Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Quick Hits

South Dakota schools chief: We will not follow NCLB guidelines:  South Dakota schools chief Melody Schopp says the state will not adhere to No Child Left Behind guidelines, risking millions in federal funds and becoming the latest state to defy the law. Schopp said she did not want to label more schools as failing when proficiency targets rise. Idaho officials have said they will defy the law, and Kentucky leaders have asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for permission to use their own accountability system. Duncan has said he plans to offer states relief from NCLB sanctions, as an update to the law remains mired in Congress. (Argus Leader)

Troubled charters prompt L.A. school officials to take action:  Some of Los Angeles' 183 charter schools have struggled with problems this year, including cheating on state tests, weak academic performance and poor financial oversight. The school system -- which has more charters than any other district in the country -- has increased its oversight in response to the problems. Some say the problems demonstrate the drawbacks of charters' autonomy. "Flexibility is the tradeoff for accountability," said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform. (San Jose Mercury News)

Data reveals gaps in educational opportunities for U.S. students:  Students' access to early education, rigorous academics and experienced teachers and counselors varies widely across the country, according to federal data released Thursday on 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts. For example, the study by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights found that nearly 3,000 high schools in the U.S. do not offer Algebra II courses and fewer than 25% of districts offer free preschool for low-income children. Officials said understanding the findings would be an important step in remedying opportunity gaps for U.S. students. (Education Week)

Do longer school days work?:  Chicago officials are pushing to lengthen the school day and year to raise student achievement even as recent test scores show the effect of more classroom time is unclear. State test scores released this week show that charter schools -- which have extended school days -- achieved nearly the same results as neighborhood schools that do not. "Just extending a school day doesn't mean, by itself, that you're going to have high-performing schools," said Noemi Donoso, chief education officer for Chicago schools. "It's not going to be simple." (Chicago News Cooperative)

Indiana Ends Requirement To Teach Cursive Writing:  In Indiana schools, cursive writing is headed the way of the ink well and the chalkboard. The flowing handwriting, often called "long hand" or "script" will no longer be required learning in Indiana's public schools. Instead, students will focus more on typing. (WKRC)

Ratings, standards among criteria for early-education Race to the Top: States seeking federal Race to the Top aid for early-childhood education programs must create rating systems, develop academic standards and assessments and devise expectations for teacher proficiency, according to proposed rules for the grant program being released today. The latest round of the Race to the Top program will allocate shares of $500 million in aid to winning programs that best meet the Obama administration's criteria. (Politics K-12)

Education leaders seek support for innovation in common core tests:  A group of more than 60 education leaders released an open letter to policymakers and consortia working to develop new common core assessments, imploring them to ensure the new tests reflect and support emerging models of teaching and testing. The letter specifically references blended-learning models that combine online and face-to-face instruction, as well as the movement toward personalized learning and the use of digital materials in schools. (Disrupting Class)

Most low-income families don't get adequate nutrition, study says:  More than 70% of 100 low-income families weren't able to meet sufficient levels of vitamins A and C, protein and other vital nutrients, a study in the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal found. Researchers noted that 43% of the families gathered for breakfast and lunch two or fewer times weekly. Helping families eat breakfasts together more frequently would help boost their intake of dairy as well as fruits and fruit juices, researchers said. (HealthDay News)

We are on the edge of the "funding cliff":  School district budgets will be crunched from all sides this year and districts are at the very edge of the "funding cliff," writes Jack Jennings, head of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy. Cutbacks at the state and local level have hurt, as will the loss of federal stimulus funds that have propped districts up during the past two years, Jennings writes. A survey done by the center found 70% of districts had budget cuts this past school year, leading most to reduce staff. Jennings worries this could slow the pace of needed reforms. (The Answer Sheet)

Survey - Students want more online learning:  A survey of roughly 400,000 teachers, students and parents shows that about 40% of students believe online learning is an important part of their education. Schools and districts are continuing to integrate more technology and online learning into the curriculum -- a change that many students are seeking -- but some are still struggling to keep up with student demand, the findings show. The survey, by Project Tomorrow and Blackboard K-12, reflects an update of the group's ongoing Speak Up research project. (Digital Education)

Should math and science teachers earn more money?:  Officials in Georgia hope to recruit and retain more math and science teachers by offering them incentive bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $6,600. The bonuses were approved in 2009, but are being funded for the first time this year. The bonuses will increase the salaries of new teachers to the level of pay earned by teachers in their sixth year. The teachers will earn the pay for the next five years if they continue to teach math and science. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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