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Education News Bulletin, November 27 - December 1

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    Education News Bulletin November 27 - December 1, 2006 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Games Charter Opponents Play: How local school boards-and their
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2006
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      Education News Bulletin
      November 27 - December 1, 2006


      Games Charter Opponents Play: How local school boards-and their
      allies-block the competition

      NATIONAL - Considerable attention has been paid to the most blatant
      barriers that public charter schools face. By lobbying against good
      charter legislation and fair funding (see Figure 1), financing anti-
      charter studies and propaganda, filing lawsuits, and engaging the
      public battle of ideas, teacher unions and other charter opponents
      openly wage what might be called an "air war" against charters. But
      there is also evidence of a perhaps more damaging "ground war."
      Interviews with more than 400 charter school operators from coast to
      coast have revealed widespread localized combat-what one
      administrator called "bureaucratic sand" that is often hurled in the
      faces of charter schools. The goal appears to be to stop charter
      schools any way possible. … Today, more than 1 million students are
      enrolled in public charter schools in the 41 states (and the
      District of Columbia) that have charter laws, with almost 4,000
      charter schools in all. Most, if not all, of these schools have
      encountered some form of bureaucratic resistance at the local level.
      That resistance may take place at the school's inception, when it
      first looks to purchase a building and comply with municipal zoning
      laws. It may come when opponents play games with a school's
      transportation or funding, or when legal barriers are tossed in the
      way, or when false information about charter schools is widely
      disseminated. Despite the obstacles, many charter schools are
      thriving. It's worth taking a look at the forces on the ground that
      would have it otherwise and the myriad ways they attempt to stymie
      the charter school movement. (by Joe Williams for Education Next)


      Rural Chiefs Have Leverage in Fights Over Choice

      NATIONAL - In their quest to bring more private school options to
      parents, school choice advocates say they've run into a formidable
      and unexpected opponent: the rural school superintendent. Private
      school choice-whether it comes in the form of vouchers, tax credits,
      or some other policy option-is becoming less of a Republican-vs.-
      Democrat issue, in which party affiliation tends to determine the
      level of state support for the issue, some experts say. Instead,
      they explain, school choice is increasingly becoming a rural-vs.-
      urban issue, with geography mattering more than political leaning.
      That shift was illustrated during this month's election for state
      schools superintendent in South Carolina, a Republican-dominated
      state where a Democrat has been declared the winner in a neck-and-
      neck race that was, at least in part, a referendum on school choice.
      Republicans in that conservative state continue to reject school
      choice ideas, and sometimes the candidates who support them. Support
      for vouchers and other means of providing public funding for private
      schooling has never broken cleanly along party lines. Proponents of
      parental choice give credit to urban Democrats for helping enact
      voucher programs for Milwaukee and the District of Columbia, for
      example, as well as a corporate-tax-credit program in Pennsylvania.
      Still, the GOP has been far more favorable to such proposals on the
      whole. (Education Week - subscription required)


      Lost Learning, Forgotten Promises: A National Analysis of School
      Racial Segregation, Student Achievement, and "Controlled Choice"

      NATIONAL - The struggle to desegregate America's schools while
      ensuring equal educational opportunities for students of all races
      is one of the greatest social challenges the nation has faced over
      the last half century. While significant progress has been made
      since the Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board
      of Education, thousands of schools around the country are still
      almost completely segregated. In the coming months, the Court will
      once again address the issue when it considers the constitutionality
      of "controlled choice" programs in Louisville and Seattle. These
      efforts, unlike the controversial busing of the 1960s and 1970s, are
      implemented without court intervention and allow parents a variety
      of school choices while still ensuring some degree of racial
      integration. This report considers the educational consequences of
      the considerable racial segregation that remains in schools today
      and the potential of controlled choice to address them. (Center for
      American Progress)



      COMMENTARY: Common Sense in Teacher Hiring - Why states should
      follow California's lead in reforming teacher-transfer rules (by
      California senator Jack Scott and Michelle Rhee of the New Teacher

      CALIFORNIA - A familiar ritual takes place every fall as schools
      across America open their doors to the rush of students. Newspapers
      and television stations produce story after story about the new
      class, the novice principal, the nervous parents. Beyond a few words
      about setting up their classrooms, however, the teachers themselves
      generally receive little notice. For the most part, everyone takes
      it for granted that students will have teachers in place, and that
      those teachers will be the right ones for the job. But is that
      really the case? Until recently, the process by which teachers find
      jobs and move between schools did not command great attention.
      Except for those immediately involved, no one really cared, because
      it didn't seem to matter that much. We now know that it does matter.
      As the New Teacher Project showed in a 2005 study, "Unintended
      Consequences: The Case for Reforming the Staffing Rules of Urban
      Teachers Union Contracts," the complex system of policies and
      procedures governing teacher hiring in the nation's schools can in
      fact threaten their ability to control the most powerful tool they
      have to improve student achievement: the quality of the classroom
      teacher. … This fall, California became the first state to try to
      tackle this issue legislatively. After carefully studying the
      collective bargaining agreements of the state's largest urban school
      systems, we determined that their school staffing rules were similar
      to those described by "Unintended Consequences." Mindful of the
      rules' devastating impact on students, and aware that reform would
      come slowly or not at all if it were pursued one school district at
      a time, we elected for a bolder approach. We would address these
      problems all at once, for all schools in the state. (Education Week -
      subscription required)


      Extra pay urged at poorest schools: Teachers' unions propose

      MASSACHUSETTS - The state's teachers' unions are calling for extra
      pay for teachers in high-poverty schools, marking the first time
      that the unions have banded together behind a new type of teacher
      pay. Leaders of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the state
      chapter of the American Federation of Teachers said yesterday that
      their proposal proves they are willing to embrace change at a time
      when school systems across the nation are experimenting with new
      ways to pay teachers. Union officials say teachers in high-poverty
      schools deserve extra pay because they generally work longer hours
      and serve more challenging students. Officials said they would have
      to work out with lawmakers the amount of the incentive and how many
      of the nearly 600 high-poverty schools would qualify. They said the
      incentives are part of a broader union proposal to close the
      achievement gap between wealthy and disadvantaged students. The
      unions plan to release their proposal publicly today. If
      Massachusetts adopts the proposal, it would join nine states,
      including Florida and California, that offer financial incentives to
      teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools, according to Education
      Commission of the States, a Denver-based organization that
      researches education policy. (Boston Globe)

      ays_localities_curb_ed_reform/ (see also related story from North
      Carolina, "Guilford draws teachers with higher pay" at
      http://www.newsobserver.com/146/story/515762.html, and from
      Portland, Maine, "Portland teachers contract links achievement to
      pay increases" at


      Push for better data quality paying off: States are making progress
      in building longitudinal data systems to support instruction,
      according to a new report--by there is still more work to be done

      NATIONAL - A year-old campaign that seeks to improve the collection
      and use of data to drive school reform appears to be bearing
      results: States around the nation are making progress in building
      longitudinal data systems to support instruction, according to the
      Data Quality Campaign (DQC). On the first anniversary of its launch,
      the Data Quality Campaign has released a report highlighting states'
      successes in building longitudinal data systems. Over the past year,
      the DQC--a national partnership that aims to improve the quality,
      accessibility, and use of data in education--has highlighted the
      power of developing and using data systems that follow individual
      students' progress over time as a key tool to improve student
      achievement, and its work now seems to be paying off. (eSchool News -
      registration required)

      http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStoryts.cfm?ArticleID=6724 (see
      also related brief, "Results of 2006 NCEA Survey of State Data
      Collection Issues Related to Longitudinal Analysis" at



      SACRAMENTO, CA - The California Department of Education (CDE) and
      California County Superintendents Educational Services Association
      (CCSESA) announced today a $15.5 million investment from the Bill &
      Melinda Gates Foundation to increase the number of students who
      graduate ready for college and work by strengthening the state's
      district improvement plan and offering more support to struggling
      districts across the state. Using the guidance of CCSESA and its
      county superintendents, the grant will deploy school improvement
      teams to 15 school districts statewide. These districts will be
      selected to represent a diverse set of communities by geography,
      ethnicity, income, and special needs. This initiative is part of the
      state's plan to set high standards for districts and schools and
      provide strong support to help those that struggle to meet these
      standards. Already more than 160 of the 1,000 school districts in
      California have been marked for "program improvement," having missed
      the federal No Child Left Behind Act's "adequately yearly progress"
      benchmarks for two years in a row. The number is expected to grow by
      another 100 districts next year. This project builds on the state's
      recently launched pilot program. CCSESA will use the best practices
      and lessons learned from this pilot group to eventually train and
      equip each of the 11 regional offices with the expertise, skills,
      and knowledge required to transform low-performing districts.
      (California Department of Education)


      Escaping 'Average': Innovative Programs Make the Case That High-
      Level Classes Aren't Just for the Gifted

      NATIONAL - Throughout the country, the desire to coax average
      students into high-level courses has inspired many innovations.
      Nearly all seek to teach students how to take notes, write papers
      and prepare for exams. They harness what is perhaps the greatest
      force in U.S. schools -- the urge to be a part of a group -- by
      giving the students a sense they are moving onto the college track
      with others who share their doubts and middling academic records.
      The largest effort to prepare average students for high-level
      courses is led by a San Diego-based nonprofit organization called
      AVID, for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It was started
      in 1980 by Mary Catherine Swanson, a high school English teacher who
      was dissatisfied with how average students were treated at her
      suburban San Diego school, particularly those who were minorities.
      (Washington Post - registration required)


      New Home and Issues for Civil Rights Project

      LOS ANGELES - One of the nation's most prominent research efforts
      focused on race and society, the Civil Rights Project, is moving
      from Harvard University to the University of California, Los
      Angeles, the universities said yesterday. The project's director and
      co-founder, Gary Orfield, will join the U.C.L.A. faculty. U.C.L.A.
      hailed the project's move to Los Angeles, with a planned expansion
      of its work on immigration and other issues of concern to
      California's huge Hispanic population, as an academic triumph. The
      loss to Harvard follows a period in which the university has seen
      the attrition of prestigious minority faculty, including Christopher
      Edley Jr., a law professor who co-founded the Civil Rights Project
      in 1996. The project has commissioned some 400 reports and produced
      a dozen books on topics including affirmative action, school
      segregation and the academic achievement gap. The Supreme Court
      cited its work in the 2003 decision upholding affirmative action in
      college admissions. (New York Times - registration required)


      Report: Students struggle with information literacy - Many students
      know how to use technology, but fewer know how to apply it to find
      what they're looking for

      NATIONAL-We often think of today's students as technology-savvy--and
      while that might be true, to a certain extent, when it comes to
      using hardware and software devices, a recently published report
      shows how little know-how students display when it comes to
      information literacy, or the ability to use technology to find the
      information they're looking for. The report, from Princeton, N.J.-
      based ETS, found that the majority of high school and college
      students lack the proper critical thinking skills when it comes to
      researching online and using sources. The report comes from an
      evaluation of the responses of 6,300 students from 63 institutions
      around the country to ETS's new ICT (Information and Communications
      Technology) Literacy Assessment. The tests are meant to measure
      students' abilities to overcome three challenges they typically
      have: The ability to identify trustworthy and useful information;
      The ability to manage overabundant information; and The ability to
      communicate information effectively. (eSchoolNews - registration

      http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStoryts.cfm?ArticleID=6725 (see
      also "2006 ICT Literacy AssessmentPreliminary Findings" at
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