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Education News Bulletin - 30 March 2010

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  • Bay Area Edupreneurs Moderator
    NewSchools and Our Ventures in the News Blog: Keeping hope alive, but more work needed (By Deborah McGriff
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2010

      NewSchools and Our Ventures in the News

      Blog: Keeping hope alive, but more work needed (By Deborah McGriff, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund)

      NATIONAL--Since its passage in 1965, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) remains the premiere federal legislation for closing the achievement gap between affluent and low-income children of color. Each subsequent modification promises changes that embrace the fierce urgency of now to end disparities and fulfill the hopes of educational excellence for all. The release of the Administration's Blueprint for Reform of ESEA keeps hope alive. As expected, the President's proposal includes the best of his predecessor's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, offers alternatives to areas needing improvement, excludes strategies that received limited implementation, and introduces substantial changes in the areas aligned with Race to the Top. I look forward to greater clarity about how each state will achieve a focused, effective and achievable accountability system, and I hope that unfunded mandates will be funded or removed. The proposal to rely less on formula grants and more on competitive grants is one of the most controversial and interesting changes. One critic asked if this proposal is a retreat from the notion of quality education as a civil right and another proclaimed that a child's civil rights should not be part of a competition. Creating equality has not been achieved through formula grants, and continuing the same old funding formula is not likely to achieve the President's goal of all students graduating high school ready for college or career by 2020. We must achieve this goal by any means necessary. Only the insane believe they can solve new problems with old strategies. Incentives and rewards must go to states that are willing to making sweeping reforms. (National Journal)



      Teach for America and Public Policy

      TULSA--In Tulsa, a decision about budget cutbacks in the public school system might involve, for better or worse, the highly publicized nonprofit, Teach for America. Because only 72 teachers took advantage of a $5,000 incentive payment to retire early, the school system is planning to lay off 225 teachers to save $9.7 million. This would help the district deal with a shortfall stemming from $7 million less than expected in state education aid, with deeper cuts to come next year. This would cut the district's count of certified teachers by 7 percent.  But are all Tulsa teachers certified? Young first-year teachers are also potentially on the layoff list. Many of these teachers are on one-year contracts, and can be laid off simply by the school board's decision not to renew their contracts. Three hundred and fifty teachers are first-year teachers, which could mean that most if not all of the terminations could come from that teacher cohort.  Among the first year teachers are 70 recruited through Teach for America, and the district is under contract to accept another 70 TFA recruits in August. The district and TFA were not able to tell Tulsa World reporters how TFA recruits would be affected by the layoffs.  The elementary school teacher profiled in the article appears to be a fully certified teacher, unlike what usually constitutes many TFA teachers who teach with only a few weeks of training under their belts and often lacking traditional education school training and certification. (Non Profit Quarterly)


      Commentary: Supporting a Nation of Social Inventors (By John Bridgeland is CEO of Civic Enterprises, co-convenor of Service Nation, and former Director of the White House Policy Council overseeing both the faith-based and national service efforts under President George W. Bush.)

      NATIONAL--Americans have been inventing to improve their social conditions since settlers of the continent first reached our shores. From the Mayflower Compact's experiment in self-government to today's Harlem Children's Zone to help disadvantaged youth, individuals armed with new ideas have been at the forefront of improving our way of life. Although an old tradition born from free enterprise, this spirit of "social innovation" now has Presidential attention and a White House Office. A bold bipartisan agenda must accompany this rare chance to fuel the movement of social inventors. Having helped develop both the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and USA Freedom Corps for national and community service, I am familiar with similar efforts. People and institutions of faith or commitment to volunteering have been central to helping the needy since before our nation's birth. Just like President Bush captured these traditions and breathed new life into them, President Obama has an historic opportunity to advance America's spirit of social innovation. The White House Office of Social Innovation is off to a good start, having developed a $50 million social innovation fund to reward performance, by ramping up innovative efforts in education, health care, poverty and other areas. At a time of stalled social progress and increased poverty, we can envision enhanced support for social entrepreneurs like Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, Michael Brown of City Year, Kirsten Lodal of LIFT and others less well known with models that produce results. (Huffington Post)


      New Orleans charter schools likely to band together to share vision, support

      NEW ORLEANS--With several local charter-school operators gearing up to run additional schools next year, most of New Orleans' charter schools could soon be part of clusters that share a board of directors, overarching vision and back-office support. Most of the city's approximately 50 charter schools now operate independently, with individual boards and administrations. Charter leaders say it's a natural evolution for successful schools to take over weaker ones. Moreover, forming clusters could be more efficient because several schools would share some of the same personnel, such as a teacher recruiter or special education administrator. But the clusters will face several challenges in New Orleans as they take the reins at existing schools, including building community support and expanding their operations without sacrificing quality. … Nationally, charter management organizations have grown rapidly over the past few years, particularly in large urban areas, as groups such as Green Dot, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools expand. Often, private philanthropists and foundations heavily subsidize their start-up costs. Thomas Toch, an education policy expert and executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington, said that nationwide, philanthropists have given about $500 million to help start charter management organizations. "Without that money, there would be no CMO movement, " he said. Robin Lake, executive director of the National Charter School Research Project, said her organization has been studying the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the approximately 40 charter management organizations that have operated four or more schools nationwide since 2008. The study, to be released this spring, defines a CMO as a nonprofit organization that runs multiple charter schools and has "operational control over its schools, " meaning that it can hire and fire principals, for instance. (Times-Picayune)


      Op-ed: Better training, better teachers (By Lawrence Harmon, Boston Globe columnist)

      BOSTON--IN THE battle for accountability, school superintendents in Boston, Washington, and elsewhere are dragging ineffective educators in front of figurative firing squads. But it's hard to see how firing or transferring teachers will save schools unless teacher training — both in-service and in schools of education — improves dramatically. A lot of buzz is building in education circles around the April publication of "Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College,'' by Doug Lemov, a managing director of the New York-based nonprofit Uncommon Schools. Lemov believes exceptional teachers are made, not born. He stresses the tools and skills of the teaching craft — some shockingly simple — that any willing teacher can learn. With the right techniques and content knowledge, teachers can transform low-income urban students into high achievers, said Lemov, the former principal of the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in Boston. And in the current climate, better mechanics could also spare teachers from dismissal or the ignominy of the excess pool. One of the best pieces of advice Lemov ever received as a novice teacher was to stand still when giving directions to a class. Teachers who pass out papers or move around while offering directions dilute the importance of the command, or at least that's how students see it. Sloppy routines rob teachers of precious instruction time. Yet graduate schools of education often focus on theory at the expense of practice. (Boston Globe)


      Principal-Training Portal Aims for Ease of Use

      NATIONAL--As it compiles information on "effective" leader and teacher practices from its third cohort of low-income schools across the nation, the New York City-based New Leaders for New Schools principal-training program is pushing to make the resulting resources more user-friendly. The organization launched a new version of an online portal on Mar. 22 for its Effective Practice Incentive Community , which was launched in schools in early 2008. The portal is designed as a Web-based compendium of professional-development resources for principals, staff-development coaches, and teachers. The portal is a key element in the EPIC initiative, which is funded by the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, along with private funds raised in participating cities. (Education Week – subscription required)


      Schools: Turnarounds and Charter Schools

      Numbers say charter migration a trickle, not flood

      WASHINGTON--The first quarter of the year always brings the same anecdotes. A Ward 6 elementary school principal reported that five children from public charter schools showed up on a recent Monday morning."The charter schools are letting their favorite children go," she said. A parent at a Ward 5 middle school says "a record number of kids have been pushed back on us by charters." The conventional wisdom is that the District's public charter schools, which operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools, shed themselves of undesirable students with impunity as the year goes on. Many of them end up back at their neighborhood public schools, while the money that the children represent -- a District per-pupil funding level that averages about $9,000 -- stays at the charters, forcing DCPS to serve kids they have not budgeted for. But school officials on both the public and public charter sides say there is no data supporting the phenomenon of some vast annual migration. According to DCPS, of the 2,529 mid-year admissions during the 2008-09 school year, just 264 (7 percent) were from public charter schools. The rest were kids who were either new to city, who had dropped out and returned, or who came from private and parochial schools. (Washington Post – registration required)


      Opinion: Charter schools: an antidote to one-size-fits-all education: The nontraditional public schools give poor families the educational choices once reserved to wealthier students. (By Ron Wolk,  the founder and former editor of Education Week and chairman of Big Picture Learning, which has more 70 small public schools in the U.S. and abroad.)

      NATIONAL--Education historian Diane Ravitch is half right. In her March 14 Times Op-Ed article, "The Big Idea — it's bad education policy," Ravitch warns that there is no silver-bullet solution to our education problems. She is correct. Having been an ardent supporter of the standards-based accountability strategy of the last 25 years and a champion of school choice, she has seen the light and become a convert, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Specifically, one big idea Ravitch once supported but now denounces is our national test-driven approach to school improvement, recognizing that it is harmful to schools, to kids and to teachers. Again, she is correct. The other big idea she once championed but now rejects is school choice, saying it is a fad and won't work. She is wrong. The evidence that our overemphasis on testing is not improving schools and is actually having a negative effect is so persuasive that Ravitch doesn't elaborate on it in her column. But she does make a case against evaluating teachers on the basis of their students' test scores. That, of course, is a logical result of our obsession with testing that she has helped fuel for decades. It should be apparent to those who make education policy that students' test scores are influenced by much more than teachers. If we really want better educators, we should change teacher preparation programs to include much more clinical experience. We also should improve teachers' working conditions and share our leadership roles with them as professionals, not union members. … Ravitch criticizes the notion of competition and "free market" forces that are often cited to justify charters. I'm with her on that. There is little evidence that those forces, if they really exist, have made much of a dent on the larger system. But choice is less about competition than it is about providing a diversity of educational opportunities for the most diverse student body in American history. Conventional schools offer the 50-million-plus kids who attend them the same one-size-fits-all education. This is no longer tolerable. (Los Angeles Times – registration required)


      First All-Male Charter Sends Entire Class To College

      CHICAGO--Chicago's only all-male charter school, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men - Englewood Campus, is graduating its first class this year. Every member of the class has been accepted to a four-year university. Guest host Allison Keyes speaks with the school's president and CEO Tim King and graduating senior Tyler Beck about how they did it. (National Public Radio)


      People: Teachers and Leaders

      Stimulus money helped save teachers' jobs

      SEATTLE- Total education jobs are in an unprecedented decline, according to a new analysis by the Center on Reinventing Public Education in Seattle. However, the study demonstrates that Federal stimulus dollars appear to have played a significant role in saving teachers' jobs. In paying for over 342,000 jobs, or 5.5 percent of total teaching jobs nationally, money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) "mitigated what might otherwise have been a much steeper job decline," say researchers at the University of Washington. A year ago it was feared as many as 600,000 teaching jobs could be cut as states that help finance public schools faced glaring budget deficits. Now, thanks in part to the ARRA stimulus dollars, those job losses are estimated at 87,019, less than one-sixth of the number thought to be at risk. Analyzing current teaching jobs data available from 21 states, Marguerite Roza, Chris Lozier, and Cristina Sepe observe that the reduction in teaching jobs across the United States carries worrisome implications. Fewer younger teachers means an aging workforce, increasing imbalances in teacher pension funding plans, and a weakening of the regenerating effects of new, younger people entering the teaching profession. (Center for Reinventing Public Education)

      Read the full report: http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/view/csr_pubs/332

      Tools: Academic Systems and Solutions

      Stagnant National Reading Scores Lag Behind Math

      NATIONAL--The nation's schoolchildren have made little or no progress in reading proficiency in recent years, according to results released Wednesday from the largest nationwide reading test. The scores continue a 17-year trend of sluggish achievement in reading that contrasts with substantial gains in mathematics during roughly the same period. Why math scores have improved so much faster than reading scores is much debated; the federal officials who produce the test say it is intended to identify changes in student achievement over time, not to identify causes. In seeking to explain the lagging reading scores, some experts point to declines in the amount of reading children do for pleasure as they devote more free time to surfing the Internet, texting on cellphones or watching television. Others blame undemanding curriculums. (New York Times – registration required)


      Public Policy: Federal, State and Local

      Education Stimulus Watch: Special Report 3 : The Full Story on Race to the Top

      NATIONAL--Over the last year, no education story has garnered more enthusiastic or sustained positive attention than Race to the Top, the $4.35 billion federal program intended to spur and support groundbreaking state-level reforms. The White House called state responses to the competition "overwhelming." Columnist David Brooks wrote that it was helping to prod a "quiet revolution" in American schooling. The head of one leading education advocacy organization said that it had prompted a "breathtaking" level of state activity, unleashing a "tremendous wave" of reforms. Seeking to build on these accomplishments, the administration recently asked Congress for $1.35 billion for a new Race to the Top grant and based its 2011 budget and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization framework around the program's basic features. The consensus is that Race to the Top has been an unmitigated success. Such roseate assessments, however, fail to account for the numerous and high hurdles standing in the way of the program's ultimate success. Using multiple examples, particularly from the state level, this report chronicles and analyzes these obstacles, including the application's shortcomings, states' ulterior motives, the limited number of states making substantial policy changes, the weakness of many proposals, strenuous political opposition, and major implementation challenges. This report concludes that declarations of the Race to the Top's revolutionary impact are both premature and drastically inflated. Federal officials should reassess their overly optimistic view of the program and its theory of action and modify their strategies for ensuring that it accomplishes its mission. (American Enterprise Institute)


      Report: The Race to Reform

      NATIONAL--The high stakes and short timeline for applying for federal Race to the Top grants have created tremendous pressure on states to develop bold plans for school reform. Before the first round of competition rewards the handful of states expected to win funding, it's worth calling attention to the important victories many states have already seen from this effort. The competition spurred dramatic shifts in political will, leading to changes in laws in California, Illinois, Washington, and Tennessee that until recently seemed to be impenetrable legal barriers to education reform. It provided a ready vehicle for comprehensive reform efforts underway in states like Delaware, Florida, and Tennessee. As the competition heads into a second round, it will provide ongoing opportunities to leverage tougher reforms in states like California, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and Oregon, which did not advance in the first round, and a challenge to states like Washington, one of ten states that didn't apply in round one. This monograph, the first in a series of occasional papers from the Policy Innovators in Education Network, looks at the critical role of leading advocates for education reform in leveraging this opportunity. (PIE Network)


      Student Loan Overhaul Approved by Congress

      WASHINGTON — Ending one of the fiercest lobbying fights in Washington, Congress voted Thursday to force commercial banks out of the federal student loan market, cutting off billions of dollars in profits in a sweeping restructuring of financial-aid programs and redirecting most of the money to new education initiatives. The revamping of student-loan programs was included in — if overshadowed by — the final health care package. The vote was 56 to 43 in the Senate and 220 to 207 in the House, with Republicans unanimously opposed in both chambers. (New York Times – registration required)


      ESEA Renewal Blueprint Faces Legislative Hurdles

      NATIONAL--As policymakers and education advocates await details on how the Obama administration plans to move forward with its recently unveiled blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the chances of an ESEA renewal this year remain tough to gauge. Although the principles underlying the blueprint have drawn praise in many quarters, influential members of Congress have qualms about specific points—and the plan faces outright opposition from both national teachers' unions, which together represent 4.6 million members. "It has a chance of passing, but I don't think it's a probability of passing," said Jack Jennings, the president of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy. "Teachers' unions are expressing pretty grave concerns. Republicans aren't expressing great enthusiasm; they seem to be holding back." Mr. Jennings, for nearly three decades an aide to Democrats on the House education committee, said the administration took a good first step March 13 by unveiling its blueprint to reshape the current version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002. (Education Week – subscription required)



      Nonprofits Add Mentoring to Money to Keep Minorities in College

      NATIONAL--As college admissions season draws to a close, the spotlight has been on students' getting a foot in the door. Less attention is paid to how many of today's high school seniors will emerge a few years down the line with diplomas in hand, and what might cause them to veer off track. It is much tougher to stay the course in college if you are the first in your family to enroll in college, if you have rarely strayed far from home and if your life is still affected by family problems, be it a jobless parent or an addicted sibling. At a national level, one student in two enrolling in college earns a degree within six years. In the Bay Area's most challenged communities, the ratio is far worse. The problem is most acute among young black and Latino men. According to data gathered by the Oakland Unified School District, only 8 percent of black teenagers entering ninth grade will get a bachelor's degree. Only 34 percent of black male students, and 44 percent of Latino male students who entered the combined University of California and California State University system in 2001 had graduated six years later. The rate for white men was 62 percent. (New York Times – registration required)


      Lunch Is a Battlefield

      NATIONAL…In Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Oliver — who did a similar show in the U.K. — goes to Huntington, W.Va. (pop. 49,000), where, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half the adults are obese. He finds a town hooked on processed food, a school cafeteria serving pizza for breakfast and kids who can't identify a tomato on sight. His goals: get the kids to eat right young, and set up a community kitchen to teach healthy cooking from scratch. It's not easy. When Oliver makes students a meal of roast chicken, salad and rice, the kids overwhelmingly choose the school pizza. And his reception from some adults is tougher: Who's this limey know-it-all telling us how to cook our food, run our schools and raise our kids? When he's quoted in the paper as saying locals have an "anemic" understanding of nutrition, it's his "they cling to guns or religion" moment. A local radio host asks, "Who made you the king?" If this sounds like a political fight, well, it is. Michelle Obama may be tilling nonpartisan ground with her vegetable garden and child-obesity program, but food has long been political. From soda taxes to corn subsidies, food is about health care costs, environmentalism, education, agriculture and class. Above all, it's a cultural marker, a means of saying, We are us, not them. In 2008 candidates played the shot-and-a-beer, mooseburgers-vs.-arugula culture-war cards hardest in places like Huntington. (TIME Magazine)


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