|September 15, 2014|
Harold O. Levy, New York City schools chancellor in 2000-2002 and executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which issues scholarships to low-income high-achieving individuals, argues in the Wall Street Journal (9/15, Subscription Publication) that a lack of attention to, and understanding of, current education data is compromising policy efforts, especially with respect to low-income students. In particular, Levy’s piece focuses on the optimistic misinterpretation of truancy data, an inattention to studies against holding children back, and the overlooked benefits of summer school.
The Dallas Morning News (9/13, Haag) reports an investigation into the excessive absences of 1,821 Dallas ISD graduates (of 7,302), whose makeup class time is not properly documented as required by a state law that allows students who miss 10-25% of class time to earn credit through plans set by school principals. The initial investigation looked at 10 schools, while a subsequent Internal Audit Investigation will review 25 additional high schools over the next two months; of the 10 examined, Thomas Jefferson High School was commended for its proper use of the program, while others were decried for allowing students to clean gymnasiums as substitution for class time to bolster graduation rates. The article closed by including the graduation numerators and denominators from the ten examined schools.
Stateline (9/14, Lu) reports Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Hawaii recently participated in a promising $1.5 million student-outcome data-sharing pilot, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and run by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education; the project analyzed data from 192,689 students, consisting of 2005 public high school graduates and public college students from 2005-2011, and has been awarded an additional $5 million to expand to at least six more states. The collaboration allowed for better tracking of students and provided insights into trends in student achievement, such as how state labor markets were filled by other states. The piece closed by stating how some states planned to inform policymakers with the data.
The Iowa City (IA) Press-Citizen (9/14, Hines) reports that construction of STEM centers in Eastern Iowa “are moving toward the finish line.” The article notes that the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa in Coralville is still under construction and will open in 2015. Meanwhile, several other STEM centers in the area have opened between 2009 and 2013 and are serving hundreds of area students. The centers offer programs in health care and welding, as well as courses to prepare students for college education.
The Washington Post (9/12, Overly) reports EverFi, an online education company signed a deal with the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association that will bring STEM instruction to cities with hockey teams in the US and Canada. The program, called “Future Goals” will use hockey to “teach such concepts as acceleration, thermodynamics and geometry,” according to a company spokesman. The company aims to target students in fourth through eighth grade to get them interested in STEM classes and learning.
The Washington Post (9/14, George) reports on the use of “bring your own device” technology programs in schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, noting that “the idea of allowing students to use their own technology in schools to enhance academic instruction is a significant departure from” past policies banning cell phone use in the classroom. The piece presents the approach as an alternative to “investing heavily in laptops and tablets, with an eye toward one-to-one computing, which provides a device to each student,” and notes that some districts are “taking a blended approach that they say is more affordable and sustainable: supporting BYOD practices as they also buy” laptops and tablets.
WESA-FM Pittsburgh (9/15, Gavin) reports on its website that Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq unveiled a statewide STEM competition on Friday. The competition is open to public, nonpublic, and private schools for students in grades 9-12 who will “select a real-world problem, conduct research and design and build a prototype device that can improve the quality of life for residents.” The competition will award students cash prizes for first second and third place winners as well as scholarships to state universities. Teams from low-income areas will also be eligible for a stipend to cover costs.
Co-chairs of the Career Ladder/Tiered Licensure Committee Linda Clark, West Ada School District superintendent, and Rod Lewis, State Board of Education member, argue in the Twin Falls (ID) Times-News (9/15, Clark, Lewis) for increases to Idaho teacher pay with $200-250 million, to attract and retain better teachers, following unanimous recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education to create a career ladder compensation model tied to a framework of tiered licensure for accountability. Their piece details the committee’s bipartisan efforts, dispels misconceptions surrounding certification revocations, and projects finalized details by January’s legislative session’s opening.
The Belleville (IL) News-Democrat (9/14, Lester) reports Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner has unveiled a 26-page education reform focused on tying merit pay to student test performances and reforming tenure toward annual contracts to help fire bad teachers, while also changing how districts are awarded funds, lifting the cap on charter schools, consolidating school-related agencies, and crediting teachers who spend personal funds on the classroom. Unions and incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn have staunchly opposed the proposal, citing a lack of detail, recent reforms, tight education budgets, the right for districts to determine salaries, expenses to districts, increased class sizes, and rises in property taxes. Nationwide, hundreds of districts have implemented teacher merit pay programs, while states have yet to implement such policies.
The Anchorage (AK) Dispatch News (9/13, Boots) reports roughly 400 teachers are hired annually from outside Alaska to staff rural schools, while the five highest turnover districts average 37.9% losses annually; currently, about 75% of Alaska’s teachers were hired from out of state. In those five aforementioned districts, only an average 46.9% of students score proficiently on state tests, while the five lowest turnover schools average 85.8% proficiency. The remainder of the article cites difficulties of individual districts, recruiting tactics, setbacks from teacher turnover, and local culture initiatives that distinguish rural Alaska.
The Everett (WA) Herald (9/14, Cornfield) reports Washington voters may approve at least $2 billion annually toward reducing class sizes in an effort to improve student achievement, increase graduation rates, and reduce drop-outs; those who oppose the bill cite only its high price tag, while other programs may suffer. The petition earned nearly 350,000 signatures, calling for K-3 class sizes under 18 and 4-12 classes under 26, with two fewer in high-poverty schools; averages currently stand at 25 for lower grades and 29 for high school. The state Office of Financial Management estimates the hiring of 7,453 more teachers, 17,081 school-based staff and 1,027 workers in school district offices. In 2000, 72% of voters approved a similar bill with no plan to finance it, resulting in its suspension and eventual repeal.
The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (9/15, Schencker) reports on Utah’s 2011 student-to-teacher ratio of 22.8 to one, which fails to communicate excessive outliers in the forties and fifties explored by the article; largely to blame is Utah’s per-pupil funding, the lowest in the nation. Complicating the conversation is the belief that smaller class sizes don’t directly translate to better education, while funding to drastically reduce class sizes might be better allocated elsewhere. The article interviews frustrated teachers as well as parents, some of whom are moving their children to private schools.
The Washington Post’s (9/13, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog references the opinion essay by Bill Bennett in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, in which the Reagan-era education secretary advocates the “conservative case for Common Core.” The Post reports Bennett “got paid to write the piece” by Washington, DC lobbying and PR firm DCI Group, conceding to Politico’s “Morning Education” blog that, “I’m compensated for most of the things that I do.” In his Journal piece, Bennett argued that Common Core is a conservative idea focused on long-debated educational principles, although the Post notes that although Bennett refers to the Core as a “curriculum,” most supporters insist that it’s “a set of standards and not a curriculum.”
The Baton Rouge (LA) Business Report (9/12) reports that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), speaking during a webinar with “conservative Christian research group the Family Research Council,” predicted that “more states will reverse course on Common Core, as Jindal wants Louisiana to do.” The piece quotes Jindal saying, “You look at the Carolinas. You see more and more states moving away from Common Core.”
Voxxi (9/14) reports that “early reports” indicate that some Hispanic students in the US “are falling behind” under the Common Core Standards, noting that a new report out of New York “shows 23 percent of Latinos are proficient in math, while only 19 percent are proficient in English.” The piece notes that the overall math and English proficiency rates in New York are 36% and 31%, respectively.
The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle (9/15) reports on the classroom changes under the Common Core Standards in Montana, where schools “have been working to carry out the Common Core standards for the past three years.” The article takes note of the growing “backlash” against the standards across the country, but reports that Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau, “one of the Common Core’s biggest supporters, says the new standards are good for Montana students because they are ‘more rigorous’ than Montana’s old standards.”
The Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic (9/15) reports on how districts in Washington state are coping with the loss of the state’s NCLB waiver, noting that “school officials were left scrambling to readjust their budget plans” when the announcement was made at the beginning of the summer. The article explains the impasse over teacher evaluations that led to the loss of the waiver, and notes that ED’s “decision to withdraw Washington’s waiver means the state’s schools will lose the flexibility to use almost $40 million the state receives in federal Title I money.”
Lauren Camera writes at the Education Week (9/15) “Politics K-12” blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking in an interview during his recent bus tour, “flatly rejected the notion that his No Child Left Behind waivers prevented Congress from reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act.” The piece quotes Duncan saying, “I absolutely disagree with that. There’s no pressure off of them.” Camera explains that critics of the waiver program say that it “took the pressure off Congress to overhaul it,” and says that Duncan was “visibly irritated” by the suggestion. She quotes Duncan saying, “Legislators, their job is to legislate. Waivers were a temporary fix that we tried to do on a law that was outdated, that had perverse incentives, that was hurting children and hurting adults. And lawmakers need to step up in a bipartisan way and do their job. Nothing we have done prevents them, prohibits them. That’s a bailout. That’s just absolutely a dishonest excuse and they need to get past their dysfunction.”
The AP (9/15, Watson) reports that according to a new study from the California attorney general’s office which “follows similar research from the US Department of Education,” black students in California elementary schools “were chronically truant and faced suspension from school at disproportionately high rates compared to other students last year.” The article reports that the body of research shows “that racial disparities in American education – from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline – begin at the earliest grades.” The AP reports that the California report found that black students “were chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students,” and notes that the “report follows findings this year from the DOE’s civil rights arm that indicated black students are more likely to be suspended from U.S. public schools – even as preschoolers.”
The AP (9/13, AP) reports this year’s education of 533 unaccompanied immigrant children will cost Jefferson Parish $4.6 million, of which $2.2 million will come from the state. To accommodate the students, Jefferson Parish schools plan to hire 27 additional English-as-second-language teachers, 20 new ESL para-educators, 19 regular education teachers, and three special education teachers. The cost estimate was included in a letter from Louisiana Education Superintendent John White to Sen. David Vitter, who had asked whether schools will be able to handle the 1,275 children being sponsored in the state. Cost estimates have been requested for other districts.
The AP (9/13, Dalesio) reports almost 1,900 low-income students and more than 300 private schools were prepared to participate in the tax-funded Opportunity Scholarships program, now contested in court following a state judge’s ruling that the program is unconstitutional due to its provision of taxpayer money to schools not accountable to state education standards or freedom from religious discrimination. Schools have elected to keep students, potentially at their own expense, while an appeals court could rule as early as this week whether payments of up to $4,200 per student would be appropriated months before a final decision is made. Similar programs have been contested in other states.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/15, Fitzgerald) reports that the Pennsylvania governors are using education spending data to “spin the issue a number of ways.” Gov. Corbett claims that he has raised education spending to “its highest level ever,” while Democratic challenger Tom Wolf claim that Corbett has cut education spending by $1 billion dollars. The issue of education spending could determine the final outcome in a tight race in a state where polls show funding for schools is a top issue. The article reviews the education financing situation going back to before the current governor took office and explains why and how the spending cuts took place.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/15, French) reports candidates for Georgia governor are sparring over education budget cuts that have affected the state’s early education program, which was “once held up as on of the nations most advanced.” Democratic candidate Jason Carter is criticizing current Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s $55 million in budget cuts to the state’s Pre-K program and wants to use funds from state lottery reserves to “beef up” Pre-K funding. Deal has defended his record on education cuts, saying that some of the cuts have been restored. His office has said that he will share more details about his plan next month.