Leading the News
Common Core Repeal Costs Oklahoma NCLB Waiver; Indiana, Kentucky Get Extensions.
ED’s announcement of the latest states to win NCLB waiver extensions generated significant media coverage, and much ink was devoted to the fact that Oklahoma’s waiver extension bid was denied. The New York Times (8/29, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that ED notified Oklahoma officials on Thursday that its waiver will not be extended due to its “retreat from Common Core.” The article notes that Oklahoma originally won its waiver by vowing to adopt rigorous standards, in this case the Common Core. However, a recent law repealed the common core in favor of the state’s prior standards, which have been deemed “inadequate.”
The Washington Post (8/28, Layton) also reports that the move was the result of the state reverting to its old standards, and notes that the loss of the waiver means that all schools in the state must meet NCLB’s 100% proficiency standard or “face various sanctions and restrictions on how they spend federal dollars.” The article notes that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, an erstwhile supporter who now opposes the Common Core, “blasted the Obama administration.” The Post notes that notwithstanding Oklahoma’s experience, Indiana “got its waiver renewed” even though that state has also dropped the Common Core, because Indiana officials “worked through the spring and into summer to write new, replacement standards that largely resemble the Common Core.” The Post quotes ED Press Secretary Dorie Nolt saying, “Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that its students are learning high standards this year, which the state committed to do under its (waiver) request. State leaders still have the opportunity to demonstrate that their standards are rigorous or design new standards to ensure their students are ready for college, career and life, just like Indiana and several other states have done.” The Post points out that Virginia and Texas both have waivers, though they have not adopted the Common Core.
The AP (8/28, Juozapavicius, Miller) reports that the move “stripped Oklahoma of authority to decide how to spend $29 million in education funding because the state abandoned” the Common Core, and notes that Fallin “blasted Obama and the federal government for the decision and said Oklahoma would fight vigorously.” The piece reports on the political opposition that killed the Common Core in the state, and reports that Oklahoma is now the second state to lose its NCLB waiver, after Washington state. Meanwhile, the AP reports that Oklahoma Education Association President Amanda Ewing says that the move will likely result in teacher layoffs, because some schools are currently using their Title I funding to pay teacher salaries.
The Tulsa (OK) World (8/29) reports that with the state reverting to NCLB’s rules, some 90% of Oklahoma schools are likely to be placed on the Oklahoma School Improvement List in the coming months. The article reports that ED officials told the state that it “can regain its NCLB flexibility when it demonstrates its standards are college and career ready.”
In its coverage, the Oklahoman (8/29) also presents the move as a result of the state dropping the Common Core, and notes that in her letter to Superintendent Janet Barresi, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle wrote “that the state’s waiver was denied because Oklahoma ‘can no longer demonstrate that the State’s standards are college- and career-ready standards.’” The Oklahoman reports that in contrast with Fallin’s bellicose response, Barresi said that she was frustrated by the decision, but expected it given the state’s Common Core repeal.
Other media outlets that cover Oklahoma’s loss of its waiver include Reuters (8/29, Brandes), Politico (8/29, Emma), the Wall Street Journal (8/29, Porter, Subscription Publication), KGOU-FM Norman, OK (8/29), KOKH-TV Oklahoma City (8/29, Dillon), KOTV-TV Tulsa, OK (8/29), KFOR-TV Oklahoma City (8/28), KWTV-TV Oklahoma City (8/29), KFGO-AM Fargo, ND (8/28), KSWO-TV Lawton, OK (8/29), KOCO-TV Oklahoma City (8/29), KWTV-TV Oklahoma City (8/29), and US News & World Report (8/28).
Indiana Retains Waiver Despite “Feuding.” The Indianapolis Star (8/28) reports that ED renewed Indiana’s waiver “despite months of feuding among Indiana’s top education officials,” noting that the state will therefore retain control over some $230 million in Title I funding. The article reports that Superintendent Glenda Ritz (D) “said she hopes the waiver will quell the fighting that for months has dominated education policy discussions with Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s education staff” and the state BOE. The article notes that members of the state board have “accused Ritz of not doing enough to keep the state’s waiver in good standing and then failing to inform them last year when federal monitors raised concerns.”
The AP (8/28, LoBianco) reports that ED reauthorized Indiana’s waiver “after the state resolved concerns over how it monitored low-performing schools and evaluated teachers and principals.” The AP reports that Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle told Ritz “in April that federal monitors had identified problems in the state’s handling of the waiver during a review in August and September of 2013.”
The Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette (8/28) reports that the extension ended “months of fears that the state would lose flexibility in funding and accountability,” and explains that “Indiana education officials have scrambled in recent months to correct” the problems that Delisle had pointed out.
The Evansville (IN) Courier & Press (8/29) notes that ED “placed conditions on Indiana’s waiver” in May “and said the state would need to address those concerns for an extension to be approved.” The article describes the contention between Ritz and the state board over the waiver application, noting parenthetically that all board members have “been appointed by Republican governors.”
Other media outlets running similar coverage about Indiana’s waiver include Chalkbeat Indiana (8/28), the Indianapolis Recorder (8/29), WXIN-TV Indianapolis (8/28), WLS-TV Chicago (8/29), WTHR-TV Indianapolis (8/28), WTVW-TV Evansville, IN (8/28), WPTA-TV Fort Wayne, IN (8/29), WISH-TV Indianapolis (8/28), and WXIN-TV Indianapolis (8/28).
Questions Linger About Indiana Waiver. Chalkbeat Indiana (8/28) reports that notwithstanding the widespread relief in Indiana over the waiver extension, with both Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence treating the move as a “victory,” “federal officials still have questions, especially about the way the state evaluates its teachers and principals.” The piece notes that Ritz said that though ED “removed all conditions from Indiana’s waiver, it still expects the state to work with districts on improving the teacher and principal evaluation system.”
Kansas Wins Waiver Despite ED Concerns. The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal (8/28) reports that Kansas has also won an NCLB waiver extension, despite ED’s “skepticism...over their approach to certain school reforms.” The piece notes that ED warned Kansas officials last year that its waiver was in jeopardy, but Thursday’s announcement “includes dropping that warning.” The paper explains that Kansas’ waiver faced being canceled because of ED concerns about the state’s teacher evaluation system.
Wichita (KS) Eagle (8/29, Tobias) reports that the waiver gives Kansas officials a year to “figure out how to use test scores and other student achievement data as part of teacher evaluations,” and adds that Thursday’s announcement “removed the ‘high risk’ status placed on Kansas about a year ago.” The paper explains that ED placed the state on probation because it “had not taken enough steps to use student growth data – test scores or other measures – as part of teacher evaluations.”
The AP (8/29, Hollingsworth) reports that the waiver comes after Kansas “addressed concerns that it hadn’t taken enough steps to use student test scores as part of teacher and leader evaluations.” This article notes that Kansas DOE officials released a statement saying that “a significant factor in this year’s evaluation system will be whether students are making growth on tests.” Noting that ED “also granted an extension to Indiana but denied Oklahoma’s request,” the AP quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying in a statement, “America’s schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades — changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow’s economy will require. This extension will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students.”
In the Classroom
Oklahoma Superintendent Says State Will Withhold Test Scores.
The Oklahoman (8/29) reports that Oklahoma Superintendent Janet Barresi, “in response to online testing failures that disrupted end-of-instruction testing for thousands of students, said Thursday the state Education Department will not use fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores” in school assessments. The piece notes that this was the second year of significant problems with the tests administered by testing vendor CTB/McGraw Hill, and that the state has terminated its contract.
Mayor De Blasio Defends Scrapping Elite High Schools’ Test-Only Admissions.
In a Daily Politics blog post for the New York Daily News (8/29, Durkin), Erin Durkin reports Mayor de Blasio has defended his decision to remove standardized testing from the admissions process for three of the city’s elite public high schools (Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech) in an effort to promote diversity, despite cries from alumni that the test is the only reliable way to determine candidate qualification and maintain high standards. De Blasio’s decision will require changing state law, while five of the eight schools are entirely under city control and will shift admissions systems once a new system is developed. Stuyvesant has a combined 7% black and Hispanic student population.
Three Kansas School Districts Recommended For Innovative Status.
The AP (8/29, AP) reports that three Kansas school districts (Kansas City, Hugoton, and Blue Valley) have been recommended for innovative status by the Coalition of Innovative School Districts, leaving the Kansas State Board of Education 90 days to act, likely to be reviewed in its September meeting. Under a 2013 law, districts are exempted from certain state regulations with plans to improve student achievement. All three districts sought waiving certain teaching licensing rules for custom programs. A fourth request from Santa Fe Trail District was rejected on the grounds that some goals could be accomplished without regulation exemptions.
Kettering University To Open $15.5 Million High School Robotics Center.
MLive (8/29, Roelofs) reports Flint-based Kettering University will open a community robotics center on September 19 for eight high school teams, its laboratory equipped with a machine shop and software, as part of a $15.5 million pledge by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The program aims to provide opportunity and promote diversity in engineering, a field where black students held 5.1% of bachelors degrees in 2003 and only 4.2% in 2012. Kettering’s program follows the University of Michigan, whose Michigan Engineering Zone in Midtown Detroit hosted 16 Detroit high schools in 2014, with 98% minority membership. Older programs such as the FIRST Robotics competitions service 2,700 high schools with 68,000 participants. Kettering has a history of robotics philanthropy, awarding $3.5 million in robotics scholarships since 1999.
On the Job
Vergara Ruling Sets Up Political Battle Over Teacher Protections.
Politico (8/29, Severns) reports that a Los Angeles judge on Thursday “reaffirmed a tentative June ruling that struck down five laws governing job protections for teachers in California.” The final decision “in the headline-grabbing tenure suit sets the stage for the appeals process,” and the “clock starts ticking for state Superintendent Tom Torlakson: As a named defendant in the case, he has to decide whether to appeal.” Torlakson will “have to make that decision by just before the Nov. 4 election that pits him against education reformer – and fellow Democrat – Marshall Tuck. With Tuck eager to make the case a campaign issue, the Vergara v. State of California decision could take center stage in the big money race.” The judge ruled that “the tenure and other job protection laws for teachers violate the state constitution’s guarantee that children receive ‘basic equality of educational opportunity.’”
NCTQ To Ask Missouri Supreme Court To Take Up Case Over University Of Missouri Syllabi.
The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune (8/29) reports the President of the National Council on Teacher Quality announced that she will be asking the Missouri Supreme Court to take up a case requesting that the University of Missouri disclose its course syllabi under the Sunshine Law. The request comes in response to a ruling from appellate judges Tuesday who deemed that individual course syllabi are intellectual property of faculty members and therefore exempt from the Sunshine Law.
Wisconsin Launches New Teacher Evaluations Statewide.
The Manitowoc (WI) Herald Times Reporter (8/28) reports the state of Wisconsin will be implementing statewide this year a new set of teacher evaluations. The new evaluation will “bring a semblance of order” across the state and have “drawn praise from educators and administrators alike.” Evaluators will go through training sessions and be certified on the evaluation model before they can begin classroom observations.
Law & Policy
Critics Wonder Why Teacher Scores Didn’t Drop After Common Core Implementation Like Student Scores Fell.
The New York Times (8/29, Harris, Subscription Publication) reports that the release of New York State principal and teacher evaluations that showed 94 percent where rated as highly effective or effective “have prompted an outcry from critics” who wonder how the high scores can exist while so many students are performing poorly. The article notes that a switch to Common Core tests dropped the number of students ranked as proficient, but “did not seem to have the same effect on teacher evaluations.” Experts, meanwhile, “cautioned against drawing a straight line between” the student scores and teacher performance.
Favorability Of Common Core In Wisconsin Reflects Party Differences, A New Poll Finds.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (8/27, Richards) reports a Wisconsin state poll shows that people in the state are more aware of the Common Core standards being implemented in the state. The poll also showed that opinions on the new standard are closely related to party identity as only 41 percent of Republicans favor them, while 65 percent of Democrats favor the standards. Overall, though, the perceptions are largely unchanged since results in January showing 50 percent of respondents familiar with the standards favor them and 34 percent saying they did not favor them.
Florida School Board Votes To Opt Out Of Testing In Backlash To Common Core.
Reuters (8/29, Stein) reports Lee County School Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday to opt-out of state-mandated testing, setting a national precedent. The article notes that the politically conservative community appears to be responding to the national controversy over the Common Core Standards. There is uncertainty with what will happen next with the school district. The Florida School Boards Association posted a memo mentioning that the area could lose some state and Federal funding and some students may have difficulty with completing the requirements for graduation.
Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (8/28, Atteberry) reports the action “was received with overwhelming cheers and applause” from supporters, but “answered few questions on what is next for students and the district.” One school board member who voted in favor said the “act of civil disobedience” will allow the district to “move forward.” The district’s Superintendent Nancy Graham expressed concern about the results of the vote “while the audience booed.”
Florida Governor, Education Chief Urge Duncan To Allow Two-Year Delay On ELL Students Scores.
Lesli A. Maxwell writes at the Education Week (8/29) “Learning the Language” blog that Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Commissioner Pam Stewart this week called on ED “to back down from its decision that the state must include test results for its newest English-language learners in its accountability system,” noting that in a joint statement with Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, they said that they “would formally request that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rescind his department’s denial” of Florida’s request to delay including ELL students test scores for two years, as stated in its recently granted NCLB waiver request. She reports that ED granted the waiver, but rejected that request.
Governor Jindal Sues ED Over Common Core.
The Slate Magazine (8/29) reports Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has filed a law suit against the Department of Education and Arne Duncan over the Common Core standards. Jindal “seems to be suing on the grounds that he liked Common Core...before it was cool, and he’s mad that the federal government started liking it too.” Jindal claims the standards are an example of illegal Federal coercion and overreach because of its use of No Child Left Behind waivers and funding grants. The article also notes that as recently as two years ago, Jindal was a strong supporter. The article speculates that the lawsuit is about “political posturing” and trying to get the governor reelected, not about the merits of Common Core.
Indiana Union Chief Calls On Governor To Delay Student Test-Based Evaluations.
The AP (8/29, Callahan) reports in continuing coverage that Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith wrote to Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday calling on him to delay using student test scores in teacher evaluations for a year “because of revisions to the ISTEP test being driven by the state’s new academic standards,” which will replace the Common Core. In her letter, Meredith said that Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “announcement last week that states can apply for extra time before using student test scores to judge teachers’ performance gives Indiana ‘newfound “permission”’ to follow that course.”
Safety & Security
Illinois Announces $10 Million For Chicago Public Schools’ Safe Passage Program.
The Chicago Tribune (8/28, Ahmed-Ullah) reports Chicago Public Schools will receive $10 million to fund 600 Safe Passage adult monitors, enrolling 27 new schools and adding routes for 93 schools; this announcement by the offices of the mayor and governor follows $1 million allocated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month to add 13 more schools. 1900 Safe Passage workers will comprise the program, which is credited with reducing student homicides from 36 to 24 last school year. The program addressed safety concerns after the closures of 50 elementary schools, forcing students to commute to new schools.
The Chicago Sun-Times (8/29, Fitzpatrick, Seidel) reports annual spending on the program will total more than $26 million, servicing 133 elementary and high schools. The spending has brought Gov. Pat Quinn criticism, who denies political motivation. Among high schools, CPS cited a 20% reduction in crime around Safe Passage schools, a 27% drop in student incidents, and a 7% increase in attendance. The funds will be paid by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Judge Rules Texas School Funding Formula Still Unconstitutional.
A long-awaited ruling in Texas’ long-running school finance lawsuit on Thursday generated some national coverage and significant state-level coverage. The AP (8/29, Weissert) reports that Texas District Judge John Dietz has “declared Texas’ school finance system unconstitutional for a second time Thursday, finding that even though the Legislature pumped an extra $3 billion-plus into classrooms last summer, the state still fails to provide adequate funding or distribute it fairly among wealthy and poor areas.” Dietz’s written ruling “reaffirms a verbal decision he issued in February 2013,” in which he “found then that the state’s so-called ‘Robin Hood’ funding formula fails to meet the Texas Constitution’s requirements for a fair and efficient system that provides a ‘general diffusion of knowledge.’” Judge Dietz’s final opinion “took the extra step of blocking Texas from using portions of its current system to pay for schools – but also put that order on hold until next July,” thus giving the Legislature, which reconvenes in January, “an opportunity to ‘cure the constitutional deficiencies,’ the ruling says.”
The Dallas Morning News (8/29) reports that this is the second such ruling from Dietz in 18 months, noting that he said “the Legislature last year failed to fix a system that is both unfair and inadequate for the state’s five million public school students.” Dietz ruled “in favor of the more than 600 school districts who sued the state,” alleging that “the Legislature has consistently underfunded schools while imposing new and expensive academic requirements for students.” Dietz “also pointed to inequities in the system that leave lower-wealth school districts with far less money to spend on their pupils than their wealthier counterparts across the state.”
Bloomberg News (8/29, Calkins) reports that the ruling basically means that the legislature has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide sufficient funds to educate all students equally, and quotes Dietz saying, “The state has buried its head in the sand, making no effort to determine the cost of providing all students with a meaningful opportunity to acquire the essential knowledge and skills reflected in the state curriculum and to graduate at a college and career-ready level.”
The Houston Chronicle (8/29, Mcgaughy) reports that the office of state Attorney General Gregg Abbott “said the state would appeal, ‘just as it defends all laws enacted by the Legislature when they are challenged in court.’” The article describes the ruling as “the latest salvo in nearly two years of litigation,” portraying it as “another major victory for the plaintiffs representing nearly three in four Texas schoolchildren.” The Chronicle points out that there have been six court challenges against Texas’ education funding system since the mid-80s.
The Austin (TX) American Statesman (8/29) lists the four areas in which Dietz said the school finance formula violates the state constitution, and notes that the case now heads to the Texas Supreme Court, “where another protracted legal battle ultimately will determine how Texas will pay for its schools — and how property taxes will be affected statewide.”
The Wall Street Journal (8/29, Koppel, Subscription Publication) reports that that a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said the state will appeal the ruling and defend the law.
Other media outlets running similar coverage of Dietz’ ruling include Reuters (8/29), the Austin (TX) Chronicle (8/28), the Lubbock (TX) Avalanche-Journal (8/28), the Amarillo (TX) Globe News (8/28), KAGS-TV Bryan, TX (8/29), KERA-TV Dallas (8/29), and KWTX-TV Waco, TX (8/29).
Democrats Look To Make Hay From Ruling. The Houston Chronicle (8/29, Rosenthal) reports that soon after Dietz’ ruling, Texas “Democrats made clear they intend to use the decision as a major issue this fall in their uphill battle to reclaim at least one statewide elected office.” The article notes that “groups aligned with state Sen. Wendy Davis (D)” sent out press releases saying that Attorney General Greg Abbott, Davis’ rival in the gubernatorial election, “lost,” and details similar messages from other candidates. The article reports that despite this flurry of action, political analysts “said education is an issue that often resonates more with mainstream liberals than the independent and moderate conservatives that Democrats will need to persuade to have a chance at victory.”
Local Officials Applaud Ruling. The Dallas Morning News (8/29) reports that Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles praised the ruling, saying that “the state’s current funding model ‘does not suitably, adequately or equitably provide the resources necessary to give all students a real opportunity’ to meet state accountability standards.” The article notes that Dallas ISD “was one of the hundreds of Texas school districts that sued the state.”
Meanwhile, the Midland (TX) Reporter-Telegram (8/29) reports that area elected officials and educators “weighed in,” and relates a number of statements from such officials. KERA-TV Dallas (8/29) reports that district officials across the state “are applauding” the ruling.
Texas School Finance Clash Dates Back To 1984. The AP (8/28) runs a sidebar consisting of a timeline of legal action surrounding the debate over school financing in Texas. The first case took place in 1984, when “Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio files a legal challenge arguing Texas’ school finance system is inequitable.”
Former LAUSD Official Denies Wrongdoing In Soured iPad Deal.
The Los Angeles Times (8/29, Blume, Christensen) reports that former Los Angeles Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino, who is facing “scrutiny for his role in the district’s $1.3-billion iPad program,” said on Thursday that “he did not improperly steer the contract to a company that once employed him.” Aquino said that his actions were above board and approved by district counsel, and the Times quotes him saying, “I have nothing to hide.” The paper explains that Aquino’s emails with “education giant Pearson, which ultimately was chosen to provide the curriculum for the district’s iPad program,” has raised eyebrows, noting that he “had worked for a Pearson subsidiary before joining the district.”
Audit Reveals LAUSD Can’t Find $2 Million Worth Of Computers.
The Los Angeles Times (8/29, Blume) reports that a recent audit from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general revealed that the district can’t account for over $2 million worth of computers, most of which are iPads. The audit attributed the losses in part to an ineffective tracking system for computer inventory.
Thursday's Lead Stories
• Jindal Sues ED Over Common Core Standards.
• More Coverage Of Collapse Of LAUSD iPad Program.
• Court Shoots Down NCTQ Bid To Force University Of Missouri To Release Syllabi.
• Temple Journalism Professor Faults Media Over Dearth Of Common Core Coverage.
• Florida Governor Pushes Back On ED ELL Testing Ruling.
• Detroit Conference Focuses On Safety En Route To School.
• Texas Judge Likely To Finalize School Funding Ruling This Week.
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