Friday, November 05, 2010

Quick Hits

Will the new Congress and Obama be able to agree on education?: President Barack Obama is expected to push early next year to reform No Child Left Behind -- one of the few domestic issues that is likely to gain ground in a divided Congress. Rep. John Kline, the likely incoming Republican chairman of the House education committee is calling for a bipartisan effort on NCLB reforms, and an Obama aide is calling education reform a "top priority for the president." However, some observers are questioning whether politics will stall the issue. (The Washington Post)

Opinion - Education reform and the homework wars: Despite the advent of 21st-century learning, the age-old war over the efficacy of homework wages on in schools, according to educator Susan Graham. Schools in Irving, Texas, stopped counting homework toward student grades, and students subsequently stopped completing the work and weren't prepared for tests. The case illustrates both the argument that students often need outside motivation to practice skills and that schools would do better to focus on substantive education reform than to revisit such battles, Graham writes. (A Place at the Table blog)

Will Race to the Top continue?: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he is optimistic that the new leaders in the House will embrace his education agenda, including Race to the Top and a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, he conceded that there is "no guarantee" that these reforms and others will move forward as Republicans look to trim spending. (The Associated Press)

U.S. Supreme Court hears case over tax credits for religious schools: The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether Arizona should be allowed to offer tax credits for donations to a scholarship fund that pays for students to attend private and religious schools. Opponents of the program argue that it uses government funds to underwrite religious education, which violates the U.S. Constitution. But supporters say the tax credits amount to a private donation and do not involve government money. The court is expected to release a ruling on the case in June. (USA TODAY) (The Christian Science Monitor)

Agenda for federal education research is revised: The Institute for Education Sciences identified aspects of teacher effectiveness -- including recruitment, retention and training -- among the group's revised priorities for research by the Department of Education. Other priorities include innovative instruction and educational processes. The guidelines, which will be used to allocate national education grants, also include an increased focus on relevant research and the use of data to improve education. (Education Week)

More colleges move instruction online: Online learning is growing in popularity on college campuses as a way to enroll more students in popular courses without worrying whether classrooms will be at capacity. In 2008, 4.6 million students nationwide took a college course online -- many while taking face-to-face classes. At the University of Florida, on-campus students are earning 12% of their credits through online courses, a number projected to reach 25% in five years. However, some are concerned students will not get the full benefit of instruction by taking courses online. (The New York Times)

Researchers split over benefits of online learning: There is conflicting research on the effects of online learning on student achievement. Some studies show that distance learning is more effective, while others report that face-to-face instruction is best. One study found that students might be more likely to put off watching archived lectures that are available online if they do not have to attend class. (The New York Times)

Students apply classroom skills to run fictitious city: Elementary-school students in an Oklahoma school district are applying classroom lessons to real-life situations in a program that has them running a fictitious town for a day. Students apply, interview and are selected for jobs, which include CEOs, journalists and government officials. All of the district's elementary schools are participating in the Junior Achievement BizTown program aimed at keeping students motivated to succeed in school and life. (Broken Arrow Ledger)

Study to gauge the state of arts education in Minnesota schools: A Minnesota group will conduct a statewide study of arts education, focusing on how schools are managing the subject with limited budgets. "Many states are facing the similar issue with tight budgets and an inordinate amount of attention on high-stakes testing," the director of a state principals group said. "There's more to a comprehensive education than reading and math." The results of the study are expected in 2011. (Star Tribune)

Universities add open eBooks to iTunes U - Three schools have added free electronic publications to the growing online academic resource: Rice University has joined Oxford University and The Open University in contributing free, open eBooks to the iTunes U web site, using the burgeoning EPUB format that lets students read eBooks on a variety of eReader devices becoming more prevalent in higher education. Rice’s contribution of 18 of its most popular titles came from the Houston-based university’s open education program, Connexions, which logs about 2 million visits every month, according to an Oct. 29 university announcement. (eCampusNews)

Teacher-training programs prepare for new era of accountability: Teacher-training programs and prospective educators are bracing for the effect of reforms under way across the country that will change the way teachers are evaluated and compensated. In Maryland, education schools are preparing to train teachers who will likely be evaluated based on student achievement. "These new approaches are going to hold education schools accountable," a University of Maryland education professor said. "Simply passing out a master's degree isn't going to be enough anymore, and I think that's a good thing." (The Sun)

Kansas districts file funding lawsuit against the state: A coalition of 63 Kansas public-school districts that educate 150,000 students -- along with other districts and students -- filed a lawsuit against Kansas asking that the state provide enough money to implement its school-funding formula. That formula was created as a result of a lawsuit that was settled in 2006. (The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Election results may mean more school choice, local control: Tuesday's elections were a huge win for Republicans -- especially for House members and presumptive House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is poised to take control of that chamber in January. But what do the sweeping congressional changes mean for educators? The overwhelmingly anti-Washington, anti-government sentiment expressed at the polls extends to federal involvement in education and is ushering in a cadre of elected officials committed to promoting parental empowerment, vouchers and local control, writes David Griffith, ASCD's director of public policy. This blog post highlights the education positions of key incoming senators. ( blog)

Winning Republicans emphasized federal overreach on education: Republican candidates made gains in congressional and state-level races and took the governor's office from Democratic incumbents in Ohio and Iowa, according to the results of Tuesday's elections. GOP candidates also won the top school-leadership positions in a number of states. Many successful Republicans at the state level favored more local control of schools and criticized federal-education reforms pushed by the Obama administration as overreaching. (Education Week)

Teacher faces hearing over voting field trip: Dennis McFadden, a veteran Hughes High School social studies teacher, will face a disciplinary conference Wednesday on allegations he violated district policies during a controversial voting field trip Oct. 13 . Meanwhile, Hughes principal Virginia Rhodes is on a two-week paid suspension pending the outcome of the district's investigation into the field trip. The outing spurred a lawsuit by an anti-tax group Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes because the students were allegedly given only Democratic sample ballots. COAST says the district was engaging in partisan politics. (Enquirer)

High Court to Weigh 'Miranda' Rights of Juveniles at School: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to consider whether a juvenile burglary suspect who was interrogated at school by the police should have been given a Miranda warning about his rights. The justices accepted an appeal on behalf of a North Carolina boy identified as J.D.B., who was 13-year-old special education student in 2005 when the police showed up at his school to question him about a string of neighborhood burglaries. The police had learned that the boy was in possession of a digital camera that had been reported stolen. (School Law blog)

Newark, N.J., school-improvement effort launches: Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced plans to enlist parents and residents in the $100 million effort to improve the city's schools as part of the Partnership for Education in Newark, backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The outreach plan will cost about $1 million and will include house visits, phone calls, focus groups and other meetings across the city to gather input about what works and where improvements are needed. (The Associated Press)

Lame-Duck Congress to Face Education Issues - K-12 Spending, Race to the Top Extension Still On Table: When the dust settles from the midterm elections, federal lawmakers—the re-elected and losers alike—will head back to Washington for a lame-duck session with a long to-do list that could have broad implications for education policy over the next year. Congress left town without finishing the U.S. Department of Education's spending bill for fiscal 2011, which officially began Oct. 1. Right now, all programs in the department are being financed at fiscal 2010 levels through a stopgap measure that expires Dec. 3. (Education Week)

Nashville school board screens charter requests - School officials want proof of sound financial planning: Since a 2009 charter school bill allows the Metro Nashville school district to approve up to 20 charter schools to operate in the district, the board wants to ensure its applicants are top rate. Last week Global Academy, a charter school shut down by the district earlier this year, filed for bankruptcy. A district official says the school district doesn't know whether it will recover thousands of dollars in unpaid bills and an overpayment to the school to serve more students than it had. Global fell about $500,000 in debt, also still owing at least nine of its teachers more than $5,000 each in wages, $33,000 for buses, $12,000 for technology and $11,000 in security services, according to its bankruptcy filing. Another of the board-approved charter schools, Smithson Craighead Academy, failed to meet annual testing goals last year, board members said. (Tennesseean)

Could you and your students handle a technology blackout?: Teachers and students at a Massachusetts high school said giving up technology for 24 hours once a week during a monthlong experiment showed them how dependent they are on digital devices. About 65% of students complied with "No-Tech" Tuesdays. "I learned that you can survive without technology, but it makes most everything difficult," one student said. Educators agreed, saying the blackout allowed them to interact more personally, but they were unable to work as efficiently. (Telegram & Gazette)

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