222education news bulletin
- Jun 4, 2003
CHARTERS AND CHOICE
Charter school group gets Gates grant
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday that it will give a $5.7-million grant to a charter school network to help it open six charter high schools in Los Angeles over the next five years. The grant reflects a growing emphasis on size and scale in the charter movement. The grant's recipient, Aspire Public Schools, is California's best-financed and best-known representative of this trend. (Los Angeles Times; registration required)
Charter Schools Choke on Rulebook
A decade ago, California launched a populist experiment with charter schools. Teachers, community groups, business owners - anyone with a worthwhile idea for a school - could apply to a local school district for a charter. The charter would entitle them to public funds and to operate free of most state regulation. The idea was to encourage innovation. It gained momentum after President Clinton embraced charters as "public school choice" and as an alternative to vouchers - direct aid to parents who sent their children to non-public schools. Today the charter movement looks less like an educational laboratory and more like a maturing industry. And the future of charters, leaders in the school business say, lies in creating vast networks or alliances that, in some ways, mimic the giant school districts to which charters were supposed to be an alternative. The reasons lie in simple economics and in a wave of state regulation that individual entrepreneurs say robs charters of much of the freedom that made them so appealing in the first place. (Los Angeles Times; registration required)
Once Called Unrealistic, 'Charter Districts' Attract Attention
In a sign that the once far-fetched notion of "charter districts" is gaining traction, a forthcoming series of papers from the Education Commission of the States offers policymakers advice and encouragement in setting up their own versions of that emerging governance arrangement. The papers, slated to be made public early next month, define charter districts as systems of autonomous schools that are given regulatory freedom in exchange for meeting performance standards specified either in contracts or charters. Citing examples from around the country, the series suggests that policymakers should at least consider instituting such systems of independent public schools, despite the many pitfalls they might encounter in doing so. (Education Week)
Idea of the Week: Charter Schools for 'Military Brats'
Most military children in the U.S. attend local public schools. Too often when children move, their education is interrupted and suffers, as the curriculum varies, transcripts are not easily transferred, and credits are not accepted. To address this challenge and improve the consistency of education for children whose parents serve in the military, New Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu has introduced the Stable Transitions in Education for Armed Services Dependent Youth (STEADY) Act. This bill would authorize a five-year, $35 million dollar, demonstration program that would establish charter schools specifically designed to provide a high quality, consistent education for military dependents. Up to 10 states and 35 school districts could receive grants to establish these charter schools. In addition, the bill authorizes a grant program to assist these charter schools with facilities. (New Democrat Online)
The Effect of Classroom Practice on Student Achievement
How significantly does classroom practice affect student achievement? Over the past 40 years, researchers who have attempted to measure the effect of schools on student achievement have often come to the conclusion that student background characteristics (e.g., race, parental education, income) exert a greater influence on achievement than do the schools; perhaps the best known of these studies was the 1966 Coleman Study. More recently, a body of research has begun to emerge that does support the contention that schools, and specifically teachers, do have a significant impact on student learning. (ASCD Research Brief)
Teaching fellows set sights on struggling schools
With a Columbia University diploma and a master's degree in urban education from Harvard University, Logan Manning probably could have her pick of plum teaching assignments -- but she has chosen to work at one of the lowest-performing high schools in New Orleans. Manning is one of 58 teachers who have been recruited by the Orleans Parish Teaching Fellows program. The effort was designed to draw qualified teachers into the city's public school system and -- after a two-week summer session about working at poor, big-city campuses -- to send them to struggling schools with low numbers of certified teachers. The program was launched by The New Teacher Project, a New York nonprofit group, after the organization won a $385,000 contract to deliver at least 125 certified teachers to 48 New Orleans schools. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
ACCOUNTABILITY AND ASSESSMENT
High-stakes testing has become a lightning rod as more and more states adopt accountability measures in response to the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. While it is crucial to analyze and debate the wisdom of such policies, the discussion must be informed by evidence of the highest quality. The controversial nature of high-stakes testing has led to the hurried release and dissemination of research that lacks scientific rigor. Measuring the gains that students make over time would provide a better measure of school performance and serve as a proper basis for reward or sanction, but such value-added techniques need some work before they can serve as reliable performance measures. (Education Next, by Margaret Raymond and Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution)
NCLB: Conspiracy, Compliance, or Creativity?
At its best, the NCLB is a call for educators to do the right thing, to do what they should have been doing all along. It is a spur that can motivate and focus educators to take action on issues they have neglected. This does not mean, however, that the NCLB is the final word on the most effective means to achieve the ends the law seeks. It is not a roadmap. It is not a cookbook. If it were, there would be even louder howls about the "federalization of education." The law's potential is not in the details of its implementation, but in causing educators to finally devote serious attention to issues of teacher quality and student performance. They are a little late: 141 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 49 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and 39 years after The Civil Rights Act. But there is a real danger that staffs of state and local education agencies may lapse into a compliance orientation that reduces the NCLB's effects to a mechanistic process of implementation. If this occurs, the NCLB will become a lost opportunity to qualitatively improve the education of students who are now struggling to become academically proficient. (Edna McConnell Clark Foundation)
Chairman's Corner: The Danger of Cutting After-School Programs
The news that Congress is considering a proposal to reduce federal funding for after-school programs by 40 percent is deeply disturbing on a number of levels to all of us who care about and advocate for children. The proposed dramatic cuts in funding are yet another sign of a larger shift in both the public and private sectors to pull back on support for children. The declining economy, fewer resources at the state, local, and federal levels, a drop in foundation endowments, and the loss of confidence in some philanthropic organizations owing to recent scandals are clearly contributing factors to this shift. (Venture Philanthropy Partners, by chairman Mario Morino)
Can Business Save New York City Schools?
Oakland schools' bailout is OK'd
Amid signs that testy undercurrents persist, Gov. Gray Davis on Monday signed legislation loaning a record $100 million to bail out the financially troubled Oakland school district. An hour later, state schools chief Jack O'Connell appointed a state administrator who will have control over the 48,000-student Oakland Unified School District, and announced that the once-popular district superintendent [Dennis Chaconas] would soon leave. O'Connell, at a press conference at an Oakland elementary school, introduced the new state administrator, Randolph Ward, who until recently had served in the same capacity overseeing the Compton school district in Los Angeles. (Sacramento Bee)
Gates gives $18.9 million for schools
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has jumped into the pro-school-choice arena with an $18.9 million grant to give inner-city Latino teens a chance to attend Catholic preparatory schools in 12 cities. The Cristo Rey Network, which since 1996 has opened four Jesuit high schools with a work-study program for students to raise their own tuition, was awarded the grant because its schools embody the characteristics of strong high schools that the foundation wants to foster.
A Venturing Education Philanthropy
Kim Smith, CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, believes she is “genetically encoded to be a social entrepreneur in education.” Both of Kim’s parents were educators-her mother a public school elementary special education teacher and her father a professor of education administration for over 35 years at Columbia’s Teachers College. After completing her undergraduate degree, she met Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America (TFA). In the summer of 1989, Kim became the third member of the TFA founding team. In Kopp’s book on the early days of TFA, she describes Kim as “smart and spunky [with] education and teaching in her blood.” (Philanthropy Magazine)
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