Friday, July 09, 2010

Quick Hits

Why grade-level test scores may not translate to college readiness: Student scores that translate to "basic" proficiency on Louisiana state tests -- and allow students to be promoted to the next grade or graduate from high school -- may not mean students are on track for college readiness, according to this analysis. Some say educators should do a better job of explaining what the scores mean to students and their parents, making them more aware about which skills students have learned and whether they are prepared to advance to college-level work. Others say the state should work to ensure that more students reach higher levels of proficiency. (Times-Picayune)

Should Indiana make early-childhood education a priority?: Indiana does not require kindergarten and is one of eight states that does not fund preschool, leaving many students at an academic disadvantage, experts say. The problem affects a disproportionate number of low-income students, who do not qualify for special education or other subsidized programs but whose parents cannot afford to pay for preschool. While some educators maintain that early-childhood education is crucial to children's literacy and cognitive growth, state schools chief Tony Bennett says budget concerns prevent Indiana from offering statewide programs. (The Indianapolis Star)

Detroit to open Michigan's first teacher-led school: All decisions affecting students, educators and the school will be made by teachers beginning this fall at Detroit's Barbara Jordan Elementary School, set to become the first teacher-led school in the state. Many veteran teachers are eager to teach at the K-4 school -- which is modeled after teacher-led schools in other cities -- with some educators offering to forgo tenure in exchange for a position. The school will feature an extended instructional day and school year, and it will only be open to students whose parents agree to participate. (Detroit Free Press)

Educators: School boosted achievement by offering social services: The 2008 transformation of Bailey Elementary School in Providence, R.I., into a "full-service community school" has helped boost student achievement and prompted the school's removal from a state sanction list this year. New services at the school -- including adult-literacy classes, after-school programs and counseling for housing and jobs -- have made it a neighborhood hot spot. "This is an effort to unite community partners and school districts behind one targeted goal: to increase academic achievement by providing family support," said an official with the school's adult-literacy program. (The Providence Journal)

Some Colorado officials favor local control over federal school reforms: Some school leaders in Colorado are pushing back against federal-education policies they say are usurping local authority over their schools. A number of rural districts refused to support the state's bid for federal Race to the Top funds, and a campaign encouraging resistance to common national standards is in the works. "It is unconstitutional for the federal government to step in and mandate and require that everybody use those standards," said a state school board member who is launching the effort. (The Denver Post)

Bill Seeks Changes for School Lunch Program: More children would be enrolled in the federal free school lunch program and schools would be reimbursed a higher amount for those lunches under bipartisan legislation introduced last month in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 would allow schools in high-poverty areas a new option called “community eligibility,” which permits free meals to all students without collecting paper applications. (Education Week)

Some schools grouping students by skill, not grade level: Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route. Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools. Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach (C-J/USAToday)

Focus on economics helps raise math achievement at Bronx school: An economics-based curriculum at Middle School 223, the Lab School of Finance and Technology, in New York City's Bronx borough has helped raise math achievement significantly among the school's primarily low-income black and Hispanic students. Students at the school are rewarded for positive behavior with "school bucks," which can pay for merchandise at the school store or earn 10% interest in the school's student-run bank. "To me, financial literacy is the fourth 'R'," said the school's principal and co-founder. (The Wall Street Journal)

Obama administration, lawmakers are divided over education spending: President Barack Obama is threatening to veto a spending bill that includes funding to save teacher jobs because it cuts close to $800 million for his administration's school-reform programs, including Race to the Top. "It would be shortsighted to weaken funding for these reforms just as they begin to show such promise," the administration said. But teachers unions and lawmakers who support the bill say keeping teachers in the classroom should take precedence over the administration's reform agenda. (ABC News)

Later school start time improves sleep, mood among teens: A Rhode Island high school that moved its start time 30 minutes later found students were in better moods, more alert, less depressed and more likely to attend class. After the start time was changed, students went to bed an average of 18 minutes later at night and slept an average of 45 minutes longer. (HealthDay News)

Union leader calls for Commission on Effective Teaching: The president of the National Education Association is calling for the creation of a Commission on Effective Teaching. In a speech to union members, Dennis Van Roekel asked, "What would the profession look like if we, the union, actually controlled teacher training, induction and licensure, evaluation and professional development? How do we ensure that all teachers are prepared to enter the profession and then are supported, especially in their first years?" (Teacher Beat blog)

Seattle schools chief proposes new accountability system: Seattle schools chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson has a plan to hold schools accountable according to achievement and improvements in areas such as test scores and the number of students taking advanced courses. The new system is designed not to rank schools but to highlight areas where improvement is needed, Goodloe-Johnson said. Other aspects of her school-improvement plan include a more standardized curriculum and additional teacher training, which she says have proven successful in other cities. Some critics, however, say the plans focus too much time and resources on testing and struggling schools. (The Seattle Times)

Is Virginia lagging behind in education reform?: Some experts say Virginia has lost its status as a state known for successful education reform. The state was lauded as one of the first to adopt statewide academic standards in 1995 but has fallen behind in adopting the latest reforms -- including common national standards, teacher accountability and charter schools -- that are considered top priorities nationally and important criteria for winning federal funding. (The Virginian-Pilot)

Nashville officials study charter school's failure - Global Academy's closing prompts review of funding: Nashville Global Academy closed this week after mounting debt and administrative troubles made a second year unlikely. The charter school is the second in Tennessee to be closed since the law creating them was passed in 2002. (Tennesseean)

Philadelphia's smaller high schools produce mixed results: The push to replace large neighborhood high schools with smaller, more specialized schools in Philadelphia has produced mixed results. A number of smaller schools are thriving and have become popular choices among students. But some heavily publicized small schools are struggling, illustrating criticism that small schools can be costly and do not always improve student achievement. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Gates urges charters to be accountable for student achievement: Microsoft founder Bill Gates promoted charter schools as an important model for improving education, but urged charters to be accountable for the success of their students. "The deal that allowed for the autonomy really has to be a real deal," Gates told attendees of the National Charter Schools Conference. "The freedom to perform in new ways meant that if you don't perform that things are shut down after being given a chance." (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Ed. Dept. Opposes Cutting Race to Top to Fund Edujobs: The U.S. Department of Education is pushing back against a congressional plan to trim key priorities of the Obama administration—including the Race to the Top Fund and money for pay-for-performance programs and charter schools—to help cover the cost of a $10 billion effort to save education jobs. The proposal, unveiled late Tuesday by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would skim $500 million from Race to the Top, the administration’s $4.35 billion signature education reform initiative, which was created last year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Another $200 million would come out of the Teacher Incentive Fund, which helps districts create pay-for-performance programs. (Ed Week)

Research: Charter middle-school students may not have better grades: Students who won lotteries to enroll in charter middle schools did not outperform their peers who were not chosen for the schools, according to a federal study of middle-school students in 15 states. The study showed that charter-school students did not score higher averages in reading and math than other students and that they had about the same behavior and attendance records. However, a federal official who oversaw the study said, "We found that these charter schools were more effective for more low-income, lower-achieving students and less effective for higher-income, higher-achieving students." (Education Week)

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