Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick Hits

NYC schools look to principals to balance budgets: When New York City gave principals more authority over their schools in 2007, they also inherited more responsibility to cut budgets. The Department of Education's overall budget has increased since 2007, but required expenses for programs such as special-education services also have gone up, forcing schools to cut an average of 13.7% during that time. This New York Times article tells the story of five New York City schools and the sacrifices they have made to stay afloat. (The New York Times)

Are D.C. schools moving toward a charter-dominated system?: Education writer Valerie Strauss in this blog post considers whether Washington, D.C., schools are being transitioned into a charter-dominated school system, much like that of New Orleans. Despite the notion that charters have more freedom to innovate, studies show they produce mixed results in student achievement. In addition, they may be counseling out lower-achieving students and those with special needs, leading to the creation of a two-tiered educational system, Strauss warns. (The Answer Sheet)

New Race to Top Spurs Concerns About Testing Preschoolers: The proposed assessment requirements for the new Race to the Top early-learning competition are sparking concerns from some preschool advocates, who fear the provisions could lead to high-stakes testing of young children and unfair accountability measures imposed on educators. At the same time, other observers suggest the federal competition could generate national models for early assessment. (Education Week)

Are Perry's funding cuts harming Texas students?: Education Secretary Arne Duncan has criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his approach to education, particularly for $4 billion in school-funding cuts that he says are harming students. "It doesn't serve the children well. It doesn't serve the state well. It doesn't serve the state's economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country," Duncan said. (Washington Wire)

Should teachers avoid social media altogether?: It is too risky for teachers to have a presence on social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, says Kim Piekut, a Pennsylvania high-school teacher and teachers union official. She recommends teachers avoid the sites altogether, and that they not communicate with students online. Her warning comes as the state considers a policy that would spell out what online behavior is appropriate for teachers. "[W]e don't advise social networking with kids outside of school," Piekut said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Creating questions that drive learning: For many teachers, coming up with driving questions can be the hardest part of project-based learning. Andrew Miller, a consultant for the Buck Institute for Education, explains that driving questions are vital for initiating and focusing inquiry, as well as creating interest and a challenge for students. To help in refining driving questions, Miller includes a video about how to make a Tubric, a tool teachers can use when creating and refining driving questions. (Edutopia)

Poll reveals mixed public support for technology use in schools: Approval and support for technology in education is growing, according to a poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa. However, an analysis of the results shows a preference for integrating technology into "old-world" educational structures rather than creating new uses that personalize instruction or allow students to learn outside brick-and-mortar schools. (Digital Education)

Report ranks states in child well-being measures: A national ranking of states on child well-being put New Hampshire at the top and Mississippi at the bottom and found that poverty rates increased in 38 states from 2000 to 2009. The Annie E. Casey Foundation report found that infant mortalities, child and teen deaths, and high school dropout rates have declined in the past 20 years, but the number of unhealthy babies has increased and more children are living in low-income families. (York Dispatch) (Reuters) (The Boston Globe)

Should teachers visit students at home?: The issue of teachers visiting their students' homes generates debate among educators, writes Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews. While some may see it as intrusive or dangerous, others say it provides invaluable insight into the lives of students. "Home visits by themselves do not correlate into academic achievement. However, if done with academic goals and targets as the objectives, they do work," said David L. Heiber, executive director of Concentric Educational Solutions, which has been visiting the homes of truant students for the past year. (The Washington Post)

Teaching students to be comfortable with uncertainty in lessons: Educators should integrate an element of uncertainty into their daily lessons, suggests technology-integration consultant Ben Johnson. Uncertainty prompts students to think about what they know and what they do not, and requires them to make decisions about what to do next -- important components for studying many subjects, such as statistics, math and science, Johnson writes. (Ben Johnson)

Live simulations provide training opportunity for educators: A Syracuse University training program for school leaders uses live simulations to help teachers and principals learn to address and manage difficult situations with students, parents and colleagues. The approach is modeled after "standardized patients" used to train students to diagnose symptoms in medical schools and, unlike computer simulations, has trained actors playing the roles of students and parents to help leaders learn to respond to real people. (Education Week)

New teacher hires draw criticism in Memphis: The hiring of 190 new teachers with no classroom experience for Memphis, Tenn., schools is the focus of debate among those who are questioning why roughly 100 experienced district teachers were not among those offered jobs. As part of its bid for $90 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness, the district agreed to hire between 30% and 35% of its teachers from high-quality, alternative programs such as Teach for America. District officials have pledged to find placements for any highly qualified teachers not offered positions. (The Commercial Appeal)

Increasing number of Okla. students log on for school: The number of Oklahoma students doing schoolwork online has increased 400% to more than 5,400 over the past three years, according to a Tulsa World analysis of state data. School officials are in favor of virtual schooling but not without caution. "While this is something we think education as a whole should embrace, like anything else, it is something we should be taking a close look at in terms of quality and consistency," said Damon Gardenhire, communications director for the state's education department. (Tulsa World)

Ariz. program to focus on competency rather than age: Students at 14 Arizona schools will have the opportunity to graduate high school two years early under the Move on When Ready Initiative. The program will allow students who pass certain exams to graduate and enroll in community college. Supporters believe the initiative will help move from traditional education to a competency-based educational model, while critics cite the cost for training teachers in the more intense curriculum and question the addition of standardized tests. (The Arizona Republic)

Chicago undertakes effort to improve principal leadership: Chicago officials are launching wide-ranging efforts to overhaul and improve the recruitment, training and evaluation of school principals. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has secured $5 million in private money to fund a new merit-pay system for principals, and a $10 million initiative is aimed at training and mentoring new leaders from within the district. "I want every principal succeeding, because if they're succeeding, it means the students are succeeding and the teachers are succeeding," Emanuel said. (Chicago Tribune)

Can Maryland's only public boarding school succeed?: The SEED School, a public boarding school for at-risk students in Baltimore, has yet to produce the academic success expected when the school was created in 2006. This year, however, the school is under new leadership and has made some changes, including analyzing testing data, providing more training for teachers on working with struggling students and those in special education, and implementing campus improvements designed to retain more students. (The Sun)

N.Y. state makes changes with new standardized tests: Standardized tests in New York state will not include answer choices thought to easily trip up students with phrases such as "none of the above," under a new contract with test developers. The effort to make the questions and answers clearer mirrors a national trend and follows the state's 2010 move to make the tests more difficult, which caused a drop in student scores. The tests also will phase in new content reflecting national standards, including more challenging reading passages, open-ended math problems and writing exercises in which students interpret texts. (The New York Times)

Districts consider social media connections between students, teachers: School districts throughout the country have widely varying policies regulating social media connections between students and teachers. Some districts and the state of Missouri have enacted strict bans on such communications, while other states' policies are more vague. Some educators and parents feel it's safer for teachers not to "friend" students online, but others say such connections can be appropriate and have educational merit. (The Arizona Republic)

Will the federal government reduce its role in education?: The federal role in education may be weakening, say observers who note the recently announced No Child Left Behind waivers give states more power. They point to Montana, where officials refused to adhere to the federal education law. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to announce today that the state will be allowed to keep testing targets steady. "Secretary Duncan is disassembling what was a very strong federal role, and some states' rights officials and governors smell blood," said Bruce Fuller, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. (The New York Times)

Voucher program in suburban Colo. district is rejected by judge: A Colorado judge on Friday rejected a school-voucher program that would have allowed students in a suburban Denver county to use public funding to attend private schools. The judge ruled the program violated the state constitution by allowing public money to be used to support religious schools, a decision the Douglas County School District is expected to appeal. The case has drawn national attention as it involves the first voucher program designed for an affluent community with high-performing public schools. (The Wall Street Journal)

Consortia consider computerized accommodations for common core: Testing experts are advising groups developing new common core assessments on technology that can help make the tests accessible to students who are learning English or who have special needs. The open-source Accessible Portable Item Profile Standards allow certain features, such as language translation or read-aloud text to be turned on and off according to individual students' profiles. Some experts stressed the importance of building accommodations into the tests up front, while other officials expressed concerns about potential issues with the computerized accommodations. (Learning the Language)

Projectors may be in Apple's future: A patent application filed by Apple shows detailed plans for projection-capable computers, smartphones and tablets that could project their screen's contents onto a nearby surface. (CNET)

Should proficiency-based learning replace seat time?: Some districts have replaced seat-time requirements for students with proficiency-based learning standards -- allowing students to advance only after they have mastered a subject or grade level. Supporters say the method allows top students to move more quickly, while giving struggling students additional support. In this interview, Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, explains how such a system works, how students are assessed and the role that technology plays. (T.H.E. Journal)

N.C. charter school expands its leadership program: A charter elementary school in North Carolina is hoping to build on its success by implementing "The Leader in Me" program, a curriculum based on "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. The school credits its use of some program components with a boost in student achievement last year, as well as increased student engagement and a positive school environment. Teachers attended summer classes to learn more about the program, and students will spend the first week of school immersed in its teachings. (The Pilot)

Baltimore schools struggle with high principal turnover: Baltimore is facing a high turnover rate in school leadership, with little more than 25% of principals remaining in their posts since 2007. The district still must fill nine of 42 vacancies caused by retirements and resignations. Experts say it is common for urban districts to experience turnover when undertaking reform strategies, but some are concerned that frequent leadership changes will affect the district's progress. (The Sun)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not think it is appropriate for teachers to friend students on Facebook. The arguments against such virtual friendships are obvious, yet so few teachers learn this until they are accused of doing something inappropriate.

At least Missouri is helping its teachers to protect themselevs from lawsuits.