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236education news bulletin

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  • edupreneurs_moderator
    Aug 13, 2003
      Education News Bulletin


      Playbook: Charter School Incubators

      Charter public schools are proving to be an important source of
      innovation in public education, and an important alternative to under-
      performing traditional schools and voucher schemes as well. But
      starting up a charter public school requires a variety of technical
      and financial resources that often are not made available by local
      school boards or chartering authorities, inhibiting potential charter
      founders and placing charter schools on a less than fair footing.
      Fortunately, a number of states and localities are beginning to offer
      this kind of strategic early support to charter public schools. They
      have borrowed the concept of an "incubator" from the world of venture
      capital, where similar services, from start-up financing to buildings
      to technical and legal expertise, are provided for promising new
      businesses. (New Democrat On-Line)


      St. HOPE to leave Sac High campus

      Former basketball star Kevin Johnson's St. HOPE Corp. will clear out
      of Sacramento High School by Monday morning after a vote by the
      Sacramento City Unified School District board of trustees to undo key
      actions that would have allowed the nonprofit organization to turn
      the shuttered campus into a charter school Sept. 2. At a closed
      session Thursday, the school board voted 6-0 in favor of a resolution
      that rescinds its approval of a facilities-use agreement and a
      memorandum of understanding between the district and St. HOPE
      regarding operations, and authorizes district staff to order St. HOPE
      to vacate the premises no later than 9 a.m. Monday, the deadline set
      by Superior Court Judge Trena Burger-Plavan for the district to
      comply with her ruling invalidating St. Hope's charter or be held in
      contempt. Margaret Fortune, superintendent of St. HOPE Public
      Schools, said the group will comply with the board's wishes and
      vacate the campus as necessary. However, she said St. HOPE and its
      supporters will prod the school board to push forward with a second
      charter petition filed by St. HOPE that they feel addressed the
      judge's legal concerns. (Sacramento Bee)


      Choice program could overwhelm schools

      Chicago public schools braced for a "logistical nightmare''
      Wednesday, revealing that an estimated 250,000 students could be
      vying for only 5,000 seats under tough new federal standards designed
      to free students from failing schools. Officials released tentative
      data showing that 368 schools--or 61 percent of all city public
      schools--could have to offer transfers to 54 higher-performing ones
      under the "choice'' provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.
      Statewide, an estimated 209 additional schools also will probably be
      required to provide students the choice of better schools by the
      first day of classes, Illinois State Board of Education officials
      said Wednesday. (Chicago Sun-Times)



      New Teachers Experiences of Hiring: Preliminary Findings from a 4-
      State Study

      A new study by Edward Liu at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
      quantifies the many failings of district hiring practices. Liu's
      study presents the survey results of 486 teachers on the process they
      went through when being hired in four states: California, Florida,
      Michigan and Massachusetts. Liu found that the principals in these
      four states are in fact allowed to decide who they want to hire, but
      principals are not taking full advantage of the opportunity. While
      most teachers were interviewed one to two times, one in five teachers
      in Florida was never interviewed at all. Fewer than 8 percent of the
      486 teachers surveyed were observed teaching a sample lesson.
      Principals also aren't seeking tools to better inform their
      decisions: only about one in four new teachers were asked to submit
      standardized test scores or writing samples. (Harvard Graduate School
      of Education)


      Revised certification rules anger teachers

      Critics of the requirements [for a new "professional certificate"
      designation], which emphasize performance rather than academic
      credits, say that the programs set up to equip teachers for the
      designation vary too widely to ensure consistent standards, and that
      the process is so onerous that it will drive teachers away from
      Washington or out of the profession. Teachers have seven years to
      obtain a professional certificate, which is valid for five years and
      renewable for five-year periods by completing 150 additional hours of
      course work. The revised standards require teachers to demonstrate
      proficiency in three main instructional areas, meet performance
      indicators approved by the 18 Washington colleges and universities
      offering the certificate program, and demonstrate a positive impact
      on students' learning. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)



      Tool Tracks Potential Dropouts

      The Houston Independent School District is using technology that
      teachers can readily access to curb dropout rates among students.
      Houston's new initiative the Profiler for Academic Success of
      Students (PASS) enables educators to track a student's attendance,
      discipline records, immigration status, grades, and test scores.
      HISD's announcement of the system comes on the heels of fraud
      investigation in Sharpstown High School that uncovered that employees
      changed student records to artificially lower dropout rates-a fact
      that critics are using to condemn ED Secretary Rod Paige's tenure as
      Houston's superintendent. (Houston Chronicle)


      How many times can a student be failed?

      Baltimore school officials announced three years ago that they were
      ending a long-standing practice of social promotion that had allowed
      failing students to advance to the next grade whether or not they had
      met the standards. The new policy was clear: Students would meet
      performance standards in each grade or be held back. No exceptions.
      Now, faced with significant numbers of students being held back more
      than once, the city school system is backpedaling from that policy.
      This year, more than 2,700 failing students in the city were
      promoted - more than half because they had been held back before, and
      school officials were leery of holding them back again. The problem
      of multiple retentions has become increasingly acute as the school
      district has enforced tougher promotion standards. (Baltimore Sun)



      A big boost for tiny scholars

      Going to a new school can be scary enough for any child, but even
      more so for those who can barely speak English. Combs Elementary
      School's extensive attempt to help those children could serve as a
      model as school systems across the Triangle and state deal with the
      mushrooming numbers of English as a Second Language students. Through
      a new federal grant, Combs is providing year long assistance to
      southwest Raleigh children, starting with this week's summer camp for
      new ESL students to help them adjust before classes start Monday for
      most Wake County public schools. The stakes are higher than ever to
      make sure ESL students get acclimated and do well academically. Under
      the federal No Child Left Behind Act, if a school has at least 40 ESL
      students and not enough of them pass state end-of-grade or end-of-
      course tests, the school could be forced to allow any student to
      transfer out. (Charlotte News & Observer)


      AP Courses Not for Everyone, Educator Says

      I don't agree with much of what [educator Tom] Shaffer said, but he
      appears to have been a fine Advanced Placement history teacher for
      several years, and such people deserve attention. He is particularly
      important, at least in my view, because he is one of the few Advanced
      Placement teachers I have ever met who is not enthusiastic about that
      program and the current efforts in school districts like his to coax
      as many students as possible into the college level AP courses. He is
      also worth my time because his opinion of AP is still the majority
      view in American schools. I want to share Shaffer's story of how he
      came to hate the expansion of AP so much that he quit his job at
      Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, Md., before I get into the
      broader significance of his experience and his views for the future
      of AP, which, as far as I can tell after 20 years of watching it
      closely, has done more to improve U.S. high schools than any other
      program during that period. The beneficial effects of the growth of
      AP and IB are so clear--particularly in college success for low-
      income students and minorities who used to be kept out of AP--that I
      think it is worth the strain and the risk. If done well, the change
      does not have to lead good teachers like Shaffer to bail out.
      (Washington Post)



      After-school programs go academic

      Students enrolling in after-school programs this year are more likely
      to hit the books than the basketball courts. The after-school
      program, once simply a haven for children until their working parents
      could pick them up, is now an extension of the classroom. A new
      federal law that requires every child in the country to be achieving
      at grade level in 10 years is pushing the national trend toward
      academics. Federal after-school grants, once meant to pay for
      recreational programs that kept kids off the streets, now require
      academic programming, from homework help and tutoring to arts and
      crafts that teach measurement, counting and geometry. In the past two
      years, Arizona received $13 million in federal after-school grants,
      specifically designed to improve students' skills in reading and
      math. It's the same story for programs funded with private money.
      (Arizona Republic)



      Innovation of the Week: Performance Accelerator Fund Invests in
      Entrepreneurial Projects to Improve Achievement

      School districts are under pressure to improve student achievement.
      Many districts, however, are ill equipped to do so. In response to
      this need, the NewSchools Venture Fund announced in May that it has
      created the Performance Accelerator Fund. Following the philosophy
      that entrepreneurs with both business knowledge and education
      expertise can be agents of change, the Performance Accelerator Fund
      invests in projects, led by such entrepreneurs, that increase the
      capacity of school systems to produce high levels of student
      achievement. (US Department of Education's Office of Innovation and



      Business Book Gains K-12 Following

      Two years after it hit the stores, Jim Collins' Good to Great
      continues to gain traction in the K-12 sector. The study of companies
      that achieved enduring success has been required reading in some
      districts and education groups. Mr. Collins increasingly finds
      himself the star attraction at education events. And some policy
      experts want to replicate his work in a study of schools. Mr. Collins
      often pitches the idea of doing a Good to Great study of public
      education. He himself plans to include a matched pair of school
      districts in his next ambitious project, which will examine greatness
      in major elements of society, including comparisons of two countries,
      two police departments, and two orchestras. But, he says, someone
      should do a similar analysis on multiple pairs of schools and
      districts. (Education Week)


      Charting their own course: Three educational entrepreneurs step
      outside the box

      It all started with a drink after a round of golf. Jim Murphy, then a
      36-year-old options trader living on the North Shore, had recently
      lost his father, Daniel, and wanted to do something in his memory.
      Sitting at the bar at the exclusive Exmoor Country Club in Highland
      Park, he laid out his plan to three buddies. With donations from a
      few of their well-off friends, he said, they could fund some
      scholarships in his father's name to reputable private high schools
      for kids from tough neighborhoods. Today his Chicago International
      Charter School is the largest in the city, with six campuses and a
      seventh planned to open in the fall, pushing total enrollment to
      4,200 students. His schools have outperformed neighboring
      institutions and rank among the city's best charters. "It's not that
      poor kids can't learn," he says. "It's just that poor kids are going
      to bad schools." Murphy is one of a handful of educational
      entrepreneurs from the business community who are using new options,
      such as charter and contract schools, to develop better alternatives
      to the educational status quo. Murphy and lawyer Robin Steans, whose
      family runs a Chicago philanthropic foundation, have started charters
      in troubled neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Martin "Mike" Koldyke, a
      retired venture capitalist with strong ties to Chicago's top
      political leaders, is creating elementary schools that train teachers
      in new ways. All three of these unexpected school operators came to
      the task with a certain amount of naivete, a sense that they could
      quickly change lives, neighborhoods--even the school system. A few
      years into it, this group of reformers is more realistic but still
      hopeful, seeing just enough progress to make things interesting.
      (Chicago Tribune Magazine)


      School Repairs Threatened, Group Says

      The District school system's plan to modernize all of its schools is
      in jeopardy because of reductions in funding, a parent advocacy group
      said in a report released last week. The report, by Parents United
      for the D.C. Public Schools, said the city's capital budget for the
      coming years contains cuts that "threaten to halt this modernization
      plan." The budget approved by the D.C. Council and Mayor Anthony A.
      Williams (D) "provides far less funding than is needed to maintain,
      much less modernize, our city's schools," the report said. The school
      system's plan calls for upgrading its nearly 150 schools within 10 to
      15 years at a cost of more than $2 billion. The average District
      school is more than 65 years old; many buildings are crumbling and
      have faulty heating systems, broken toilets or leaking roofs. At a
      news conference, Parents United leaders asked the city and Congress
      to provide more funding. Iris Toyer, co-chair of Parents United, said
      that political leaders are displaying a "lack of will and lack of,
      quite frankly, desire to support public education." (Washington Post)


      Grads Seeking Public Service Find Few Jobs Are Available

      Neither prior experience nor an Ivy League pedigree, it turns out, is
      any guarantee of success in the heated-up competition for slots in
      the public-service sector. Applications for such positions are
      soaring, while budgetary problems at AmeriCorps, the federal umbrella
      organization that runs and finances national and community service,
      are taking their toll on the number of positions available. Not long
      ago, politicians and university presidents were bemoaning the lack of
      interest in public-service work by college graduates, many of whom
      were being lured by high-paying jobs in the private sector or had too
      much college debt to take up a low-paying career dedicated to the
      common good. But all that has changed drastically, partly attributed
      to altruism engendered by the 2001 terrorism attacks but, even more
      significantly, to one of the worst jobs markets for college graduates
      in years. This year's dearth of public-service jobs is exacerbated by
      the budgetary problems at AmeriCorps, which is moving to cut 20,000
      of the 50,000 positions it earlier thought it could fund. (Wall
      Street Journal)

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