Friday, May 21, 2010

Quick Hits

How will common standards be used in the classroom?: As the country moves closer to adopting national education standards, some are already considering how those standards would be applied in the classroom. Last month, experts talked for two days about how to determine what curriculum materials to use. Discussion centered on how the national standards should not dictate how educators teach but rather offer a guide. One suggestion has been to create a framework for teachers but not require them to follow a detailed syllabus. (Education Week)

Texas high school helps at-risk students succeed: Teachers and staff at a Texas high school for at-risk students set high academic expectations for students and encourage them to come to staffers with problems they are having in and out of school. Garland Non-Traditional High School features class sizes of 15 or less -- most classes are offered online with teacher support -- and students can attend one of three four-hour shifts of school each day. "We are successful for two reasons," the school's principal said. "We give them their dignity back. We give them skills to take ownership of who they want to be." (The Dallas Morning News)

Where do teachers unions fit in among education reforms?: Holding teachers accountable for student achievement has emerged as a key focus of the Obama administration's efforts to reform education and improve schools through its Race to the Top grant program. But many teachers unions across the country have had to make concessions as states push for reforms to qualify for the federal money, which threaten long-held teacher protections secured by unions for their members. (The New York Times)

Research - There's no one-size-fits-all model to curb bullying: Researchers believe a school's collective environment can support or suppress a culture of bullying, and experts are finding that there is no one model for deterring the problem in the nation's schools. Various anti-bullying programs have had some success by adopting school-wide efforts, while some target bullies and victims directly or are focused on teachers' or bystanders' responses to bullying behavior. "There's such diversity across schools and across the country, that it's really hard to say what works in one school is likely to work in another," one researcher said. (Education Week)

Denver school celebrates transformation with first class of graduates: Denver's once-struggling Bruce Randolph School graduated 97% of its first class of seniors, 87% of whom were accepted to colleges -- and many will be the first in their family to enroll. The school was once the worst-performing middle school in the state before undergoing a turnaround plan that gave officials the authority to transform the school into a grades 6-12 school that is operated more like a charter. "It's creating the supports for students, teaching them to ask for help and giving them that help," the school's former principal said. (The Denver Post)

Duncan urges "emergency action" to save teacher jobs: Education Secretary Arne Duncan called on Congress to approve the appropriation of $23 billion to help schools avoid teacher layoffs during a visit Tuesday to a New York City charter school while promoting the administration's federal Race to the Top grant program. "The consequences of inaction are huge," he said. "We need emergency action and we need it now." Duncan visited several other schools and prodded New York state lawmakers -- who are debating whether to increase the number of charter schools allowed in the state -- to approve needed school reforms. (The New York Times)

Classroom incorporates technology ahead of Texas e-textbook plan: Texas officials are considering adopting digital textbooks for the state's schools as soon as next school year, but some educators are already incorporating technology to improve classroom lessons. One kindergarten class researched animals on the Internet and created digital drawings and voice-overs of short stories using computers. The teacher said she and her students also use the Internet to find the most recent information that is not contained in printed textbooks. (KXAN-TV)

Push to Renew ESEA Faces Steep Policy, Political Hurdles: This was supposed to be the year that Congress finally completed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a task which has been lingering since 2007. But the wait may go on. Although the legislative machinery seems to be clanking along, with an Obama administration blueprint for renewal on the table and House and Senate education panels holding hearings on a variety of issues related to the law, the political prospects for the renewal are much more dicey. Numerous hurdles—including a crowded legislative calendar, the tensions of an election year, and a lack of agreement about where to take what is likely to be a very complicated bill—have many observers doubting that Congress will complete work this year to reauthorize what is now known as the No Child Left Behind Act, signed in 2002. (Ed Week)

Program aims to increase college readiness among average students: A program offered through a community college to students at a Boston-area high school has them earning college credit and learning how to be successful students as part of their school day. College-level classes in history and English are co-taught by faculty from each school and are infused with lessons in organizational and study skills. School officials say the program aims to promote college readiness among students in the academic middle, who may not enroll in Advanced Placement courses but do not need the specialized assistance given to struggling students. (The Boston Globe)

Columnist - Well-run charters help improve success of at-risk students: Some charter schools fail to improve student achievement or suffer under poor management, columnist Neal Peirce writes. But efforts in Boston and in California show that well-run charters can help at-risk students succeed, Peirce writes. A study showed that students chosen by lottery to attend Boston charters outperformed their counterparts who were not chosen, while a comprehensive community-oriented charter program targeting at-risk students in California sent 94% of its graduates to college, Peirce writes. (The Seattle Times)

Agreement to allow all teachers to be rehired at R.I. high school: Officials have announced a tentative agreement that will allow all Central Falls High School teachers to be rehired, ending four months of negotiations that put the Rhode Island school in the national spotlight. Close to 100 teachers, administrators and staff were fired from the school, which has some of the lowest scores in the state on standardized tests. The district's teachers union is expected to take a vote on the agreement today. (The Providence Journal)

Schools, students in Mass. take up anti-bullying efforts amid new law: Massachusetts schools and communities are reviewing their policies and preparing programs to educate students, faculty and parents about how to prevent and intervene in school bullying amid a strict new anti-bullying law. One district is assembling a task force that includes educators, law enforcement officials, parents and students to address issues of bullying, while students in another community have launched a group to raise awareness and advocate solutions to bullying. (The Boston Globe)

Omaha, Neb., may evict families with chronically absent students: Officials in Omaha, Neb., are launching a policy that would allow the city's housing authority to evict families from public housing when their children are chronically truant from school. The policy is meant to be a creative solution to a growing truancy problem that is believed to be contributing to a drop in the city's public high-school graduation rate from 62% in 2005 to 55% in 2007. (ABC News)

Proposed legislation in Calif. could jail parents of truant students: California lawmakers are considering a bill that could subject parents of chronically truant students to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The measure, which passed the state Senate and is headed to the Assembly, would charge parents with a misdemeanor but would allow judges to delay punishment to encourage them to get their children back in school. (USA TODAY)

Research shows low-quality child care affects learning into teen years: Poor-quality care during the early years of a child's life can harm a child's learning and behavior into adolescence, a federally funded study shows. "What was the surprise for us was that the effects at age 15 were the same size as we had seen in elementary school and just prior to school entry," the study's lead researcher said. Experts said the findings support the need to ensure better access to high-quality child care. (The Washington Post)

Extended days helped Boston charter students gain an academic edge: Longer school days are helping students at Boston charter schools gain an academic edge over students at traditional schools, according to a report. The Boston Foundation report showed students at the city's charters receive 378 more in-school hours each year, allowing for more instructional time and additional opportunities for academic help during the school day. The report also found the extended days help teachers by giving them more time for training as well as devising strategies to help struggling students. (The Boston Globe)

Kagan's record includes support for NCLB: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the U.S. solicitor general, doesn't have a long record in education law, but she recently submitted a brief in defense of No Child Left Behind as part of a case brought by teachers unions on the premise that NCLB is an unfunded federal mandate. Kagan -- whose mother was a public-school teacher and two brothers are social-studies teachers -- wrote, "The act expressly refrains from dictating funding levels, and instead grants states and [school districts] unprecedented flexibility to target federal dollars to meet state and local priorities." (Education Week)

Increasing home-school numbers raise red flags in Texas: An increasingly high number of high-school students listed as "home-schooled" in Texas state data has critics questioning whether the state is mislabeling some students who have actually dropped out of school. The number of high-school students home-schooled in Texas has nearly tripled, to more than 22,620, during the last decade, according to the data. But there is no such increase in lower grades and that is raising concern among experts. (Houston Chronicle)

Study - Fourth-graders in poverty struggle more with reading: More than two-thirds of fourth-graders nationwide scored below proficient on national reading tests in 2009, and students living in poverty appear to be more likely to struggle in reading, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In low-income schools, 85% of fourth-graders struggle with reading. The report states that it is crucial that students are reading at grade level by the time they leave third grade -- when students stop learning to read and begin reading to learn. The foundation and other philanthropies plan to launch a reading initiative soon. (Education Week)

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