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Education News Bulletin - March 31, 2008

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    Education News Bulletin March 24-31, 2008 CHARTERS, CHOICE, AND NEW SCHOOLS Commentary: The Charter School Idea Turns 20: A History of Evolution and Role
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      Education News Bulletin
      March 24-31, 2008


      Commentary: The Charter School Idea Turns 20: A History of Evolution and Role Reversals (By Richard D. Kahlenberg)

      NATIONAL--Twenty years ago this month, in a landmark address to the National Press Club in Washington, American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker first proposed the creation of "charter schools"-publicly funded institutions that would be given greater flexibility to experiment with new ways of educating students. At the time, some conservative education reformers opposed the idea, saying we already knew what worked in education. Today, the positions are reversed: Conservatives largely embrace charters, while teachers' unions are mostly opposed. How did the notion of charter schools evolve over 20 years? And might a return to Al Shanker's original idea improve the educational and political fortunes of the charter school movement? (Education Week - subscription required)


      Charter schools are big winners in Corzine budget: Many will see 20% fund hikes after lagging

      NEW JERSEY--Long shortchanged in state and local funding, a majority of New Jersey 's charter schools stand to see double-digit gains under Gov. Jon Corzine's new funding plan, according to state figures. Payments to the 56 existing charter schools from state and local funds are expected to rise 20 percent overall under the plan, or about $39.6 million over last year, according to the state. The news had been anxiously awaited by charter schools after their figures had been left out of previous aid projections for Cor zine's funding plan. Under the plan's complex rules, not all charter schools are benefiting, and some worry about poten tial cuts in their programs. But for some fast-growing charters, especially in urban districts, the additional money will be a windfall and help make up for years of underfunding, state and school officials said. A chief complaint has been that charter schools in urban areas did not receive state money that went to districts under the Abbott v. Burke school-equity rulings. "For years, they have not been getting this aid that others have been receiving," Assistant Education Commissioner Katie Attwood said. "This is money that they were due." The figures are based on projected enrollments and won't be final until the fall. TEAM Academy in Newark is expected to get an additional $5 million, or a nearly 80 percent increase, to help pay for the nearly 270 students the school plans to add next year.  (The Star-Ledger)



      Teachers union challenges charter school tax status

      COLUMBUS - The Ohio Federation of Teachers has asked the IRS to investigate the non-profit status of several White Hat Management community schools, including Life Skills Center - Middletown , according to a press release. White Hat Management is a for-profit company that manages community, or charter, schools in Ohio , Arizona and Florida . It is the largest operator of charter schools in Ohio and manages the schools in various, typically urban, locations called Hope Academy and Life Skills. According to the Web site of Secretary of State Jennifer Burinner, Life Sills Center - Middletown has a 501(c)(3) status that makes the school tax exempt as a non-profit organization. The OFT has asked the IRS to investigate the schools on the basis that because of the control the for-profit company White Hat Management has, the schools violate IRS guidelines and regulations regarding non-profit community schools. According to a press release from the OFT, the union alleges that: the management company collects 95 to 97 percent of the state funding from the schools, giving the management company control to run the schools for the highest profit; the boards of the schools are not "independent;" and the company promotes the schools as if they are a "chain."( Middletown Journal)



      Test Students to Improve High School Teaching, Policy Brief Urges

      NATIOANL--More effective teaching in high schools will get its biggest boost from a variety of high-quality assessments of student learning, according to a policy brief from a group that advocates for high school students in danger of dropping out or graduating with low skills. The trove of student-assessment data that has begun to focus the quest for more effective teaching in the elementary and middle grades often doesn't exist in high schools, the paper says, nor do high schools typically have the schedules and routines that allow teachers to learn from the data and one another. But such challenges must be overcome to significantly improve students' chances of graduating from high school prepared for further education and for life, says the Washington-based Alliance for Excellent Education, which released the brief at a panel discussion held here March 25. That's because teaching, which should be defined primarily by the measurable contributions that teachers make to student learning, is the most important school factor in student success, said alliance policy associate Jeremy Ayers, who presented the paper. It was underwritten by the MetLife Foundation. (Education Week - registration required)


      Download the brief Measuring and Improving the Effectiveness of High School Teachers at http://www.all4ed.org/publication_material/fact_sheets/effectiveness_HSteachers

      Commentary: 5 Myths About No Child Left Behind: Myths About the Education Law Everyone Loves to Hate (By Chester E. Finn Jr. senior fellow at Stanford University 's Hoover Institution)

      NATIONAL--It's the 800-pound gorilla of U.S. education. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the sweeping legislation enacted six years ago to improve public schools, seems to make a lot of people unhappy. But President Bush, undaunted by the barrage of criticism aimed at this beleaguered measure by states, teachers' unions and politicians on both sides of the aisle, is pushing Congress to reauthorize it this year . Many Capitol Hill observers believe that it won't survive without the political clout a new president and Congress would bring -- but after a starring role in five straight presidential elections, education is a bit player at best in the 2008 race. Could these widespread myths about No Child Left Behind have poisoned the well? [Myths that Finn addresses include No Child Left Behind is an unprecedented extension of federal control over school; No Child Left Behind is egregiously underfunded.; Setting academic standards will fix U.S. schools.; The standardized testing required by No Child Left Behind gets in the way of real learning.; Certified teachers are better than non-certified teachers.] ( Washington Post - registration required)



      Study to Probe Effect of Charter-Management Models

      NATIONAL--Are charter school networks really improving their students' academic achievement? That's the central question to be addressed in what researchers involved believe is the first comprehensive study of the efficacy of charter-management organizations, or CMOs, which is scheduled to be launched later this year. CMOs are nonprofit organizations that operate and replicate clusters of like-minded charter schools; among the better-known CMOs are the Los Angeles-based Green Dot Public Schools , the San Diegobased High Tech High, and the New Haven, Conn.-based Achievement First. "There is a big black box between a student being affiliated with CMOs and that student's learning," said Paul T. Hill, the study's principal investigator and the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which is based at the University of Washington in Seattle . "We're trying to fill in the box." The three-year longitudinal National Study of CMO Effectiveness, announced this month by the San Francisco-based NewSchools Venture Fund entrepreneurial philanthropy and the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will cover almost 200 schools within 33 CMOs in 12 states. "Although many studies have been done on the effectiveness of charter schools, this is the first expansive study on CMO effectiveness," Vicki L. Phillips, the Gates Foundation's education chief, said in an e-mail. Starting next fall, investigators will research in earnest what's projected to be a three-pronged look at the efficacy of as many nonprofit charter networks as will consent to be studied. The Gates Foundation expects that the study will cost more than $3 million. … Joanne Weiss , a NewSchools Venture Fund partner and its chief operating officer, said her organization, which will oversee the study, has been gathering achievement, cost-effectiveness, and other data all along. "But that's really, really different from a research study," she said, adding that to do a valid research study, the study's sample size needs to be big enough. (Education Week - subscription required)


      Despite Little Experience, Teach for America Educators Outpace Veterans in Drawing Achievement From Students

      WASHINGTON, March 27 (AScribe Newswire) -- Teach for America teachers may be new to the profession, but they are generally more effective than their experienced colleagues, finds a new Urban Institute analysis. On average, high school students taught by TFA corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers' effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience. …    The study, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School," is the first investigation of the impact of TFA in high schools. The report's authors, Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, and Colin Taylor, analyzed North Carolina high school data produced between 2000 and 2006, including test scores, teacher characteristics, and student demographics. … These data warrant the attention of education policymakers concerned with teacher quality, says Jane Hannaway, director of the Urban Institute's Education Policy Center and the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER). … "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School" is a working paper produced by the Urban Institute's National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and funded by the Steven L. Merrill Family Foundation and the Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. (Ascribe NewsWire)


      Read the working paper "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School," at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411642

      Calif. School Reform Plan Released: Governor says 'financial disaster' shows need for rainy-day fund.

      CALIFORNIA--Stronger teaching and leadership, a useful and reliable data system, expanded high-quality early-childhood-education programs, and more flexibility for educators to improve student achievement are among the recommendations a California committee is making for repairing what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a "broken" public education system. But in accepting the recommendations March 14, the governor said it was unfortunate that the 18-member group's plan was being released in the midst of a "financial disaster" when midyear budget cuts have already occurred, and the state faces a $16 billion deficit in fiscal 2009. Ted Mitchell , the chairman of the committee, [and CEO of NewSchools] however, said some changes can be made right away, while other recommendations are meant to point the state in a direction of improvement for the next decade.  … Gov. Schwarzenegger used the formal announcement of the report, which has already been a topic of conversation and hearings around the state for a few months, to push once again for his plan to establish a rainy-day fund that would help the state withstand downturns in the economy. (Education Week - registration required)



      Anyone want a turnaround?

      CHICAGO--CPS is looking high and low for new managers to fix schools on the fly. First up could be Chicago International Charter. The city's biggest charter school operator is gearing up to enter the school turnaround game, and the district is taking the first steps to coax more private managers into the mix. Chicago International Charter Schools has partnered with the NewSchools Venture Fund, out of California 's Silicon Valley , to form a new non-profit subsidiary to handle turnarounds. Dubbed ChicagoRise, the subsidiary plans to take over at least one elementary school by September 2009. Elizabeth Purvis, executive director of CICS, says the district and her organization discussed the idea for years before moving forward with it, since stepping into an established but struggling school and making sweeping changes over the summer poses high hurdles. "It's the right thing to do, but it's hard," Purvis says. Next week, CPS is expected to issue a special call for turnaround projects with its annual request for Renaissance 2010 proposals-a move that could prompt a strong rebuke from the Chicago Teachers Union, which opposes the firing of teachers under the turnaround approach and wants the district to turn over more schools to the union-run Fresh Start program. (See graphic.) The union's rocky relationship with charter operators adds yet another combustible element. (Catalyst Chicago )


      Bond measure would have support, L.A. Unified hears: Telephone poll finds that 68% of voters would probably back a new funding measure.

      LOS ANGELES--The Los Angeles Unified School District, amid a $20-billion school construction program, is gearing up to put on the November ballot its fifth bond measure since 1997, officials said Friday. The district commissioned a telephone poll in which 604 likely voters were asked whether they would support a $3.2-billion measure "that may appear on the November ballot" to build schools and early education centers, remove hazards and otherwise renovate aging campuses. The results, which were presented to the Board of Education in closed session on Tuesday, suggest that voters would support the measure as strongly as they have in the past, with 68% likely to vote for it and 3% leaning toward doing so. The poll has a 4% margin of error. … Voters passed four local bonds between 1997 and 2005 which, coupled with state funding, have given the district an unprecedented $20 billion to build schools and repair and renovate existing campuses. Last year the board moved $800 million earmarked for repairs to go instead toward new construction to compensate for increased building costs. Still, the district will spend $7 billion in state and local funds on modernization and repair projects by 2012, according to Guy Mehula, chief facilities executive for the district. (LA Times - registration required)


      For more on California , see also: New UC president 'expensive,' regent says, but worth it

      'Probeware' on Increase in Schools' Science Labs

      NATIONAL--Turning students into apprentice scientists has long been a goal of K-12 science educators. But it's been many years since real scientists used the paper logs, alcohol thermometers, balances, stopwatches, meter sticks, and other gear that remain staples of many high school science labs. And that's where "probeware" comes in. Though the term may not be a household word, it has grown more familiar to science educators over the past decade, as companies have marketed a new generation of high-tech instruments for collecting and analyzing data from the physical world. Today, those tools include digital scientific probes or sensors that collect data on temperature, motion, gas pressure, light, and other characteristics. Other devices called "data loggers"-either hand-held computers or interface boxes attached to computers-compile the data from probes, display them in real time, and transfer them to software that can analyze and present the information in various ways. Collectively, this gear, and the computer software with which it is integrated, is called "probeware." (Education Week - subscription required)


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