Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Hits

Analysis: Massachusetts charter-school enrollments show imbalance: An analysis by The Boston Globe suggests that Massachusetts charter schools may be under-enrolling special-education students and English-language learners to trim costs and generate better student-achievement results. Charter-school officials counter that districts make it hard for them to develop a diverse population by not sharing mailing lists of students. (The Boston Globe)

Research weighs pros and cons of No Child Left Behind: Researchers presented findings about the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act at a conference hosted by the Urban Institute's National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research in Washington, D.C. Some of their findings showed that schools are not encouraged to focus on the lowest- and highest-performing students, and that revised state measures of teacher qualifications are focusing more on content knowledge, not necessarily on education training. (Education Week)

Idaho charter plans to use Bible in curriculum, may teach creationism: An Idaho charter school set to open next month has announced plans to use the Bible as a curriculum source and may teach creationist theories. "Our approach is to explore truth and we look at different theories. We will teach some of the theories that have been advanced by different perspectives. We will not be exclusive on that," Nampa Classical Academy headmaster Val Bush said. (Idaho Press-Tribune)

Settlement Reached Over Access to Gay Web Sites: Two Tennessee school districts have agreed to stop blocking student and teacher access to Web sites with information about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued on behalf of several students and educators in the Metropolitan Nashville and Knox County school districts. The suit alleged that filtering software used by the districts blocked access to informational Web sites. The ACLU's press release is here. This page provides access to the original suit as well as the settlement agreement and the district court order of dismissal. (School Law Blog)

Missouri school district to expand "mastery learning": "Mastery learning" will be one strategy used to raise the high-school graduation rate and boost academic performance of minority and lower-income students in North Kansas City schools in Missouri. Mastery learning requires students to demonstrate command of at least 80% of curriculum before progressing. Teachers are expected to tailor teaching to individual students and keep tabs on student competency. (Sun Tribune)

Souter: Civics Education Must Be Improved: A poor understanding of civics by many Americans, such as the two-thirds who cannot name the three branches of government, "is something to worry about," retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter told the American Bar Association on Saturday.

"I’ll ask you to consider the danger to judicial independence when people have no conception of how the judiciary fits within the constitutional scheme.” ...Lynne Marek of the National Law Journal has a good account of the speech. (School Law Blog)

Pennsylvania Board of Education is likely to OK high-school exit exams: Pennsylvania's Board of Education is expected to approve graduation exams in 10 subjects for students at public high schools. The exams once faced opposition from 200 school districts, but board Chairman Joseph Torsella says a compromise on Keystone Exam details have made the proposal viable. The plan would still need legislative approval. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

National rankings are a murky reflection of Florida education: Florida's national education rankings present a quagmire of confusing and contradictory measures, say lawmakers and education experts. Depending on the criteria, Florida can rank among the best and the worst in the country when it comes to education quality, teacher pay, achievement and funding. "To have anything capture all of the educational system in Florida is just not possible," says Patrice Iatarola, an education-policy professor at Florida State University. (The Miami Herald)

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