|December 19, 2014|
The New Orleans Advocate (12/19, Sentell) reports on “arguments” and “finger pointing” between Louisiana Superintendent John White and members of the state legislature over “whether state or local officials are to blame for the biggest parental complaints” about a new law overhauling the state’s special education system. The piece reports that White said that the law is complicated and will take time to implement, but state Sen. Jack Donahue (R) “said he has heard complaints from numerous people ‘who don’t feel confident with where we are going.’” The piece explains that the new law--passed as an attempt to raise the state’s special education graduation rate--allowed for “an alternative path to graduation” in students’ IEPs “regardless of how they fare on standardized tests.”
Christina Samuels writes about the challenges in implementing the new law at the Education Week (12/19) “On Special Education” blog, noting that the state legislature “overwhelmingly approved a law that would permit some students with disabilities to opt out of the state’s testing regime” earlier this year. She describes some of the issues involving implanting the law, following on the Times-Picayune’s report. Samuels adds that ED has “indicated it will be taking a careful look at how the law, which was signed June 23, is implemented,” noting that acting Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Michael K. Yudin and Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle wrote to White in July laying out “all the ways the policy could run afoul of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
The Fairbanks (AK) News-Miner (12/19) reports “the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program was named the most exceptional program in STEM education and workforce development by the United States Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative this week.” The program was honored “for its work to ‘establish and implement a framework for achieving enduring growth of minority participation in the energy sector through enhanced public awareness of energy-related careers and the promotion of both STEM education and workforce development.’”
The Washington Post (12/18, Chandler) reports that Washington DC’s State Board of Education unanimously postponed a vote on high school diploma achievement alternatives such as “course equivalent” programs. Board member Jack Jacobson (Ward 2) said that despite them being “important provisions that will offer opportunities to disenfranchised adults in the District of Columbia... the proposal before us is imperfect,” thereby giving more time for the community to provide input. The consensus of board members during the Wednesday decision was that while they agreed with the need for more flexible degree achievement options, the proposed regulation needed further work.
The Huffington Post (12/19, Klein) reports that research by University of Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth’s Dr. Jacquelyn Gamino, consisting of a study that utilized cognitive intervention sessions for a month, demonstrated growth among children in poverty sufficient to be a potential method to reduce the academic achievement gap. The focus was on seventh and eight grade students, whose brains can still be “rewired.” She states that the study’s “[Research showed that] kids in poverty who had deficits going in could overcome deficits,” and that the exercises could be utilized in schools.
The Washington Post (12/18, Shapiro) reports that the Prince William County school board has approved a 2015-16 academic year calendar that begins on Monday August 31, has a two-week winter vacation, and an earlier ending date in June to facilitate better standardized test preparation. The before Labor Day start date was allowed because of a 1986 piece of legislation that requires the previous year’s snow days to be taken into account and is intended to promote area tourism, thereby earning it the name the “Kings Dominion Law.” Maryland state officials want the state’s school year to begin after Labor Day, also in the name of tourism.
The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (12/18, Russell) reports that a “career ladder” with raises tied to performance benchmarks has been endorsed by the Idaho state Board of Education, along with nearly 20 other recommendations. Board member Richard Westerberg said “The need and time for higher salaries is now.” Beginning teachers’ salaries would grow from $31,750 to $40,000, and high-performing teachers’ salaries would grow from $47,000 to $58,000, over a five year period. Higher teacher education levels will also grant additional pay increases, for a total of 14 performance and seven education benchmarks. The raises would cost approximately $193 million over the five year period, on top of the $16 million in authorized annual leadership bonuses.
The Denver Post (12/19, Robles) reports that as Denver teachers have not fully understood the new pay system tied in to performance benchmarks, the turnover rate for teachers has increased to 2005 levels, from before the performance-linked pay program. Denver Public Schools and the area’s teachers union have therefore begun work on a new payment system, though there are only two weeks before the present contract expires. The article notes that the current system’s performance-based system means teachers who work at high-needs schools face more difficult bonus achievements. CU School of Education professor Derek Briggs also describes the feeling teachers may have of having bonus income stripped if results differ but their methods do not.
In the Washington Post (12/18, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog, Valerie Strauss wonders why problems cited by Kindergarten teachers throughout Maryland regarding the “new Common Core-aligned ‘kindergarten readiness assessment’” could not have been anticipated. Strauss points to actions by the teachers union Maryland State Education Association, which is “calling on the state Board of Education to suspend” the assessments “until questions about its effectiveness and administration are resolved.” Stauss says that Kindergarten teachers have cited problems ranging from the assessment’s appropriateness to the large amount of time needed to conduct the assessment, some noting that it took an entire month to complete the assessments. Straus says that state official are looking at potential revisions due to the complaints they have received.
Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week (12/19) “State EdWatch” blog that according to a recent GAO report, Common Core states and states using home-grown college- and career-ready standards “are using the same strategies—and facing the same types of challenges.” Both sets of states “are giving teachers professional development to implement the standards, but they’re worried the training isn’t high-quality.” The reports also lays out states’ challenges in communicating “with parents and the public about the standards.” He notes parenthetically that ED “didn’t have any objections to the findings.”
NPR (12/18) reports in a “StateImpact” piece on the questions surrounding Jeb Bush’s support for the Common Core Standards now that he is moving toward running for President in 2016, and focuses on polling showing how this support might impact Bush’s candidacy. The article notes that Vox and Nate Silver at 538 say that polling indicates that Bush’s support will either help him slightly or have no impact, though “many thought Gov. Rick Scott’s tolerance of Common Core might hurt his candidacy.”
The AP (12/19, Thompson) reports that notwithstanding the transition to the Common Core Standards, “New York’s high school graduation rate improved slightly to 76.4 percent last year.” However, the percentage of students earning the state’s “college-ready” diploma held steady, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office “made clear it is far from satisfied with the state of schools.”
The AP (12/19, Amy) reports that the Mississippi Personal Service Contract Review Board “has rejected a contract that would have bought tests for Mississippi students with intellectual disabilities.” The article explains the state law the board cited, and notes that after it blocked another contract in September, the sate BOE “declared an emergency, adopting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career tests, developed by a multistate group including Mississippi to test what students are learning under the Common Core State Standards.”
The Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner (12/18) reports that the Utah Office of Education “recently issued two sets of report cards rating Utah schools, but administrators don’t recommend judging schools only on a letter grade.” The piece quotes an official from the state office explaining that the grades are not the only indicator of a school’s quality. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Ogden School District “says there’s a lot of controversy among different organizations at the state level, as to whether grades are beneficial for schools or try to oversimplify.” The piece explains that the report “is the Federal Accountability report, which replaces the old UCAS report, required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver.”
The Wheeling (WV) Intelligencer (12/19) reports that the West Virginia legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education held a hearing Tuesday at which “advocates and critics of West Virginia’s Common Core education standards gathered” to discuss the standards. The article lays out the arguments for and against the standards, and relates the views of education experts.
In the Floor Action blog on The Hill (12/19, Cox), Ramsey Cox quotes Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) as stating that “I cannot in good conscience believe that Congress has satisfied our duty to ensure safety for our nation’s children” after last year’s background check legislation failed in the Senate. Some 100 additional school shootings have occurred since the attack at Sandy Hook. Casey has called for legislation for stronger background checks, high-capacity weapon bans, and gun violence and mental health research.
The Washington Post (12/18, Chandler) reports DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith announced that “two surplus D.C. public school buildings” have been leased to “four charter school operators.” The Bridges and Briya public charter schools will operate “programs for infants through adults” at the Mamie D. Lee School, while the Charter School Incubator Initiative will use the Gibbs School for programs related to foster children and “adults pursuing a high school equivalency degree.” The programs will being next school year.
The Tulsa (OK) World (12/19, Eger) reports that $18 million educational dollars will be “redistributed” between school districts due to an “error” in how Oklahoma has calculated aid for public schools since 1992. Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime stated the error stemmed from a 1990 law that “was supposed to take effect in 1992” but was “never enacted.” At the heart of the issues is calculations related to property taxes. “Anxiety is running high” among school officials as midyear adjustments are due and districts do not know if they will be losing or gaining moneys.
The KSNW-TV Wichita, KS (12/18, Andres) website reports that Kansas teachers unions and others are concerned over Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent statement that it would be hard to “maintain” the $230 million increase in educational funding that occurred during the past fiscal year. Recently, Gov. Brownback has recommended cuts to highway funding and the teachers retirement fund; however, even those cuts may not make up the budget shortfall. Gov. Brownback admitted that it would be “logical” for the schools to bring a lawsuit “if the state can’t fulfill their obligations.”
The AP (12/18) reports an Indiana Non-Public Education Association study “found 80 of the more than 300 private schools taking part in Indiana’s voucher program were overpaid $3.9 million” since 2011; however, the money has been returned to the state. $3.7 million of the funds that were “overpaid and then repaid went to private Catholic schools.” INPEA Executive Director John Elcesser stated he thought the study showed “schools out there that are utilizing the program are policing themselves.”
In a column for the Los Angeles Daily News (12/17), Dan Walters discusses that a “third examination” of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula for California’s public schools by the Oakland-based Ed Trust-West also “criticized how the local accountability provisions were being implemented,” reflecting the main criticisms found in two previous examinations by the Public Policy Institute of California and SRI International. Walters states that the Ed Trust-West examination found “wide disparities in implementation” and “structural flaws” in how each school would write the required “Local Control and Accountability Plan.” Walter says that the issues “fuel suspicions” that districts could “subtly divert new money” from where its intended while still complying “on paper.”