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Education News Bulletin, October 24-28

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    Education News Bulletin October 24 - 28, 2005 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Radical Reformer: Dennis Littky drew on his 30 years of education innovation to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2005
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      Education News Bulletin
      October 24 - 28, 2005


      Radical Reformer: Dennis Littky drew on his 30 years of education
      innovation to create a new school model. Now he won't be satisfied
      until he replicates it throughout the country

      NATIONAL - Dennis Littky may be America's most important educator.
      After three decades of leading major school innovation in New York,
      New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Littky, along with co-founder and co-
      director Elliot Washor, seems to have found the holy grail of school
      reform in Providence, R.I. Not only have they created a radical
      school design--Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, a
      network of six small schools across three campuses that personalizes
      each student's education and prepares all 700 students for
      collegiate and professional success--that has enough success to
      prove that it works, but they are successfully "scaling up" this
      model in communities across the United States. As of last school
      year, there were 26 MET schools in operation and Thayer High School
      in New Hampshire was the first school in the Coalition of Essential
      Schools while Littky was its principal. Fast Company magazine
      recently named Littky its No. 4 Entrepreneur of the Year and the
      Gates Foundation has provided a nearly $10 million grant to help
      create 38 small, urban high schools in the next five years based on
      the Big Picture principles and pedagogy. Business leaders embrace
      Littky's educational vision without requiring him to pander to their
      notions of schooling. Editor-At-Large Gary Stager spoke with Littky
      recently, covering his philosophy, his future plans, how he operates
      in this day of NCLB and liability concerns, and whether his schools
      offer extra-curricular activities. Here are excerpts from that
      conversation. (District Administration magazine)


      All Choices Created Equal? How Good Parents Select "Failing" Schools

      NATIONAL - Recent reports suggest that the vast majority (up to 97%)
      of parents with children in "failing" schools choose to leave their
      children in those schools, even when it is their legal right to do
      otherwise. These reports -- and the puzzling behavior they describe -
      - draw attention to researchers' limited ability to explain parents'
      actions. This study addresses this limitation by investigating
      the "black box" of choice -- the processes parents use to choose.
      Based on interviews with 48 urban parents during the eight months
      preceding the selection of a middle or high school, the study finds
      that differences in the choice process did not explain why parents
      chose failing schools. Instead, differences in choice sets explain,
      in part, why parents choose the schools they do. Using social
      networks, customary attendance patterns, and their understanding of
      their child's academic achievement, parents constructed choice sets
      that varied systematically by social-class background. The
      differences between parents' choice sets were statistically
      significant and provide insight into why it makes sense that well-
      intentioned parents choose failing schools. The study's findings
      elaborate our understanding of the choice process and, in so doing,
      raise concerns about the ability of current choice policies to
      deliver the equity outcomes reformers suggest. (National Center for
      the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College,
      Columbia University)



      U.S. Education Department Gives States Reprieve in Meeting 'Highly
      Qualified' Teacher Requirement

      NATIONAL - States have been promised a one-year reprieve on
      equipping every core-subject classroom with a teacher who meets the
      federal standard of "highly qualified," but only if the states are
      trying hard enough. In an Oct. 21 letter to chief state school
      officers, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said that
      federal officials would not necessarily yank funds from states
      that "do not quite reach the 100 percent goal" for highly qualified
      teachers by the end of the current school year-the goal set by the
      No Child Left Behind Act. Rather, she wrote, federal education
      officials will apply a series of tests to decide whether states have
      made enough progress to get the reprieve. The goal has been one of
      the most controversial sections of the nearly 4-year-old law, in
      part, because of the hurdles local officials face in finding enough
      highly qualified teachers for certain classrooms-in rural areas and
      for special education students at the secondary level, for instance-
      and partly because the federal standard focuses on subject-matter
      knowledge. (Education Week - registration required)

      reprieve_web.h25.html (see also "Leeway for teacher quality
      deadline" at
      http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/10/27/teacher.quality.ap/ and
      Spellings' letter at


      Parents' Involvement Not Key to Student Progress, Study Finds

      CALIFORNIA - A new study examining why similar California schools
      vary widely in student achievement produced some surprising results:
      Involved parents and well-behaved youngsters do not appear to have a
      major effect on how well elementary students perform on standardized
      tests. But four other factors seemed to count a lot more, at least
      when combined in schools, according to EdSource, an independent
      group that studies state education issues. The study of lower-income
      schools found that the strongest elements in high-performing schools
      are linking lessons closely to state academic standards, ensuring
      there are enough textbooks and other teaching materials, carefully
      and regularly analyzing student performance and putting a high
      priority on student achievement. The study's authors say that these
      criteria show that poverty and other challenges need not keep
      students from doing well. "Similar Students, Different Results," to
      be released today, was headed by EdSource executive director Trish
      Williams and Stanford professor Michael Kirst. The study focused on
      257 public schools with substantial numbers of low-income, minority
      students. Typically, 40% of them were still learning English. Yet
      these schools' scores on the California Academic Performance Index
      varied by up to 250 points on a scale of 200 to 1000. (Los Angeles
      Times - registration required)

      schools26oct26,1,5034993.story?coll=la-news-learning (see also the
      study from EdSource, "Similar Students, Different Results: Why Do
      Some Schools Do Better?," at

      'Value Added' Models for Gauging Gains Called Promising

      NATIONAL - "Value added" models that track the test-score gains of
      individual students over time hold great promise but should not yet
      be used as the main basis for rewarding or punishing teachers,
      according to two reports released this month. The reports, by a
      study group of the National Association of State Boards of Education
      and by Henry I. Braun, a researcher at the Educational Testing
      Service, describe such models as a welcome antidote to judging
      teachers and schools based solely on whether their students have
      exceeded some absolute level of performance. Value-added
      models "move the discussion about teacher quality to where it
      belongs: centered on increasing student learning as the primary goal
      of teaching," writes Mr. Braun in "Using Student Progress to
      Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models." But he cautions
      that practical and technical problems remain. In particular, while
      studies suggest a relationship between teacher quality and gains in
      student learning, that suggestion is far from proving that an
      individual teacher has caused a student to make progress or not. …
      While value-added models might play some role in teacher evaluation,
      agrees NASBE's study group on value-added assessment, they should be
      used with caution. "We believe that educators should recognize that
      value-added assessment is a 'tool,' " says the report from the
      Alexandria, Va.-based organization, "but it is not 'total'-and
      indeed that the data can only with certainty identify about the top
      10 percent and bottom 10 percent of teachers." (by Lynn Olson for
      Education Week - registration required)

      http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/10/26/09value.h25.html (see
      also the two studies referenced, "Using Student ProgressTo Evaluate
      Teachers:A Primer on Value-Added Model" from ETS at
      http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICVAM.pdf and "EVALUATING
      VALUE-ADDED: Findings and Recommendations from the NASBE Study Group
      on Value-Added Assessments" from the National Association of State
      Boards of Education at http://www.nasbe.org/recent_pubs/Value%


      As 'No Child' Answer, Tutoring Generates Complex Questions

      NATIONAL - It sounded simple enough: Help low-income students
      perform better in public schools deemed in need of improvement by
      giving them tutors. And let the federal government pick up the tab.
      But what appeared to be an easy way to address a component of
      President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act has become anything but.
      The federal government, state education departments, local school
      systems and many of the 1,700 or so private education companies
      offering tutoring are battling over complex rules. Just who can
      tutor what, to whom -- and where? "Nobody really knows how effective
      the providers are in a highly valid way with regard to helping
      kids," said Steven M. Ross, director of the Center for Research in
      Educational Policy at the University of Memphis. He is helping
      several states devise statewide assessment tools. The number of
      students receiving tutoring under supplemental services is expected
      to exceed last year's estimated 300,000, and accountability has
      emerged as the key issue. (Washington Post - registration required)



      More schools with low-income kids hit state goals this year

      CALIFORNIA - A higher percentage of California schools with
      ethnically mixed and low-income student bodies met their state-
      required academic goals this year, suggesting that the kids have
      gotten brainier, the state Education Department said Thursday. Sixty-
      eight percent of all schools met their goals on the state's Academic
      Performance Index this year, compared with 48 percent last year. But
      it's all a bit of a math puzzle because the overall number of
      schools included in the calculation dropped 11 percent -- from 7,077
      to 6,299 -- thanks to data glitches, the department reported. That
      means officials aren't sure exactly what the overall improvement
      was, if any. The numbers they do have are encouraging, however. For
      example, 95 percent of schools with large numbers of Asian American
      students met their goals this year, compared with 89 percent last
      year. For schools with large numbers of African American children,
      68 percent met their goals this year, compared with 57 percent last
      year. (San Francisco Chronicle)

      f=/c/a/2005/10/28/BAGOFFFDOG1.DTL (see also press release from the
      State Department of Education, "STATE SUPERINTENDENT O'CONNELL
      TARGETS" at http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr05/yr05rel131.asp)

      The New Urban Legend: A handful of inner-city districts are paving
      the way for reform

      NATIONAL - It didn't happen on purpose, but urban schools have
      become education's great laboratory. Thanks to an unprecedented
      interest in public education and the unique position held by urban
      schools, the reform efforts in some of the largest and most
      challenging districts in the country may become the options for
      public education in districts of any type. In the last few years,
      the amount invested by large foundations in K-12 public education
      has nearly doubled--from $620 million in 1998 to $1.23 billion in
      2003, the latest year for which data is available. The Bill and
      Melinda Gates Foundation alone has given $1.18 billion to K-12
      education in the last five years. The Milken Family Foundation has
      spent more than $100 million on programs to attract and reward new
      teachers. The Wallace Foundation committed $150 million over five
      years to improve school leadership. The list goes on and on. For the
      first time, the amount given to elementary and secondary schools by
      foundations is higher than that provided to universities and
      colleges. These large grants are primarily for structural change in
      the way schools are run and how they teach students, and urban
      districts have garnered the majority of that support. Urban
      districts attract philanthropic attention because many are in need
      of reform--they are more likely to have poor test scores and low
      graduation rates--and they tend to have more students from immigrant
      and/or low-income households. Foundations also appreciate the
      ability to leverage their resources on a bigger stage. (District
      Administration magazine)

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