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Education News Bulletin, Mar 26-30, 2007

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    Education News Bulletin March 26-30, 2007 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Peeling the Lid Off State-Imposed Charter School Caps NATIONAL – Parental demand
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      Education News Bulletin
      March 26-30, 2007


      Peeling the Lid Off State-Imposed Charter School Caps

      NATIONAL – Parental demand for high-performing public charter schools
      is going unmet in 25 states and the District of Columbia, where some
      type of limit, or cap, is constraining charter school growth.
      According to an Issue Brief released today by the National Alliance
      for Public Charter Schools, while some states have made progress in
      amending their charter school restrictions, progress as a whole has
      been slow. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)


      Vouchers Eyed for Students With Disabilities: As more states weigh
      limited choice option, critics see political ploy

      NATIONAL – More than half a dozen states are considering legislation
      to offer private school vouchers for students with disabilities. They
      are looking to join the ranks of four others—Arizona, Florida, Ohio,
      and Utah—that already offer that school choice option. Supporters say
      that such vouchers are an important safety valve for parents when
      public schools don't offer programs to meet those students'
      specialized needs. But opponents warn that parents who take advantage
      of those vouchers may be giving up procedural protections guaranteed
      to their children under the federal Individuals with Disabilities
      Education Act. They also argue that vouchers for students with
      disabilities lay the groundwork for universal voucher programs that
      would drain money from public education. (Education Week –
      subscription required)



      Critical Path Analysis of California's Science and Mathematics
      Teacher Preparation System

      CALIFORNIA – This report follows on the work of the 2002 Critical
      Path Analysis of California's Science and Technology Education
      System. It provides an overall analysis of the preparation,
      retention, and professional development of science and mathematics
      teachers in California. The report reveals that more than ten percent
      of all math and science teachers are underprepared, meaning they lack
      the training and experience necessary for a teaching credential in
      the subject they teach. More than one third of novice teachers (those
      in their first or second year) teaching math or science are
      underprepared. At the current rate of teacher preparation, California
      will fall short by 30 percent of the fully prepared math and science
      teachers needed by California schools. Citing recent data projecting
      significant declines in personal income and a low rate of STEM
      degrees produced in California, the report concludes that
      strengthening the teaching of mathematics and science is critical if
      California is to maintain its competitive edge and economic growth.
      (California Council on Science and Technology)


      Top-to-Bottom Support: Through intensive mentoring and training for
      everyone from novice instructors to top district leaders, a long-
      troubled California system is seeing teacher turnover fall and test
      scores rise

      East Palo Alto, Calif. – When Erik G. Brown launched his teaching
      career at the Cesar Chavez Academy here four years ago, he wasn't
      alone: Seventy-five percent of the teachers in the 400-student middle
      school were new to the district, and two-thirds of those were new to
      the field. The school had gone through six principals in six years,
      and its largely Hispanic, low-income student population was
      struggling. This year, the once-troubled school retained more than
      eight in 10 of its teachers. And 22 percent of last year's 8th
      graders scored at the proficient level on the state algebra exam—
      nothing to write home about, but a huge improvement from where the
      school started. The transformation is part of a major push to turn
      around the 3,000-student Ravenswood City School District, which
      serves East Palo Alto and part of adjoining Menlo Park. The effort
      involves intensive mentoring, staff development, and leadership
      training up and down the K-8 district—from novice teachers to
      principals to the superintendent herself. While a national debate has
      focused on recruiting teachers to hard-to-staff schools and districts
      by offering signing bonuses and other financial incentives,
      Ravenswood and its partner, the New Teacher Center, based at the
      University of California, Santa Cruz, are taking another tack. They
      are gambling that the key to improving student achievement, teaching,
      and teacher retention is to build human capital and create
      environments in which educators want to work. (Education Week –
      subscription required)



      Many teachers see failure in students' future

      NATIONAL – Ask a teacher whether her students are on track to earn a
      college degree, and she'll probably say "Sure." Grant her anonymity,
      and you may get a different point of view. In a wide-ranging survey
      being released Tuesday, nearly one in four teachers in urban schools
      paint a sobering picture of students there. They say most
      children "would not be successful at a community college or
      university." Even more say students "are not motivated to learn." In
      all, 23.6% of public school teachers at all levels say success in
      college would elude most students in their school. An additional 18%
      say they aren't sure. The results were surprising even to the study's
      author, Brian Perkins, a professor of education law and policy at
      Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. "I
      anticipated that there would be some teachers who feel that way," he
      says. "What I did not anticipate was the number who responded that
      they didn't think students would be successful." (USA Today)

      (see also the survey, "Where We Teach" from the National School
      Boards Association's Council of Urban Boards of Education at

      Commentary – Grade Inflation: High Schools' Skeleton in The Closet
      (By Perry A. Zirkel of Lehigh University)

      NATIONAL - Grade inflation is what happens when grades go up but the
      academic achievement they represent does not, at least not at the
      same pace. As with monetary inflation, the associated problems
      include the decreasing value and credibility of the currency, which,
      in the case of grades, counts for not just family pride and kudos,
      but also future educational and employment opportunities. Unlike
      monetary inflation, however, which is publicly monitored and
      controlled, grade inflation constitutes a hoax on the public. Lately,
      most of the attention given to this phenomenon has been at the
      college level. But the cumulative evidence suggests that grade
      inflation is just as pronounced at the high school level—and
      corrective efforts to combat it even more negligible. … Unless and
      until high schools, along with the levels of schooling above and
      below them, are willing to provide a more honest and publicly
      understandable system of grading, we will continue to pay the price
      in terms of national and state insistence on standardized high-stakes
      tests to measure students and schools. (Education Week – subscription


      California raises bar on school scores: Campuses are required to make
      progress toward closing the gap between whites and minority students.

      CALIFORNIA – Superior Elementary in Chatsworth, as its name implies,
      is anything but deficient, with a state ranking that far surpasses
      the state's measure of success. But under new state rules, the school
      could go from A+ to F in a hurry. The regulations require schools to
      make measurable progress toward closing the gap between whites and
      lower-achieving minority students. And the scores of its students
      learning English aren't rising fast enough. Superior is not alone.
      The same fate likely awaits other campuses in the Los Angeles Unified
      School District. The schools met their improvement goals for 2006 but
      would not have under the 2007 rules. "It's going to be more
      challenging for schools to reach their growth target," said state
      Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. But "closing the
      achievement gap is not only an economic imperative, but a moral
      imperative." The state's primary measure of success is the Academic
      Performance Index, which grades schools on a scale from 200 to 1,000
      based on student test scores in math, English and other subjects.
      Schools are required to meet annual improvement targets. Minorities,
      the poor, the disabled and other groups also have to improve, but
      until this year, the achievement gap could widen even while a school
      received credit for getting better. The state's push is in concert
      with national efforts under the federal No Child Left Behind Act,
      which has its own ever-increasing requirements for closing the
      achievement gap. Some critics view the state's increased attention to
      the achievement gap as long overdue or even insufficient. Others
      worry that more and more schools will be unfairly branded as
      failures. (Los Angeles Times – registration required)

      schools28mar28,0,3452729.story?coll=la-home-headlines (see
      also "State sets same test goal for all kids" at

      LAUSD hits new low on API: High schools fall 20 points

      LOS ANGELES – Already lagging behind their statewide counterparts,
      Los Angeles Unified high school students took a precipitous plunge on
      newly released Academic Performance Index scores, dropping 20 points
      from the previous year. The LAUSD's elementary and middle school
      students made steady progress on tests that measure math and English-
      language skills, but still were well below the statewide averages,
      according to a California Department of Education report released
      Tuesday. In a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he is
      lobbying for more federal money for education, Superintendent David
      Brewer III said the high-school score reflects the stubborn
      achievement gap between white and minority students. Brewer also
      noted that growth of Los Angeles' public elementary schools continues
      to outpace that of the state, and that middle-school scores rose
      faster than the state for the first time since the test was
      implemented. (Los Angeles Daily News)


      Out-of-Favor Reading Plan Rated Highly: U.S. researchers see gains
      from Reading Recovery

      NATIONAL – Reading Recovery, a popular one-to-one tutoring program
      that Bush administration officials sought to shut out of a high-
      profile federal reading program, has gotten a rare thumbs-up from the
      federal What Works Clearinghouse. The positive rating comes after
      prominent researchers and federal reading officials tried to dissuade
      states and districts from paying for Reading Recovery with funds from
      the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program, which calls on school
      systems to spend their grant money on programs backed
      by "scientifically based research." In their objections to the
      tutoring program, critics raised questions about its cost and cited
      problems in the studies attesting to its effectiveness. Imported to
      the United States from New Zealand in 1984, Reading Recovery is an
      intensive, 12- to 20-week pullout program that targets the lowest-
      achieving 1st graders. Proponents estimate it has served more than
      1.6 million students in this country. In the What Works review,
      posted online March 20, the clearinghouse said the program
      had "positive" effects—the highest evidence rating possible—on
      students' alphabetic skills and general reading achievement. The
      reviewers also determined that the program had "potentially positive"
      effects, its next-highest rating, on reading fluency and
      comprehension. (Education Week – subscription required)


      Curriculum-Development Group Urges Focus Shift to Whole Child

      NATIONAL – The definition of a successful student has to change from
      one whose achievement is measured solely on the basis of test scores
      to one who is healthy, emotionally and physically inspired, engaged
      in the arts, and prepared for employment in a global economy, a
      report says. Prepared by the Association for Supervision and
      Curriculum Development's Commission on the Whole Child, the report,
      released this month, says educational practice and policy today are
      concentrated overwhelmingly on testing gains. But academic
      achievement cannot happen without significant emphasis on other
      factors, including student engagement, personalized learning, and
      skilled and caring teachers, it adds. The report is part of the
      ASCD's new public-engagement campaign that encourages schools and
      communities to work together to ensure each student has access to a
      challenging curriculum in a healthy and supportive climate.
      (Education Week – subscription required)

      http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/03/26/29ascd.h26.html (see
      also the report, "The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action –
      A Report of the Commission on the Whole Child," at
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