Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Quick Hits

Rural school districts feel overlooked by federal policies: National education-reform initiatives are focused on urban environments, say advocates for rural schools. Schools in low-population areas have their own problems, including difficulty developing charter schools and implementing merit pay for teachers -- key conditions for eligibility in Race to the Top stimulus funding. Although officials from some states have criticized the Obama administration for an inner-city focus, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said "rural schools shouldn't let their unique challenges become excuses for keeping the status quo." (Education Week)

Hawaii superintendent considers replacing staff at struggling schools: Hawaii schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto is seeking the power to replace staff and administrators at as many as 36 schools that have consistently fallen short of federal No Child Left Behind goals. "I realize it is not a popular position," said Hamamoto about the proposal, which has opposition from teachers unions and school officials. Legislation granting the state Department of Education power to reconstitute schools failed during the most recent legislative session, but Hamamoto said she will again seek passage. (The Honolulu Advertiser)

Building blocks of math could be taught in preschool: Some education experts are advocating more math instruction in early-childhood curriculum. "The bottom line is that we are saying that little kids, starting at the age of 3 even and certainly 4, in preschools ought to be doing more math," said Herbert Ginsburg, a Columbia University professor and member of the Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics. Advocates say future math skills are based on preschoolers having a basic comprehension of counting, volume, geometry and other concepts that can be taught through activities. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Opinion: National curriculum would be a recipe for "irreversible damage: "The Obama administration's support of national K-12 curriculum standards is a short-sighted strategy that will undermine true student achievement, writes Yong Zhao in this Detroit Free Press opinion article. A professor of education at Michigan State University, Zhao believes national standards curb creativity, stifle innovation and deprive children of real learning opportunities. "I want my children to have an education, not preparation to take tests," he writes. (Detroit Free Press)

Kindergarten expectations concern some educators: Kindergartners learn best by moving around and experiencing learning, according to a retired educator, yet young students are increasingly being asked to take tests and complete other academic tasks that may do more harm than good. "Faced with serious sanctions, [schools] weren't going to say, 'OK, let them play and do all the things they used to do,'" said Ed Miller, co-author of the Alliance for Childhood study. "Instead, we have to put them in testing boot camp well before third grade." (The Boston Globe)

"Broader approach" to replace Wisconsin's longtime assessment test: Wisconsin is dropping a 17-year-old standardized test in favor of a student assessment format that education leaders say will improve evaluation of teacher performance and meet state and federal accountability standards. The plan will leverage multiple computer-administered tests to track how students are progressing during the school year. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Parents worry district's new reading curriculum is too focused on tests: School officials and parents in a North Carolina district are at odds over a new reading curriculum for elementary-school students. Parents argue that the "Reading Street" program, designed to meet No Child Left Behind standards, will not foster reading interest because it is too focused on test preparation. Officials contend that the program will ensure standardized instruction. (The News & Observer)

Florida alters kindergarten readiness test: Florida is changing its kindergarten screening test, which is administered during the first 30 days of school. Students will be asked to recognize letters and sound out words, the latter being a new element to the test. The test helps determine scores for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. (The Tampa Tribune)

Duncan: Failing schools must be revamped to qualify for Title I grants: Education Secretary Arne Duncan has offered guidelines for school districts on how they may spend $3.5 billion from the School Improvement Fund on Title I schools. Some possibilities include: shutting down failing schools and reopening them with different teachers and administrators, management by charter schools and replacing staff at failing schools. "States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students," Duncan said. (The Associated Press)

Gender, income and race gaps found in SAT results: The latest SAT results show wide differences in scores when broken down by factors such as gender, income and race. The greatest racial disparity was between Asian students, who scored an average of 1,623 out of a possible 2,400, and black students, who averaged 1,276. Average female students' scores were 27 points lower than average male students' scores. The College Board said that SAT participation by minorities reached 40%, the highest rate yet. (USA TODAY)

Top teachers are paid well by new charter but take on big challenge: High-performing educators selected to teach at The Equity Project Charter School in New York City will receive salaries of $125,000. The compensation, more than twice the national average, comes with longer days, large class sizes, fewer support staff and added administrative duties. The school will open in September and is expected to be watched closely by education reformers. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Review shows district's school-choice plan is ineffective: In the early 1990s, Nevada's Clark County School District attempted to reduce the student achievement gap and promote diversity at six elementary schools with a plan offering school choice to students. A recent study, however, shows the plan was ineffective, with poor student performance, language barriers, ethnic isolation and poverty persisting at the participating schools. (Las Vegas Sun)

Concern is voiced over federal government's role in education: Many educators and others had hoped that President Barack Obama would decrease the federal government's role in education and the emphasis on state test scores. However, they say the influx of federal stimulus money for education and the restrictions placed on it could actually increase federal control over education. And with the administration pushing to tie teacher evaluations to student scores, one teacher said "the potential is there for the test frenzy to get worse than it is under No Child Left Behind." (The New York Times)

15 years later, a look at Arizona charter schools: Arizona first allowed charter schools 15 years ago as an alternative to and competition for public schools. An Arizona Daily Star investigation, however, found a lack of oversight, poor student performance, unqualified teachers and other issues at some charter schools. Arizona has 500 charter schools, one-quarter of public schools in the state, and expects to open as many as 100 more with $53 million in federal funds. (Arizona Daily Star)

"Fahrenheit 451" becomes a comic book: In an irony that might be lost on some readers, a condensed, comic-book edition of Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic "Fahrenheit 451" has been released. The book details a future where reading is a crime and only comic books are not burned -- because they are considered to lack meaningful content. (Slate)

Lousy school? Just change the name - Ordered to close, W.E.B. DuBois plans to stay open under alias: W.E.B. DuBois Academy, a charter school that in recent years fell from Ohio's top academic rating to its lowest level, is scheduled to become the first Cincinnati charter school to be shut down by the state for poor academics.But officials at the Over-the-Rhine school on Central Parkway, which began the new year Monday, say they have a way around the law: they'll open another school in the same building.Dianne Ebbs, principal of the 430-student school grades 3-8, said leaders will switch schools - in name and charter - but keep the same building and staff. (Enquirer)

1 comment:

John Jensen said...

Richard--There are so many angles about education to discuss, but some very basic, determinative factors are seldom addressed, causing our attention to go to things instead that resist change. For instance, note that students change almost instantly as they move from the room of one (poor) teacher to that of another (good) teacher. As conditions align accurately with their needs, they "turn on." This implies that school change need not take longer than a few days if we understand the conditions rightly. Think how fast a school could move if all the students were on the same page, saying "Yeah! We're going to approach it this way instead." This is indeed possible if people understand the problem differently.
For some thoughts about school change that you won't see elsewhere, the URL below is the main page for blogs on education.. A half dozen of mine are still noted there offering some angles I think national education needs to hear. Should you want more explanation, there's much more I can send or can answer questions. email; Best, John Jensen, Ph.D..