|March 20, 2015|
Chalkbeat New York (3/19, Wall) reports that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to allow outside groups to take over struggling schools, saying Thursday that the city is in an “all-out-war against the problem of low-performing schools.” De Blasio’s, in a recent “aggressive push” to promote his own reform program, received the support of city teachers unions, who sent members to Albany “to defend de Blasio’s approach.” De Blasio said that Cuomo’s proposed plan would “undermine mayor control,” and that “The state should simply let us get our job done.”
De Blasio Administration Proposes Adaptation Of CompStat For Use In Schools. Newsday (3/20, Chayes) reports that Mayor de Blasio’s administration is creating a “war room” at the ED to adapt the NYPD’s “statistics-and-accountability program” for use in New York’s underperforming public schools. The program, CompStat, is currently used to track crime trends, map “trouble spots,” and “demand to know how the precinct leaders will respond.” An application of the program for schools could be used to determine the number of students passing courses, attendance, and graduation rates.
Report Links Cuomo’s Education Reforms To Hedge Fund Support. The Nation (3/20, Joseph), in an over 5,000-word report titled “9 Billionaires Are About To Remake New York’s Public Schools,” notes that Gov. Cuomo, during his tenure as attorney general and governor, received hedge fund contributions amounting to over $4.83 million. The report suggests that “in exchange for the hedge fund community’s financial support, Cuomo is willing to deal a massive blow to the state’s public school system” with reforms that would cut funding, privatize schools, and weaken New York’s teachers’ union, NYSUT.
THE Journal (3/19) reports that this year’s K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report from the Consortium for School Networking indicates that district IT leaders say their top priorities are “assessment readiness, wireless access and mobile learning, in that order.” However, while “more IT leaders consider themselves ready for online assessments than in previous years,” this figure is still only 28%. Meanwhile, 80% say “they expect half of all instructional material to take a digital form over the next three years,” and the article reports that this “could be slightly slower than United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicted” in 2012.
The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (3/20, Solochek) reports that one day after Florida’s House unanimously approved a bill that would “reduce state-mandated student testing,” the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee “took a whack at the hotly debated topic” and released its own version of a test-reduction bill. The Senate bill would also offer a “relief valve,” cap the amount of testing at 5 percent of total school hours, require the state to provide results to families within 30 days of testing. It does not, however, include “changes to rules on school start dates and pupil progression” found in the House bill.
The Frederick (MD) News-Post (3/20, Bauer-Wolf) reports that Frederick County, MD schools are in the “early stages” of reevaluating standardized testing. The “consensus from education stakeholders” is that the testing, including a new state assessment, has created a “crushing workload” for teachers and decreased the amount of instruction time. While the state-mandated PARCC test is currently underway, school representatives are discussing the possibility of “making some local tests optional” to maximize teaching time.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/20, Majors) reports that around 100 education leaders gathered in Washington on Wednesday to discuss how to “get kids more enthusiastic” about STEM fields. Among the participants were the directors of the Carnegie Science Center, whose director Ann Metzger noted Pennsylvania business leaders’ concerns about finding workers with skills they need. Last year, the Carnegie Science Center started pilot programs for the STEM Excellence Pathway in several school districts, the results of which have “been encouraging,” according to Science Center directors.
The Deseret (UT) News (3/20, Schulzke) reports on the “backlash” national standardized testing has received, using the examples of several families in Florida, the “ground zero for America’s standardized testing movement,” to illustrate the “tensions playing out in America’s schools today.” The article notes that the “high-stakes” accountability system for schools has created a “byzantine system of standardized testing” that teachers claim takes away from instruction time. According to the Council of Great City Schools, students in a major metropolitan district will take an average of 113 standardized tests between kindergarten and 12th grade, which parents and educators claim is too many and causes students to live in a “state of constant testing.”
The US News & World Report (3/19, Mead) reports on a new study from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) that shows charter schools are “making a meaningful difference for underserved kids,” as well highlighting “new challenges for the movement.” The study results showed that in 41 cities, students in charter schools learned “significantly more” than their public school peers. CREDO’s study also leaves unanswered questions, including about what it means to “outperform the local district” when that district is already low-performing.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (3/18, Richards) reports that charter school students in Milwaukee showed “modestly higher levels” of growth in math and reading compared to their public school counterparts, according to the CREDO study. The Journal Sentinel also notes that the study reported the “charter lift” is not sufficient to “offset the overall achievement deficit” urban Milwaukee children face. Proponents of charter schools were “quick to embrace” the study results, especially as bills to “expand charter schools are pending in Wisconsin and other states.”
The Hill (3/20, Wheeler) reports that House Republican Kristi Noem introduced a bill Thursday that would “relax” Federal school lunch rules. Noem’s bill, the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, would permit schools to “stick with previous whole grain requirements,” as well as ease sodium restrictions and allow more flexibility in implementing costlier programs like school breakfasts and a la carte options. Noem said that “the declining number of kids in the school lunch program shows that it’s not working.”
Chalkbeat New York (3/19, Decker) reports that aspiring black and Hispanic teachers “fared worse” on new, more rigorous teaching certification tests than their white peers, according to new data. This “achievement gap” is creating concerns that efforts to “improve teacher quality could undermine a simultaneous goal to boost diversity.” Some officials are calling for a delay in the use of the new certification tests to allow colleges to adjust their curricula, “while others questioned if [the tests] even measured the right skills.”
The Twin Cities (MN) Daily Planet (3/19, Kucera) reports that Education Minnesota, which represents 70,000 teachers, is “praising” Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed investments in public schools, “including free pre-kindergarten programs for all four-year-olds.” The predicted $1 billion surplus in the state’s budget has “jumped to nearly $1.9 billion,” which Dayton plans to spend on education. Education Minnesota President Denise Specht praised the governor’s announcement, saying that “Gov. Dayton is investing education dollars where they’re needed,” and adding, “Smart priorities like these are why he’s known as the ‘education governor.’”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3/20) reports that jurors began deliberating in the trial of 12 former Atlanta Public Schools employees facing racketeering charges related to the city’s standardized test cheating scandal, focusing on jurors’ concerns over a series of mistakes in the indictment of one of the defendants. Jurors began deliberations Thursday morning “after the judge completed a 55-minute explanation of the law.”
The AP (3/20) reports on the beginnings of deliberations, noting that 35 educators were originally indicted, but many “reached plea agreements.” Some defendants “have said they faced pressure from supervisors to inflate standardized test scores.” WSB-TV Atlanta (3/20) also covers this story, describing the judge’s explanation of what racketeering charges entail.
The AP (3/19) reports that NCES figures show that Texas “had the nation’s highest high school graduation rate for black and Hispanic students in 2013,” noting that 84.1% of the state’s black students graduated on time that year, while that figure was 85.1% for Hispanic students. The AP notes that education officials cited ED’s having “tweaked reporting requirements” and state efforts toward “ensuring that all students are college-ready.”
The San Antonio Express-News (3/20, Cesar) reports that the Texas Education Agency released a report on the data showing that the state is “leading the improved picture nationally.” The piece notes that nationally, the rates for both groups rose 4% from 2011 to 2013, and reports that Texas “had the highest graduation rates for the two student groups in the class of 2013.” This piece notes that “Anglo, Asian, economically disadvantaged and those contending with disabilities” also saw high graduation rates in Texas, but reports that ELL students only had a 71.3% graduation rate. The Dallas Morning News (3/20) also covers this story in its “Education Blog.”
Sarah D. Sparks writes at the Education Week (3/20) “Inside School Research” blog that most education and child development research is “supported by taxpayers,” but “ends up behind academic journal paywalls,” noting that the National Science Foundation has released a plan to improve data sharing as part of “a 2013 White House initiative to speed up public access to research.” The plan, Sparks writes, could “help educators and policymakers find a broader array of research more quickly” and “make it easier for researchers across many education research areas to repeat and build on important findings.”
The AP (3/20, Mulvihill) reports that controversy has broken out in New Jersey over efforts to monitor and discipline students who post social media messages about the PARCC test. The piece describes the incident in New Jersey and explores the intersection between student privacy and test security. The AP notes that the PARCC test has sparked controversy, and reports that some students “are protesting the exam and some parents organized through social media networks are boycotting it.”
The AP (3/20) reports that Tennessee state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said that the legislature has reached a compromise to preserve the state’s version of the Common Core Standards, which are facing a repeal effort. The article touches on the controversy surrounding the standards, and notes that they are going through a review process in the state.
The Tennessean (3/19) reports that legislators “appear to have reached a deal on how to proceed with evaluating Tennessee’s education standards that won’t immediately nix the controversial Common Core standards.” Ramsey is quoted saying of the deal, “I’m not sure about the details of it. I just know that everybody seems to be happy and signed off on it.”
The AP (3/20, Foody) reports that Jeb Bush, speaking to Georgia lawmakers on Thursday “after a swing through the early voting states,” said that the US education system “must hold all schoolchildren to high expectations or they won’t succeed.” Bush didn’t directly refer to the Common Core Standards, but said that “state lawmakers must develop education systems that prepare children for a career landscape that is changing at ‘warp speed.’”
Alyson Klein writes at the Education Week (3/20) “Politics K-12” blog that the “big question” surrounding ED’s recent decision to allow New Hampshire to “try local, performance-based assessments in place of state tests” is whether other states will want to--and be allowed by ED to--try similar approaches. Klein notes that in Kentucky, a bill would “permit ‘districts of innovation’ to propose local assessment systems in lieu of state tests,” and writes that there is “something very similar” in Colorado’s request to renew its NCLB waiver.
The AP (3/20, Van Velzer) reports that a bill to “ditch” Arizona’s Common Core Standards passed out of the state Senate Thursday after being amended “to allow the state Board of Education to help adopt new guidelines.” The measure “drops the standards...and prevents Arizona from adopting standards that are substantially similar to other states.” The piece notes that the bill’s sponsor says that the Common Core is inherently against Federal law, noting that the measure “sets up a new committee to study alternatives” to the Common Core “and blocks the Board of Education from adopting new standards unless the committee and the Legislature agree.”
The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser (3/19, Taylor) reports that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill Thursday supporting the creation of “up to 10-start-up” charter schools a year for five years, leaving superintendents across the state with concerns about how their schools will be affected. While “various education groups” praised the passage of the bill, others, including The Center for Education Reform president Kara Kerwin, raised questions about charter schools’ ability to “truly influence student outcomes.”
The AP (3/20, Schroeder) reports that Indiana’s state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz announced a plan to cut testing costs and asked legislators to “shift money” budgeted for charter schools to public schools. Ritz called the funding to charter schools a “drain on public resources” and argued it could be better used for “improving student performance and paying teacher salaries.” Ritz also laid out plans for eliminating certain standardized tests and replacing them with her own versions, which would cost “about $60 million less than what the state would have to pay outside vendors” to administer tests.
WHYY-FM Philadelphia (3/20, Hoover) reports that Pennsylvania superintendents “may get whiplash” trying to keep up with what the state wants them to do with additional education funding. After Gov. Wolf announced his preliminary budget, which includes an extra $400 million for basic education and $100 million for special education funding, Republican senators sent a letter to superintendents “warning them no to rely on the projected state dollars” and instead take a “conservative approach” to budgeting. Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera also sent a letter to superintendents, asking them to create spending plans on how they would use the additional funds.
The AP (3/18) reports that while Texas has increased its support for public education, it “still lags” behind most of the country. A report from the National Education Association released Wednesday shows an increase in the average Texas teacher’s salary and a decrease in the percentage of revenue school districts needed to generate. Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, noted that “we are still in the bottom tier of states when it comes to money we spend on our public school students.”