Leading the News
ED Announces New Teacher Prep Rating System Rules.
ED’s announcement of a new set of regulations for teacher training programs generated significant coverage in national wires and newspapers. Coverage tends to be positive in tone, though there is an undercurrent of criticism of the new rules.
Noting that the announcement “drew some criticism,” the New York Times (11/26, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that ED on Tuesday announced a new set of draft rules “requiring states to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.” The Times adds that the ratings systems could be tied to eligibility for some Federal teacher training grants, noting that US teacher prep programs have faced criticism for “inadequately preparing candidates for the realities and rigors of the job.” The Times reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan lamented the lack of rigorous entry requirements for many education programs, quoting him saying, “The last thing they want or need is an easy A. This is nothing short of a moral issue. All educators want to do a great job for their students, but too often they struggle at the beginning of their careers and have to figure out too much on the job by themselves.”
The Washington Post (11/25, Layton) reports that ED said that “too many new K-12 educators are not ready for the classroom and that training programs must improve,” noting that the rules “would require states to issue report cards for teacher preparation programs...including those at public universities and private colleges, as well as alternative programs such as those run by school districts and nonprofits such as Teach for America.” The Post adds that the rating systems would “for the first time consider how teacher candidates perform after graduation,” and quotes Duncan saying, “Nothing in school matters as much as the quality of teaching our students receive. We owe it to our children to give them the best-prepared teachers possible.” The Post points out that the rules would not take effect until April 2019, “well into the next administration.”
The AP (11/26, Hefling) reports that the rules are an attempt “to improve teaching even before teachers enter the classroom,” adding that ED “is proposing new rules that would penalize teacher-training programs that turn out ill-prepared graduates.” The AP notes that only well-rated programs would be eligible for TEACH grants, adding that the ratings would consider “a training program’s success in placing its graduates in jobs, and the success of a teacher’s students on standardized tests.” This piece quotes Duncan saying, “New teachers want to do a great job for their kids, but often they struggle at the beginning of their careers and have to figure out too much for themselves.” The piece notes, however, that schools and teachers unions complain that such rules would be unfair and would “make it harder to place teachers in schools in high-poverty areas.” Moreover, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten “said the rules use a ‘test-and-punish’ model instead of offering a sustainable solution that raises the bar for the teaching profession.”
Noting that Duncan singled out Arizona State University Teachers College as an example of a program that “raised the bar for incoming students,” McClatchy (11/25, Schoof, Subscription Publication) reports that Duncan cited research showing that “many teacher training programs have lower grading standards than other programs at the same universities.” This piece notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said that ED “will take public comments for 60 days and plans to publish a final rule by September 2015.”
Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (11/26) “Teacher Beat” blog that “federal accountability requirements for teacher preparation” were codified in Title II of the Higher Education Act in 1998, “but have largely been considered weak soup.” He adds that ED has been working on the rules since 2012, and that “its proposed rule has been inexplicably delayed for months.”
In a follow-up post (11/25), Sawchuk writes that under the new rules, teacher programs “would need to provide proof of their graduates’ classroom skills in helping advance student learning,” and that “programs that failed to do so could eventually be blocked from offering financial aid to would-be K-12 teachers” through the TEACH program. Sawchuk points out that the rules are likely to face opposition from the GOP and from “the powerful higher education lobby.”
Other media outlets that cover this story include the Huffington Post (11/26, Klein), Inside Higher Ed (11/26), the Wall Street Journal (11/26, Subscription Publication), the Arizona State University Cronkite News (11/26), Talk Radio News Service (11/25), and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/26).
In the Classroom
Detroit Public Schools Campaigns To Get Middle Class Parents, Students In Schools.
Hechinger Report (11/26, Butrymowicz) reports on methods the city of Detroit, Michigan is employing to lure more middle-class students to the public school system. The school system is employing campaign-style tactics, has given its employees training in customer service techniques, and taken steps to ensure schools are safe and new programs are offered. However, the school system still has to overcome a history of poor performing schools, underfunding, and blighted neighborhoods.
Virginia Completes Review Of State Assessment System.
WCAV-TV Charlottesville, VA (11/26) reports the Virginia Secretary of Education announced a state committee has completed its review of the state’s Standards of Learning and has made recommendations aimed at reforming the state’s assessment system. The twelve recommendations have been sent to the Board of Education and the General Assembly where it will be taken up during the next legislative session.
Oklahoma State Pushing To Help Native Students Enter STEM Fields.
Diverse Education (11/26) reports that the Center for Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University has “quietly launched an initiative to help more Native Americans enter the STEM fields” by opening its Office for the Advancement of Native Americans in Medicine and Science. The program is “reaching out to the 39 federally recognized tribes of Oklahoma,” and the article adds that “only a tiny fraction” of Native students currently go into STEM fields.
Maryland Schools Take Part In Robotics Education Program.
The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette (11/25, Anfenson) reports seven schools are taking part in the University of Maryland’s College Park Scholars program that has college students to local schools “to advise and teach robotics.” The program is part of a course called Science, Technology, and Society at the college and was developed when the school noticed many of their students had robotics club histories. The elementary and middle schools use the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits and high school teams participate in the FIRST Robotics Competitions.
Georgia Writing Test Results Show Almost All Students Passed.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/26) reports the Georgia Department of Education released information Tuesday showing that 96 percent of 11th graders who took the Georgia High School Writing Test for the first time in 2014 passed. The scores showed passing rates rose for subsets of special education, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and white students. The test will be replaced by the Georgia Milestones exam next year.
Study Questions Efficacy, Economy Of Digital Learning Tools.
NPR (11/25, Huntsberry) reports a study from the National Education Policy Center has found blended learning rarely improves student achievement, while those rare cases cost more money than traditional alternatives. Noel Enyedy, the UCLA researcher who performed the analysis, is paraphrased saying most schools are “buying blind.” The study also found online-only systems had either no impact or negative influence on student achievement. Enyedy says the study reaffirms the importance of teachers as a determining factor in student success. The piece closes on advocates’ calls for improvement, rather than slowing down technological rollouts as the paper suggests.
Study Finds Full-Time Preschool Improves School Readiness.
Bloomberg News (11/26, Elmquist) reports a study of “low-income and ethnic-minority 3- and 4-year-olds” found that kids enrolled in full-day preschool programs “improved four of six measures of school readiness” and attendance, supporting the argument for expanding early education. The study found that full-time students “had better socioemotional development, language, math and physical health,” but showed only slight difference in literacy and cognition. Arthur J. Reynolds, study leader at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis noted that these differences “turn into bigger benefits over time.”
According to KSJR-FM Collegeville, MN (11/25, Post), the study found that 81 percent of full-time preschoolers were academically prepared for kindergarten as opposed to only 59 percent of those enrolled in half-day programs. Reynolds says funding all-day preschool should be a “high priority” because the results are clear, “students who spend more time in preschool simply learn more.” Ericca Maas, executive director of Parent Aware for School Readiness noted that preparedness for kindergarten helps the children “hit other important milestones,” which have correlation to high school graduation and college attendance. The Minneapolis Star Tribune (11/26, Mcguire) also covers this story.
Full-Time Pre-K Can Help Lessen Parental Involvement Gap. The Medical Daily (11/26, Rivas) reports that researches noted that the full-day preschool pays dividends for the children and the parents but allowing parents “time to pursue career and educational opportunities.” A brief from the Lincy Institute, a University of Nevada research organization, identifies parental involvement as one of the reasons for gap in young child development, and cites that low-income families often take a “behind-the-scenes approach” to supporting there child’s education due to a “sense of exclusion” when compared to higher income parents. However, the study by the University of Minnesota shows full-time preschool can help lessen that gap when parents are unable to lessen the gap on their own.
On the Job
Missouri Lawmaker Plans To Introduce Bill Preventing Teachers From Teaching Common Core.
The AP (11/26, Ballentine) reports a Missouri Republican lawmaker said Tuesday that he plans to introduce a law requiring the state’s universities to create standardized tests in order “to make sure educators don’t teach contested Common Core standards.” The legislation will “escalate the fight” over the Common Core standards as a state board is busy reviewing the standards. The legislation “would prevent teachers from continuing to teach Common Core regardless of what the board adopts” and keep money in the state rather than given to national testing organizations, but some are cautioning that the legislation is too early.
Arizona Teacher Forms PAC To Recall Newly Elected Superintendent.
The Arizona Republic (11/25) reports Anthony Espinoza, an elementary school teacher in Arizona, has officially formed a political action committee with the express purpose of recalling the newly elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. The Coalition to Recall Diane Douglas filed official papers on Monday allowing it to raise funds although it can not launch a recall until Douglas has held office for at least six months. The coalition needs to collect signature from at least 364,000 registered Arizona voters in order to get the issue on the next ballot.
Charlotte Schools Superintendents Resignation Sparks Questions In Community.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (11/25) reports that following the resignation of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools chief over allegations of misleading board of education leaders over the costs of a building project and bullying of staff members, the Board of Education has vowed to “more thoroughly vet” its future candidates. The “slow pace” in the board’s disclosure has “sparked questions” in the local community, and board members are hesitant to disclose more information since the former superintendent’s contract contains clauses prohibiting “the boar from disparaging” or “disclosing personnel information” about him.
Louisiana Accountability Commission To Reevaluate Teacher Evaluations.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (11/26, Sentell) reports on the debate over the 50% weight Louisiana gives to student test scores when evaluating teachers. While some hope the “influential” Accountability Commission will recommend reductions to the 2010 law, others defend the quantitative initiative by citing that 98% of teachers were rated satisfactory under the old qualitative system. Others criticize a lack of understanding among teachers of how the evaluation system works. Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, hopes to see the weight of student tests reduced to 10-20%. The Accountability Commission will convene in April.
Teachers Struggle With Time, Administrative Support When Incorporating Digital Games.
KQED-FM San Francisco (11/26) reports on the use of digital games in 74% of classrooms, with persistent skepticism from teachers. Through a classroom in New York City, the piece focuses on the difficulty in finding time to incorporate such activities at the expense of “explicit instruction,” given education’s emphasis on testing and the difficulty in translating digital games to test results. The piece closes on a lack of administrative support for classroom technology, exemplified in one Madison, Wisconsin initiative.
Penn State Team Develops Simulator To Train Teachers To Help Bullied Students.
The Gant (PA) Daily (11/25) reports Penn State researchers have developed an artificially intelligent chatbot to allow teachers to practice interacting with bullying victims. In particular, the turn-based nature of an instant message conversation allows those practicing to think carefully before responding. The prototype is being tested by Penn State pre-service teachers.
Law & Policy
Common Core Opponents Spur Increase In Homeschooling.
Fox News (11/25, Chariamonte) reports the opposition to “the Washington-backed” Common Core curriculum has led to a “home-schooling boom” as parents claim the curriculum “is using their children’s public school lessons to push a political agenda.” Virginia, New York, California, and North Carolina have all reported increases in the number of home school students, but a representative from North Carolina notes that public school enrollment is still growing despite having more students in home school settings.
Blog Classifies Michigan’s Common Core Testing Plans.
Education Week (11/26) “State EdWatch” blog reports that the authors have qualified Michigan’s Common Core testing plans as a “Smarter Balanced” state in English/Language Arts and Math for this school year as it prepares to unroll its new state assessment. The state test will contain Smarter Balanced items as well as test designed by Michigan’s teachers, but the teacher-generated questions will be field-tested this year.
Local Illinois Superintendent Critical Of New PARCC Common Core Assessment.
The Washington Post (11/25, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog reports that a Peter Bavis, a superintendent of an Illinois school district, has given a “a detailed and sobering analysis” of the state’s new PARCC exam. Bavis points out that the test is “neither valid nor reliable as a measure” as it has not been tested on a large population, and that Illinois will be normalizing the test scores for the company that makes it. Bavis has also written several memos spelling out concerns about “logistics of administering the exam, its educational soundness and effect on students, and the financial cost.” The blog carries a video and a memo spelling out his grievances with the exams.
ED Offers Expedited No Child Left Behind Waiver To Seven States.
The Education Week (11/26, Klein) reports Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia may apply for a No Child Left Behind waiver renewal, “for up to four years,” through an expedited process because theses states kept up to date on there teacher evaluation systems. This expedited waiver process allowed ED to reward programs that carried out ED’s vision now that the Race to the Top money is gone. With President Obama entering his “lame-duck territory,” benefits in the waiver process is a method Education Secretary Arne Duncan can use as incentive. Although the ED has offered the fast track to these states, some, including Florida and Virginia, are debating whether to take advantage of the offer due to arguments with ED and other considerations. The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/26) also covers this story.
GOP Takeover Of West Virginia Legislature Could Threaten Common Core.
The Charleston (WV) Daily Mail (11/25) reports that West Virginia state Del. Larry Faircloth (R) “said there could be enough votes in the House of Delegates to repeal the Common Core standards in the upcoming legislative session.”
Stakeholders Wrangle Over “Universal Preschool” Definition.
EdSource Today (11/26, Brownfield) reports that amid growing focus on early childhood education among the public and policymakers, “there is a debate in the early childhood education world over how to achieve ‘universal preschool’ and what form it should take.” The article contrasts programs in San Francisco, New York, and Seattle, explaining that the concept of universal preschool “means different things in different places and in politics, words matter.” The piece notes that President Obama’s focus on the topic has been “vague,” but adds that Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett says that “Obama has focused on expanding access to slots for 4-year-olds in families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.”
Closure Of Only Vermont Deaf School Raises Mainstreaming Questions.
Vermont Public Radio (11/26) reports that in the wake of the recent closure of the Austine School for the Deaf, Vermont’s only school for hearing-impaired students, there is a “new debate about the best way to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing children.” The article explains that some Vermonters are question the practice in recent decades of “mainstreaming in public schools,” which “has been seen as a more enlightened alternative to residential schools for the deaf.”
Safety & Security
Oklahoma Students Protest Alleged Bullying Of Three Rape Victims.
TIME (11/26) reports 639 of 1,992 students walked out of Oklahoma’s Norman High School on Monday over the school’s alleged mishandling of the bullying of three teenage rape victims. The #YesAllDaughters campaign caught national attention after three girls told administrators they had each been raped by the same classmate, who has since been suspended and is under police investigation. The school allegedly failed to prevent bullying afterward; as a result, all three girls have since left the school by choice.
Louisiana Directs $3.7 Million Of Unused School Voucher Funds To Fill Budget Shortfall.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (11/26) reports that although more people applied for Louisiana’s private school vouchers than the state had space for, about $3.7 million of the program’s funding has gone unused and will now be directed to cover the state’s $180 million budget shortfall. The state reports that 13,000 families sought vouchers, 9,100 scholarships were offered by the Louisiana Department of Education, and ultimately 7,400 students chose to take advantage of the program. The article notes that “voucher slots were probably left on the table” because demand “didn’t line up” with areas or grades where there were available vouchers.
New York Law Suit Clears Way For Constitutional Challenge To Education Funding.
The Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record (11/23) reports that a New York state judge threw out the state’s bid to throw out a lawsuit challenging the funding of public schools on constitutional grounds last week. The decision by the judge allows the group New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights to move ahead with its challenge that the Gap Elimination Adjustment and other legislation reducing state aid to schools is denying children the constitutional right to “receive the opportunity for a sound, basic education.” Plaintiffs say that the state owes schools its school districts close to $5 Billion.
Judge Prohibits Signs From School Property In New Orleans School Tax Debate.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (11/26, Dreilinger) reports that a Louisiana judge has issued a restraining order barring signs in favor of a proposed school maintenance tax from school buildings. Parties “will return to court Monday to determine whether existing signs must be removed.”
Tuesday's Lead Stories
• Rape, Bullying Allegations Rock Oklahoma District.
• Kids’ Home-Packed Lunches Less Healthy Than School Cafeteria Lunches.
• West Michigan Foundations Give $1.7 Million To Improve Teaching, Learning In Grand Rapids.
• Oklahoma Wins Back NCLB Waiver.
• ACLU To Monitor Discipline Disparities In Mississippi Schools.
• Iowa High Court Overturns Charges Against Student In Bus Bullying Incident.
• Indiana Supreme Court To Decide On Transportation Fee Issue.