|May 20, 2015|
The New York Times (5/20, Bosman, Subscription Publication) reports Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton “pledged on Tuesday to veto an education funding bill that would lift state spending on schools by $400 million over the next two years,” because he feels it does not address the needs of the state’s children. The bill does not include “universal prekindergarten,” which Dayton supports. In a letter to state House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Dayton said it is “incomprehensible” that Republicans are prioritizing “estate tax cuts for millionaires and property tax relief for large corporations” over “investing adequately in our students and young children.”
The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press (5/20) reports that Dayton’s promise to veto the bill has education advocates worried that legislators will “lose the fragile coalition that put together an education bill a lot of them like.” The piece notes that lawmakers and education groups say “there is a lot in the $17 billion spending and policy bill” that is vital to improving education in the state. The piece notes that education advocates are divided on the merits of Dayton’s universal pre-K proposal.
Pioneer Press Skeptical Of Universal Pre-K. The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press (5/20) editorializes that Dayton “has failed to make a persuasive case” for his universal pre-K plan, noting that while his “intentions are good enough,” his plan “would spread an expensive, thin blanket over the whole state, rather than wrapping more layers around a smaller number of kids who need much more.”
Politico (5/19, Gass) reports that one-third of US eighth-graders responded on a US National Assessment of Education Progress’ 2014 exam that Canada, France, and Australia were ruled by dictators. A slim majority of the 29,000 students taking the test correctly noted that the three countries have constitutions limiting their power.
Detroit News (5/20) reports that Michigan faces “an alarming decline” in reading levels, falling from 28th in 2003 to 38th in 2015 and will be 44th in 2030 if no action is taken, according to a report by the Education Trust. The report also notes “an especially steep drop” from white students, who have fallen from 13th to 45th since 2003. The report recommends statewide teacher-quality standards, additional educator training, more charter school accountability, policies to end student and teacher absences, and a new funding formula. The report also lauds Governor Rick Snyder’s pre-K initiative and his proposals to grow third-grade literacy.
The Washington Post (5/20, Layton) reports that a survey of state Teachers of the Year showed that the biggest barriers to success for K-12 students “have little to do” with classroom instruction, but rather stem from family strife, poverty, and learning disabilities and psychological issues. Maine Teacher of the Year for 2015 Jennifer Dorman said that working with students on those three issues “is probably the most important part of my job.” The survey also saw teachers choose “anti-poverty initiatives” as their highest funding priorities, followed by early learning and “reducing barriers to learning.”
Education Week (5/19, Blad) reports that University of Pennsylvania associate professor of psychology Angela Duckworth and University of Texas associate professor of developmental psychology David Yeager said that noncognitive student traits such as self-control, grit, and gratitude should not be used to evaluate schools or teachers. While they argued that the traits are important in a joint essay, they claim that there is no reliable way to measure the traits.
Education Week (5/20, Ujifusa) reports that state and Federal legislators have “intensified efforts” this year to “protect student data,” noting that there are tensions “between privacy advocates concerned about loopholes through which data can be shared and used inappropriately, and the education technology providers who don’t want restrictions on access to learning software and other services.”
The Washington Post (5/19, Layton) reports that tech non-profit Code.org will partner with the College Board to grow public school’s computer education. The pair will look to try and bring computer science classes to 35 of the country’s biggest districts and will look to specifically target girls and minority. Schools that wish to participate must use the PSAT to identify 8th and 9th graders that have the “potential to succeed” in computer science. In turn, Code.org has created the curriculum for an AP Computer Science Principles class for the College Board to pilot in the fall.
The New York Post (5/20, Conley, Short) reports that the New York State DOE is looking to implement a new evaluation system which “could make it harder” for teachers to receive top marks and which would prevent schools from placing students in an ineffective teacher’s class two straight years. The changes also increase the importance of principals’ observations and disbar districts from substituting in their own exams for state tests. Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch said that the goal is not to “play ‘gotcha’ with teachers” but rather to push teachers to meet new standards.
Push To Halt New Teacher Evaluation Grows. Newsday (5/20, Gormley) reports that the New York state Senate and Assembly are looking to delay the Board of Regents’ new teacher evaluation system. The regulations, due June 30, are expected to be adopted in mid-June. New evaluations are required to be in effect by November 15. A Senate bill would add a public comment period after state regulations are drafted, while the Assembly bill would add months to the regulation draft period. Governor Andrew Cuomo “remains open” to “reasonable delays.”
Reuters (5/20, Cavaliere) reports that the Seattle Education Association and 2,500 teachers held the biggest one-day strike yet for higher pay and smaller classes. The teachers union said that the Washington legislature’s current efforts will not help the state’s children.
Chalkbeat Tennessee (5/19, Tatter) continues coverage of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt Peabody College study that showed NCTQ standards “may not translate into higher student test scores.” The article notes that the study “raises questions” about how closely teacher preparation programs should follow the NCTQ guidelines. Critics argue the system is too focused on “syllabi and coursework, and not enough on outcomes of the preparation programs.” The article adds that Tennessee has “fared especially well” under the NCTQ system. Peabody’s lead researcher, Gary Henry, said Tuesday that the study advocates for a revision of NCTQ standards and does not repudiate them.
In continued coverage, WAGA-TV Atlanta (5/20) reports online that the National Association of Secondary School Principals has named Jessica Ainsworth, an assistant principal at Lithia Springs High School in Lithia Springs, Georgia, its National Assistant Principal of the Year. Ainsworth was “surprised at an assembly at her school with the honor.” NASSP said that Ainsworth “was charged with implementing a federal grant to turn around the struggling school.”
WXIA-TV Atlanta (5/19) reports online that Ainsworth is “credited with increasing graduation rates, job placements and college acceptances at her school, and boosting reading scores across all subgroups.”
Education Week (5/20, Davis, Cavanagh) reports that the Senate’s version of legislation to reauthorize ESEA includes language meant “to encourage schools to consider using free, modifiable learning resources for students before investing in costly textbooks and curricula.” This promotion of open educational resources “could have a major impact on the development of curricula and on the companies that provide content to schools.” The piece explains that the law would establish grants to “encourage the use of open education resources—alternatives to proprietary products created by commercial companies.”
Lauren Camera writes at the Education Week (5/20) “Politics K-12” blog that despite bipartisan support, members of Congress are expressing pessimism about the chances of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which would “expand early-childhood education programs for children birth through 5 years of age.” The piece explains that most Republicans in Congress would likely balk at the $75 billion price tag over 10 years.
The Chicago Sun-Times (5/20) reports that the Illinois House has passed legislation to “give parents a formal way to opt out of state tests such as the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.” During debate over the bill, lawmakers complained about the test being “deeply flawed” and about the state being “on the hook for a four-year, $160 million contract to a firm to administer the test.”
The AP (5/20) also covers this story, noting that the bill “would protect students and their schools from being ‘negatively impacted’” by opt-outs, and notes that “Chicago Public Schools initially refused to implement” the tests this year, but relented under state BOE threats to withhold funding.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (5/20) reports that a Louisiana state House committee has passed “a bill that would change Common Core tests that students take during the 2015-16 school year,” noting that the measure is “part of a three-bill package announced last week aimed at reducing the controversy over Common Core.” Under the bill, fewer than half of the test’s questions can come from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Education Week (5/20, Adams) reports that special needs educators and advocates say that the “recent surge in complaints” about districts failing to adequately serve special needs students can be attributed to “ramped-up outreach efforts and broader awareness of the agency’s willingness to address such complaints.” The piece notes that advocacy groups hailed OCR’s “increased vigilance” as described in its April report “which found that nearly half of all complaints to the civil rights office continue to involve students with disabilities, with sex- and race-discrimination complaints making up a lesser part of the caseload.” The article reports that Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said that record numbers of complaints demonstrate that OCR is “aggressively enforcing civil rights laws,” and quotes her saying, “It is not my belief that there are more incidents of civil rights violations in the world today than there were in the past decade or more. It is my belief that there is greater community awareness that our office exists and is prepared to stand for students who need us.”
Seattle Times (5/20, Rowe) reports that while inadequate data has “long hindered” school disciplinary improvements, Washington districts will publicize their discipline and graduation rates for the first time and will allow comparison via a new tool shown Tuesday. Washington and national disciplinary rates for African-Americans “far exceed their overall enrollment.” Discipline is also seen as a “driver of persistent gaps in academic achievement.” Seattle’s district has been under ED investigation for suspending blacks and special education students disproportionately since 2012. While the state has reduced suspensions, some teachers have noted they have been “pushed to keep disruptive kids in their classrooms.”
Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe writes in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun (5/19) that testimony of a teen who felt like a “caged animal” after being shackled during an arrest at the Baltimore protests invoked a sentiment “horribly familiar to juvenile defenders.” He claims that “either we see — and insist that our justice system see — people charged with crimes as human beings, or we do not,” and claims that we have “a continuum of disdain.” Maryland, despite its ostensible goal to rehabilitate juvenile offenders, has no limits on shackling, and that “people who care about the safety and dignity of children” are trying to limit the practice. He concludes that to end “the loss of life and the everyday loss of opportunity, we must...recognize our common humanity. Unchaining our children would be a good place to start.”
The Dallas Morning News (5/19, Benning) reports that the Texas House voted 91-49 Monday to give preliminary approval to give the Attorney General the ability to add two judges to “divisive” school finance and legislative redistricting cases when the office was “unhappy” with the district judge assigned to the case. The move is called “part of the GOP’s latest efforts to diminish Democratic challenges to their policies,” which have traditional come via lawsuits in Democratic stronghold Travis County, which hosts Austin, the state capitol. If approved Tuesday, the bill would be sent to Republican Governor Greg Abbott and would “mark a major victory for GOP lawmakers.” Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Schofield said that the bill comes after “decades of seeing just one county have any say in the school finance bills.”
The Quad-City (IA) Times (5/20, Murphy) reports that Iowa’s “long legislative bout” over school funding “might go an extra round or two” after a Tuesday bill from House Republicans would grow K-12 funding proposed two percent increases for fall 2016, less than Senate Democrats’ four percent proposal, Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s 2.45 percent proposal, and “even less” than their own proposal earlier in the year, which matched Branstad. School funding is a major reason the budget has been “stalled,” and disagreement over next year’s funding “promises to be just as stark.”
Newsday (5/20) reports that in Tuesday night voting, districts on New York’s Long Island passed proposed school budgets “by large margins,” noting that there were “record-low spending hikes” in the region.