronym,” “clockwise” and “descending,” as well as math concepts like greater than, less than and place values.

It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk (NYT)

ATLANTA —The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.

Commission: Pre-K for poor students within decade

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Education Department commission is recommending pre-kindergarten programs for every poor student within 10 years, adding a timeframe to President Barack Obama’s similar call to help the least advantaged arrive for their first day of classes as prepared as their counterparts from more affluent homes.

Texas Senators Slam State’s Testing Regime

State senators took turns publicly condemning Texas’ student assessment system — the implementation of which one lawmaker called a “colossal failure” —  at a Tuesday Education Committee meeting.

How Useful is Teacher Professional Development?

School districts invest heavily in many kinds of training for teachers, but are they getting their money’s worth? Author and education policy scholar Frederick Hess looks at evidence and concludes that “professional development” only makes a difference in the rare times that it’s carefully targeted.

Ohio: Charter Schools Cost Twice As Much As Public Schools (Diane Ravitch)

Innovation Ohio is a nonpartisan think tank that studies public policy in the state. Its reports are carefully researched and documented.

Charter Schools Lost In Lawsuit, Hope To Win In Legislature

Charter schools receive public tax dollars just like traditional public schools. But they don’t have to run their schools exactly the same. They have more flexibility. Still, charter schools want to be treated the same when it comes to money

One thought on “Headlines, 2/21/2013

  1. Everyone should certainly keep an eye on Kansas. If the bill passes and is upheld in the courts, I can see Gov. Perry and Dan Patrick trying a similar tactic here in Texas. Scary stuff!

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