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1346Education News Bulletin - March 3, 2008

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  • edupreneurs_moderator
    Mar 3, 2008

      Education News Bulletin
      February 25 - March 2, 2008


      Charter Leaders Question Reliability of Study That Finds California 's Alternative Charter Schools Have Highest Drop-Out Rates

      CALIFORNIA--According to a recent UC Santa Barbara study, 25 school sites, including many alternative charter campuses, account for a fifth of dropouts in the state. The report, issued as part of the California Dropout Research Project, used state data to compile a list of every high school in the state ranked by the number of students listed as dropouts last year. Some educators and school advocates, including charter leaders, criticized the report for relying on questionable data, as well as releasing potentially explosive statistics without context. Buzz Breedlove, director of John Muir Charter School , a Sacramento-based organization that operates programs for at-risk students at 43 locations throughout California , described an example of the unreliability of the report. His school was listed as number one on the UC Santa Barbara list, with 1,856 dropouts -- more students than are enrolled at the school. "To reconfigure numbers and come up with a dropout rate of 149 percent, which on its face is ludicrous, doesn't suggest to me that very much thought went into these numbers," said Breedlove, a former nonpartisan policy analyst for the California Legislature. ( Los Angeles Times - registration required)



      Ed secretary says nontraditional methods can help fill teacher vacancies

      JEFFERSON CITY - Filling teacher vacancies will require using nontraditional methods, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told members of the Missouri State Board of Education on Thursday. She pointed to federal programs such as Teach for America to recruit more college students and alternative certifications for people with other careers who want to become teachers. "We're going to have to figure out how to recruit mid-career professionals into our classrooms," Spellings said. Missouri Education Commissioner Kent King noted that in Missouri last year, just one person graduating from college had majored in teaching physics. He said that wasn't uncommon. Hours later, the Senate gave initial approval to legislation that would allow the state to accept a new teacher certification program designed for people who want to change jobs to become teachers. The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence would be allowed to test secondary teachers until August 2014. Legislators could vote to extend the law. Critics, which include a state teachers union, said that particular alternative certification program was insufficient. (Associated Press via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


      Results mixed in first year of Texas ' teacher merit pay plan: Study finds state bonuses didn't sway most to alter methods

      AUSTIN - The first year of Texas ' $100 million experiment in school reform - involving an estimated 52,000 teachers in the largest merit pay plan in the nation - produced mixed results and didn't motivate most teachers to change their classroom techniques. An independent study funded by the state showed that the Texas Educator Excellence Grant program drew a favorable response from teachers in the 1,148 schools where bonuses were awarded, but the study also said massive turnover of schools in the plan each year will make it difficult to achieve success over the long haul. In addition, according to researchers, school districts gave bonuses far less than the $3,000 to $10,000 range recommended by the Legislature. Trying to spread the money among more teachers, districts gave average maximum bonuses of $2,263. Hundreds of campuses in North Texas are participating in the program, including 90 in the Dallas school district this year. The plan was created under the school finance reform law passed by the Legislature in 2006. The 161-page study on the merit pay program was conducted by the National Center on Performance Incentives under a contract with the Texas Education Agency. Researchers who worked on the study were from Vanderbilt University , the University of Missouri and the RAND Corp., a nonprofit think tank. State education officials said Thursday they were pleased with the first year of the grant program and the findings of the study, though they are implementing changes to address some of the shortcomings identified. Teacher leaders, on the other hand, said the study affirms problems that they predicted would befall the program. ( Dallas Morning News)


      For more on merit pay for teachers, see also: Hillsborough's merit pay experiment benefits affluent schools: Hillsborough will try to even out its experimental system to reward its best teachers



      Bush Education Budget Gets Bipartisan Flak

      NATIONAL--The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee told Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings that if President Bush isn't open to a compromise on education spending, Democratic leaders are willing to wait for a new president to take office who might be more disposed to supporting their priorities. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the president's proposed $59.2 billion budget request for the Department of Education, which would freeze the agency's bottom line at fiscal year 2008 levels, was inadequate to help schools finance special education and meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. They also blasted the proposed elimination of some programs, particularly the $1.2 billion Career and Technical Education state grants. Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., who leads the committee and is chairman of the subcommittee that oversees education spending, asked Secretary Spellings whether President Bush would be willing to compromise on a spending measure that addresses those issues. (Education Week - subscription required)


      Virginia considers leaving federal education act behind

      VIRGINIA--The General Assembly is flirting with abandoning a landmark federal law that governs schools in the United States . The decision could make Virginia the first state to set a deadline - summer 2009 - for planning a pullout from the No Child Left Behind Act, which ties billions of dollars to federally mandated testing standards in public schools. State politicians have balked at some of those standards in the past few years. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has signed bills asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive parts of the federal law. Most of those exemptions were granted, but the notable ones that have not been approved frustrate educators and annoy legislators. This year, some politicians want to up the ante. Both the Senate and the House of Delegates are working with bills that say that if the state's waiver requests aren't granted, Virginia 's Board of Education would develop a plan to withdraw from NCLB by July 2009. Delegates have approved the bills, even adding language to one seeking to recoup federal tax money if the state withdraws. (The Virginian-Pilot)



      Outside Help for Schools Possible: D.C. Contacts Private Groups To Aid Ailing Sites

      WASHINGTON, D.C.--D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee are seeking educational management firms or universities to possibly run some or all 27 schools whose students chronically perform poorly. At a news conference yesterday with Fenty (D), Rhee said she has entered discussions with several nonprofit businesses and universities to work with the schools in the fall, although she only disclosed one, Mastery Charter Schools of Philadelphia . The Washington Post reported in November that she had approached Mastery, and Green Dot Public Schools of Los Angeles and St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento , about managing some failing high schools. It would be the first time the school system employed a private firm to run a school. Outside organizations manage schools in other cities. … Officials from Friendship Public Charter Schools and KIPP DC , which operate two of the fastest growing charters in the city, said they have had preliminary discussions with Rhee about working with students from academically troubled schools. … Susan Schaeffler, executive director of KIPP DC , said she was interested in replicating a two-year agreement the organization has with Scott Montgomery Elementary School in Northwest. KIPP DC leases space in the building for a middle school and shares some of its instructional methods with Scott Montgomery teachers. KIPP DC is not in the business of taking over schools, she said, but is "in the business of partnering with and sharing with" the school system. ( Washington Post - registration required)


      See also, DC schools in talks with education management firms


      Reason TV Reports: Unlocked: Education Revolt in Locke

      LOS ANGELES--Vikki Reyes has had it with Locke High, the school her daughters attend in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles . She walked in on class one day and recalls "the place was just like a zoo!" Students had taken control, while the teacher sat quietly with a book. Frank Wells has also had it with Locke High. When he became principal he says gangs ruled the campus. He tried to turn things around but ran into a "brick wall" of resistance from the school district and teachers union. Locke seemed destined to languish in high crime and low test scores until Wells, Reyes, and many reform-minded teachers joined with a maverick named Steve Barr in an attempt to break free from the status quo. Their battle is just one example of the charter school education revolt that's erupting across the nation. (Reason TV)

      View the report at http://www.allamericanblogger.com/2193/unlocked-education-revolt-in-watts/

      ELECTION 2008

      Clinton offers plan to cut child poverty in half in a dozen years

      HANGING ROCK, Ohio --Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a plan to improve childhood nutrition and set a goal to reduce by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty over the next dozen years. The package of proposals includes a "comprehensive" early education initiative that starts with nurse's visits for pregnant women, lets children begin the Head Start program earlier and calls for universal pre-kindergarten programs. The New York senator also says she would deal with childhood hunger by putting in place a food safety net, and give children "greater access to healthy, fresh food." She spelled out her proposals in a speech Thursday at the child care development center on Ohio University 's southern campus, and toured a Head Start program serving economically challenged southern Ohio . It was part of her effort to focus the Democratic campaign on bedrock economic issues. (Associated Press via the Herald Tribune)



      Op-ed: LAUSD's leadership problem: The mayor has a team to guide his schools initiative, so what's holding the district back?

      LOS ANGELES--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has lined up an impressive team of experts for his education initiative. At the Los Angeles Unified School District , in contrast, key positions on the senior management team remain unfilled nearly a year and a half after David L. Brewer was named superintendent. This has become an embarrassment. Villaraigosa just added a top administrator from the San Diego school system as the superintendent of instruction for a handful of schools the mayor will oversee. He already has in place the former president of the highly regarded Green Dot charter schools, and Ramon C. Cortines, a respected former superintendent of the L.A. public schools. The district's hiring picture looks like this: Desperately seeking a chief deputy superintendent and associate superintendent of instruction. Head lawyer is leaving Friday. Controller and other management positions also available. To be sure, Brewer has been mightily distracted over the last year by the still-messy payroll fiasco. But this is exactly what the L.A. schools cannot afford to do, lurch from one issue-of-the-moment to another. Brewer, who has no real background in public education, has been either unwilling or unable to forge connections with the people who could help him locate and woo smart deputies. Under his stewardship, the district still lacks a strategic plan or even a few swift, top priorities to propel it forward. … This is the conundrum that faces the L.A. public schools: To attract good leadership, it has to have good leadership. ( Los Angeles Times - registration required)


      See also Mayor names team to lead Partnership for L.A. Schools


      For more on Los Angeles see also: Teachers work with immigrant parents to help them help their young students catch up. One goal is to prevent future dropouts.


      For more on California , see also High school dropouts cost state billions at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/28/MNQFV919C.DTL

      and Schools operate in crisis mode: Districts across the state are laying off workers as they await $4.8-billion reduction proposed by governor. at http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-rialto3mar03,1,4893534.story

      and Students believe in the SAT: More teenagers than ever are taking the college admissions test, along with often pricey preparation classes. At http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-sat1mar01,1,6603092.story

      Teaching Boys and Girls Separately

      NATIONAL--Separating schoolboys from schoolgirls has long been a staple of private and parochial education. But the idea is now gaining traction in American public schools, in response to both the desire of parents to have more choice in their children's public education and the separate education crises girls and boys have been widely reported to experience. The girls' crisis was cited in the 1990s, when the American Association of University Women published "Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America," which described how girls' self-esteem plummets during puberty and how girls are subtly discouraged from careers in math and science. More recently, in what Sara Mead, an education expert at the New America Foundation, calls a "man bites dog" sensation, public and parental concerns have shifted to boys. Boys are currently behind their sisters in high-school and college graduation rates. School, the boy-crisis argument goes, is shaped by females to match the abilities of girls (or, as Sax puts it, is taught "by soft-spoken women who bore" boys). … In part because of these regulations and in part because of a mix of cultural and technological forces - ranging from the growth of brain-scan research to the increased academic pressures on kindergarteners and a chronic achievement gap between richer and poorer students and between white and minority students - new single-sex public schools and classrooms are opening at an accelerating pace. (New York Times Magazine - registration required)


      Column: Let Them Drop Out, Then Get Them Back (by Jay Mathews, Education Columnist at the Washington Post)

      NATIONAL--Every time I hear from a teacher, I learn something. It may be a new reading report, a promising homework technique, a story of a student's success. And sometimes it is a taboo-busting, eye-widening, troublemaking idea. Consider the e-mail that Michael Goldstein, founder of the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston , sent, saying that if a kid wants to drop out, let him. I would usually hit the delete button on something that impolitic. But Goldstein has created one of the most successful inner-city high schools in the country. He has proven to me time and again that he knows what he is talking about. I think our awful dropout rate -- only half of urban low-income students complete high school -- is the most difficult educational problem in the country. It may require much more than our usual buzzword solutions such as "engaging lessons," "personal contact" or "individualized instruction." What Goldstein wants to do is sort of educational jujitsu: Let the force of the kid's rush out of school bring him back, somewhat later, with enough money to get the learning he finally realizes he needs. ( Washington Post - registration required)


      Video Setup Tears Down Class Walls: Interactive Lessons Available From Afar

      Two dozen fifth-graders watched intently as a musical trio explained the basics of jazz on a big screen at Potowmack Elementary School this week. Chins in hands, they appeared engaged in an activity many fifth-graders are good at: watching television. But then something curious happened. The two-dimensional figures on the screen began asking questions, and the students raised their hands and answered. When the musicians played, they smiled as the students nodded their heads and snapped their fingers in time. When the performers were finished, they acknowledged the applause, then took a few questions from the young audience. Through videoconferencing, the Loudoun County students took a lesson from the Manhattan School of Music without leaving the comfort of their plastic chairs in Sterling . Once the realm of such futuristic cartoons as "The Jetsons," two-way videoconferencing technology has been embraced by the business world and is rapidly gaining momentum in college distance-learning programs and a growing number of grade schools. Two years ago, Potowmack Elementary was among the first in the county to use the video camera, microphone and speaker set, at a cost of about $1,500. The county owns about six of the units for schools to use. ( Washington Post - registration required)


      Market for K-12 Course-Management Systems Expands

      NATIONAL--Molly Tipton failed at her first try last winter at putting classroom resources and homework assignments online-via a class MySpace page-after parents said they feared their children might get into trouble on the popular social- networking site. But the 8th grade teacher has had more success this school year, with her second try. Last fall, she started using Moodle, an online course-management system that is stored on the El Paso , Texas , school district's computer server, with access controlled by student passwords. … A course-management system is a software program that allows controlled exchanges via the Internet of just about any kind of information related to a course, although the features of individual products differ. Moodle is perhaps the most popular rival to the course-management system sold by Blackboard Inc., the dominant company in the U.S. market for e-learning tools in higher education. The for-profit Washington-based company is trying to expand its foothold in what Blackboard officials call the emerging K-12 market. Blackboard, which in 2006 bought its main for-profit competitor in higher education, WebCT, says that 400 precollegiate schools or school districts use the full or partial version of its academic product. The company says it welcomes open-source competitors like Moodle, because interest among schools will help expand the use of course-management systems-a market that company officials believe they will dominate. Next week, Blackboard is launching an enhanced version for small schools and districts, for an annual flat fee of $10,000, including online hosting and training of personnel. That rate is substantially lower than what larger institutions pay. (Education Week - registration required)