Education News Bulletin: 28 June 2010
NewSchools and Our Ventures in the News
School Is Turned Around, but Cost Gives Pause
LOS ANGELES As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation's worst failing schools, and drew national attention for its hallway beatings, bathroom rapes and rooftop parties held by gangs. For every student who graduated, four others dropped out. Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward. Newly planted olive trees in Locke's central plaza have helped transform the school's concrete quadrangle into a place where students congregate and do homework. "It's changed a lot," said Leslie Maya, a senior. "Before, kids were ditching school, you'd see constant fights, the lunches were nasty, the garden looked disgusting. Now there's security, the garden looks prettier, the teachers help us more." Locke High represents both the opportunities and challenges of the Obama administration's $3.5 billion effort, financed largely by the economic stimulus bill, to overhaul thousands of the nation's failing schools. The school has become a mecca for reformers, partly because the Department of Education Web site hails it as an exemplary turnaround effort. But progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations. That is more than twice the $6 million in federal turnaround money that the Department of Education has set as a cap for any single school. Skeptics say the Locke experience may be too costly to replicate. (New York Times registration required)
Good Data for Charters, but Some Urge Caution
CHICAGO--... The six schools that graduated classes this spring through the Renaissance Schools Fund initiative opened in 2006: Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, Englewood Campus; two campuses of Noble Street Charter School, Rauner College Prep and Pritzker College Prep; University of Chicago Charter School, Woodlawn High School Campus; Perspectives Charter School, Calumet High School Campus; and Chicago International Charter School, Ralph Ellison campus. Impressive college admission rates are common at the city's selective-enrollment high schools and at top-performing high schools around the state. But the six charters are open-enrollment schools that accept students through a lottery system. Nearly all the students are members of minorities living in poverty and are often the first in their families to graduate from high school. But getting students into college does not guarantee their showing up in the fall. According to a report in 2008 by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, 9 percent of students accepted to college did not enroll for reasons that included financial trouble and family and work obligations. (New York Times registration required)
L.A. Mayor Backs Charter School Bids, Rips Superintendent: Mayor Villaraigosa says L.A. Unified didn't give charters a fair chance in an earlier bid for control of new and low-performing campuses.
LOS ANGELES--The mayor of Los Angeles sided publicly with local charter schools Thursday in their latest bid to take over new and low-performing campuses, while sharply criticizing the L.A. schools superintendent, his onetime deputy. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke one week before a deadline for applicants to submit bids for nine new campuses and eight low-performing ones in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In the first round of the groundbreaking competition, groups of teachers in February defied early expectations to claim the vast majority of campuses. Charters, which are independently run and exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools, emerged with only four successful bids. Villaraigosa castigated L.A. Unified for giving schools to groups from the very campuses that were up for bid because of poor performance. This time, he said, an organization's track record should be paramount. At the mayor's side Thursday were representatives from charter groups knocked out in the earlier round: one from ICEF Public Schools and three with ties to Green Dot Public Schools. Shane Martin, dean of the Loyola Marymount University School of Education, chairs the Green Dot board; Ben Austin heads a charter-allied parents organization spun off from Green Dot; and Steve Barr started Green Dot and headed it for years. (Education Week subscription required)
Report finds KIPP students outscore public school peers
NATIONAL--Middle school students in the Knowledge Is Power Program, a charter school network with a major footprint in the District and other cities, significantly outperform their public school peers on reading and math tests, according to a new study. But the report, from Mathematica Policy Research, to be made public Tuesday, is unlikely to resolve debate over what is behind the network's success. Skeptics say that the program benefits from highly motivated parents seeking alternatives to ineffective public schools and that KIPP often winnows out students who don't fit its program. The study, which KIPP commissioned, comes as the Obama administration is promoting the spread of strong charter schools as a strategy to improve urban education. Richard Barth, chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, called the study "powerful affirmation" of the program's approach. "It is really reassuring to us and our parents and teachers that the hard work pays off," said Susan Schaeffler, executive director of KIPP schools in the District. "But there's nothing in here that would surprise my teachers. They are on the front lines doing the hard work every day." In subsequent studies, researchers plan to examine 50 KIPP schools and drill further into the question of parental influence on achievement. Future studies also will compare students who won KIPP admission by random lottery with those who sought admission but did not win. (Washington Post registration required)
Read a summary of the report here: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/Newsroom/Releases/2010/KIPP_6_10.asp
Download the report: Student Characteristics and Achievement in 22 KIPP Middle Schools here: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/KIPP_fnlrpt.pdf
Money problems mounted for school backed by Emanuel
CHICAGO--Before the lunch break, prosecutors turned the questioning to yet another alleged shakedown by Blagojevich -- this one involving then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel and an experimental school on the Northwest Side operated by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. Emanuel, now the White House chief of staff, had long been a close political ally of Blagojevich and even was elected to succeed Blagojevich in Congress when he became governor. The academy facility at 3400 N. Austin Blvd. was in Emanuel's district, which of course was Blagojevich's old district too. The academy, which trains future teachers and focuses on developing programs to fix failing schools, operated out of a 250,000-square-foot building but had no athletic field for the elementary and high school students who also went to school there. Dr. Donald Feinstein, the academy head, said plans were developed to transform a parking lot into an athletic field at a cost of $2 million. The school turned to Emanuel for help, and he secured the promise of a state grant for that amount from his friend Blagojevich. The grant was announced with great fanfare at a news conference in front of the school facility at the beginning of the 2005 school year. . But even though the parking lot was carved up, the money to pay for the work didn't arrive and, in Feinstein's words, "bills began piling up." (Chicago Tribune registration required)
Schools: Turnarounds and Charter Schools
100 Percent of School's First Class College-Bound
CHICAGO--For each boy, the new school offered an escape and a chance at a life that seemed beyond reach. Urban Prep would be a charter high school. It would bring together some 150 boys from some of the poorest, gang-ravaged neighborhoods and try to set them on a new track. They'd have strict rules: A longer school day by two hours. Two classes of English daily. A uniform with jackets and ties. And Urban Prep had a goal one that seemed audacious, given that just 4 percent of the Class of 2010 was reading at or above grade level when they arrived at the school in 2006. In four years, they were told, they'd be heading to college. (Education Week subscription required)
Report: 2010 Landscape
NATIONAL--The 2010 Charter School Facility Finance Landscape is an updated mapping survey of private nonprofit and public financing programs for charter school facilities across the nation, including for the first time, information on charter school access to the tax-exempt bond market. The 2010 Landscape includes descriptions of private philanthropies and nonprofit organizations active in the sector and detailed data on all rated charter school bond issuances through 2009. Performance data is provided for both loans and tax-exempt bond issues. Public initiatives are also detailed, including federal programs supportive of charter school facilities and state policies in all 40 jurisdictions with a charter law. The 2010 Landscape will serve as a roadmap for individual charter schools as they strive to finance their buildings and as a policy guide for those interested in helping to rationalize the sector and develop more equitable funding for charter school facilities. The report includes all available website and statutory references, with active links in the electronic version. Also available here in spreadsheet form is data from particular sections of the report, including data in the appendices and certain tables in the "Federal Initiative" section of the report. (Local Initiatives Support Corporation)
People: Teachers and Leaders
Bonus Plan Set For Teachers
NEW YORK--New York City plans to pay some teachers bonuses of up to 30% of their salaries for helping students in struggling schools make progress, an extraordinary test of merit pay in about a dozen schools. The pilot program, which the city's Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers agreed to, will be implemented in September if the city receives up to $300 million in school-improvement grants it expects from the federal government. Michael Mulgrew, president of the UFT said he would not call the extra money "bonuses." Instead, he said, it is a way for successful teachers to earn more money by taking on additional responsibilities. Teachers would be "receiving extraordinary increases in compensation based on performance," said John White, a deputy schools chancellor. In addition, said Mr. White, the plan includes an effort to overhaul the city's teacher-evaluation system to include student progress. The Obama administration doled out school-improvement grants to states, which then passed along the monies to school districts with chronically failing schools. Districts apply by agreeing to take major steps to turn around those schools.
In New York City, the DOE is creating two teacher classificationsthe turnaround teacher and the master teacher. Both types have to have proven track records in moving students forward, either by test scores or other measures. The master teacher can earn a bonus of 30%, while the turnaround teacher can earn a bonus of 15%.(Wall Street Journal subscription required)
Quality, not seniority, of teachers should be considered: Of 482 teachers being let go from MPS this year, most lack same thing: seniority
MILWAUKEE Milwaukee is well on its way this summer to a vivid lesson in seniority in action. Milwaukee Public Schools administrators have given layoff notices to 482 teachers, as well as 816 other employees. The 482 have something in common: the least seniority. It's nothing personal, folks. In fact, it has nothing to do with your performance as teachers, be it good, bad, or in the middle. Most likely, your problem is you're young. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Principal's Office
NEW YORK--WHEN Pedro Santana arrived as principal of Middle School 391 in the South Bronx four years ago, it was, as he likes to put it, "a hot mess." Fights were frequent, windows were slathered over with paint. Only 11 percent of seventh graders had passed their most recent state math tests. Had Mr. Santana fled, teachers and parents would not have been surprised. Instead, he went shopping. He returned with delicate curtains, a white couch, silver lamps and a slate water fountain, transforming his office into something that looks like a hotel lobby in Miami Beach. Mr. Santana is still around, but the school is not the same. Last year, 59 percent of its seventh graders passed the state math test below the 81 percent who passed citywide, but enough of an improvement to help the school earn an A on its report card. Suspensions have plummeted and attendance has improved, though problems persist: Ninety-five of the school's 253 eighth graders did not graduate this month (summer school may save many). (New York Times registration required)
Tools: Academic Systems and Solutions
Commentary: What's the Real Route to Closing Achievement Gaps? (By Anthony Palumbo and Louisa Kramer-Vida , assistant professors of education at Long Island University, in Brookville, N.Y.)
NATIONAL--Two recent essays in Education Week highlighted different views of American education. One was about the legacy of Los Angeles math teacher Jaime Escalante; the other was about finding a student's "price point," the optimal condition at which learning would take place. These juxtaposed perspectives left us with two contradictory thoughts: (1) that we know how to solve the problem of achievement gaps, and (2) that if the solution does not fit our ideology, the answer must be wrong. In "Finding the Student's `Price Point,' " Harvard University's Paul E. Peterson writes that "the dream of progressive educators since John Dewey" is about to be realized. Technology allows us to provide an education customized by "price points," he says, to fit the needs and circumstances of students, the same way that designers and customers select "kitchen cabinets, faucets, sinks, and bathroom tile." Since each student learns differently, computers can design individual programs tailored for every need. Peterson notes, for example, that New York City's "School of One," which does just that, was named one of Time magazine's "top 50 inventions of the year" in 2009. Unfortunately, experience tells us that solutions emanating from this romantic perspective probably won't work. Some charter schools will succeed, and some will fail, as will some public schools. But systemic education reform will continue to elude us. By now, large foundations have learned that there is no dearth of people who will spend their money. Before they write more checks, they should study the history of other foundations that turned to education before them. Some of their investments worked, some did not. (Education Week subscription required)
GED Offers `Minimal Value'
NATIONAL--Is the GED worthless? That's a question at the heart of research from Nobel laureate Prof. James J. Heckman, and his University of Chicago co-authors Nicholas S. Mader and John Eric Humphries, in their working paper "The GED" The GED "is America's largest high school," says Mader, one of the co-authors. "But there's substantial danger there." The GED, shorthand for the General Equivalency Diploma, or General Education Diploma, is an eight-hour exam administered to high school dropouts to establish equivalence between dropouts who pass the exam and traditional high school graduates. In 2008, 12% of all high school credentials issued were GEDs, about 500,000 students a year. The problem is, however, the GED is of "minimal value" in terms of labor market outcomes, the authors say, and only a handful of GED recipients use it to advance in school or the workplace. The authors cite a study that found that only 31% of GED recipients enrolled in a postsecondary institution and that 77% of those who did only stayed for a single semester. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
Report: Common Education Standards: Tackling the Long-Term Questions
NATIONAL--The "common core" state standards for grades K-12 have been released. Some states have already adopted them. Others are considering this step. Much will need to happen if these standards and related assessments are to get traction in American education over the next few years. But we at the Fordham Institute are looking even further ahead: we're considering the issues that will determine the long-term viability of this endeavor. Simply stated: in 2020, who will be in charge of the common standards-and-testing effort? How will this work? Who will pay for it?
To spur discussion and smart thinking about these crucial issues, we commissioned a set of background papers from authoritative observers and analysts.
The Oversight of State Standards and Assessment Programs: Perspectives from a Former State Assessment Director
Pasquale J. DeVito, Ph.D. Director, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAS), Measured Progress
Networked Governance in Three Policy Areas with Implications for the Common Core State Standards Initiative
Paul Manna, Associate Professor, Department of Government, Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, College of William and Mary
E Pluribus Unum in Education? Governance Models for National Standards and Assessments: Looking Beyond the World of K-12 Schooling
Patrick McGuinn, Associate Professor, Departments of Political Science and Education, Drew University
What Can the Common Core State Standards Initiative Learn from the National Assessment Governing Board?
Mark Musick, James H. Quillen Chair of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Clemmer College of Education, East Tennessee State University, Former President, Southern Regional Education Board, Former Chairman, National Assessment Governing Board
How will the Common Core Initiative Impact the Testing Industry?
Thomas Toch, Executive Director, Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington; and Founder, Education Sector
Public Policy: Federal, State and Local
Back to School for Newark's Booker
NEWARK, N.J.Mayor Cory Booker travels the country talking about education reform and his wish to transform this city's few high-performing schools from "islands of excellence into hemispheres of hope."
Some of his biggest fans wish he'd spend more time at home trying to fix Newark schools. Mr. Booker, 41, is up for re-election Tuesday, and right after his widely expected win, "some of us are prepared to call the mayor to task and call on him to become more vocal and more hands on" in the public schools, said Rev. Reginald Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council, which represents about 600 churches in New Jersey. "He ought to become the visionary that he talks about," added Rev. Jackson. "Mayor Booker clearly hasn't made education reform a top priority in his first term," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group. "But we're confident that it will be a cornerstone of his next." (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
Report: PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle
NATIONAL--At present, several major national reform efforts are underwayincluding Race to the Top, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Actthat grapple with how best to reform K-12 education. There is also a growing movement around the country to strengthen the PreK-3rd Grade continuum as the essential foundation for lifelong learning (Guernsey & Mead, 2010). In all of these policy discussions, Kindergarten is at the margins. This brief presents both rationales and recommendations for moving FDK from the margins to the middle of the education reform debate. The prominent expansion of state-funded PreKindergarten programs over the past two decades represents one major shift in how the American education system is conceptualized. Making full-day/full-week the new standard for Kindergarten should be another shift, ensuring that the Kindergarten schedule is similar to that of First Grade and beyond. Further, with increasing numbers of children attending Full-Day PreK, the shift to FDK will also ensure both continuity and a consistent schedule for children and their families. Increasing evidence shows the efficacy of FDK in boosting children's cognitive learning and academic achievement. (Foundation for Children's Development)
The Political Assault on Art Education (By Michelle Marder Kamhi is co-editor of Aristos, an online review of the arts)
NATIONAL--A few years ago a "contemporary artist" named Judi Werthein made headlines when she distributed specially designed and equipped sneakers to Mexicans waiting to cross the U. S. border. She called her piece "Brinco," from the Spanish word for "jump." Sneakers are also apt here. Ms. Werthein's shoesequipped with a compass, map, flashlight, and medicationwere intended to assist people engaging in illegal immigration. Dipti Desai, who directs the art education program at New York University's Steinhardt School, thinks that "Brinco" should be studied in America's art classrooms. Ms. Desai is part of a growing movement of art education professors and others who think that the primary aim of art education should be to achieve what they view as "social justice." Their influence is evident in the NAEA, which adopted "Art Education and Social Justice" as this year's convention theme. To drive the message home, the logo employed for the meeting was the raised-fist symbol commonly associated with radical political activismin this instance, clenching a pair of paint brushes. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)