Friday, April 16, 2010

Quick Hits

Professors call for more review of new Texas history standards: A group of university professors in Texas is asking officials to delay a vote scheduled for next month on new state history standards until they undergo a vetting by content and curriculum experts at the university level. The controversial standards would include an increased focus on Judeo-Christian influences in American history, and some critics say they minimize positive roles of minorities and are a reflection of the conservative beliefs of some members of the state education board. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has also requested a moratorium on deliberations. (Houston Chronicle)

Students get last chance to pass Mass. science test before graduation: Massachusetts high-school seniors who did not pass state science exams given in February had another chance Wednesday. Some 4,119 students -- 60% of whom have special needs and nearly 13% of whom are English-language learners -- were given another opportunity to earn a passing grade on the science portion of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, a requirement for graduation for the first time this year. Students can also retake the test in June, but those scores will not be available until mid-August. (The Sun)

Florida governor vetoes teacher merit-pay bill: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a controversial merit-pay bill Thursday that was largely opposed by teachers, who launched a campaign against the bill. Crist, in vetoing the measure, cited teachers' reaction, the way in which the proposal moved through the legislature and the lack of consideration given to the needs of individual students. Among other things, the bill would have ended traditional tenure for new teachers and linked educator pay to student test scores. (The Wall Street Journal) (The Tampa Tribune)

NYC officials agree to deal to end "rubber room" policies: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the union representing the city's teachers announced an end to a policy that has teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings receive full salaries as they spend weeks, months and even years in the city's so-called "rubber rooms." Under the new policy, set to take effect in the fall, teachers would be reassigned to nonclassroom or administrative duties until their cases are heard. (Crain's New York Business)

New Orleans arts program plans transformation into full-day school: A nearly 40-year-old arts program in New Orleans is seeking to become a full-day public high school where students can obtain a diploma. The New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts -- which counts Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis among its alumni -- has long been providing instruction in music, writing and other arts fields to students who attend other schools in the area. After initial approval from Louisiana's House Education Committee, officials are set to move forward with plans to add subjects such as math and science with a focus on the arts. (The Times-Picayune)

Could $23 billion save teachers' jobs nationwide?: U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin has proposed $23 billion in emergency spending to be used for teachers' salaries and benefits to prevent layoffs that might result from districts' budget shortfalls. The measure was introduced Wednesday and would supplement the $100 billion for education that was included in the federal stimulus. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before a Senate panel in favor of the funding. "It is brutal out there," Duncan said after his testimony. "It is really scary. We're seeing massive layoffs around the country." (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) (Education Week)

Tennessee is set to close Governor's Academy amid protests: Tennessee's only public residential high school is in danger of closing because of budget cuts, and parents and students are campaigning to keep the school open. The Governor's Academy for Mathematics and Science opened in 2007 and has drawn high-achieving students from districts across the state. Opponents of the closure say it makes little sense given the state's recent $500 million victory in the Race to the Top competition, but state officials say they plan to establish more math and science magnet schools. (The Tennessean)

Freshman academy helps keep ninth-graders on track: A program at a Minnesota high school is helping keep at-risk ninth-grade students on track for academic success. Northfield High School's freshman academy enrolls students who are deemed at-risk upon entering high school and offers them extra academic support. Students in the program take English, science and social studies together in smaller classes and receive extra help in an intensive study period during the school day. (Star Tribune)

Report predicts top technologies for nation's classrooms: Collaborative learning environments and cloud computing are among the top technologies expected to make an impact on classroom instruction over the next several years, the authors of an education-technology report predict. Mobile technologies and game-based learning are expected to increase in use during the next two to three years, according to the report, which also lists five critical challenges for schools, including inadequate teacher training and outdated materials. (T.H.E. Journal)

Judge orders Miss. district to comply with desegregation laws: A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Mississippi's Walthall County School District must stop allowing white students to transfer out of predominantly black schools because the practice is violating desegregation rules as well as federal law. The judge also ordered an end to the practice of grouping students by race at some district schools in a way that created all-black classes. (The Clarion-Ledger)

Why RTI is the "last, best hope" for teaching all students to read: Early-literacy expert and author Richard Allington explains in this interview why he believes response to intervention is "our last, best hope" for teaching all students to read. Allington, a University of Tennessee education professor, suggests that students do not need scripted reading programs but need the help of skilled and expert educators who can provide intensive, individualized reading instruction while they are in kindergarten and first grade. (Education Week)

Colorado lawmakers to consider teacher-tenure reforms: A bill to reform the teacher-tenure system in Colorado has been introduced in the state legislature. Provisions of the bill include basing 50% of teacher evaluations on students' academic growth and granting tenure to teachers after three years of being designated as "highly effective" -- a label also tied to student achievement. The head of the Colorado Education Association, which represents 40,000 educators, said the union opposes the bill and warned that it is "too much, too fast." (The Denver Post)

Mich. takes new approach to assessing progress at charter schools: Michigan education officials are taking a new approach to assessing the progress of the state's charter schools. A state report due out today will look at academic growth by charter students this year compared with previous years, rather than comparing them with scores of students attending traditional public schools. "Comparing charter-school student achievement data with its own history is a good way, for now, to reflect how it is helping its own students grow academically," a state education spokesman said. (Detroit Free Press)

Policymakers are drafting teacher-effectiveness reforms in Wisconsin: Officials in Wisconsin are working on a proposal to give increased authority to the state's education chief in efforts to improve the state's schools. The plan would include measures to mandate annual evaluations of principals and teachers at the state's lowest-performing 5% of schools; provide for new strategies to identify, retain and place effective teachers at low-performing schools; and offer career counseling and other remedies for chronically struggling educators. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Tying Teacher Evaluation to Student Achievement: Recently, the National Research Council and the National Academy of Education jointly issued a report on value-added approaches, based on findings from a November 2008 workshop funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-sponsored by the NRC and the NAEd. The report’s goal was to provide policymakers with an improved understanding of the potential role of value-added methodologies, given their known strengths and weaknesses, so that officials could then better decide whether (and how) to implement them in their jurisdictions. According to the report, “value-added models” refer to a variety of sophisticated statistical techniques that measure student growth and use one or more years of prior student test scores, as well as other background data, to adjust for pre-existing differences among students when calculating contributions to student test performance. (Ed Week)

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