Education News Bulletin - November 30, 2009
Education News Bulletin - November 30, 2009
Gates Foundation gives $335 million to raise teacher effectiveness
NATIONAL--The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Thursday a $335 million investment in teacher effectiveness, funding experiments in tenure, evaluation, compensation, training and mentoring in three large school systems and a cluster of charter schools. The grants amount to one of the largest privately sponsored school improvement initiatives in recent years. Through them, the foundation aims to push policymakers to put more weight on teacher performance than qualifications. Hillsborough County schools, in the Tampa area, will receive $100 million; Memphis schools, $90 million; Pittsburgh schools, $40 million; and five charter networks in Los Angeles (Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation and Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools), $60 million. (Washington Post registration required)
See also Gateses Give $290 Million for Education at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/education/20educ.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1258988838-sLccNRKs28HOxmPCGUFaqg
The Edsel of Education Reform: The Ford Foundation finds a needy cause: teachers unions.
NATIONAL--We hate to say it, but don't be misled by headlines. The biggest headline in education circles last week was that the Ford Foundation is making a whopping $100 million grant "to transform secondary education in the nation's most disadvantaged schools." Our eyes raced to see which piece of the vibrant school-reform movement Ford was going to support. Would it be America's 4,600 charters schools, many outperforming their traditional school peers and some even closing the race gap? Maybe it would be Teach for America, busting at the seams and turning down Ivy League applicants by the hundreds. Or, who knows, maybe Ford's really on the leading edge, and would want to support voucher programs in cities like Washington. Would you believe the recipients of Ford's largesse are the teachers unions? Yup. the Ford press release contains not one mention of charter schools, vouchers, merit pay or even Teach for America. Literally speaking, this really does shake up, not to say shock, "the conversations surrounding school reform." (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
Read the response letter to the editor here: Public Schools Can Again Be What They Once Were at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704204304574544011072989946.html
Stimulus Rules on 'Turnarounds' Shift
NATIONAL--The final rules for the $4 billion Race to the Top competition give states and districts more leeway in how they intervene in chronically underperforming schools, a subtle but important change that raises new questions about whether the push to turn around struggling campuses will succeed in rehabilitating large numbers of schools. Under the guidelines issued this month by the U.S. Department of Education, states and districts using the federal grant money could opt, as a first resort, to use a turnaround approach that many educators favor: providing professional development and coaching for a school's current staff, and making changes to curriculum and instruction. (Education Week subscription required)
CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS
Charter bill under attack
BOSTON--School unions swarmed the State House yesterday, leaning on lawmakers to snuff key aspects of an education reform plan that would allow more charter schools - a move that could cost the cash-strapped state $250 million in federal funding. Gov. Deval Patrick hit the unions yesterday for jeopardizing the states needy students. Theres an urgency about this, Patrick said of the reform. What we dont think is appropriate is to have the focus be on the union instead of the kids. Patricks bill would remove the states cap on charter schools. That measure is mandatory, if the state wants to receive the federal funds under a new Obama administration education initiative. The local chapter of the American Teachers Federation released a radio ad last week targeting the education reform, while some lawmakers have received more than 300 e-mails since last Thursday urging them to support the (Massachusetts Teachers Association) amendments to this bill. They include amendments stripping criteria that would allow charter schools to expand, said Pioneer Institute director Jim Stergios, a charter school advocate. (Boston Herald)
Payment Shift is Trouble for Minn. Charter Schools
MINNESOTA--Charter schools in Minnesota are bracing for a cash flow crunch that could determine whether some survive. In an accounting move that helps the state budget's bottom line, Gov. Tim Pawlenty shifted some funding payments for all schools this year, but charter schools can't access the same kinds of loans that traditional public schools can, and even when they do apply, banks are wary. Traditional public schools have access to credit that charter schools don't, even though charters are also considered public schools. Charters can't own property, so they have very little collateral which makes them less desirable to banks. Charters also can't go to voters for a tax increase the way traditional public schools can. Kate Barr heads the Nonprofit Assistance Fund, which works with banks to help charter schools find credit. She said early fall is usually when schools have the healthiest cash flow, but it drops off after that. (Education Week subscription required)
Learning to Teach to Bridge the Achievement Gap
SANTA CLARA, CALIF--Kathleen Martin stood in front of a white board covered with math problems, her class clustered at her feet. As they talked through the solutions together, the students repeated the headings over each problem on the board: Algebra and Function, Probability, Data Analysis. So I see three addends here, said Mrs. Martin, in her third year of teaching, and I know I am going to find the sum. The children then call out the addends make that the numbers in unison. They are adding six, four and zero. Mrs. Martin teaches first grade at Leroy Anderson Elementary School in San Jose, a regular public school. Of its 430 students, 90 percent receive subsidized lunches. For 70 percent, English is a second language and 70 percent are Hispanic. Those can be the demographic ingredients for a watered-down curriculum and the excuses for academic failure. Indeed, four years ago Anderson was, academically, the worst elementary school in Santa Clara County, with the lowest score on Californias Academic Performance Index. But when scores were released this fall, Anderson had jumped 136 points in a year, to 810 out of a possible 1,000. Only a handful of Bay Area schools notched triple digit increases. In the past three years, Andersons scores rose 206 points. (New York Times registration required)
The Odd Couple of Education Reform: What do teachers' unions think about being vilified by everyone from Newt Gingrich to Al Sharpton?
NATIONAL--With Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton on tour together to promote school reform, a bipartisan nirvana must be on the horizon. It's hard to imagine two more ideological opposites, but they agree on a couple of big things. One is that America's schools are badly in need of innovation, and the other is that teachers' unions are part of the problem. That was enough common ground for President Obama to convince them to take their show on the road. Beginning in September, the unlikely duo has exchanged friendly jabs in front of schoolkids and administrators in several cities, all in the name of shaking up the system. A conservative Republican attacking unions isn't news, but when a Democrat as liberal as Sharpton takes up the cudgel, that got National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel's attention. "He zapped unions, said we were the problem," Van Roekel recalls. Van Roekel called Sharpton about it, but didn't expect to have much impact. Fairly or unfairly, teachers' unions are seen as protecting bad teachers and holding on to tenure, goals that hamper student achievement. (Newsweek)
ACCOUNTABILITY AND ASSESSMENT
Data Quality Campaign: Annual Progress Report on State Data Systems
Each year, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) surveys all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to assess states progress toward implementing the 10 Essential Elements of a high-quality longitudinal data system. In 2005, no states reported having all 10 Elements. This year, 11 states have all 10 Elements (up from six states in 2008). (Data Quality Campaign)
Alternative test may inflate score gains: 'Portfolio' exams spread in Va.: 'How do you know we are closing the . . . gap?'
VIRGINIA--Lynbrook Elementary School, which serves one of the poorest communities in Fairfax County, seems to be a model for reform. Three years ago, the Springfield school failed to meet state testing goals in English. Since then, it has charted double-digit gains in passing rates for every one of its closely monitored racial and ethnic groups of students. But the success at Lynbrook and other schools throughout the state is not only due to better teaching. More and more, students who have struggled to pass Virginia's Standards of Learning exams are taking different tests. The trend dates to 2007, when federal officials approved an alternative assessment after the Fairfax School Board threatened to defy a mandate to give multiple-choice reading tests to students who were destined to fail -- students who, like many at Lynbrook, were just beginning to learn English. (Washington Post registration required)
Report: Dropout Costs Priced for 50 Major U.S. Cities: "The Economic Benefits of Reducing High School Dropout Rates in Americas Fifty Largest Cities"
NATIONAL--If half the students who dropped out of the class of 2008 had graduated, they would have generated $4.1 billion more in wages and $536 million in state and local taxes nationally in one average year of their working lives, according to a new analysis. The study, issued this month by the Washington-based Alliance for Excellent Education, calculates what the dropout problem costs the country and each of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. The numbers vary depending on each regions peculiarities. In a conference call with reporters, Bob Wise, the president of the alliance, noted that 84 percent of high school graduates in Honolulu go on to some kind of postsecondary education, compared with 47 percent in Memphis. For the area that includes Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., for instance, the study finds that if half of the 70,929 students who dropped out of the class of 2008 had earned diplomas, they would have contributed $575 million more in wages and $79 million in property, sales, and income taxes during an average year, which the alliance defines as when a graduate is about 39 years old. (Education Week subscription required)
Read the report: http://www.all4ed.org/publication_material/EconMSA
NEWSCHOOLS AND OUR VENTURES IN THE NEWS
LMU dean to become Green Dot Public Schools chairman
LOS ANGELES--The dean of Loyola Marymount University's School of Education is replacing Green Dot Public Schools founder Steve Barr as chairman of the charter management organization's board. Green Dot made the announcement Friday that Shane Martin will replace Barr, who founded the Los Angeles-based education nonprofit in 1999. Barr will become chair emeritus, focusing on broad education policy issues, the group said. Martin, a founding member of Green Dot's board, has headed the graduate education school at LMU since 2005. Earlier this week, Green Dot was named one of five area charter organizations to receive a $60 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization operates 19 charter schools in the Los Angeles area, including one in Inglewood and one near Los Angeles International Airport. (LA Daily Breeze)
See also Green Dot Public Schools Chairman Steve Barr steps down at http://www.scpr.org/news/2009/11/20/green-dot-public-schools-chairman-steve-barr-steps/
D.C. charter schools put out a call for protection: Officers should be helping to derail area's spillover violence, NE principal says
WASHINGTON--Principal Peggy Pendergrass heard it from a teacher who rushed in with the news: Three gang members were trying to force their way into Friendship Collegiate Academy, one more example of the violence that had plagued the high school in the weeks since classes started. Her dean of security was at the door, wrestling with them as they tried to push into the building. After a struggle, the men gave up and retreated. By the time Pendergrass got to the walkway in front of the charter school in Northeast Washington, police were making arrests. But she wondered why charter schools, which enroll more than 38 percent of public school students in the city, don't get regular protection like that at traditional public schools, where about 100 officers walk the halls full time. (Washington Post registration required)
Commentary: What's Needed to Make Sure Innovation Is Working? (By Bill Jackson, Founder and CEO, Greatschools.net)
NATIONAL--I think there is danger that the current flurry of activity at the federal level could lead people to (mistakenly) believe that the federal government and states are responsible for education success in America, not parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and (gasp!) local school boards. I suggest that the federal government clarify its intended relationship to K-12 education. People need to hear: "Hey everyone, we know it is you folks out there who make education successful. Our goal is to support you. You know better than us exactly what will work for your child/classroom/school/community. We're here to help but you're not off the hook!" In this way, we can counter a trend that I see cropping up in the trenches: a sense of resignation that all of us out here beyond the beltway are just pawns in a grand scheme being run from Washington. I don't think that's what the folks in Washington have in mind; we need to nip this in the bud. (Huffington Post)
Charter school gets OK for growth: A new charter school in Troy just got the green light to get bigger.
NEW YORK--The State University of New York board of trustees unanimously approved an expansion of the True North Troy Preparatory Charter school. The school, which opened this fall with a fifth-grade class only, has about 60 students enrolled, according to Anna Hall, the school's director of operations. The school plans to add a grade every year up to a maximum of 300 students in grades five to eight. The vote by the trustees would allow the addition of kindergarten and grades one through four. The school said it needed the extension because early intervention is an important part of academic success. True North also argued that it can help reverse what it sees a drop in performance by the Troy school district on state assessments between third and eighth grades. The school hopes to enroll more than 600 students in all grades by the 2013-14 school year. True North, operated by Uncommon Schools, is located in a former church on Third Street and is the second charter school to open in Troy. It is part of a regional network of charter schools in the Northeast that plans eventually to expand through upstate New York. (Albany Times Union)
A lunch program Revolution
NATIONAL--The term school lunch is often met with snickers and eye-rolling as many of us think of hockey puck hamburgers and Franken-nuggets. As if serving fresh, nutritionally loaded school lunches that children will eat isnt tricky enough, consider the challenge facing many charter schools across the Unites States: No kitchen or facility space to serve food. Some charter schools have solved the dilemma by running a daily caravan of volunteers to the nearest sandwich shop, or offering a rotating menu of fast food. Most such situations results in a lunch offering which is less than desirable from a nutritional, cost effective, or logistics stand point. Please welcome Revolution Foods. Revolution Foods launched in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006 by Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey, two eco-conscious former teachers and school founders. Their vision was to create school food service that would assure that all students have access to healthy, fresh food on a daily basis. Richmond and Toby partnered with Executive Chef Amy Klein, and designed a school nutrition program which only used local foods that are void of controversial hormone and chemical treatments, but still appeal to both parents and kids. Today, Revolution Foods serves fresh lunches at various schools in Colorado, Washington DC, and Northern and Southern California. Lunches are delivered warm or cold (depending on the menu item) directly to the schools. Orders are handled online directly with the parent customer, a little fact which has many administrators who have been doubling as lunch bill collectors stampeding for the Revolution school sign-up forms. (Examiner)
Finally getting real on training teachers
NEW YORK--On Monday, New York state started taking education reform seriously: The state Board of Regents took up the topic of teacher preparation -- with new Education Com missioner David Steiner as the star witness. With a standing-room-only crowd of onlookers, Steiner methodically and passionately made a compelling case for upending how education schools prepare teachers for the classroom -- an issue once taboo. He presented a bold set of fresh ideas, complete with brutal honesty about the failures of the past -- and a dash of humor and diplomacy. After an initial firestorm of criticism, he started winning converts. In a landmark 2006 study, Arthur Levine declared: "Current teacher education programs are largely ill equipped to prepare current and future teachers for new realities." Making that conclusion even more powerful was the fact that Levine is a legendary former head of Columbia Teachers College -- one of the top schools critiqued in Steiner's work. As dean of education at Hunter College, Steiner developed an innovative teacher-preparation program called Teacher U, working collaboratively with Uncommon Schools, KIPP and Achievement First -- charter-school networks with an impressive track record of serving urban children. Teacher U's success was a prime reason he was tapped to serve as education commissioner. (NY Post)
Neo-liberalism: The Leveraging of Charter Schools with Public and Private Funds
NATIONAL -- ... Private philanthropy has been aggressively recruited in the struggle to fund charters, for deep pockets must rocket the movement into institutional permanency and what better way to do this than to go to the pirates of industry who are flush with the surplus labor of their workers and an eager eye on investment opportunities. For example, in New Orleans where charters are a national experiment and springboard for efforts in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York, three philanthropic groups will give $17.5 million to public schools in New Orleans. It is the largest donation by private groups since the school system was reorganized after Hurricane Katrina. The grants, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund and the Broad Foundation, will be given over a three year period. They will go to three nonprofits, New Schools for New Orleans, New Leaders for New Schools and Teach for America-Greater New Orleans. New Schools for New Orleans will get $10 million, mainly to support and bolster charter schools. And these private entrepreneurial fund-centers are just the tip of the huge financial iceberg that is growing, while public education deliquesces. New Schools Venture Fund, created by various venture capitalists and in existence since 1998, is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that seeks to transform public education particularly for underserved students by supporting education entrepreneurs and connecting their work to systems change. The goal of these venture or better said, vulture capitalists is to create and increase the number of charter schools in low-income communities that is where the bucks are, where the sub-prime kids live and thus the federal and state dollars that follow them, school to school. Yet because traditional funding will not cover the myriad costs associated with establishing and maintaining a charter school, this requires cold, hard private cash. (Dissident Voice Newsletter)
FEDERAL POLICY AND THE NEW ADMINISTRATION
School Reform Retreat? : Duncan eases the rules for states to get 'Race to the Top' cash.
The Obama Administration's education rhetoric, with its emphasis on charter schools and evaluating teachers based on student performance, has won plaudits from school reformersand from us. But this month the Department of Education laid out in detail the eligibility requirements for states seeking federal grant money, and it looks like the praise may have been premature. In the spring, when the White House announced its $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" initiative to improve K-12 schooling, President Obama said, "Any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluations will have to change its ways to compete for a grant." Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters, "states that don't have charter school laws, or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools, will jeopardize their application." The Administration appears to be retreating on both requirements. The final Race to the Top regulations allow states to use "multiple measures," including peer reviews, to evaluate instructors. This means states that prohibit student test data from being used to measure a teacher's performance may be eligible for the federal funds, even though the President clearly said that they wouldn't be. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
White House Pushes Science and Math Education
NATIONAL--To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists. President Obama will announce a campaign Monday to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say. The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom. For example, Discovery Communications has promised to use two hours of the afternoon schedule on its Science Channel cable network for commercial-free programming geared toward middle school students. Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May. The MacArthur Foundation and technology industry organizations are giving out prizes in a contest to develop video games that teach science and math. (New York Times registration required)
Changes Urged in Rules for Federal Innovation Aid
NATIONAL--As the U.S. Department of Education prepares final rules for the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund, officials face strong concerns from school districts and philanthropies that requiring matching funds from the private sector is unworkable and would turn foundations into the gatekeepers for these federal grants. Concern about the proposed matching-funds requirement for the so-called i3 grants, which will be given out next year to districts through the economic-stimulus program, was a common thread among the 346 responses the department received during a 30-day public comment period that ended Nov. 9. But that wasn't the only big concern about how the department is looking to dole out the grants, a small though highly coveted piece of some $100 billion in stimulus aid for education. Many school districts objected to the requirement in the proposed rules that applicants show strong evidence of past success in order to justify funding for an innovative strategy, while many education researchers thought the department should be even stricter. Other commenters didn't like that the department placed caps on individual award amounts. (Education Week subscription required)
A Crown Jewel of Education Struggles With Cuts
BERKELEY, Calif. As the University of California struggles to absorb its sharpest drop in state financing since the Great Depression, every professor, administrator and clerical worker has been put on furlough amounting to an average pay cut of 8 percent. In chemistry laboratories that have produced Nobel Prize-winning research, wastebaskets are stuffed to the brim on the new reduced cleaning schedule. Many students are frozen out of required classes as course sections are trimmed.
And on Thursday, to top it all off, the Board of Regents voted to increase undergraduate fees the equivalent of tuition by 32 percent next fall, to more than $10,000. The university will cost about three times as much as it did a decade ago, and what was once an educational bargain will be one of the nations higher-priced public universities. Among students and faculty alike, there is a pervasive sense that the increases and the deep budget cuts are pushing the university into decline. The budget cuts in California, topping $30 billion over the last two years, have touched all aspects of state government, including health care, welfare, corrections and recreation. They have led to a retrenchment in state services not seen in modern times, and for many institutions, including the state university system, have created a watershed moment. (New York Times registration required)
State's school funding process is failing
CALIFORNIA--Anyone who has spent time in or around government, from the deeply embedded bureaucrat to the young policy wonk, knows that there are two important issues in funding a public program. One, is it getting enough money? Two, is the money being spent wisely? On both counts, California's method of financing its schools gets a big fat F. On a per-pupil basis, our schools are among the most poorly funded in the country, and no one can be sure that the money they do get serves its purpose. Ask those who have devoted time to examining the system: The way this state doles out money to K-12 education isn't merely inefficient and ineffective, it's insane. (LA Times registration required)
Villaraigosa, teacher groups vie for 4 schools: Jefferson High is one of the campuses that both Los Angeles' mayor and groups backed by the teachers union have bid to run. Supt. Ramon Cortines will decide.
LOS ANGELES--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and groups of teachers backed by the Los Angeles teachers union will compete for control of four campuses, including Jefferson High School, as part of a groundbreaking reform initiative. The impending face-off emerged Monday as groups inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District scrambled to meet a 5 p.m. deadline for applications to run 30 district schools. In separate news conferences, the union and the mayor lauded their own education records as they marked a milestone in the widely watched reform effort. After filing "letters of intent" for their targeted schools, the bidders, including charter school operators, now have until Jan. 11 to develop full-fledged proposals. Backers say the school-control plan, approved in August, will spur rapid progress at 18 new and 12 low-performing campuses in the nation's second-largest school district. (LA Times registration required)
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