|Customized Briefing for JOHN ADDINGTON||September 2, 2014|
New York City media outlets cover the historic wait of 53,000 4-year-olds for Thursday’s opening of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) signature pre-K program, with most pointing out the amount of political capital he used to start the program.
Newsday (9/2, Ngo) reports some of the numbers involved, including 1,000 new teachers, and the space that was required to double a program from 20,000 kids last year to 53,000 this year. The program requires spaces in 600 public schools as well as 1,100 organizations, including parochial schools and day care centers, that will cost $300 million in state funds. New teachers – such as Giovanna Petrizzo of Queens – are busy preparing, and those “on the front line will also feel the heat” that De Blasio feels. In her new post, Petrizzo will make $35,000 a year.
In a separate report, Newsday (9/2, Ngo) examines how De Blasio’s Administration “will be tested this school year on their execution of his universal prekindergarten vision,” although “Chancellor Carmen Fariña has acknowledged there undoubtedly will be ‘glitches.’” A key metric to watch in measuring success is whether these students “are better prepared for kindergarten next year,” according to De Blasio, who “has sunk so much political capital into the pre-K expansion that a failure might color his tenure going forward.”
Crain’s New York Business (8/31, Hawkins, Laermer) reports that De Blasio faced unexpected criticism last week from City Comptroller Scott Stringer over missing contracts for the program, but it adds that “Stringer has ambitions of his own to run for mayor and risks alienating the Democratic Party establishment if he attacks Mr. de Blasio too aggressively.”
The New York Times (8/29, A15, Taylor, Subscription Publication) reports that Stringer “has proved to be an occasional thorn in the side of Mayor Bill de Blasio, clashing with his fellow Democrat over accounting and issuing harsh audits of city agencies,” but his criticism of the pre-K program “appears to have crossed an invisible line, eliciting an unusually strong response from the mayor and his allies.”
The New York Post (8/29) reports the contracts accounted for “a rare public showdown among Democratic officials in the new Administration.”
NYPost Says Comptroller Is Right To Insist Pre-K Contracts Are Done Right. In an editorial, the New York Post (8/29) says it is “glad to see Comptroller Scott Stringer calling” Mayor Bill de Blasio “to task because his Department of Education still hasn’t submitted more than 70 percent of its pre-K contracts to the comptroller’s office for the required vetting.” The Post points out that many organizations involved in the new program are new to contracting with the city, “which makes the need for outside review all the more critical.” It concludes, “Kudos to Scott Stringer – a pre-K supporter – for doing his job and holding the mayor’s feet to the fire.”
The New York Times (8/30, Ito, Subscription Publication) reports on Toon Books and Toon Graphics which issue comic book versions of classic tales, such as its first issue, “Theseus and the Minotaur,” depicting “gruesomely creative murders, feats of superhuman strength, misbehaving gods and bloodthirsty beasts.” Founder Françoise Mouly explained that the works do not require explanation, because children are “used to processing information to extract meaning.”
The Tennessean (9/1, Garrison) reports that the Metro Nashville Public Schools are planning “to expand at least one foreign language offering to every middle school in the district beginning next year, shoring up the 15 out of 36 that don’t have any.” The school system is “hoping” the expanded access to languages will “help with increasing scores in English and math.”
Newsday (9/2, HILDEBRAND, EBERT) reports on the growth in “college-level courses in subjects ranging from calculus and physics to film and dance” in Long Island schools, as “dozens of districts are adding courses” this year for “college credits, either through global programs such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate or through area colleges.” One official said that despite tight budgets, “There’s no downside,” to expanding these offerings.
The Los Angeles Times (9/2, Watanabe) reports on a study by Attendance Works, finding that “California students attend school more consistently than most of their U.S. peers,” leading to “better performance on national math and reading tests.” Even with that, “nearly 1 in 5 of those students still missed more than three days of class in the month leading up to the National Assessment for Educational Progress.” Meanwhile, “in L.A. Unified, the percentage of students with attendance rates of 96% or higher has steadily increased” from 60 percent in 2009-10 to 71% in 2013-14.
The Boston Globe (8/30, Vaznis) reports that Boston school administrators this year hired “from outside the system” to such a degree that “more than 100 veteran teachers have no class assignments at all, sidelined despite a cost in salary and benefits of more than $10 million.” The teachers in question have “permanent” status due to longevity. Of the 100, “just five...received unsatisfactory evaluations.” The schools will assign the teachers to be “substitutes or working along side another classroom teacher.”
The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (9/1, Oglesby) reports on teacher turnover, citing the New Jersey Education Association finding that “in eight of the last nine years, between 3,000 and 4,400 teachers left” each year. One study found that “teacher turnover cost New Jersey taxpayers between $28 million and $61 million” each year due to the cost of “training, recruiting and mentoring the new hires needed to fill the gap.” Yet, NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said that the study probably overestimates annual departures, “saying that two-thirds of teachers leaving the profession are retiring.”
Politico (9/2, Emma) reports on the difficulty of developing teacher rating systems, saying that “the administration’s initiative is in disarray, with states scaling back, slowing down and, in some cases, putting off tough decisions until Obama is out of office.” That is attributed to “teachers union pressure.” Also, “many states” with new assessments are “not identifying all that many bad teachers.”
The AP (8/31, Hefling, Smyth) reports on “buyer’s remorse” among policymakers regarding Common Core. As evidence the article points to Ohio state Rep. Andy Thompson, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal who are opposing the standards, Indiana and Oklahoma which abandoned them this year, and North Carolina, South Carolina, and Missouri where governors “have signed legislation to reconsider the standards.” It also notes that while teachers’ unions “endorsed the standards and helped develop them,” yet many “now complain about botched efforts to put them in place.” In response to complaints, “Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said he would allow states to delay using students’ test scores in teacher evaluation systems.”
The New York Times (8/31, Nagourney, Subscription Publication) reports California’s Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris have appealed a judge’s “sweeping ruling” against teachers’ tenure laws for depriving “students of their constitutional rights,” stating the decision belonged to the authority of appellate review. A lawyer for Students Matter, Theodore J Boutrous Jr., criticized the appeal for defending “harmful and irrational laws.” The ruling was “strongly welcomed” by Education Secretary Arne Duncan as well as California Republicans, including Brown’s gubernatorial competition this fall.
The AP (8/30) also carries the story.
The Tulsa (OK) World (9/2, Eger) reports that Oklahoma educators are “reeling” from the state losing its No Child Left Behind Act waiver “and trying to determine the short- and long-term consequences.” It does note that “Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, wrote that federal officials would be open to reconsidering” if the state can “demonstrate that it has adopted and is implementing college- and career-ready standards for all students.” ED does not believe that Oklahoma’s current PASS standards qualify. The story notes that the Fordham Institute, and Achieve Inc. both appear to regard Oklahoma’s standards as roughly equivalent to Common Core standards.
The Tulsa (OK) World (9/2, Archer) reports that Oklahoma’s repeal of the Common Core standards “may have appeared to muddy the waters in the state’s classrooms, but most educators are clear about what and how to teach.” As a result of the repeal, the state will “revert to Oklahoma’s Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, standards for two years until new ones can be developed.”
The Washington Post (8/29, Strauss) reports in its “Answer Sheet” blog that because Washington state has lost its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, it must now “deal with the consequences of failing to reach impossible goals.” The post notes a response from one Washington superintendent saying to Secretary Duncan, “We do not need to be monitored. We need to be trusted and respected.”
The Washington Post (8/29, Strauss) reports in its “Answer Sheet” blog on a resolution passed by Vermont’s Board of Education in opposition to “some of the Obama administration’s key school reform policies.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that he “shares these concerns” about testing and assessment, and so has offered “a one-year delay” in using test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Duncan’s move is seen as offering insufficient flexibility, given that the Gates Foundation had said that a two-year delay would be a good idea.
The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (9/1, Solochek) reports on “closet-sized seclusion rooms” saying that Pasco County schools “has set a goal of eliminating” their use “by the end of this academic year.” Twenty-eight districts in Florida “have ended seclusion.”
Newsday (9/2, BONILLA) reports on the Lindenhurst Academy, “geared toward high school students in need of additional social and emotional support.” It will open with eleven students, and “expects to enroll a maximum of 25 to 30 students.”
The Seattle Times (8/31, Higgins) reports that progress in improving Seattle Public Schools’ special-education program “has been incremental at best and falls far short of the district’s own promises.” Indeed, “national consultants” that that “few know who is responsible for what” in the program. The district “risks losing about $12 million annually in federal funds unless it fixes problems that include failures to update student learning plans, deliver services outlined in those plans and provide services consistently from school to school.”
The Dallas Morning News (8/29, Wilonsky) reports that Disability Rights Texas has filed suit against Mansfield ISD, alleging that the district is misusing its “blue rooms” or “calm rooms.” One student’s mother said, “I would have expected a Zen kind of calm-down-type of room or what have you, and what we saw was a concrete-looking jail room.” The suit says that students placed in the rooms “may be subject to abuse or neglect.”
Colin L. Powell, Alma J. Powell, and Laysha Ward write in the Washington Post (8/29) on the need to aid at-risk children, calling for “more action from us: caring adults willing to engage in a developmental relationship and the ability to help them imagine — and work toward — a better future.” They cite Los Angeles city schools superintendent John Deasy, who urged administrators to “find the name of a struggling student,” and “stay with him or her until graduation.” They urge their readers to do the same.
USA Today (9/2, Deutsch) reports that “twenty-one states and the District of Columbia do not meet emergency planning standards for schools and child care providers, according to a new report from Save the Children.” The report looks at “states’ evacuation and relocation plans, family-child reunification plans, children with special needs plans and K-12 multiple disaster plans.” However, the paper notes, “for the first time this year, more than half of states — 29 — reach the non-governmental disaster relief organization’s standards in its laws and regulations.”
The Baltimore Sun (8/29, Anderson) reports that Harford County, Maryland school buses may soon have cameras “to record drivers who do not yield to a stopped school bus.” The cameras would record a traffic violation and generate a ticket.
The Baltimore Sun (8/29) reports that a survey of school bus drivers shows a marked decline in “drivers blowing past school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off school children” from 7,011 in 2011, to 3,505 this year. Still, the paper says, such violations are “unacceptable” and calls for more school bus cameras.
The Arizona Republic (9/2, Gonzalez) reports on children who came to the US as unaccompanied minors now “showing up in local schools.” The students are “welcomed by school officials accustomed to teaching refugees,” but the state superintendent “wants the feds to pay for the cost of educating the students.”
The Dallas Morning News (8/28, Stutz) reports that Texas State District Judge John Dietz of Austin, ruled that the state’s school financing system is illegal, because it is “unfair and inadequate”, accepting the argument that the “Legislature has consistently underfunded schools while imposing new and expensive academic requirements for students.” Judge Dietz also found that “lower-wealth school districts [have] far less money to spend on their pupils than their wealthier counterparts across the state.” The story notes that the National Education Association found that “Texas ranks 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in spending per pupil.”
The Dallas Morning News (8/29, Stutz) reports that while “Democratic lawmakers and virtually all public education groups” are calling for a rapid response to Judge Dietz’s ruling, “the GOP majority in the Legislature insists it will not respond until the state’s highest court weighs in.” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, “pointed out that the court ruling is the opinion of one man,” and that “the final say will come from the Supreme Court.” Some legislators suggested that they would be willing to “give districts more flexibility in meeting state requirements” and to ease student testing.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (9/1, McGuire) reports on the beginning of full-day kindergarten for 95 percent of the state’s smallest students, “a move educators hope will provide an academic jump-start” with lasting results. The state is paying $134 million to expand the full-day program – only about half of Minnesota’s schools offered full-day kindergarten for free before this. The report notes that “consensus” is missing on whether all-day kindergarten students make their gains last beyond first grade, but one University of Minnesota study of 800 students “found those students posted test scores that were higher than the national average as they entered and exited first and second grades,” and there was no achievement gap for students who were “poor, a member of a minority group or a non-native English speaker.”
The Merced (CA) Sun-Star (8/30) reports, “Bryan Rogers of Enochs High has been chosen as one of 60 facilitators chosen for the National Education Association’s Great Public Schools Network.” Rogers and the others “were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants.”
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