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Education News Bulletin, Dec 18 - Jan 5

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    Education News Bulletin December 18, 2006 - January 5, 2007 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Alternative Charter School Authorizers: Playing a Vital Role in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2007
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      Education News Bulletin
      December 18, 2006 - January 5, 2007


      "Alternative" Charter School Authorizers: Playing a Vital Role in the
      Charter Movement

      NATIONAL - Well into their second decade, charter schools have carved
      out a niche for themselves across the country and many are achieving
      their mission. Yet, in spite of their promising record, many charter
      supporters fear that these reforms may never realize their full
      potential because of the challenges of deciding who gets, keeps, and
      loses the right to run a charter school. The tradition of local
      control over public schools often leads to a messy and undesirable
      authorization process. As a result, states have begun turning
      to "alternative" charter authorizers outside of the traditional realm
      of public school governance. In a new Progressive Policy Institute
      paper, "'Alternative' Charter School Authorizers: Playing a Vital
      Role in the Charter Movement," author Louann Bierlein Palmer assesses
      the quality of alternative charter authorizers including independent
      state-level charter boards, higher education institutions, municipal
      offices and nonprofit groups. By analyzing charter authorizing
      practices in Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho,
      Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South
      Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin, Palmer determines that the best
      authorizers share three traits: They desire their jobs as
      authorizers; they are relatively insulated from politics; and they
      have the ability to create the adequate infrastructure necessary to
      achieve high quality outcomes. Alternative authorizers are
      increasingly seen as a way to add value to the charter school
      movement, and public education as a whole. However, Palmer cautions
      that policymakers should only create new types of authorizers if
      their current system is producing undesirable results. (Progressive
      Policy Institute)


      No Choices Left Behind: Competitive Models to Restructure
      California's Lowest-Performing Schools

      CALIFORNIA - Hundreds of thousands of California students are trapped
      in failing schools. The state has 2,215 schools labeled "needs
      improvement" by federal standards. Of those schools, 355 have been
      chronically failing for at least five straight years. A new Reason
      Foundation report details several reforms that would allow students
      to leave failing schools and force these schools to quickly improve
      or close. The Reason report says school funding should follow each
      child to the school of their parents' choice, forcing schools to
      compete for students - and money. The best schools will thrive and
      low-performing schools will get better or find themselves empty. "We
      allow thousands of schools to continually fail and the students stuck
      in these schools deserve better," said Lisa Snell, director of
      education at Reason Foundation and author of the new study. Snell
      recommends a school funding plan that follows each child and is based
      on the weighted-student formula, which gives schools more money for
      taking students with special needs or limited English proficiency.
      The Reason study also calls for opportunity scholarships that would
      allow low-income students in failing schools to attend private or
      charter schools; increased use of charter schools; and streamlining
      the process parents must navigate in order to get their kids out of
      failing schools. In school districts where large numbers of schools
      are failing, Reason urges the districts to ask private or nonprofit
      organizations to takeover the failing schools. (Reason Foundation)

      http://www.reason.org/ps354.pdf (for more on school choice in
      California, see also "Districts cozy up to charter schools" at


      Online database opens a window for parents to compare schools

      NATIONAL - Want to know how early your son's second-grade teacher has
      to arrive at school each morning? Whether she hands in lesson plans
      each week? Whether she's allowed to spank your son? A website by the
      National Council on Teacher Quality, scheduled to launch today,
      promises to shine a light on teachers' working conditions. It gathers
      the minutiae of union collective-bargaining agreements and state
      policies for the nation's 50 largest school districts into a consumer-
      friendly database that allows anyone to compare districts. Together,
      the 50 districts educate 8 million children - about one in six public
      school children in the USA - and employ nearly half a million
      teachers. The council, a Washington-based research and advocacy
      group, hopes to expand the database by year's end to include the top
      100 districts. Director Kate Walsh says the site will help parents,
      policymakers, journalists and others understand how teacher contracts
      work by giving them access to largely unfiltered information about
      teachers' workdays, salaries, benefits and more. (USA Today)

      website_x.htm (see the "Teacher Rules, Roles and Rights" database at

      Financial Education -- Bonus Pay for Teachers

      NATIONAL - As business executives look to collect bonuses this
      holiday season, public school teachers are starting to join that
      revelry. The Department of Education recently launched the first
      federal program to use bonuses to motivate teachers who raise test
      scores in at-risk communities, and awarded the first $42 million of
      the $94 million Teacher Incentive Fund last month. Some states were
      already handing out merit pay, which remains controversial in school
      systems. Some supporters say if it works in the private sector, why
      not try it among educators. Texas is engaged in a $300 million
      experiment to find out whether big bonuses can produce big gains in
      student achievement. It's one of the largest teacher-incentive plans
      in the country. Twenty-three other states and the District of
      Columbia have embarked on similar initiatives. Florida, for example,
      has launched a program that spends nearly $150 million to give
      bonuses to its top teachers. (ABC News)

      http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2735050&page=1 (for a related
      story, see "University of Florida study: Teacher merit pay boosts
      student standardized test scores" at


      LA Schools Challenge Mayor's Takeover

      LOS ANGELES - A lawsuit seeking to block a new state law that gave
      Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the nation's second-
      largest school district has gone to a judge. The suit by the school
      district and others argues that the law violates the state
      constitution and the city charter. The city and state maintain the
      move, set to take effect Jan. 1, is needed to reform the education
      system. Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs heard three hours of
      testimony Friday and said she expects to issue a ruling next week.
      Villaraigosa predicted the law would be upheld and would "allow us
      all to move past the lawsuit and begin implementing the reforms." The
      new state law would shift some powers of the seven-member school
      board to the mayor, the district superintendent and a new council
      that includes more than two dozen local mayors. It also grants
      Villaraigosa direct control over more than three dozen
      underperforming schools serving as many as 80,000 students.
      (Associated Press via Forbes)

      http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/ap/2006/12/16/ap3260835.html (see
      also more recent stories, "Judge scuttles mayor's school takeover
      plan" at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-ex-
      and "Villaraigosa appeals ruling on control of schools" at

      With Spitzer at Helm, Mayor Will Push for Charter Schools

      NEW YORK - Mayor Bloomberg is planning an aggressive push to lift the
      state cap on the number of charter schools now that Governor Pataki
      is out and Governor Spitzer is in. The mayor's Albany lobbying office
      is in the final stages of hammering out its new agenda, and City Hall
      officials say its top two priorities are already decided: securing
      the maximum amount of education money from Mr. Spitzer and getting
      approval for more charter schools. Although Mr. Pataki favored
      increasing the number of allowable charter schools, the speaker of
      the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, denied him a deal on the issue
      during his final weeks in office. The dynamic between Messrs. Spitzer
      and Silver, both Democrats, could give the issue life again,
      depending on how much weight the new governor puts behind it. As a
      candidate, Mr. Spitzer said he supported upping the statewide limit
      of 100 charter schools, but only two days into his first term it's
      unclear how aggressively he'll take it on. The current proposal would
      increase the statewide cap to 250, with at least 50 of those schools
      in the city. The city has 15,000 charter school students, and another
      13,000 on waiting lists. (New York Sun)


      Fenty Details Proposal To Take Over Schools: Agency Would Oversee
      Construction Funds

      WASHINGTON DC - Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proposed yesterday a dramatic
      restructuring of the D.C. public schools that would give him ultimate
      authority over the troubled system, create an independent agency in
      charge of a $2.3 billion capital construction budget and establish an
      ombudsman to investigate complaints from parents. Flanked by nine
      members of the D.C. Council at a morning news conference, Fenty (D)
      pledged to stake his political future on the performance of the
      58,000-student system if he gained control of it. Within hours, new
      Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb criticized the plan and
      threatened to resign if it is approved. Fenty's 48-page legislative
      proposal, which was prepared over the past two months, describes
      significant changes. The bill would give line-item budget control to
      the council and consolidate responsibility for all charter schools in
      the District -- which are overseen by two organizations -- under a
      sole entity, the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The school
      construction authority would be headed by a chief executive appointed
      by the mayor and would be charged with speeding up the city's school
      modernization effort, which Fenty and others have said is too slow.
      It also would oversee routine maintenance and repairs. The authority
      would carry out a decision by Fenty and the "school chancellor" or
      superintendent to close about 20 underenrolled schools identified in
      School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey's master facilities plan. The
      nine-seat Board of Education, now a mix of elected and appointed
      members, would be rechristened as a "state board of education," Fenty
      said. The board would lose all of its authority in overseeing day-to-
      day operations of schools but would retain its role in devising
      policies on such matters as standardized testing and teacher
      certification. (Washington Post - registration required)

      dyn/content/article/2007/01/04/AR2007010400780.html (for more on the
      plan, see the Parthenon Group's report at
      http://dc.gov/mayor/DCPS_Reform_report.shtm; for more on Washington
      D.C., see also "Gates Grant to Target Low Performers" at

      Funding Gaps 2006

      NATIONAL - School finance policy choices at the federal, state, and
      district levels systematically stack the deck against students who
      need the most support from their schools, according to a report
      released today by the Education Trust. The report, Funding Gaps 2006,
      builds on the Education Trust's annual studies of funding gaps among
      school districts within states. For the first time the report
      includes data and analysis on: How federal Title I funds widen rather
      than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states
      from poor states; and, how funding choices at the school district
      level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher
      concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense
      of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.
      Goodwin Liu, Assistant Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law
      and co-director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race,
      Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley,
      analyzed the distribution of Title I funds and shows that the
      program's state allocation formula reinforces rather than reduces
      funding gaps between wealthy and poor states. In the paper's second
      analysis-an update of the annual Education Trust funding gap
      analysis -co-authors Ross Wiener and Eli Pristoop of the Education
      Trust examine patterns in state and local funding across districts in
      the same state . Wiener and Pristoop find that in about half of the
      states studied, the highest poverty and highest minority districts
      received fewer resources than the lowest poverty and lowest minority
      districts. The final analysis in the report looks at distribution of
      funds within school districts. University of Washington Research
      Assistant Professor Marguerite Roza shows that, despite district
      bookkeeping practices that make funding across schools within the
      same district appear relatively comparable, substantially less money
      is spent in high-poverty and high-minority schools. (Education Trust)


      'Reading First-gate': A Predictable Failure of Public Education's
      Market Transition

      NATIONAL - The abuses revealed in federal investigations of the
      Reading First program are not, as the normally levelheaded U.S. Rep.
      George Miller of California asserts, the product of a
      Republican "culture of corruption." Nor do they spring from a vast
      business conspiracy, as opponents of privatization would have us
      believe; an autocratic bureaucrat ideology, as the Bush
      administration seems inclined to suggest; or an isolated set of
      circumstances, as all reasonable people hope. The scandal is part of
      a pervasive pattern in public education today, and is the predictable
      result of elected officials' well-intentioned but incomplete approach
      to school reform legislation. … Experience in post-Communist nations
      demonstrates that market transitions tend to combine the value that
      monopoly bureaucracies place on efficiency and responsiveness with
      the emphasis on fairness and equity of unrestrained capitalism.
      Government insiders feel safe acting in ways that don't upset the
      status quo of business relationships. Firms profiting from entrenched
      relationships do not need to ask for favorable treatment and can
      hardly be expected to protest when long-standing relationships with
      consultants and government officials work in their favor. Outsiders
      are almost forced to buy their way in, a practice commonly understood
      as "pay to play." While elected officials intended their efforts to
      foster an open market in school improvement services, they failed to
      see how this recent history of Eastern Europe applies to American
      school reform. (by Marc Dean Millot of K-12Network.com for Education
      Week - subscription required)


      Oprah Opens Academy for Poor Girls in South Africa

      HENLEY-ON-KLIP, South Africa (Reuters) - American talk show host
      Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday opened a $40 million school for
      disadvantaged South African girls which she has paid for out of her
      own pocket. The sleekly designed campus, sprawling 52 acres in a
      sleepy community south of Johannesburg, encompasses classrooms and
      laboratories equipped with flat screen computers, a yoga studio,
      beauty salon and well-stocked library. Winfrey said the Oprah Winfrey
      Leadership Academy for Girls was inspired by her own humble
      beginnings, struggling to survive with no electricity or running
      water, and as a former victim of physical and sexual abuse. (Reuters
      via New York Times)


      The Future of Philanthropy

      NATIONAL - Every philanthropic eff ort to promote social benefit
      today takes place in a new ecology-a context deeply different from
      that in which many of today's institutions, assumptions, and habits
      were formed. The pressures of this new ecology, and the need to
      respond to it, will shape both how philanthropy is practiced for the
      next generation and what philanthropy is called upon to do. The first
      section of the guide describes seven major forces [privatization,
      connection, acceleration, multiplication, diversification,
      observation, reflection] and the ways they are combining to create a
      new ecology of social benefit. The second section of the guide looks
      at the patterns emerging in these innovations, and explores numerous
      examples of philanthropists who are experimenting with alternatives
      to the traditional ways of doing things. The new ecology-and the
      experiments in response to it-could evolve in many different ways in
      the years ahead. What happens will depend on how individual choices
      add up over time as they respond to some of the most important
      uncertainties facing donors and the field in general. The third
      section of the guide examines some of these possibilities, first in
      broad strokes that imagine the field overall (either improving or
      declining), then more deeply in a series of short scenarios that look
      back from the year 2025. Each scenario offers a plausible account of
      how a piece of philanthropy's future might unfold in the next
      generation. These stories of the future are clustered around three
      key themes that donors face-the pressure for accountability, the
      demand for effectiveness, and the need for infrastructure. (The
      Monitor Group)

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