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Education News Bulletin - September 8, 2009

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    Education News Bulletin - September 8, 2009 SPOTLIGHT Schools Aided by Stimulus Money Still Facing Cuts FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Children are returning to
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      Education News Bulletin - September 8, 2009


      Schools Aided by Stimulus Money Still Facing Cuts

      FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Children are returning to classrooms across the nation during one of the most tumultuous periods in American education, in which many thousands of teachers and other school workers — no one yet knows how many — were laid off in dozens of states because of plummeting state and local revenue. Many were hired back, thanks in part to $100 billion in federal stimulus money. How much the federal money has succeeded in stabilizing schools depends on the state. In those where budget deficits have been manageable, stimulus money largely replaced plunging taxpayer revenues for schools. But in Arizona, California, Georgia and a dozen other states with overwhelming deficits, the federal money has failed to prevent the most extensive school layoffs in several decades, experts said. (New York Times – registration required)



      Games lessons

      NEW YORK--It sounds like a cop-out, but the future of schooling may lie with video games. Since the beginning of mass education, schools have relied on what is known in educational circles as "chalk and talk". Chalk and blackboard may sometimes be replaced by felt-tip pens and a whiteboard, and electronics in the form of computers may sometimes be bolted on, but the idea of a pedagogue leading his pupils more or less willingly through a day based on periods of study of recognisable academic disciplines, such as mathematics, physics, history, geography and whatever the local language happens to be, has rarely been abandoned. Abandoning it, though, is what Katie Salen hopes to do. Ms Salen is a games designer and a professor of design and technology at Parsons The New School for Design, in New York. She is also the moving spirit behind Quest to Learn, a new, taxpayer-funded school in that city which is about to open its doors to pupils who will never suffer the indignity of snoring through double French but will, rather, spend their entire days playing games. (The Economist)


      Private sector investing in charter schools

      KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Charter schools, already seeing a surge in students, are getting attention from another group - private investors. Entertainment Properties Inc., known mostly for sinking its money into movie theaters and wineries, recently bought 22 locations from charter school operator Imagine Schools for about $170 million. The real estate investment trust acts as landlord, while Imagine operates the schools and is using the investment to expand its chain of 74 locations. "They really are an effective source of long-term financing that we can rely on and enables us to do what we're best at, which is running schools, and do what they're best at, which is long-term real estate ownership," said Barry Sharp, chief financial officer for Arlington, Va.-based Imagine. "It's a good fit." Charter school supporters hope the move by Kansas City-based Entertainment Properties is the first of many such partnerships as they deal with increased interest from parents but not more money to build or expand their facilities. In the past decade, the number of U.S. charter schools has tripled to 4,618, while the number of students enrolled has almost quadrupled to more than 1.4 million, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. While charter schools are publicly funded, they often don't have the same access to bonds and other financing available to mainstream public schools. That forces many to operate in places like storefronts or church basements, said Todd Ziebarth, vice president of policy for the alliance. (Associated Press via Google News)



      LA Times Editorial: Reeducating unions: Teacher labor groups have changed education for the better, but now there are new lessons to be learned.

      LOS ANGELES--Even with signs that the U.S. economy might be stirring, this is a strained Labor Day for the many Americans who are going without raises, and whose hours are being cut at the same time that they are asked to take heavier workloads -- and especially for those who are without employment. Teachers find themselves in all these categories, across the nation and right here, where the dire financial condition of the Los Angeles Unified School District has led to layoffs or demotions from regular teaching to substitute, and where class sizes will be larger and other cutbacks will reduce salaries. On a bigger scale, the unions that brought teachers better pay, benefits and job security find themselves at a tipping point, their power under threat in ways that seemed barely possible a few years ago. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose 2005 proposal to modify teacher tenure was brought down by the full-on might of the California Teachers Assn., is now calling for a change in state law that would allow teachers' performance reviews to be linked to test scores. And there is barely a political peep to be heard about it; the Obama administration has demanded such changes if California is to receive a share of new education funding. Obama and his Education secretary, Arne Duncan, openly admire high-performing charter schools and reform-minded superintendents such as Michelle Rhee of Washington, who is working to revamp tenure rules there. (LA Times – registration required)


      Changing face of school principals: Hires are younger, less experienced

      BOSTON--The mere thought of being a first-year principal of a Boston public school would drain the blood from most faces: budgets, MCAS scores, curriculums, discipline, anxious faculty, worried parents, cynical students. "It feels like flying a plane while we're building it,'' said Kelly Hung, who this week begins her second year as principal at Phineas Bates Elementary School in Roslindale. "This job can completely consume you. It's never ending. You wake up at night thinking about it.'' At 33, and with a new baby at home, Hung, the 10th youngest out of 135 principals in the Boston public schools, in many ways personifies the changing face of today's school principal. As aging principals retire, young ones like Hung, who has only a few years of real classroom experience and a brief tenure as an interim principal on her résumé, are being hired to replace them. At issue is whether their enthusiasm and energy outweigh their inexperience to improve their school's performance. (Boston Globe)

      Multi-City Study Eyes Best Gauges of Good Teaching

      NATIONAL--The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will embark this fall on an ambitious research effort to analyze-and provide some initial answers to-a perennially vexing question in education: What are the best indicators of excellent teaching? The foundation's research partners intend to videotape and examine the teaching practices of 4,000 teachers in New York City, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., and several other yet-to-be named districts, to arrive at an understanding of the correlation between those practices and student learning. In addition, the foundation will look at the relationship between student achievement and pupils' perceptions of their instructors' effectiveness; teachers' content knowledge and ability to find the right pedagogical tools to teach that content; and "value added" estimates of teacher effectiveness based on test scores. (Education Week - subscription required)



      Commentary: The President Discovers My Favorite High School

      ARLINGTON--Welcome to Wakefield High, Mr. President. I just saw the announcement that you have selected that mangy campus, overlooking an exhaust-filled commercial stretch of Route 7 in Arlington County, for a major speech on education Tuesday. You could not have picked a better place. I have spent nearly half my life looking for high schools that have learned how to raise American teenagers, particularly those with economic disadvantages, to new heights of learning. There are many more of them now than there used to be, and I find all of them inspiring. My favorite is probably Wakefield, because I have gotten to know well the people who made it such an amazing place. … For many years Wakefield was the poor stepchild of the Arlington system. It was located in the southernmost part of the county where low income people lived. Half of the students were poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies and most of them were black or Hispanic. Nobody expected much of a school like that, until two very talented and determined educators, Marie Shiels Djouadi and Doris Jackson, took over. Djouadi, an ex-nun with extraordinary intellectual and musical gifts, came first and as a principal in the 1990s recruited teachers that believed, as she did, that low-income minority children were just as smart as the affluent white kids in North Arlington. They just needed more time and encouragement to learn. One of her recruits, Jackson, a D.C. teacher and counselor, became her guidance director, and then her assistant principal and her successor. … Last year 39 percent of graduating Wakefield seniors had at least one passing score on an AP test, more than twice the national average. (Washington Post – registration required)



      Intensive Teacher Mentoring Not Showing Effects, Report Finds

      NATIONAL--Some bad news for supporters of intensive, or "high quality," teacher induction: Teachers were no more likely to boost student achievement or to stay in the profession after two years of these services, compared with teachers who received less-intensive forms of mentoring, according to a new Institute of Education Sciences report released this afternoon. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because this report offers the second year of findings from a three-year study. I wrote about the year-one effects here. The findings are notable because of the study's "gold standard" research design, which involves a set of "treatment" and "comparison" schools. Intensive-mentoring programs are typically more comprehensive and structured than the more informal "buddy systems" that are widespread in America's schools. Mentors in the program are also more carefully screened and assigned to novices. The two most widely known models are those run by the New Teacher Center, in Santa Cruz, Calif., and by the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, which were used in the schools studied here. The year-two study was conducted by comparing a subset of schools that received a second year of intensive mentoring in about seven school districts, to a pool of schools that received the regular district-sponsored mentoring programs. Many of the findings parallel the year-one findings: Teachers receiving the intensive mentoring were more likely than those in the control group to report that they had a mentor and that they had spent more time in mentoring activities. (Education Week)


      Read the report: Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction: Results from the Second Year of a Randomized Controlled Study at http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherinduction.pdf 


      Read: New Teacher Center's response: NTC Statement on Mathematica Study:

      NATIONAL--…The Mathematica study provides limited insight. Mathematica was contracted to evaluate the impact of comprehensive intensive teacher induction programs. ("Induction" is a process of professional development that provides sustained training and support for new teachers). As the study notes, "The study was intended to explore the effects of comprehensive teacher induction in general, not the specific impacts of any one program." It sought to examine whether comprehensive teacher induction programs lead to higher teacher retention rates and other positive outcomes for teachers and students compared with prevailing, generally less comprehensive approaches to supporting new teachers. However, the induction offered within the study's confines did not faithfully replicate the New Teacher Center's (NTC) comprehensive approach. For example, the parameters of the study did not give the NTC sufficient responsibility over mentor selection and mentor supervision. (New Teacher Center)


      A national movement of foodies, farmers, parents and educators is pushing for better school food

      SAN JOSE--There's unusual lunchtime chatter at ACE Charter School in East San Jose: Students are actually raving about lunch. School lunch. And so are some teachers. Just ask Arallana Sanchez, 11, in between her munches on a chicken barbecue sandwich and sips of organic, hormone-free milk. "At my old school everyone always drank chocolate milk because the regular milk tasted like it had expired." Serving healthful meals at school is tougher than ever — most campuses don't even have kitchens anymore. And the federal government's low reimbursement rate — $2.68 for each poor child who qualifies for free lunch — makes it tough to buy high-quality produce. As school budgets get squeezed, many districts are going with the vendors offering the best bargain, not the best food. But now a national push is under way to improve students' midday meal. … Revolution Foods, which operates out of a vast kitchen near the Oakland airport, is rapidly expanding. It has contracts with ACE and other charter schools, the Santa Cruz City Schools and is expanding to other cities. The meals are not exotic: spaghetti and meatballs with steamed zucchini; burritos with brown rice; honey-glazed chicken with roasted potatoes and garlic braised collard greens. The food is never frozen, and it is shipped within 24 hours of preparation; there is no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. (San Jose Mercury News – registration required)


      Green Dot's Barr: Unions Part of Solution

      WASHINGTON--With contract talks between the District and the Washington Teachers' Union closing in on their second anniversary this fall, it's interesting to listen to Green Dot charter schools founder Steve Barr discuss his reasons for using unionized teachers in his attempted turnaround of L.A.'s Locke High School. Barr, who has had preliminary talks with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee about partnering to fix one of D.C.'s struggling high schools--he toured a few, including Eastern, earlier this summer--also has a contract with New York City's United Federation of Teachers for the charter school Green Dot opened in the Bronx last year. He tells WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza that unions have been an essential piece of the puzzle. Not quite the tune that D.C. teachers hear from Fenty-Rhee. "I don't think you can create systemic change in public education with non-union labor, and that worked for us," said Barr, who chopped the mammoth Locke into seven separate schools to get handle on the dysfunction. "I think you have to figure out instead of fighting them all the time, is there seventy-five percent of this issue we all agree on? I think yes. I think teachers want small schools, with high expectations and clear vision...And I think they want to be accountable." (Washington Post – registration required)



      Stanford poll: Obama sways public on controversial education issues

      NATIONAL--At the height of his popularity, President Obama could significantly sway public opinion on three controversial education issues: charter schools, merit pay and vouchers, a new study has found. The president's favorable views on charter schools and merit pay for teachers increased approval for those issues by more than 10 percentage points - and by as much as 23 points for African-American respondents. The findings suggest that Obama's views could gather support for education reform, which he has championed. … Obama's influence is notable because public opinion usually shifts gradually, according to one of the authors of the survey, which was conducted by Education Next, a journal of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University. … It found Obama shifted most strongly the opinions of those tending to be his supporters: Democrats and African-Americans. And, the survey found, he even influenced teachers, who, while often are part of Democratic coalitions, belong to unions that have forcefully opposed merit pay and have criticized charters. (San Jose Mercury News - registration required)


      Announcement: The American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills Through Community Colleges

      NATIONAL--In an increasingly competitive world economy, America's economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers. In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as those requiring no college experience. To meet this economic imperative, President Barack Obama asks every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training and set a new national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Today, at Macomb Community College in Michigan, he outlined his plan to reform our nation's community colleges, calling for an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020 and new initiatives to teach Americans the skills they will need to compete with workers from other nations. He outlined new initiatives to increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities. These steps -- an unprecedented increase in the support for community colleges -- will help rebuild the capacity and competitiveness of America's workforce. (White House)


      Can Arne Duncan (And $5 Billion) Fix America's Schools?

      NATIONAL--The secretary of education is on fire. He's running up and down a makeshift basketball court in a Kentucky parking lot and has just executed one of those rare flashy moves that also manage to be completely functional: a behind-the-back, no-look pass to a teammate, who cuts backdoor for an easy layup. Moments later, he drains a fadeaway jumper with an opponent dead in his face. On some weekends, when the rest of Washington is on the back nine or a racquetball court, Arne Duncan (whose first name is pronounced Are-knee) can be found playing in three-on-three street-ball tournaments across the nation. On a muggy, overcast Saturday in late July, while 50 Cent's "I Get Money" blares from a set of speakers, the former head of the Chicago Public Schools pounds the blacktop, alternating between playing intensely and walking off to take calls on his BlackBerry. Almost none of the other ballers know who the white dude with the salt-and-pepper hair is, and even fewer expect him to last long in the tournament. And yet his team goes on to win every game (20-10, 20-6, 18-9, 20-11, 20-10, etc.) and eventually the grand prize of $10,000. That may sound like a lot of money--Duncan plans to give his share to charity--but it's chump change compared with the kind of cash he gets to play with at work. The economic-stimulus bill passed by Congress in February included $100 billion in new education spending. Of that total, Duncan has $5 billion in discretionary funding. That money alone makes him the most powerful Education Secretary ever. For all the money at his disposal, Duncan is not making it easy to get. To qualify for the cash, states are being encouraged to remove laws limiting the expansion of public charter schools (which are typically exempt from union rules and other regulations), sign on to common standards, develop a strategy to turn around their worst-performing schools and work toward building better data systems. (TIME Magazine)



      $30 million plan to save kids: CPS: 1,200 most likely to be shot will get jobs, mentors, social workers

      CHICAGO--Using a newfangled probability model, Chicago Public School officials have identified the 1,200 Chicago public high school students most likely to be gunshot victims -- and will direct millions in resources to help them this school year, Schools CEO Ron Huberman revealed Thursday. "These kids are in trouble, and we need to help them,'' Huberman said as he unveiled a $30 million plan to stem the student shooting deaths that have traumatized the nation's third-largest school system for several years. "By changing [student] behavior,'' Huberman said, officials hope to "almost totally stop the youth violence problem'' in Chicago. Those students most at risk will get a personal "advocate,'' a social worker and a job in an attempt to turn around their lives and help stem the cycle of student shooting deaths that totaled 37 last school year. (Chicago Sun-Times)


      Nearly 1 in 10 California seniors failed to pass high school exit exam

      CALIFORNIA--Nearly 1 in 10 California students in the class of 2009 did not pass the state's high school exit exam, which is required to receive a diploma. The results, which were released this morning, were nearly stagnant compared with the previous year. By the end of senior year, 90.6% of students in the graduating class had passed the two-part exam, compared with 90.4% in the class of 2008. State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said that "these results show that California's high school students are continuing to meet the challenge of higher expectations. It is vitally important that young people know and understand the subject matter tested on the high school exit exam, whether they are heading to college or directly into the workforce. The [exit exam] helps us ensure that each student is prepared with the critical basic skills needed for future success." (Los Angeles Times – registration required)


      See also: Sacramento Bee Editorial: Results reveal high school exit test's value at http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2161763.html

      Commentary: The role of the private sector in education (By Tom Vander Ark)

      NATIONAL--The WSJ reported that "The US government doled out $502 million for a dozen wind and solar energy projects." The big winner was Iberdrola, a Spanish wind giant. Coming in second was Horizon, a subsidiary of a Portuguese firm. Third place went to a UK owned firm. These grants will likely result in an energy efficient infrastructure, but two things strike me as interesting, 1) the big winners were all foreign owned, an indication of where public incentives have encouraged private investment over the last decade, and 2) all the grant recipients were for-profit companies, an opportunity that the US Department of Education doesn't share with it's $100 billion stimulus. The education sector bias (and related legal prohibitions) against investment by private companies is remarkable in contrast to other public delivery systems. Innovations in health care, energy production and transmission, and transportation are often the product of private investment in government requested, sponsored, or incentivized project. We don't mind if textbook publishers update versions, but hackles go up when private operators propose school management. Most of this is just disguised job protection; the rest is historical bias. ... The $650 million Invest in Innovation Fund (i3) that will soon be doled out primarily to school districts--folks with very little ability to invest in, manage, or scale innovation. Unlike the Department of Energy, public-private partnerships are prohibited. If USED was able to invest half of i3 in private ventures, it would be multiplied several times over by private investment (10x in some cases), it would fund scalable enterprises with the potential for national impact, and the innovation would be sustained by a business model. (Huffington Post)


      Research examines student access to computers in schools

      NATIONAL--Nationally, about 5.4% of schools have a computer for every child, according to a review by educational technology researchers and market analysts. Project RED: Revolutionizing Education found that in general, states with smaller populations were better able to fund and implement a 1-to-1 ratio of students to computers. South Dakota, Maine and Wyoming had the highest percentage of schools with computers for each student; California was last. (eSchool News)


      See also TIME's Top 10 Back-to-School iPhone Applications


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