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Education News Bulletin - June 16, 2008

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    Education News Bulletin June 10 -16, 2008 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Charter schools fare better academically than L. A. Unified peers, report says: But
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      Education News Bulletin
      June 10 -16, 2008


      Charter schools fare better academically than L. A. Unified peers, report says: But some education experts question the validity of the survey, which relied heavily on test scores for comparisons.

      LOS ANGELES--It's the $64,000 question of public education: Are charter schools better than their traditional public school counterparts? A report to be released today from the California Charter Schools Assn. takes a crack at it, comparing charter schools in Los Angeles with their traditional peers. Its conclusion is that charters generally perform better academically than nearby regular public schools, and that charters improve as they age. As is often the case with education statistics, it's not quite that simple. A majority of the regular schools surveyed actually did better in one batch of test scores than the nearest comparable charter school and improved more from 2006 to 2007. But by most measures, charters had the edge. "It's pretty significant that seven out of 10 charters actually outperform their most similarly matched district public school," said Caprice Young, chief executive of the charter schools association, citing one finding in the report. She said the study was intended to answer the question parents are most likely to ask: How does their local charter school stack up against the nearest comparable regular schools? It found that charter schools did especially well in educating African American students and that charters show some of their strongest success in middle schools, whose traditional counterparts have been stubbornly resistant to progress. The differences between charters and regular public schools were smallest in the elementary grades, where the Los Angeles Unified School District has sharply improved achievement in recent years. (LA Times - registration required)


      Commentary: Stop cheering on charter schools: The movement to privatize education has a friend in The Times (By Mathew C. Taylor, the south area chairman for United Teachers Los Angeles, who has taught English in Los Angeles schools for 23 years)

      LOS ANGELES--It's apparent from The Times editorial, "Hope for Locke High," and two previous articles why this newspaper deserves its poor reputation among local educators and informed community members when it comes to public education. A runaway bureaucracy, top-down authoritarian school administrations and a decided lack of collaboration are the real issues. It's too bad that they remain hidden behind The Times' blame-the-bad-teacher cries and charter-school cheerleading. Can we at least talk about the real problem, the state budget, for a moment? Because California is one of the largest economies in the world, it's a crime that the state ranks among the lowest in per-pupil spending and has such large teacher-student ratios. It would make sense to give a much greater financial priority to public education. What we don't spend on now, we will have to spend much more on later. Incarceration, healthcare and welfare already cost our society too much. Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines (who really should be called the superintendent in light of the vacant leadership of David L. Brewer) was clear and correct in taking responsibility for the latest outburst of violence at Locke High School . The Los Angeles Unified School District has "abdicated [its] responsibility" for too many years at a host of schools in inner-city Los Angeles . Years of inexperienced or despotic administrators have helped drive excellent, experienced teachers away. A lack of true collaboration with teachers and parents, turning a blind eye to the collective bargaining agreement and ignoring student-centered reforms lowered morale. When teachers aren't valued, they try to find places where they are. (LA Times - registration required)



      Board-certified teachers boost student scores

      WASHINGTON (AP) - Schools looking to hire teachers should keep an eye out for those with national board certification. Students taught by educators certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards make bigger gains on standardized tests than students taught by other teachers, finds a National Research Council report out Wednesday. "I would sure look for the credential," said Milton Hakel, a Bowling Green State University psychology professor who headed the committee that conducted the council review. "The fact that the signal is there is something that's useful to superintendents, to hiring committees, to districts." It is not clear from the research whether the process of getting certified by the national board makes teachers better or if those who get certified were already top performers, according to the report. More research is needed to try to determine that, Hakel said. Joseph Aguerrebere, president and CEO of the board, said the report puts to rest the question of whether board-certified teachers are more effective at boosting student scores than others. "It's a question that we're often asked," he said. ( USA Today)


      Effort Launched to Develop District Leadership Talent

      NATIONAL -- Two longtime education experts today launched a new organization to push for transforming how the nation's largest school districts recruit, retain, develop, and evaluate the teaching and school leadership talent that the advocates argue is key to improving student achievement. Called Strategic Management of Human Capital, the organization was created by Allan R. Odden, the director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and James A. Kelly, the founding president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The two will co-direct what they are calling an "action project," which will be run out of the CPRE office in Madison . "This is the [human resources] side of education reform," Mr. Odden, who is also a professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, said in an interview. "The goal is to improve student performance through redesigning and restructuring the way districts, particularly the large urbans, recruit for and manage teacher and principal talent." The project, which Mr. Odden and Mr. Kelly have spent the past year planning, will have several components. One is a 30-member task force of heavy-hitters such as Minnesota 's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee , New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and high-level leaders from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. The task force will be charged with drawing attention to the importance of recruiting top talent into school districts and putting that strategy into practice in their own districts, agencies and organizations that work with schools. (Education Week - subscription required)


      See also: Principals' Group Calls for National Academic Standards and Tests at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/06/11/41nassp.h27.html?tmp=1490942426


      Bush Loyalist Fights Foes of 'No Child' Law

      , Ky. - Margaret Spellings is not running for office - at least, not yet. But in the waning days of the Bush presidency, she is running one last campaign. On a cold and soggy morning in March, Ms. Spellings, the relentlessly cheery and sometimes sassy United States secretary of education, turned up here, at a little brick elementary school across the Ohio River from Cincinnati . She had been on the road for months, promoting President Bush's beleaguered education initiative, No Child Left Behind, delivering one sales pitch after another. "I'm pretty sure that the new president, whoever it is, will not show up and work on George Bush's domestic achievement on Day 1," she told a group of civic leaders and educators, promising to do "everything in my power" to improve the law before the White House changes hands. For Ms. Spellings, a longtime and exceedingly loyal member of the Bush inner circle, it was a startling, if tacit, admission that the president's education legacy is in danger. No Child Left Behind - the signature domestic achievement, beyond tax cuts, of the entire Bush presidency - has changed the lives of millions of American students, parents, teachers and school administrators. Yet its future is in grave doubt. (New York Times - registration required)


      A Closer Look at Graduation Rates: Higher Test Scores Might Not Mean More Diplomas

      WASHINGTON--Although high schools in the Washington region are showing steady improvement on measures such as Advanced Placement testing and end-of-course exams, that success might not be translating to higher graduation rates, according to the latest data from a Bethesda nonprofit group that is a leading authority on high school completion rates. The official graduation rates published by states and school systems are widely regarded as inflated and unreliable. Many in the field have come to rely instead on the annual Diplomas Count report from Editorial Projects in Education, publisher of the trade newspaper Education Week. The report estimates how many students in ninth grade graduate on time with their class, using a series of calculations that measure attrition from one grade level to the next. The group's latest report, released this month, showed graduation rates among local school systems range from a high of 93 percent in affluent Loudoun County to a low of 57 percent in high-poverty Prince George 's County. The report uses enrollment figures to estimate the graduation rate, not for current graduates but for the Class of 2005, the most recent data available from the federal government. ( Washington Post - registration required)



      WSJ Editorial: Amazing Teacher Facts

      This month 3,700 recent college grads will begin Teach for America 's five-week boot camp, before heading off for two-year stints at the nation's worst public schools. These young men and women were chosen from almost 25,000 applicants, hailing from our most selective colleges. Eleven per cent of Yale's senior class, 9% of Harvard's and 10% of Georgetown 's applied for a job whose salary ranges from $25,000 (in rural South Dakota ) to $44,000 (in New York City ). Hang on a second. Unions keep saying the best people won't go into teaching unless we pay them what doctors and lawyers and CEOs make. Not only are Teach for America salaries significantly lower than what J.P. Morgan might offer, but these individuals go to some very rough classrooms. What's going on?It seems that Teach for America offers smart young people something even better than money - the chance to avoid the vast education bureaucracy. Participants need only pass academic muster and attend the summer training before entering a classroom. If they took the traditional route into teaching, they would have to endure years of "education" courses to be certified. … The strong performance in math and science seems to confirm that the more specialized the knowledge, the more important it is that teachers be well versed in it. (Imagine that.) No amount of time in front of a classroom will make you understand advanced algebra better. Teach for America was pleased, but not exactly shocked, by these results. … Sounds like the way the private sector hires. Don't tell the teachers unions. (The Wall Street Journal - subscription required)


      Schools experiment with paying kids

      WASHINGTON (AP) - Friday is payday at KIPP DC : KEY Academy , and some sixth-grade girls gather at the makeshift school store trying to decide how to spend their hard-earned money. They received paychecks for behaving well, doing their homework or making academic gains. The money is pretend. But it can be used at the store for genuine items such as pens capped with fluffy feathers, pencil cases shaped like animals and colorful erasers. Schools, under pressure to boost student achievement, are offering incentives - field trips and cash, for example - to motivate students. At KEY Academy , a public charter school serving low-income, minority students in the nation's capital, Cherise Johnson Wallace proudly clutched a pencil case she bought at the school store. She was glad to have the trinket, but even happier about what it represented. "It shows how I work very hard to earn good grades," she said, flashing a smile as she rattled off the A's she had earned. That kind of pride is what supporters of rewards programs point to. They say the prizes motivate kids at first, but that the children eventually form good study habits and become interested in succeeding regardless of whether rewards are on the line. The charter school's principal, Sarah Hayes, is a believer. KEY Academy is among the city's top-performing schools, as judged by test scores. "I think a lot of that is tied back to our incentives program because it reinforces to the students that our expectations of time on task are serious and that you get rewarded for them," Hayes said. (Associated Press via Washington Post)


      See also NPR: Pretend money may produce real academic gains at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91460732

      ELECTION 2008

      OP-ED Columnist David Brooks: Obama, Liberalism and the Challenge of Reform

      NATIONAL -- Is Barack Obama really a force for change, or is he just a traditional Democrat with a patina of postpartisan rhetoric? That question is surprisingly hard to answer. When you listen to his best speeches, you see a person who really could herald a new political era. But when you look into his actual policies, you often find a list of orthodox liberal programs that no centrist or moderate conservative would have any reason to support. To investigate this question, I looked more closely into Obama's education policies. Education is a good area to probe because Obama knows a lot about it, and because there are two education camps within the Democratic Party: a status quo camp and a reform camp. The two camps issued dueling strategy statements this week. The status quo camp issued a statement organized by the Economic Policy Institute. This report argues that poverty and broad social factors drive high dropout rates and other bad outcomes. Schools alone can't combat that, so more money should go to health care programs, anti-poverty initiatives and after-school and pre-K programs. When it comes to improving schools, the essential message is that we need to spend more on what we're already doing: smaller class sizes, better instruction, better teacher training. The reformist camp, by contrast, issued a statement through the Education Equality Project, signed by school chiefs like Joel Klein of New York , Michelle Rhee of Washington, Andres Alonso of Baltimore as well as Al Sharpton, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark and experts like Andrew Rotherham, the former Clinton official who now writes the Eduwonk blog. The reformists also support after-school and pre-K initiatives. But they insist school reform alone can make a big difference, so they emphasize things the status quo camp doesn't: rigorous accountability and changing the fundamental structure of school systems.  … The question of the week is: Which camp is Barack Obama in? His advisers run the gamut, and the answer depends in part on what month it is. Back in October 2005, Obama gave a phenomenal education speech in which he seemed to ally with the reformers. Then, as the campaign heated up, he shifted over to pure union orthodoxy, ripping into accountability and testing in a speech in New Hampshire in a way that essentially gutted the reformist case. Then, on May 28 in Colorado , he delivered another major education speech in which he shifted back in a more ambiguous direction. (New York Times - registration required)


      Democrats Offer Plans to Revamp Schools Law

      NATIONAL -- Democrats are dividing into camps as they debate a new course for education policy after President Bush leaves office. On Wednesday, a group of a dozen prominent educators and lawmakers, led by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York and the Rev. Al Sharpton, said the United States ' public schools shortchanged poor black and Latino children in a way that was "shameful," and urged Washington to squeeze teachers and administrators harder to raise achievement among minorities. On Tuesday, about 60 prominent educators and academics issued another manifesto, which criticized the federal No Child Left Behind law and argued that schools alone could not close a racial achievement gap rooted in economic inequality. They urged a new emphasis on health clinics and other antipoverty programs that could help poor students arrive at school ready to learn. The groups issuing the statements were composed overwhelmingly of Democrats. Mr. Klein and Mr. Sharpton's statement argued that federal policy should continue to hold schools accountable for raising the achievement of poor African-American and Latino youths, which is a focus of the federal law, but should also seek to assign more effective teachers to the nation's neediest classrooms. This is an area where the statement said the law had been weak. Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark , the president of the Colorado Senate and the leaders of the Washington and Baltimore school systems also signed the statement. The statement included a passage labeling teachers union contracts a significant obstacle to increasing the achievement of poor students. (New York Times - registration required)



      Students likely to fail high school exit exam can be identified as early as 4th grade, study says: The authors use the findings to question the wisdom of spending millions to tutor older students struggling with the test.

      As early as fourth grade, students who will be at risk of failing the high school exit exam -- a state requirement to earn a diploma -- can be identified based on grades, classroom behavior and test scores, according to a new study released Tuesday. The findings, based on an extensive study of student achievement in San Diego schools, call into question the effectiveness of aiming significant efforts and tens of millions of dollars at struggling high school seniors and older students to help them pass the exam. "From a political standpoint, such spending seems necessary. However, our results strongly suggest that these 11th-hour interventions by themselves are unlikely to yield the intended results," according to the report by the Public Policy Institute of California. Instead, the authors suggested, "moving a portion of these tutoring dollars to struggling students in earlier grades -- when the students are still in school -- could be a wise choice. An ounce of prevention could indeed be worth a pound of cure."(LA Times - registration required)


      For more on California , see also Bill seeks report cards on higher education at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/11/BAJN1168HS.DTL&type=education and Storied Oakland league is in trouble at http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/ci_9535074

      La. Senate OKs School Vouchers for New Orleans

      LOUISIANA -- In a major legislative success for Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana Senate voted 25-12 Wednesday for a bill that would let up to 1,500 low- to middle-income students in New Orleans attend private schools at taxpayer expense. Already approved by the House, the school voucher bill  by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, needs one more routine vote in that body on Senate language changes before it goes to Jindal for his signature. Backers say the bill will help at least some New Orleans children escape a struggling school system, widely known for corruption, bad management and poor student performance before and after Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. Opponents point to recent improvements in New Orleans public schools that have been realized since the state and various charter organizations began running them after the hurricane. They say the $10 million would be better spent on public schools. Opponents also said the cost is likely to balloon as the first-year students progress and more students enter the program. "When we get to the end how much is this program going to cost?" asked Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth. The plan would cover children in kindergarten through third grade in the 2008-09 school year, with subsequent grades added each year thereafter. Children from families earning up to 2.5 times the current federal poverty level (or about $53,000 for a family of four) would be eligible. If there are more applicants at a school than there are available seats, the school would choose participants randomly. Although the bill is aimed at up to 1,500 students, backers say there may be only a few hundred slots available at private schools in the city next year. (Education Week - registration required)


      Philanthropy: Bad Times, Good Deeds

      NATIONAL--Executives tempted to cut back on their corporate philanthropy in a slowing economy should think again. The long-term reputational benefits outweigh the short-term costs of sustaining their levels of giving even when profit and earnings growth slows, according the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CEPC). While the organization has a cause to push, it deploys numbers to back its case. Large multinationals increased their corporate giving by 5.6% in 2007, outstripping the 2.2% growth in the U.S. economy, and will sustain or increase their charity in 2008, according to the CEPC's latest annual survey of its members. The organization, co-founded by actor-philanthropist Paul Newman, is a business forum composed of 175 chief executives and chairmen of some of the largest companies in the world. It accounts for 40% of the corporate giving in the U.S. Members include Richard Parsons of Time Warner (nyse: TWX - news - people ), Sidney Taurel of Eli Lilly and Co. (nyse: LLY - news - people ) and Ivan G. Seidenberg of Verizon Communications (nyse: VZ - news - people ). The median for corporate giving increased to $26.1 million in 2007 from $24.7 million in 2006. Of companies whose profits increased in their most recent fiscal year, better than two out of three increased their giving. More than half the companies that reported lower profits also increased donations. (Forbes)


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