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Education News Bulletin - December 14, 2009

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  • Bay Area Edupreneurs Moderator
    Education News Bulletin December 14, 2009 SPOTLIGHT Shaping the Future: How Good Education Systems Can Become Great in the Decade Ahead SINGAPORE – On July
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 14, 2009

      Education News Bulletin

      December 14, 2009



      Shaping the Future: How Good Education Systems Can Become Great in the Decade Ahead

      SINGAPORE – On July 7, 2009, Singapore's Minister of Education hosted an International Education Roundtable discussion with ministers and senior representatives from six school systems around the world: Alberta, Canada; Hong Kong, China; the People's Republic of China; Sweden; the United States of America; and Victoria, Australia. The roundtable was an exploration of the frontier of education system reform for leading school systems globally, and an opportunity to share challenges faced, solutions tried, and lessons learnt among participating systems. Its aim was to enable ministers to explore how their largely well-performing education systems could become highly effective ("good to great") over the next decade. If the challenge of the 1980s was describing what effective schools are, of the 1990s, how to make schools more effective and of the 2000s, describing what effective systems are, then the pressing question for the 2010s is how to make systems more effective. (McKinsey & Company)

      America's Best High Schools: Gold Medal List

      NATIONAL--We looked at more than 21,000 public high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The following are the 100 schools that performed the best in our three-step Americas Best High Schools ranking analysis. (US News)

      Featuring Animo Leadership, KIPP Houston, YES Prep Southeast, and IDEA Public Schools


      See also: The Explosion of Charter Schools in America



      See also: Jay Mathews response: What's with the new U.S. News high school list?



      Charter Schools Against the Odds: They're growing, despite union hostility.

      NATIONAL--Charter schools reached a new milestone this year. According to the Center for Education Reform, more than 5,000 charters are now operating in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Considering that the first charter didn't open until 1992, and that these innovative schools have faced outright hostility from teachers unions and the education bureaucracy, their growth is a rare gleam of hope for American public schools. More than 1.5 million students now attend charters, an 11% increase from a year ago. That's only about 3% of all public school students, but the number has more than quadrupled in the past decade. And it would be much higher if the supply of charter schools was meeting the demand. As of June, an estimated 365,000 kids were on waiting lists. The students who attend these schools, which are concentrated in urban areas, tend to be low-income minorities. Yet they regularly outperform their peer groups in traditional public schools often located blocks away. The Obama Administration has said it will withhold discretionary federal education dollars from states that block the creation and growth of charter schools. Let's hope it follows through. We'd be hard pressed to name a more successful education reform in recent decades. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)


      Op-ed: Expand charter schools? Here's how (By Nelson Smith, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

      NEW JERSEY--Education reform advocates have been cheered by the election of Chris Christie as New Jersey's next governor. A key plank of his education plan is creating more high-quality public charter schools -- a goal shared with the administration of President Obama. Since the first charter school law was passed in 1991, the movement has enjoyed bipartisan support at the federal and state levels. Now, in part because of the emphasis on charters in the administration's "Race to the Top" competition, we're seeing a firestorm of renewed interest in many states. As Carlos Lejnieks, chairman of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, rightly says, we need to move charters "from mediocre to good; from good to great; and from great to growth." The good news is that New Jersey has assets to build from and is already doing some things right. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)



      Louisiana serves as model in teacher assessment: Initiative connects test scores, schools that train educators

      LAFAYETTE, La.-- In the fluorescent glow of Room 46 at J.W. Faulk Elementary School, second-year teacher Shannon Bower saw big challenges ahead for her fourth-graders who are struggling in reading and math. "I do what I can," she said during a recent class. "I move them up a little, but I can't do two years in one." How much they advance will affect not only the students and their school, but also the university a few miles away that trained Bower. Through an initiative that Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls a model for the nation, Louisiana has become the first state to tie student test scores into a chain of evaluation that reaches all the way to teacher colleges. Those that fail to perform on this new metric someday could face shake-ups or, in extreme cases, closure. Duncan has said that many education schools do a "mediocre job" in preparing teachers, but he has praised Louisiana often. "This is simply having the courage to say that great teaching matters," Duncan said last month. "Why is it today that we have only one state operating in this manner?" Reports show that Florida and Texas are moving toward linking test scores and teacher preparation. Maryland and Virginia officials said they are studying Louisiana's approach. Sally Clausen, Louisiana's commissioner of higher education, said officials from Minnesota and elsewhere have sought advice. (Washington Post registration required)


      Performance pay funding for teachers may increase

      NATIONAL--Federal funding for performance pay in public schools would quadruple, to $400 million a year, under a bill moving through Congress that reflects the growing political momentum behind an education reform idea once considered anathema to many Democrats and labor leaders. The Teacher Incentive Fund, launched during the Bush administration, has become a priority for President Obama. It has awarded more than 30 grants to school systems, states and public charter schools to develop new ways to reward top-performing teachers and principals in high-needs schools, with student test scores a significant factor but not the only one. Classroom evaluations are also considered. The Prince George's County school system, one of the grant recipients, this month distributed $1.1 million in bonuses to 279 teachers and administrators from a dozen schools who volunteered for a trial program that ties cash awards to classroom performance. The increase in performance pay funding, now at $97 million a year, is included in an omnibus spending bill approved by the House on Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Sunday, and Obama has said he will sign it. (Washington Post registration required)


      National board certification program for principals and 'teacher leaders' launched

      NATIONAL--Although Northgate High in Walnut Creek is considered to be a good school, Principal John McMorris wants it to be a great school. He has created a "Focus on Learning" team of teachers and administrators that collaborates on curriculum, mentors educators and looks for student weaknesses such as writing research papers then brainstorms about how to remedy them. McMorris, who came to the school two years ago, said he is leading the staff by working alongside them, instead of issuing directives. This leadership style is motivating the staff, some said. "When people identify their own problems, they are more engaged," said Lynda Hayes, student services director. "That's what's mobilizing the community in an exciting way." Nationwide, education reform advocates are recognizing the importance of strong leadership in schools and looking for ways to promote it to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education. One organization that has helped teachers become more effective through a rigorous national certification program now plans to offer similar training to principals and "teacher leaders," which could create a pool of administrators who are role models for others. The certification program, offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is an offshoot of the board's 20-year-old certification for teachers and counselors. The board has identified nine core qualities essential in great principals including leadership, vision and management skills. It is developing ways to train and evaluate administrators who seek the credential, which it expects to be available in 2011. (Contra Costa Times)



      No Child Left Behind Law Loses Support NATIONAL--At the Department of Education headquarters in Washington, officials no longer refer to the No Child Left Behind law by name. Last June, the quaint red schoolhouse the Bush administration built in front of the department building as a symbol of his signature domestic policy was torn down. While the impact NCLB has had on the nation's classroom is still the subject of fervent debate, there's no doubt that the Obama administration intends to strike a new path for education reform. When President George W. Bush signed NCLB in 2002, the policy met with bipartisan praise and looked set to become the most influential federal reform of the nation's schools since desegregation in the 1950s. Today, efforts to reauthorize the law something that was scheduled to happen in 2007 continue to languish in Congress, unable to gather enough momentum from either party in either chamber. Its sinking trajectory demonstrates how difficult it can be for politicians in Washington to improve the quality of education offered in classrooms across the country. The attitude many educators, politicians, and the general public have toward NCLB can be characterized in a single word: conflicted. (US News)http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/2009/12/09/no-child-left-behind-law-loses-support.html

      Math Gains Stall in Big Cities

      NATIONAL--Most urban school districts failed to make significant progress in math achievement in the past two years, and had scores below the national average, according to a federal study. The results, released Tuesday by the Department of Education, offer more ammunition to critics who question claims of academic progress in districts such as New York City. But federal and schools officials said that many of these districts had shown large gains since 2003, and didn't lose ground despite budget constraints. Four of the 11 school districts the study has tracked since 2003 -- including Washington, D.C., which is in the throes of a turnaround effort -- bucked the trend and showed solid gains between 2007 and 2009. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)


      See also
      Modest Gains in City Math Scores on Federal Test



      Cortines unveils plan to dismantle and rebuild Fremont High: City leaders and the U.S. secretary of education applaud L.A. superintendent's strategy, which includes getting rid of the staff and forming integrated hiring committees. The union president objects.

      LOS ANGELES--L.A.'s top school official on Thursday unveiled his plan to shut down Fremont High and start over from scratch -- a move denounced by the teachers union but applauded by city leaders and the nation's secretary of education. After quietly alerting the Fremont staff Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines spoke separately with students, parents, city leaders and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was in town to promote such school turnarounds. Fremont, Cortines said, has shown "some promise, with some of the finest teachers and the right principal . . . but it needed to be given a nudge because the status quo is not acceptable. "There has to be a sense of urgency," he said A similar effort was undertaken by an outside entity last year at Locke High, near Watts. Green Dot Public Schools, a charter organization, dismissed the staff -- and rehired a small percentage -- when it converted the campus into small charter schools that are operated independently of the district. Fremont, jampacked with 4,500 students, is substantially larger than Locke. (Los Angeles Times registration required)


      New Teacher-Evaluation Systems Face Obstacles

      NATIONAL--Buoyed by the promise of federal funding and a burgeoning dialogue about teacher effectiveness, districts are beginning to overhaul their evaluation systems to provide more finely grained information on teacher performance. Among the places considering, piloting, or implementing teacher-evaluation systems based at least in part on a set of performance-based standards are Ann Arbor, Mich.; Chicago; the District of Columbia; Elgin and Rockford, Ill.; Prince Georges County, Md.; and select districts in states such as Idaho, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. But as those school districts scale up their work, they face a phalanx of obstacles, the greatest of which is probably the paucity of highly regarded models to draw on. Whats more, few districts have ever attempted to go beyond the typical function of evaluationsensuring teachers meet a basic level of competenceto connect their systems to professional development, teacher promotion, and compensation. Yet that is the ultimate goal of the evaluation language in the $4 billion federal Race to the Top program. Cincinnati, for instance, is now weathering the fallout from a report about its system by the New Teacher Project, a New York City-based training program that has conducted analyses of several districts talent pipelines. That report found that most teachers, even novices, received observational scores in the teaching and learning category of the evaluation in the top two tiers, and that no teacher had been scored as unsatisfactory in that domain since 2004-05. The Cincinnati district is due to open contract negotiations shortly with its AFT-affiliated union, and the evaluation system could be one focal point for discussion. (Education Week subscription required)


      Green Dot: Helping Schools Make the Grade

      LOS ANGELES--Green Dot is turning troubled public institutions into successful charter schools. When Stephen Minix decided to become an inner-city high school teacher, he enrolled in Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology to learn the skills of the trade. But not even the best teacher-training program could have prepared him to work in a school in as much disarray as Los Angeles's Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School, Minix says. Opened in the late 1960s a few years after the Watts riots and named after the first black Rhodes scholar, Locke was once a source of pride for its community. But by 2006, the school had devolved into a dumping ground for the Los Angeles Unified School District's most emotionally troubled and academically challenged students. (US News)



      CNN's Sr. White House Correspondent Interviews Education Secretary Arne Duncan

      NATIONAL--CNNs Ed Henry, Sr. White House Correspondent, sat down for an interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to talk education on Friday, December 11ths CNN Student News broadcast. The show asked their student and teacher audience to submit their questions to the shows blog and Facebook fan page. A snippet of the interview can be seen on www.CNNStudentNews.com, by clicking the link for the days show or the full interview can be heard at Ed Henrys 44 podcast. (CNN)



      Illegal Immigrant Students Publicly Take Up a Cause

      CHICAGO--It has not been easy for the Obama administration to deport Rigoberto Padilla, a Mexican-born college student in Chicago who has been an illegal immigrant in this country since he was 6. On Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they would delay Mr. Padillas deportation for one year. Mr. Padillas case had seemed straightforward to immigration agents who detained him for deportation in January after he was arrested by the Chicago police for running a stop sign and charged with driving under the influence. But since then, students held two street rallies on his behalf and sent thousands of e-mail messages and faxes to Congress. The Chicago City Council passed a resolution calling for a stay of his deportation and five members of Congress from Illinois came out in support of his cause. One of them was Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, who offered a private bill to cancel his removal. Obama administration officials said they would review cases like Mr. Padillas as they arose. They said the situation of Mr. Padilla, 21, pointed to the need for an immigration overhaul that would include a path to legal status for people in the United States illegally. (New York Times registration required)


      College Dropouts Cite Low Money and High Stress

      NATIONAL--Most dropouts leave college because they have trouble going to school while working to support themselves, according to a report released Wednesday by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research group. The report, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, was based on a recent survey of more than 600 individuals aged 22 to 30, comparing those who started a college education but did not complete it with those who received a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year institution.

      With the Obama administration pushing to improve the nations competitiveness by doubling the number of college graduates, many educators, foundations and policy groups are turning their attention to college dropouts. While 2.8 million students enroll in some form of higher education each year, most do not proceed straight through to graduation. Only one in five of those who enroll in two-year institutions earn an associate degree within three years, and only two in five of those who start four-year colleges complete their degrees within six years. (New York Times registration required)


      Read the report Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, here: http://www.publicagenda.org/files/pdf/theirwholelivesaheadofthem.pdf

      Analysis catalysis: Designers think they can teach MBAs and philanthropists a thing or two

      NATIONAL--TIM BROWN, the boss of IDEO, a consultancy that helped shape Apples first mouse, does not have solutions to daunting global problems such as climate change, epidemics and persistent poverty. But he believes he knows how to find them: with design thinking. By design thinking, Mr Brown means the open-minded, no-holds-barred approach that designers bring to their work, rather than the narrow, technical view of innovation traditionally taught at many business and engineering schools. Firms that think like designers, he claims in a new book, Change by Design, stand to win huge new markets and profits. The concept may sound pat and woolly, encompassing everything from savvier marketing to radical technological leaps. Yet design thinking is winning many converts in both industry and philanthropy. (The Economist)


      Studies on Preschool Training Deemed Challenging

      NATIONAL--Its hard to conduct research on effective ways to train preschool educators because of the lack of standardization in their preparation and in the programs that employ them. Thats the conclusion drawn by some of the heavyweights in the field who attended a meeting of early-childhood-education researchers this week at Georgetown University. Even for some large-scale programs that are standardized across child-care centers, the effects of professional development havent been teased out from other aspects of programs that could also have an impact on childrens learning. (Education Week subscription required)


      New Rules for Colleges on Defaults

      NATIONAL--More than one in five borrowers of federal student loans who attend commercial colleges default within three years of beginning repayment, according to new figures being made available on Monday by the Department of Education. Historically, the government has reported such figures in terms of how many students default within two years a figure that stands at 6.7 percent of student borrowers over all and about 11 percent at commercial colleges. But the new three-year numbers, though preliminary, give a clearer picture of whether a student at a particular college will default, and the government will soon begin using them to help decide which colleges qualify for taxpayer-supported student-aid programs. Currently, colleges with default rates over 25 percent for three straight years can be disqualified, but experts argued that colleges were manipulating the two-year figures. (New York Times registration required)


      That Old College Lie: Are our colleges teaching students well? No. But here's how to make them. (By Kevin Carey)

      NATIONAL--Claiborne Pell died at age 90 on January 1, 2009. In the weeks that followed, the former Democratic senator from Rhode Island was lauded for his many achievements, but one stood out: The first sentence of Pells obituary in The New York Times cited "the college grant program that bears his name." Pell Grants are the quintessential progressive policy, dedicated to helping low-income students cross into the promised land of opportunity and higher education. "That is a legacy," said Joe Biden, "that will live on for generations to come." What the encomiums to Pell failed to mention is that his grants have been, in all the ways that matter most, a failure. As any parent can tell you, colleges are increasingly unaffordable. Students are borrowing at record levels and loan default rates are rising. But the biggest problem with American higher education isnt that too many students cant afford to enroll. Its that too many of the students who do enroll arent learning very much and arent earning degrees. For the average student, college isnt nearly as good a deal as colleges would have us believe. (Democracy: A Journal of Ideas subscription required)


      Re-imagining Community Colleges in the 21st Century: A Student-Centered Approach to Higher Education

      NATIONAL--Contemporary community colleges are on the brink of crisis, facing both praise and criticism on so many dimensions that it is difficult to make an overall assessment of their legitimacy. Each of the primary missions of community colleges faces a broad spectrum of challenges, made more complex by misapprehensions about the various roles of community colleges, lack of clear and consistent data on outcomes, and the relative weakness of the institutions and their students in state and federal political and policymaking processes. And the diversity of inputs and outputs in community colleges defies easy categorization. Their identity in the media, in the policy community, and in the institutions themselves is problematic, contingent upon perspectives and contexts. (American Progress)


      Politics dominate Calif education reform effort

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. To education reformers, a $4.3 billion school funding competition from the Obama administration seemed like just the push California needed to start making long overdue changes to restore academic luster to the state's public schools. But the drive to dramatically turn around a faltering system that serves more than 6 million children has run into political reality in a Legislature dominated by special interests. The result could leave the state with the nation's largest public school system ill-positioned to compete for the so-called Race to the Top funds. Officials estimate California stands to gain up to $700 million. Lawmakers meeting in a special session on education called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are considering competing Democratic bills. Both are intended to clear the way for California's federal application and to deal with some of the same issues, such as increasing the number of charter schools, revamping state tests and restructuring the worst-of-the-worst schools. But how they propose to reach those goals is vastly different, and it's unclear whether the versions can be reconciled in time for the state to meet a Jan. 19 federal application deadline. (Associated Press via Google News)


      See also Opinion: Dan Walters: Battle lines are drawn of state school reform at http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_13979732?nclick_check=1


    • Bay Area Edupreneurs Moderator
      Education News Bulletin December 14, 2009 SPOTLIGHT In America s next decade, change and challenges NATIONAL— A new decade finds Americans in an
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 11, 2010

        Education News Bulletin

        December 14, 2009




        In America's next decade, change and challenges

        NATIONAL— A new decade finds Americans in an uncomfortable and yet familiar position: running scared. Almost three-fourths of them, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, don't like the way things are going in the country. Given economic deprivation and political division, plus war, terrorism and a warming world, who would? But during the next 10 years, our fright may be our salvation. Americans often suspect they face the worst of times and, as a result, try harder to make the best of them. …. Change and challenges in education include:

        •          Technology that "unbundles" schools. "Most high school kids are going to be doing most of their learning online," says Tom Vander Ark, former executive director of education for the Gates Foundation, who says schools "are to a much greater extent going to be a blend of online and on-site." That could lead to an "unbundling" of education from one centralized, highly regulated source, such as a public school or single textbook. Schools will narrow their missions as students get more content from libraries, museums or other specialized sources, says Connie Yowell of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

        •          Less "tyranny of localism." Technology will reduce the power of locally elected, highly political school boards — what Ted Mitchell, president of the California Board of Education, calls "the tyranny of localism." A series of internationally benchmarked common standards could control curricula, textbook content and the training, certification, hiring and evaluation of teachers. Then, Mitchell says, local boards could shift "from regulating and controlling input to monitoring outcome."

        •          More sophisticated standardized tests. Testing and assessment systems, beefed up following the passage of the No Child Left Behind law in 2002, will become even more important, says Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution: "Accountability isn't going to stop. Testing is going to get more sophisticated." States are developing systems that can potentially trace a student's individual skills and knowledge — or lack thereof — back to a single teacher. Parents might someday be able to compare teachers head-to-head, much as they now compare schools. (USA Today)



        'Race to Top' Viewed as Template for a New ESEA: Design Principles for State Competition Signal Administration's Priorities

        NATIONAL--Educators hoping for a glimpse at the next rendition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act may want to take a close look at the rules for the Race to the Top program, which pushes states to adopt education redesign principles that federal officials say are likely to be the cornerstone of the Obama administration's plans for a new ESEA. The $4 billion Race to the Top competition, created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aims to reward states for making progress on a series of redesign "assurances," including turning around low-performing schools, improving teacher quality and distribution, bolstering state data systems, and improving the use of data and assessments. Those themes are likely to inform the U.S. Department of Education's plans for reauthorization of the ESEA, of which the 8-year-old No Child Left Behind Act is the most recent iteration, said Carmel Martin, the department's assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, in an interview with Education Week. (Education Week – subscription required)





        Their children are still in elementary school, but a group of San Jose parents who are already thinking about high school have launched an intense lobbying campaign to attract a top-performing charter school to the East Side.

        SAN JOSE, CA--On Thursday, the founders of Summit Preparatory Charter High in Redwood City will hold an information session at Foothill Presbyterian Church. In preparation, San Jose parents, many with children at the K-5 Adelante Dual-Language Academy, hope to attract a big turnout and present a petition with 1,000 signatures asking that the Summit Institute choose East San Jose for one of two expansion campuses planned for fall 2011. "We're parents who believe in small schools," said organizer Bernie Kotlier, who emphasized that parent interest in Summit isn't a reflection on the quality or politics of the East Side Union High School District, the system their children would attend after the eighth grade. East Side, which recently ousted its superintendent, Bob Nuñez, sent out 216 pink slips in May and roiled parents by proposing to eliminate after-school sports. The district runs 11 comprehensive campuses, which range from 1,400 to 3,400 students each. By comparison, Summit's two schools in Redwood City serve about 400 students each. (San Jose Mercury News – registration required)



        Can inner-city prep school succeed? Answer is YES

        HOUSTON--It was Deadline Day at YES Prep North Central, the day college applications were supposed to be finished, the day essays, personal statements and a seemingly endless series of forms needed to be slipped into white envelopes, ready for submission. The day the school's first graduating class would take one leap closer to college. … At YES Prep, every aspect of the school is designed to steer students away from stumbling blocks. Longer school days. A strict discipline code. A challenging curriculum. A small teacher-student ratio. There is also a nonstop conversation about college. Middle school homerooms are named after the teacher's alma mater. On Fridays, everyone is encouraged to wear shirts with college logos. Banners in hallways tout schools. (Business Week – registration required)



        The keys to a successful education system (By Kevin Huffman)

        NATIONAL--Ten years ago, deep in the Rio Grande Valley, two 23-year-old Teach for America teachers opened an after-school tutoring program. Through sheer force of will, the program became a public charter school, housed on the second floor of a local church. Eventually, that school became a cluster of 12 schools, serving kids from Colonias -- communities so impoverished that some lack potable water. IDEA College Prep graduated its first high school class in 2007 with 100 percent of the seniors headed to college. Last month, U.S. News and World Report ranked it No. 13 among America's public high schools. "It's not magical resources," IDEA Principal Jeremy Beard told me. "It's the thinking around the problem. I have no control over what goes in on in the kids' Colonia. But we can create a culture. Kids here feel part of a family, part of a team, part of something special." … Of course, if an instant solution existed, we wouldn't be in this bind. Still, the answers are not unknown. They basically boil down to people, policies and parents. (Washington Post – registration required)



        Mercury News Editorial: Despite school closing, Alum Rock provides good choices

        SAN JOSE, CA--Several hundred parents protested when the Alum Rock Union School District in East San Jose decided earlier this month to close under-enrolled Pala Middle School. School officials had planned for this possibility for several years. Given declining district enrollment and severe budget cuts, the decision was all but inevitable. It could save nearly $800,000 in operating costs and produce $300,000 in rental income. Other districts in similar circumstances will do the same in coming years. But overlooked amid the din over Pala is the fact that there are more public schools in Alum Rock today than a decade ago, notwithstanding an 18 percent drop in enrollment, from nearly 15,800 students in 2000 to about 13,000 this year. Parents have far more choices, and test scores are improving. … For every angry Pala parent, there are two middle-school parents pleased to send their children to KIPP Heartwood or ACE Charter School. Even with Pala's closing, Alum Rock families will have more options than parents in most districts — and more to come. ACE, in its second year, will fill out to 470 students. Rocketship Education opened its first charter elementary, Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, this year, with probably more to come. With their feet, parents will ultimately decide if that happens. … Competition from charter schools, along with sanctions of the federal No Child Left Behind law, have been driving changes in Alum Rock. The threat of charters led to the creation of the three small schools. And when the district encroached on their autonomy, the respected principal of LUCHA Elementary left for Rocketship. (San Jose Mercury News – registration required)



        Commentary: Charters' funding is the fly in ed reform ointment

        BOSTON--IT'S IRONIC that, just a week or two before state lawmakers vote on an education reform bill that would lift the cap on charter schools, two applications for charters in Lynn and one in Berkshire County are facing intense community opposition, while two existing charter schools in Springfield and Lowell face shutdowns. When a sixth-grader at the C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams asked Governor Deval Patrick during a recent visit why public money goes to charter schools, he explained that they are public schools, adding: "There are good ones and not so good ones, just as there are district schools that are good while others are not. We have a funding formula that is not good enough and needs to be fixed so that we're not taking money away from district schools but supporting education in all different types of schools.'' Patrick views the reform bill as aimed at "chronically underperforming'' school districts. He acknowledges that the state lacks the money to support several proposed solutions for the charter school funding quandary. (Boston Globe)





        Skills to Fix Failing Schools

        BOSTON--SOME things never change. For example, children still collect soda cans and box tops to buy classroom equipment. But much in K-12 public education is being turned on its head, especially in urban districts where fixing failing schools has become a national focus. This means new education leadership jobs: running charter schools, directing turnarounds of troubled schools and founding nonprofits with creative answers to education challenges. Such work demands educators who are more M.B.A./policy-wonk than Mr. Chips, which is why universities are unveiling degree programs that pull professors from schools of education, business and public policy. In September, the Harvard Graduate School of Education announced a tuition-free, three-year doctoral program in education leadership, the first new degree at the school in 74 years. "If you are going to be an effective leader, particularly in urban districts, you will need different skills than ed schools have traditionally offered," says Robert B. Schwartz, academic dean of the Harvard education school. "You need to be leading large-scale change, overseeing operations," he says. "You need some political skills." One month before the deadline, Mr. Schwartz says, 1,363 had started the application process — for 25 spots. The first students will arrive in August. (New York Times – registration required)



        Making 'Teacher Identifiers' Work

        NATIONAL--President Barack Obama campaigned on it. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan maintains it's a critical component of improving student achievement. Twenty-four states already employ the tool, and the federal Race to the Top competition has ignited serious political conflict around this issue in several states. The "teacher identifier" is either a key to unlocking the mysteries of successful classrooms, or just another way to pummel an already beleaguered teaching corps. It all depends on your point of view. A teacher identifier is simply a system whereby every teacher is assigned a number that can be used to link pertinent data to that teacher, such as student-performance measurements, demographic statistics, curriculum details, and training and professional-development information. The data collection's purpose is to give teachers and administrators a clearer picture of what is happening in their schools and classrooms. (Education Week – subscription required)



        White Paper: Rethinking the Teacher Lottery

        NATIONAL--There are numerous factors that impact urban student achievement, but none as important as the caliber of the adults in a school. The role of the principal is crucial, primarily because the principal is best positioned to ensure an excellent teacher in every classroom. But at the end of the day, it is the quality of the interactions between teacher and student, in every classroom and in every school, which matters most. … Though a number of states are no longer suffering from teacher shortages, nearly every urban district struggles with teacher quality. Central to this challenge is the abiding educational culture, which makes little connection between teachers' performance and students' results. (Urban Teacher Center)






        Commentary: Rotherham: Detroit schools are on a slow reform path

        DETROIT--Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations. As pressure increases on teachers unions to mend their ways and become better partners in school reform, the bar for what constitutes meaningful change seems to be getting lower. In October, the New Haven (Conn.) Federation of Teachers agreed to a new labor agreement that was hailed by both American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a breakthrough and national model. Yet the contract was actually a set of promises and processes to potentially undertake reforms after more discussion and mutual agreement. Maybe the union was playing for time to make more reform-oriented deals away from the crucible of a labor negotiation. Critics were not buying it and argued the entire thing was a ploy. We'll know who was right by next summer. Now attention has shifted to Detroit, where the Detroit Federation of Teachers agreed late last week to a new contract. The agreement breaks a logjam, but there is no ambiguity about whether it constitutes real reform: This deal is not the radical change Detroit Public Schools need. (Detroit News)



        Prison Students Illustrate the Shortcomings of Public Schools: Lawmakers must enhance education for all, even those behind bars (By Andrew J. Rotherham, Co-Founder and Publisher, Education Sector)

        NEW YORK--The notorious Rikers Island, home to 10 of New York City's jails, sits in the East River just across from La Guardia Airport. The island is an imposing array of razor wire, security check points, and fortified buildings spread across more than 400 acres. Life here is punctuated by the sounds of incarceration--metal on metal clanging as gates and metal doors bolt shut, shouts, and alarms. Although violence has declined in the past decade the jails remain dangerous places and tension is palpable. Rikers Island is also a public school. Among the 14,000 inmate residents of Rikers are approximately a thousand school-age youngsters. They sit in desks like other students in classrooms that look like classrooms elsewhere. Yet correctional officers stand at each door and the necessities of running jails clash daily with the imperatives of running a school. Today more than 100,000 juveniles are incarcerated around the country. Schools for prisoners are obviously the extreme of the alternative school spectrum. In New York City incarcerated youth make up just a fraction of the 70,000 students in alternative setting. Nonetheless, these schools illustrate the many ways that traditional public schools cannot possibly meet the diverse needs of all American students. (US News & World Report)



        Op-ed: High School's Last Test (By J. B. Schramm, chief executive, and E. Kinney Zalesne, the former president, of College Summit, a nonprofit organization that helps school districts and states increase the number of high school graduates who succeed in college)

        NATIONAL--THE federal government is about to make a huge investment in high school. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress has appropriated more than $100 billion to public schools, including a competitive "Race to the Top" fund that encourages innovation. But the real revolution, tucked away in the Race to the Top guidelines released by the Department of Education last month, is that high school has a new mission. No longer is it enough just to graduate students, or even prepare them for college. Schools must now show how they increase both college enrollment and the number of students who complete at least a year of college. In other words, high schools must now focus on grade 13. To be sure, this shift is long overdue. It has been a generation since a high school diploma was a ticket to success. Today, the difference in earning power between a high school graduate and someone who's finished eighth grade has shrunk to nil. And students themselves know, better even than their parents or teachers, according to a recent poll conducted by Deloitte, that the main mission of high school is preparation for college. Still, this shift will be seismic for our nation's high schools, because it will require gathering a great deal of information, and using it. And at the moment, high school principals know virtually nothing about what becomes of their graduates. Most don't even know whether their students make it to college at all. (New York Times – registration required)



        Commentary: Shift school responsibility to mayors (By Kalman R. Hettleman, a former member of the Baltimore school board and former state human resources secretary.)

        NATIONAL--The prospects for national school reform brightened with the election of Barack Obama as educator-in-chief. As a candidate, he signaled that he would try to find a "third way" though the battle lines in the education wars. A stunning opportunity arose when his administration - under the rallying cry, "Never let a crisis go to waste" - struck a balance in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act between short-term economic recovery and longer-term investment in the nation's energy, health and education systems. The $100 billion stimulus allocation to public education doubles prior annual federal aid, including about a 50 percent increase in annual grants for low-income students and students with disabilities. On top of that is the $5 billion Race to the Top Fund. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, has almost complete discretion over how it is awarded, and it's the big bait to lure states and local school systems to reform their ways. The watchword for Race to the Top runners is "innovation," and the winning applications are expected to emphasize tougher teacher evaluations, more rigorous standards and tests, and charter schools. … Mayors are best suited to assume this authority and be held accountable. Historically, city halls have been happy to avoid the headaches that come with running school systems. But modern mayors recognize that schools are indispensable to urban renaissance and are attuned to wielding executive authority. With their political necks on the line, mayors will be more prone to challenge education establishments, install nontraditional superintendents and insist that management systems be retooled. (Baltimore Sun)



        Virginia schools teach kids about setting, reaching goals

        VIRGINIA--Cathy Murphy decided it was time to introduce her oldest son to the tradition of making resolutions this New Year's. It turned out that 8-year old Timmy was already familiar with the concept: At the beginning of third grade at Lane Elementary School, he had resolved to listen to his teacher more, learn how to write more words and make more friends. (He thinks he has about six.) Jack Downey, a third-grader at nearby Clermont Elementary School, has his own resolutions. "No television during dinner and no punching my brother," he said as he and Timmy dodged splashes from Jack's one-time victim in the pool at Robert E. Lee Recreation Center in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. (Washington Post – registration required)






        Teacher program taking off in La.

        BATON ROUGE, LA--Katie Norman, 22, was an advertising major at LSU when she heard about a program that trained top-flight students to teach in troubled public schools. Now Norman, from Abita Springs, is a teacher at  Southeast Middle School, helping students catch up with their peers. "And with every single day the struggle gets a little easier," she said. "You just fall in love with the kids." Norman is part of a surge in the presence of Teach For America educators in Louisiana, which is trying to overcome generations near the bottom of most public-school rankings. The group has 650 educators around the state, up from 200 just two years ago. Louisiana has more TFA teachers per capita than any state in the nation. The concept behind the national organization is simple: recruit high-achieving college graduates, put them through five weeks of intense training and send them to some of the most troubled public schools in the nation. About 8,000 TFA teachers are in schools nationally. There are 37 in traditional public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish and 11 alumni. (The Advocate)



        Blog: BetterLesson – Improving Teachers with Social Networking

        NATIONAL--All of us, whether we've been a teacher or not, can remember the one who was always boring, chronically disorganized, or apathetic about the lessons being taught.  New teachers have a hard time with new curricula * while old timers are likely bored with the same-old repetition. A group of teachers who saw this decided that there must be a way to change how it's done without radically altering the entire educational system.  Something that could be done for teachers no matter where they were located in the world.  So BetterLesson.org was born. Founded in 2008 by a group of teachers from the Atlanta and Boston area school districts, who had formed a loose coalition via social networking, the site began life as a social networking site specifically for teachers.  From there, it began to grow. Educators found that they could collaborate on new lesson plans, new teachers found that they could stop re-inventing the wheel and learn from others instead of repeating the same old mistakes.  Long-time teachers found ways to re-invigorate their lesson plans and insert life into their careers again.  Everyone learned that all of these processes benefitted students. While the website is still technically in beta, it has gained several hundred users world-wide, though most of its information is aimed towards the American school system.  The thing that sets it apart from Facebook user groups or open source lesson sites?  Collaboration and ease of use. (SCO Commerce)



        Kriner Cash: Improving quality of teachers

        MEMPHIS--Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash knew the commitment the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has to education. When the foundation announced a year ago that it would be giving $500 million to improve teacher quality, Cash mobilized an effort that Gates insiders say produced one of the finest applications the foundation has ever seen. Memphis City Schools was awarded $90 million in November for a five- to seven-year partnership with the foundation that was created by Bill Gates, the richest man in the world. It will include substantial teacher pay raises, for one thing, with the possibility that the two or three most talented teachers in a school would make six-figure salaries. It will add financial incentives to retain more of the new teachers who have a history of being quickly disenchanted and leaving, and it will make tenure harder to achieve. Currently 93 percent of the teachers who are eligible get tenure, a figure Cash says is too high. "You will have folks who will squeal and squeal loudly," he said. "It changes the way things have been done and have been done and have been done." Memphis was one of only four districts Gates selected. The others are Hillsborough County, Fla., Pittsburgh and a group of charter schools in Los Angeles. Gates chose districts based on their innovation, their level of union buy-in and what they think they can learn. As part of the Gates project, all new teachers will be recruited and hired by The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that specializes in finding the best candidates and tracking their progress. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)



        Teachers union files lawsuit over charter takeovers: UTLA argues that handing new L.A. Unified campuses over to charter operators would be a violation of state law.

        LOS ANGELES--The union representing Los Angeles teachers filed a lawsuit Monday to block the potential hand-over of new campuses to charter schools under the district's groundbreaking and controversial school-reform strategy. Charter-school advocates defended the plan's legality as did the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Board of Education approved a resolution in August to turn over 12 long-struggling campuses and 18 new ones to bidders from inside or outside the district, including some charter operators. The long-anticipated lawsuit contends that under state law a new school can only become a charter if at least 50% of its permanent teachers petition for it. The union argues a new school must be staffed by district teachers who would then have the option of converting it to a charter. Under the district's plan, a charter could move into a new school and hire its own faculty. Charters operate independently of local districts and are not bound by some rules that govern traditional schools. Most charters are non-union. The district already has agreed to let charters operate in a handful of new schools built with such bonds. Mike Piscal, chief executive of Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools, a charter group, has applied for one new and one existing campus. "We have kids stuck in these failing schools that are failing because the union has created all these rules and regulations so that no one can be held accountable," he said. "And the union hasn't really looked after its own members either. We have 70 applicants for every open teaching position." … The deadline for school takeover proposals is Jan. 11; the board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations of Supt. Ramon C. Cortines in February. (Los Angeles Times – registration required)



        New Haven Schools Make The Grade: Three New Haven charter schools and five public schools made annual statewide top-ten lists of school performance.

        NEW HAVEN--The lists were put out Monday by ConnCAN, a statewide school improvement advocacy organization. Every year, the organization ranks elementary, middle, and high schools in several categories, including improvement and low-income student performance. Three New Haven Achievement First charter schools made top tens. Elm City College Prep Elementary and Elm City College Prep Middle scored in the categories of Performance Gains and African-American Student Performance. Amistad Academy made the list in the African-American Student Performance and Low-Income Student Performance categories. (New Haven Independent)






        Extra Homework Applying for Education Grants

        WASHINGTON — The Department of Education, preparing to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to winning states in a $4 billion grant competition, has estimated how long it should take each state to prepare its grant proposal: 681 hours.  Not 680, not 700, but 681 hours. "Nice round number — how'd they come up with that one?" said Lee Sensenbrenner, chief of staff to Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin. The thousands of state officials who are working feverishly to prepare proposals are not only stunned by the precision of the estimate, but many of them also say it grossly underestimates the amount of work they have to do. "We've put in well above that already," said Rick Miller, a deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education. "It's all I've done for months, so my time alone would almost get us there." Joanne Weiss, director of the Race to the Top competition at the Department of Education, acknowledges that 681 is just an estimate. "States are welcome to spend more or less time," she said. … So far, about 40 states have told the department that they intend to submit first-round applications, and officials in many of those states say they and their colleagues have already chalked up more than 681 hours. One of the most time-consuming tasks has been lining up written statements of support signed by superintendents and other officials in every school district that would receive grant money. California alone has about 1,000 districts, so getting the word out to each of them and cajoling their local leaders to send in signed agreements has taken much of Mr. Miller's time, he said. (New York Times – registration required)



        White House Stresses Results That Can Be Measured

        NATIONAL--Step by step, workers in the White House budget office are getting more fit. For the past three months, budget office employees have been wearing pedometers and counting their steps in an effort to encourage more physical activity. It's a small but telling example of how the Obama administration relies on intensive data-gathering to help mold behavior. "The basic idea is we all wear these pedometers and they measure daily activity," says Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. "When you measure something and have a competition surrounding it, it creates a strong incentive to do more of it." The Pedometer Challenge is typical of Orszag, a number-crunching marathoner whom Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel described as making nerdy sexy. But he's not the only one in the administration turned on by this kind of data-driven exercise. Whether it's health care, education or even the war in Afghanistan, the president and his team are big believers in the power of information. (National Public Radio)



        Federal student financial aid application streamlined

        NATIONAL--The federal government Tuesday morning is rolling out a shorter, simpler financial aid application for needy students in an effort to reduce barriers to higher education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, promoted the streamlined Free Application for Federal Student Aid in a swing Tuesday morning through Banneker High School in Northwest Washington. The FAFSA, as it is known, is used to determine a family's expected annual contribution to college expenses. It also determines eligibility for need-based federal Pell grants and other student aid. Duncan and Biden perched on stools in an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class to talk with students about college and financial aid. Duncan said FAFSA, until now, has been "really, really, really tough" to fill out, making it an obstacle to many students. "It's crazy," he said. (Washington Post – registration required)






        New York Governor Reverses Position and Calls for Charter Cap to be Raised
        NEW YORK--In a dramatic reversal, Governor David Paterson called on New York state lawmakers in mid-December to raise the cap on public charter schools and to implement a host of other education changes needed to compete for federal Race to the Top funds. "I support it (raising the cap)," he said. "There is a potential $400 to $700 million that can come into this state to help pay some of these bills. Seven hundred million would be very helpful right now." The governor credited a November 19 conversation with U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan with helping him decide the state needed to take action. "I can appreciate that people have ideological differences with some of the plans, but this is the plan that President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan have put before us," Paterson said. "And the question is do we want to compete? Are we racing to the top, or are we racing to the middle? Because, if you're in the middle, you're not going to get funding." (New York Post)


        Mercury News Editorial: Assembly should pass bill to name, repair 10 worst California schools

        CALIFORNIA--Of the many education reforms proposed recently in the Legislature, Senate Bill 742 is not the most sweeping. But it's one of the smartest. The bill, which would require the state to identify and fix the 10 worst public schools, sailed through the Senate in June but is stuck in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It should be passed. It may seem surprising that this law would be necessary. Why doesn't the state already have to name and repair all its badly performing schools? In the face of opposition to broader reform from teachers unions and administrators, the bill's authors say, they had to start somewhere. The beauty of this approach is that while it seems like a small step, it's likely to have a tremendous impact beyond just these 10 schools. Year after year, nearly 1,000 schools have failed to improve on a range of key measures despite billions of extra taxpayer dollars. About 2 million California kids are stuck in institutions that do not prepare them to succeed. Identifying 10 of these schools, and forcing an overhaul of them, will of course be a boon to the families there. But it also will bring a torrent of publicity and information to parents in all failing schools. (San Jose Mercury News – registration required)



        New York Times Editorial: Americans Without Work: Reconnecting Young People

        NATIONAL--The House's jobs bill is an honorable effort to increase jobs among construction workers, teachers, firefighters and other adults -- hence its name, the Jobs for Main Street Act. But it is seriously deficient in one important respect. It does not do nearly enough to address the ominous shortfall of jobs among the young people who have been driven from the job market -- and marginalized economically -- in record numbers. The problem is especially alarming in low-income, minority communities where the jobless rate for high school students is hovering near 90 percent. The part-time jobs that were once a rite of passage began to disappear rapidly at the start of this decade. According to an analysis released this week by Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, employment rates among teenagers have dropped nearly four times faster than the rate among adults since 2000. As a consequence, he says, men 65 and older -- people old enough to be their grandfathers -- are now more likely to find work than 16- to 19-year-olds. According to the analysis, the joblessness rate for teenagers generally is the highest ever since the country began keeping statistics just after World War II. Things are especially bleak for low-income black students: only 4 in 100 found work this fall. (New York Times – registration required)



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