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Education News Bulletin, Feb 12-16

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    Education News Bulletin February 12-16, 2007 CHARTERS, CHOICE AND NEW SCHOOLS Commentary - Experimenting With School Choice: A Tale Of Two California Districts
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 21, 2007
      Education News Bulletin
      February 12-16, 2007


      Commentary - Experimenting With School Choice: A Tale Of Two
      California Districts (by Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia of the Reason

      CALIFORNIA - Policymakers, unlike scientists, don't have the luxury
      of conducting controlled experiments to test competing solutions to
      social problems. But when it comes to reforming failing public
      schools, something close to that is occurring in two California
      school districts: Oakland and Compton. The districts, comparable in
      many respects, are opting for completely different approaches to
      fixing their schools. And so far, Oakland's policy of giving parents
      more choice is showing far more success than Compton's strategy of
      micromanaging classrooms. In short, the two districts have similar
      student bodies, similar challenges, and-until now-a similar history
      of failure. But Oakland is beginning to break away from this
      history, and the reason is the weighted-student-formula program it
      embraced some years ago and fully implemented last year. Under this
      program, kids are not required to attend their neighborhood school,
      especially if it is failing. Rather, they can pick any regular
      public or charter school in their district and take their education
      dollars with them; more students therefore means more revenues for
      schools. Furthermore, as the name suggests, the revenues
      are "weighted" based on the difficulty of educating each student,
      with low-income and special-needs kids commanding more money than
      smart, well-to-do ones. Schools have to compete for funding, but the
      upside is that they have total control over it. (Education Week -
      subscription required)



      Teaching Policy to Improve Student Learning: Lessons From Abroad (by
      Lynn Olson of Education Week for the Aspen Institute)

      NATIONAL - A critical issue for any country that hopes to keep its
      education system internationally competitive is how to recruit,
      retain, develop, and nurture a high-quality teaching force. A
      traditional strategy is to control who enters the profession-through
      rigorous selection and training and challenging licensing tests. But
      an increasing number of countries are looking further. They are
      focusing on who's attracted to teaching, how to support and develop
      them as long as they are there, and how to provide opportunities and
      rewards that encourage the best teachers to stay in the profession.
      This thinking represents a fundamental shift in how American
      society, in particular, thinks about teaching. Traditionally,
      teaching in the United States has reflected a factory model. Novices
      have been expected to fill the same roles as 20-year veterans;
      teachers have been viewed as largely interchangeable; and salary has
      been based on years of education and experience rather than on
      differentiated roles and responsibilities or superior performance.
      That model no longer fits a rapidly changing, knowledge-based
      society. When all students must be prepared to think for a living,
      teachers also must become lifelong learners. As part of this, their
      careers should progress in stages-from novice, to experienced, to
      expert. Each phase should have different expectations, roles,
      responsibilities, and compensation, particularly for those who prove
      themselves particularly adept at promoting student learning.
      Moreover, personal attributes are not the only determinants of good
      teaching. The quality of teaching also depends on the conditions
      under which teachers work. The challenge, then, is not only to
      nurture good teachers but also to develop good schools in which
      teachers can be effective. This requires new ways of working
      together by teachers, school authorities, unions, and professional
      associations. (The Aspen Institute)


      Bush seeks teacher merit-pay funds

      WASHINGTON DC - President Bush wants more money in the 2008 budget
      for a fund that encourages performance-based pay systems for
      teachers -- a request that will no doubt feed into the larger debate
      on Capitol Hill about how best to attract, create and retain
      effective teachers. The administration is asking for $199 million
      for its Teacher Incentive Fund, which was created in 2006. The fund
      provides financial incentives for teachers and principals who
      improve student achievement in high-poverty schools and helps to
      recruit top teachers to these schools. Rewards are left up to the
      states to decide and can include bonuses or raises. The fund
      received $99 million in 2006. In November, the administration
      awarded the first 16 grants -- totaling a little more than $40
      million -- to school districts across the country, including
      Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; and Philadelphia.
      (Washington Times)



      Did Help Get Left Behind? Congress reconsiders a landmark school

      NATIONAL - The throw-up reports started not long after the law was
      passed: children getting sick before the test, during the test, even
      right onto the test. It was just one exceptional response to the
      passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Behind the scenes,
      teachers, administrators, and state officials often fared worse,
      working late nights and weekends to create and grade the multiple
      tests the landmark law required. Five years later, educators and
      lawmakers are asking whether the stomachaches caused by the
      legislation have been worth it. Over the next several weeks,
      congressional committees will hold hearings on the law as they try
      to decide before it expires whether to reauthorize the act as is,
      change it, or throw it out. In some ways, the decision looks easy.
      Both leading Democrats and President George Bush say they are
      committed to keeping the law-one of only a few big domestic
      initiatives produced in the past five years. Further, the two sides
      appear unanimous on what aspects of the law need to be changed - a
      consensus that will inform a blueprint for reform scheduled for
      release this week by the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Commission.
      But talk to the nine school districts that have filed a lawsuit
      challenging the act as an unfunded mandate or to the many newly
      elected U.S. representatives who campaigned against the law, and you
      will hear a different story. Every child may have been tested, the
      critics say, but the real question is: Has every child been helped?
      (US News & World Report)


      'No Child' Commission Presents Ambitious Plan

      NATIONAL - A commission proposed a wide-reaching expansion of the No
      Child Left Behind law yesterday that would for the first time
      require schools to ensure that all seniors are proficient in reading
      and math and hold schools accountable for raising test scores in
      science by 2014. The 230-page bipartisan report, perhaps the most
      detailed blueprint sent to Congress thus far as it considers renewal
      of the federal education law, also proposes sanctions for teachers
      with poorly performing students and the creation of new national
      standards and tests. The recommendations from the Commission on No
      Child Left Behind underscore that the emerging debate over the law
      is not over whether it will continue, but rather over how much it
      will be expanded and modified. Even the panel's leaders acknowledged
      that their proposal is more sweeping than many politicians had
      expected or wanted. … The 15-member commission, sponsored by the
      nonpartisan Aspen Institute, with support from the Bill & Melinda
      Gates Foundation and other sources, recommended a number of new
      testing requirements that would take effect sooner than elected
      officials had proposed. The group also suggested creating national
      standards and tests that states would be encouraged to adopt. If
      they did not, the Education Department would publicize where state
      standards fall short. (Washington Post - registration required)

      dyn/content/article/2007/02/13/AR2007021301162.html (see also the
      Commission's report, "Beyond NCLB: Fulfilling the Promise to Our
      Nation's Children," at

      Schools strive for 'no parent left behind': Public schools facing
      pressure to perform are working to help parents be more engaged in
      their children's educations

      NATIONAL - With schools increasingly held accountable for the
      performance of every student, the demand to partner with parents has
      intensified. School plays and fundraisers supported by moms, dads,
      and grandparents are still staples of American public schools. But
      in the spirit of "it takes a village," families now might find such
      activities paired with a workshop on test-prep or a briefing on how
      to read state accountability reports. When "no child left behind"
      became the mantra of federal education officials five years ago, it
      was touted as a way to empower parents to ensure their children
      received a good education. If schools are chronically failing
      academically, children can receive tutoring or transfer. But there
      have been barriers to parents taking advantage of those offers. In
      2003-04, only 1 percent of eligible students chose to transfer, and
      only 19 percent participated in supplemental services such as
      tutoring, according to a recent report by Appleseed, a nonprofit
      organization in Washington. Such escape valves give parents
      leverage, but it's perhaps more important for family members to be
      brought in as allies as local schools plan improvement, experts say.
      (Christian Science Monitor)



      Starting Off Right: From Transition to Implementation

      WASHINGTON DC - The Ready Schools Project (RSP) is a major
      initiative of DC VOICE. Now in its third year, RSP brings together
      community members, public school leaders, and other partners to
      improve our public schools through collaborative research and
      action. Since 2004, RSP volunteers have collected data on actual
      conditions for teaching and learning by interviewing school
      principals from a representative sample of DC public schools at the
      beginning of the fall term. Each year DC VOICE has published the
      findings to ensure that change efforts are grounded in facts, rather
      than assumptions. This year DC VOICE examined the 2006 findings in
      relation to results from 2004 and 2005. This approach allowed for
      review of progress made over time and identification of areas where
      improvement is still needed. "Starting Off Right: From Transition to
      Implementation" summarizes findings based on three years of data
      collection for each of four conditions that support quality teaching
      and learning, and concludes with specific recommendations for
      continued improvement. Through this report we hope to shine a
      spotlight on conditions in local schools and bring a stronger sense
      of urgency for reform. (DC VOICE)


      Reducing class size sparking infighting

      SACRAMENTO - A plan to spend a $2.9 billion lawsuit settlement on
      500 low-performing schools over the next seven years, mainly to
      reduce class sizes, is creating controversy. California Teachers
      Association President Barbara Kerr and Superintendent of Public
      Instruction Jack O'Connell held a news conference yesterday to urge
      eligible schools to apply for the new funds by March 30. But the
      powerful union's successful push to spend the settlement on programs
      that it has long favored is drawing criticism from some educators,
      who wanted more flexibility in spending the money. … The 500 schools
      receiving funding will be selected from 1,455 eligible schools with
      scores in the lower fifth on state tests. At least one qualified
      school in each county will be selected. Schools chosen for the
      program will receive an additional $500 per pupil for kindergarten
      through third grade, $900 per pupil for fourth through eighth grade,
      and $1,000 per pupil for ninth through 12th grade. Schools selected
      for the new program must meet certain goals for class size,
      counselors, teacher training and improved student test scores.
      An "intervention team" will assist schools if they fall behind.
      Schools that get the money will have to have average class sizes of
      no more than 20 students per teacher in kindergarten through third
      grade and no more than 25 to 27 per teacher through 12th grade. (San
      Diego Union Tribune)

      1n13schools.html (see also "How Will O'Connell Close the Achievement
      Gap?" at http://www.pacificresearch.org/pub/cap/2007/cap_07-02-

      Economists Tout Value of Reducing Dropouts

      NATIONAL - The nation would reap more than twice the cost of wide-
      scale adoption of effective pre-K-12 educational interventions,
      resulting in a gain of $45 billion from increased tax revenues and
      reduced social costs over the lifetime of high school graduates, a
      study by a team of economists concludes. "What we've tried to show,
      across a range of interventions, … is that all of them, using very
      conservative assumptions about benefits, have big payoffs," said
      Henry M. Levin, a professor of economics and education at Teachers
      College, Columbia University, and the lead author of the report.
      Although many research studies have tried to calculate the return on
      money spent in education, Mr. Levin said the new report is the first
      to use economic analytical techniques to measure the cost benefits
      of specific educational programs that have research documenting
      their success in producing additional high school graduates. If the
      United States were to spend on average $82,000 for every student who
      became a high school graduate because of those interventions, the
      economy would benefit during each of those students' lifetimes from
      $209,000 in additional tax revenues and $70,000 in lower costs for
      public health, social welfare, and corrections, says the study,
      released last week. If the interventions succeeded in cutting the
      high school dropout rate in half, a single cohort of students who
      graduated because of the interventions would provide $45 billion for
      government treasuries in the form of tax revenue or reduced demand
      for services over the course of their adult lives, the study adds.
      (Education Week - subscription required)

      http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/02/14/23levin.h26.html (see
      also the report, "The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education
      for All of America's Children" from the Center for Benefit-Cost
      Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University at

      Silicon Valley Meets 'American Idol' With Prizes to Inspire Inventors

      CALIFORNIA - Facing down stiff competition to win fame and big prize
      money? Forget singing for Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Try
      sequencing DNA for a panel of technology investors. Venture capital
      firms are considering contests that offer competing engineers and
      entrepreneurs multimillion-dollar prize purses if they come up with
      innovative technologies in various industries. The concept is
      getting an introduction on March 3 at a fund-raiser at Google. The
      event is intended to raise a chunk of $50 million to operate the X
      Prize Foundation, a nonprofit group that already has awarded $10
      million to designers of a private spacecraft. The foundation plans
      to use the money to develop prizes in fields like medicine, poverty
      reduction and fuel-efficient cars. But the foundation's next stage
      of prize-giving will also include partnerships with venture
      capitalists who, the group argues, can use prizes to spur
      entrepreneurs to innovate and, in turn, to create an efficient
      research and development machine. "Prizes can help create markets,"
      said Tom Vander Ark, president of the X Prize Foundation. The X
      Prize foundation, whose board of trustees includes Larry Page, a co-
      founder of Google, and Elon Musk, a PayPal founder, has been asking
      venture capitalists to donate money for prizes and to consider more
      formal partnerships. Already, some big-name firms, including Kleiner
      Perkins Caufield & Byers, are endorsing the idea, at least in
      principal. But the concept also has engendered some skepticism. …
      Prizes may be of limited value to venture capitalists, who
      ultimately are less interested in groundbreaking science than they
      are in concrete and market-ready technologies, according to some
      technology investors and academics. For their part, venture
      capitalists have used prizes on a limited, albeit modestly growing,
      basis as a way to prompt engineers and scientists to articulate
      their ideas in marketable terms. (New York Times - registration

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